DES MOINES, Iowa – In blistering the Drake Stadium track with a time of 43.64 seconds, Aggie alum Fred Kerley became the seventh fastest performer in history with an impressive display to capture the 400 meter title at the USATF Championships.
Kerley will now lead a very talented crew of U.S. quarter-milers into the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in late September. Kerley improved his previous career best of 43.70 from 2017, the season he swept the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles along with the U.S. title. He moves to No. 7 performer on the all-time world list and No. 6 on the U.S. list.
Runner-up to Kerley was Michael Norman in 43.79 while Nathan Strother finished third in 44.29 and Vernon Norwood placed fourth at 44.40.
It marks only the second time for the top two finishers to run sub 44 seconds in the 400m final at the U.S. Championships. The previous occurrence was in 1996 with Michael Johnson (43.44) and Butch Reynolds (43.91), with the time by Johnson still the meet record.
“I had a PR and it was a nice run for me,” noted Kerley of his expressive victory celebration. “I’m blessed to represent the USA at the World Championships. Today was my day and I executed the race plan.”
Stationed in lane 7, Kerley never saw another runner from the lanes to his left as Norman challenged from lane 5.
“Anything can happen from any lane on the track,” said Kerley, who broke the Drake Stadium record of 44.04 set by Norman in the semifinals on Friday. “From lane 1 to 8 it’s the same 400m.”
This was Norman’s first loss at 400m since the 2017 USATF Championships when Kerley won in 44.03 while Norman placed seventh in 44.80.
“Today, Fred got the best of me,” stated Norman, who is the world leader in 2019 with a 43.45 from April. “He was the better athlete, so congrats to him. I’ve just to go back and fix a couple of things. The days are counting down and I need to prepare myself for the Diamond League final and the World Championships.”
Two Aggies finished fifth on the third day of the USATF Championships as A&M senior Sam Hardin threw a career best of 242-2 (73.82) in the javelin and alum Jessica Beard ran 51.28 in the women’s 400m. Another Aggie alum, Annie Kunz, is currently in fourth place in the heptathlon with 3,726 points.
Shamier Little, the defending U.S. champion, advanced to the finals of the 400m hurdles by claiming her semifinal heat in 54.49, nearly a full second over runner-up Cassandra Tate (55.45). Dalilah Muhammad won the second semifinal in 54.22 ahead of Sydney McLaughlin (54.24).
Hardin moved to No. 7 performer on the A&M all-time list with his effort in the javelin, improving his previous best of 240-10 (73.42) from the 2018 season. A mark of 234-9 (71.56) led the first flight of the javelin and Hardin was in seventh place following the second flight of throwers. An improvement to 238-8 (72.76) in round five moved Hardin into sixth place. Then his career best toss followed in the final round.
Beard was stationed in lane 8 for the 400m final and generated a season best time of 51.28 while finishing ahead of Allyson Felix (51.94). Skakima Wimbley won in 50.21 with Kendall Ellis runner-up at 50.38, Wadeline Jonathas third in 50.44, and Courtney Okolo fourth with a 50.86.
Ameer Webb raced in the 200m prelims after finishing seventh in the 100m final the previous evening. His time of 20.85 placed him third in the heat and advanced to the semifinal on time.
Kunz started the heptathlon with a 13.51 clocking in the 100m hurdles for 1,049 points and high jumped 5-9 ¼ (1.76) for 928 points. She led the field in the shot put with a mark of 46-4 (14.12) for 802 points. Kunz then capped the first day of the multi with a 24.35 in the 200m for 947 points.
On Sunday, Kunz will finish the heptathlon with the long jump, javelin and 800m.
An American record was set in the men’s pole vault with Sam Kendricks clearing 19-10 ½ (6.06). Cole Walsh made 18-10 ¾ (5.76) as runner-up while K.C. Lightfoot placed third with the same height. Aggie alum Audie Wyatt cleared 17-11 (5.46) to finish in a six-way tie for seventh place while A&M senior Jacob Wooten missed that opening height.