EUGENE, Ore. – How significant of a role will young NCAA track and field athletes play at the IAAF World Junior Championships at historic Hayward Field this summer?
With the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., still two weeks away, three American junior records have been established this year.
A “junior record” is restricted to those athletes who do not turn 20 years old at any time during the calendar year in which the mark was established.
Six other junior athletes (age 19 and under during 2014) rank among the top 10 collegians in their respective events heading into this weekend’s multitude of Division I indoor conference championships.
So, who are these precocious record-breakers?
They are Oregon’s Sasha Wallace, Georgia’s Kendell Williams and Miami’s Artie Burns.
Wallace, a true freshman from Castro Valley, Calif., is breaking new ground in the women’s 60-meter hurdles. She has twice clocked 8.10 seconds in the event to take down the old standard of 8.13 set by Nia Ali in 2007.
Ali, a member of Team USA at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last summer, is headed to Sopot, Poland next week as the reigning U.S. indoor champion in the 60 hurdles.
Wallace, who turns 19 in September, is excited to be mentioned in such elite company.
“I didn’t really know it was an American junior record until last week,” she said. “To rank that high on the all-time list is really exciting. Just to be on a list with other American top times is an honor.”
Wallace, the two-time California girls’ track and field Gatorade Athlete of the Year, is also an accomplished horizontal jumper. On the first legal attempt of her UO career, she set the school indoor triple jump record of 42 feet, 5 ½ inches.
“Needless to say, for a freshman, Sasha is having a solid indoor season,” said UO assistant coach Curtis Taylor, who helped mentor Wallace with the East Oakland Youth Development Center Track Club before joining the Ducks this year.
“To come in and break schools records in the hurdles and triple jump is great. Anytime you break an American junior record is huge. I am proud of her and all the hard work she and her teammates have put in so far this year.”
The top-ranked UO women have their sights set on a fifth consecutive NCAA indoor championship this year. LSU is the only team to accomplish that feat (1993-97). The two-day meet will be held March 14-15.
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the indoor season,” said Wallace, the reigning U.S. junior champion in the 100 hurdles with a personal best of 13.43. “As a team, we want to be at the top of our game during the championship season.”
She’s also looking forward to the outdoor season which begins with the Oregon Preview on March 22 at Hayward Field.
“To be able to train and compete at Hayward Field is really fun,” Wallace said. “Since we host the NCAAs and World Juniors here, I am definitely hoping to do something there.”
World Junior contenders
Burns is a two-sport star for the Hurricanes.
The 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback played in 11 of 13 games this past football season for Miami, splitting time on defense and special teams.
On the track, he ran 7.68 in the 60 hurdles at the Don Kirby Elite meet in Albuquerque, N.M. on Feb. 15. That mark eclipsed the previous U.S. junior record of 7.70 shared by South Carolina’s Jason Richardson (2005) and Washington’s Robert Gaines (1976).
“Artie is just touching the surface of what he is capable of in the hurdles,” Miami director of track and field operations Amy Deem said. “He is getting better each practice and it is showing in the meets.”
Williams scored 4,302 points in her collegiate debut in the indoor pentathlon to shatter the old U.S. junior mark of 4,059 set by Penn State’s Gayle Hunter in 2005. Her marks were as follows: 8.40 (60 hurdles); 5-11 ¼ (high jump); 36-9 ½ (shot put); 20-6 ¼ (long jump); 2:26.64 (800).
Williams placed eighth in the heptathlon with a personal best of 5,578 points at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona.
This year marks the first time the IAAF World Junior Championships will be held on U.S. soil. The six-day meet will be held July 22-27 at Hayward Field.
The meet is open to the world’s best track and field athletes under the age of 20. An estimated 1,600 athletes from 212 different nations are expected to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in TrackTown USA.
You can follow the top junior athletes in the NCAA ranks through this comprehensive list compiled by the statisticians at U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) that you can find by clicking here.
The list, which is a work in progress, will be updated throughout the NCAA indoor and outdoor track and field seasons.