EUGENE, Ore. — Even Noah Lyles was a bit surprised when he crossed the finish line at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials Thursday and spotted the scoreboard. The fans at Hayward Field were wowed by a high school student winning his 200-meter heat so impressively, but Lyles was more focused on the numbers: a blistering 20.04.
“I actually planned to go a little slower,” he said, “but the faster, the better. Just gets me hyped for the next round. I’m definitely satisfied to see that time going into the next round.”
With a field that featured Olympians Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and LaShawn Merritt among others, it was the 18-year-old wearing the kit from T.C. Williams High in Alexandria who posted the fastest time in the qualifying round. Surprisingly, the second-best time was also posted by a high school sprinter, 18-year-old Michael Norman from Murrieta, Calif., who ran a 20.06 in his heat. No sprinter has made the U.S. team as a high schooler since 1976.
Lyles’s time Thursday was wind-aided, but he said, “I definitely think I can do it again, even without the wind.”
The 200 semifinals are scheduled for Friday, with the finals Saturday. Lyles said he isn’t fazed by the prospects of lining up alongside sprinters who are so much older and more accomplished.
“I had to remind myself that I definitely deserve to be here just like everybody else,” he said. “Just had to come out there and try to run my own race instead of trying to chase other people.”
His cheering section is more than 15 deep with family, friends and coaches who made the trip from Virginia, including his younger brother, Josephus, who qualified for the trials but couldn’t run because of a quadriceps injury. Both brothers are committed to the University of Florida next fall, and Josephus helped his older brother prepare here in Eugene.
“He’s a phenomenal coach. . . . He was kicking my butt,” Lyles said, “reminding me what to do.”
It turned out to be a good day for prep runners from the Washington area. Lake Braddock’s Kate Murphy, a rising senior, breezed through her 1,500 qualifying run and advanced to the semifinals.
“I had nerves, but I kind of channeled it and made it excitement,” the six-time All-Met runner said.
Murphy crossed the finish line in 4:14.11, fourth in her heat, fourth overall and more than good enough to advance. “It went by a lot slower than I thought it would,” she said. With about 300 meters remaining, Murphy was at the back of the pack when two runners tumbled in front of her. Murphy sidestepped them, saving her race.
“I just like moved to the outside as fast as I could,” she said.
The 1,500-meter semifinals are scheduled for Friday and the final Sunday.
Sarah Brown, who trained for the trials throughout her pregnancy and gave birth to a daughter just four months ago, was in the same heat but did not advance. The former All-Met from Warrenton posted a time of 4:24.97, which was last out of nine runners in the heat.
“It was just a constant battle to try and get here,” she said. “It didn’t work out today, but I needed to get back out there. For me, it was a win just put myself on the line.”