Report10 Jul 2023

Thomas and Benjamin make statements at US Championships


Gabby Thomas celebrates her 200m win at the US Championships (© Getty Images)

Gabby Thomas crossed the finish line cheering “yes” over and over as she won the 200m in a world-leading 21.60 (-0.4m/s) on the final day of the US Championships in Eugene on Sunday (9).

A meeting record and personal best, Thomas’ performance means she now has the sixth and seventh-fastest 200m times in history (21.60 and 21.61).

Recently crowned 100m champion Sha’Carri Richardson and Kayla White clocked respective PBs of 21.94 and 22.01 to place second and third.

Thomas’ time proves that she has made a strong recovery since last year. The Olympic bronze medallist suffered a hamstring tear two weeks before the 2022 US trials and although she pushed through the pain to compete, the injury ultimately cost her a chance at another international medal.

“Coming back from injury makes this feel different. I didn't have the momentum this year that I had in 2021. I didn't feel that same type of confidence. So, this win means a lot to me,” Thomas said.

Rai Benjamin is another Olympic medallist on the comeback after injury and he also made a statement in Eugene. Three days after world 400m hurdles record-holder Karsten Warholm ran 46.76 to win the Norwegian title, Benjamin clocked 46.62 – the fifth-fastest performance of all time and Benjamin’s quickest since his Olympic silver medal-winning 46.17 that places him No.2 on the world all-time list.

His performance didn’t show it, but Benjamin said he’d injured his quad and had been reduced to very little training over the past eight weeks in order to heal. Getting through the heats and semifinals on Friday and Saturday hadn’t been easy.

“This morning I woke up and I told my coach, 'Listen, my hamstring is really sore because that's 30 hurdles in three days and I haven't ran since 5 May,’” Benjamin said. “So, it was tough. I felt pretty flat today going back to back to back.”

Once on the track, Benjamin had an incredibly strong start out of the blocks and by the time he turned on to the homestretch, he was essentially in a race of his own. He won his fourth national 400m hurdles title ahead of CJ Allen (48.18) and Trevor Bassitt (48.26).

Knighton takes 200m

Erriyon Knighton left the rest of the field chasing him down en route to his 19.72 (-0.1m/s) win in the 200m final, the second-fastest time in the world this season. Olympic and world silver medallist Kenny Bednarek (19.82) finished second and Courtney Lindsey (19.85) finished third.

In 2022, Knighton clinched third place in the US final with a speedier 19.69 and went on to take bronze at the World Championships. The 19-year-old said that this year, he wanted to improve his form in the final metres.

“Last year I was trying to rush it coming out of the home stretch,” he said, “and I made sure this year I just kept it nice and cool.”

Fred Kerley, the defending world champion in the 100m and last year’s US bronze medallist, finished fourth in 19.86 as the top six all went sub-20 seconds.

In the women’s 400m hurdles, 2015 world silver medallist Shamier Little pulled off an unrelenting 53.34 to win and make the US team alongside 2019 world champion Dalilah Muhammad (53.53) and Anna Cockrell (54.24).

Nia Akins won the women’s 800m in 1:59.50, with Olympic and world medallist Raevyn Rogers behind her in 1:59.83.

Ajee Wilson, who has made it to four world 800m finals during the course of her career, had an unusually difficult race and finished in last place in 2:05.88.

Bryce Hoppel won the men’s 800m in 1:46.20 after he managed to stay afloat during a tight and physical first 200m. Isaiah Harris was second in 1:46.68 and Clayton Murphy was third in 1:46.82.   

In the 110m hurdles, Daniel Roberts delivered a 13.05 win with Cordell Tinch taking second in 13.08 and Freddie Crittenden finishing third in 13.23. Two-time world gold medallist Grant Holloway, who has a bye for the World Championships in Budapest as defending champion, clocked 13.10 in the semifinals and did not contest the final.

Crouser claims another crown, Andersen and Moon chase records

Shot put champion Ryan Crouser continued his reign and finished with a 22.86m final attempt to win his sixth national title. World bronze medallist Josh Awotunde made a significant leap from sixth to second place with a 22.10m fourth attempt, and Payton Otterdahl finished third with a 22.09m PB.

Two-time world champion Joe Kovacs finished fourth with a best of 21.90m.

“It was a very heavy training week. So, I’m happy with 22.86m on a really ugly throw,” Crouser said. “A lot of power, but very bad technically.”

World champion Brooke Andersen finished first in the women’s hammer final, throwing 78.65m on her fourth attempt. US record-holder DeAnna Price (78.18m) took second place and Janee Kassanavoid, the world bronze medallist, took third (76.44m).

Price owns the second-best hammer throw mark of all time with 80.31m, while Andersen is just behind her with 80.17m. Andersen said that her goal this year is to break Price’s record.

“Breaking the American record would be amazing,” she said. “If I don't accomplish it this season, I know I'll do it next season.”

Olympic and world champion Katie Moon set the best pole vault mark in the world this season when she cleared 4.90m to win her second national outdoor title. Sandi Morris finished runner-up with 4.61m, while 18-year-old Hana Moll, the world U20 champion, was third with a 4.61m PB.

After claiming the win, Moon tried to beat Morris’ US record with three attempts at 5.01m.

“I'm so happy I got to take a shot at the 5.01m record,” she said. “I really feel like I'm very capable of that.”

Valarie Allman won the discus (67.66m) and Tara Davis-Woodhall the long jump (6.87m), ahead of Quanesha Burks (6.82m) and Jasmine Moore (6.74m).

Madeline Ryan for World Athletics