Sydney McLaughlin, who shocked the track and field world when she made the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team at the age of 16, produced another jaw-dropping performance when she smashed the World Record in the women's 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday night at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The 21-year-old McLaughlin, a 2017 graduate of Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, N.J., stopped the clock at a mind-numbing 51.90 to take down the world record of 52.16 that 2016 Olympic gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad set in 2019. With her victory, McLaughlin secured a spot on her second U.S. Olympic Team.
After a five hour delay because of excessive heat at Hayward Field, McLaughlin and Muhammad, who came into this race with the two fastest times in the history of the world in the 400 hurdles,, squared off in one of the most eagerly anticipated matchups of these Olympic Trials.
Muhammed, who set the world-record when she edged McLaughlin, 52.16 to 52.23 at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, had a slight lead on McLaughlin as they came over the eighth hurdle. But McLaughlin pulled even with her archrival when she cleared the ninth hurdle, and then put it into another gear and slammed the hammer down coming off the final barrier to complete the breathtaking victory!
When McLaughlin saw her time flash up on the big board, she threw her hands on her head and then over her mouth in utter disbelief. She then squatted on the track as she soaked in the historic moment. Muhammad was the first person to congratulate McLaughlin.
Muhammed, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., finished second in 52.42, and Anna Cockrell of USC, who won the NCAA 100m HH and 400m hurdles earlier this month, placed third with a PR of 53.70 as they joined McLaughlin on the Olympic Team.
McLaughlin, who grew up in Dunellen, gave a lot of credit to her coach Bobby Kersee, who she switched to last year. Kersee coached his wife (Jackie Joyner-Kersee), Florence Griffith Joyner, and has coached Allyson Felix since 2005.
Kersee had McLaughlin focus on the 100 hurdles for most of this season to improve her speed and technique. She ran five 100 HH races, including a PR and Olympic Trials qualifying time of 12.65, before her first 400 hurdle race of the season three weeks ago.
In 2016, McLaughlin finished third in the 400 hurdles at the Olympic Trials to make the Olympic team, and then she became the youngest U.S. athlete to compete in track and field at the Olympics in 44 years when she advanced to the semifinals in Rio.
But unlike five years ago when she was a precious teenager just happy to qualify for the Olympics, McLaughlin, who now runs professionally for New Balance, will head to the Tokyo Olympics (scheduled for July 23-August 8), as the favorite to win the gold medal in the 400 hurdles. McLaughlin is also expected to be part of the U.S. 4x400 relay team in Tokyo. She ran on the gold medal winning 4x400 at the 2019 World Championships.
To give you an idea of how fast 51.90 in the 400 hurdles is, McLaughlin's 51.90 would have been fast enough to qualify for the semifinals in the flat 400 at the Olympic Trials!
McLaughlin, who will turn 22 on Aug. 7, has been building toward this moment ever since she burst on the scene as a record-breaking freshman at Union Catholic, where she broke the state indoor record in the 300m in her first high school race ever at the Bishop Loughlin Games at the 168th Street Armory in December of 2013. (The photo from the race is below).
McLaughlin went on to put together the greatest career in U.S. high school history.
McLaughlin finished her high school career with 13 national titles (7 individual/6 on relays), a state record tying 11 N.J. Meet of Champions titles, 7 state records, four national records, one World Junior record, and became the only athlete t ever be named the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year two straight years (2016-17). She was also MVP of the Penn Relays in 2017 when she ran the two fastest high school 400 splits in meet history, and she became the only high school girl in U.S. history to split under 50 when she blasted a 49.85 anchor carry to rally Union Catholic from sixth to first in the Swedish Relay with a national record at the 2017 New Balance Nationals.
McLaughlin never lost a 400-hurdle race to a high school athlete during her career, was undefeated at all distances vs. high school athletes since June of her freshman year in 2014, and she holds every national high school age group record.
After graduating from UC in 2017, McLaughlin went on to the University of Kentucky where she had one of the greatest one and done seasons in NCAA history.
McLaughlin put the finishing touches on her remarkable freshman year at Kentucky at the 2018 NCAA Championships when she won the 400 hurdles in 53.96, and about an hour later splitting 50.03 on the fourth place 4x400 relay to help the Wildcats finish fourth in the final team standings. After the NCAA Championships, McLaughlin announced her intention to turn pro.
In addition to her NCAA title, McLaughlin ran 52.75 when she won the 400 hurdles at the SEC Championships on May 13, which is an NCAA record, and a World Junior record. She also ran 50.07 in the flat 400, 22.39 in the 200, a wind-aided 11.07 in the 100, and ran three sub 50 splits that season.
McLaughlin's first coach when she turned pro was Olympic gold medalist Joanna Hayes, but then earlier this year she announced she's was now working under Kersee.
Here is a look at McLaughlin's 400 hurdle progression
Age 14 - 55.63
Age 15 - 55.28
Age 16 - 54.15
Age 17 53.82 (National High School Record)
Age 18: 52.75 (World Junior Record)
Age 19: 52.75
Age 20: 52.23
Age 21: 51.90 (World Record)