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Sydney McLaughlin Smashes the World Record in the 400-Meter Hurdles at Trials

Runner’s World logo Runner’s World 6/28/2021 Taylor Dutch
a person on a court with a racquet: Dalilah Muhammad and Anna Cockrell will join McLaughlin on Team USA in Tokyo. © Cortney White Dalilah Muhammad and Anna Cockrell will join McLaughlin on Team USA in Tokyo.

In a blazing time of 51.90, Sydney McLaughlin shattered the world record while winning her first national title in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on June 27. The 2019 world championship silver-medalist beat former world record-holder Dalilah Muhammad to qualify for her second Olympic team on Sunday at Hayward Field.

Muhammad finished second in 52.42 and Anna Cockrell placed third in 53.70 to make Team USA heading for Tokyo this summer. Shamier Little finished fourth in 53.85, after stumbling after the eighth hurdle.

Results and highlights from the 2021 Olympic Track and Field Trials

McLaughlin held the lead at the top of the homestretch, and Muhammad was unable to close in on her record-setting effort. When McLaughlin crossed the finish line, she threw her hands up in shock at the historic time that flashed across the results board.

McLaughlin has been chasing Muhammad for the last few years and finally beat her rival on one of the biggest stages in Eugene, Oregon. The 21-year-old became the youngest American track and field athlete to compete in the Olympics in 44 years when she advanced to the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles in Rio. After one year at the University of Kentucky—which included a collegiate record in her signature event—McLaughlin turned pro and has since earned a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles and gold as a member of Team USA’s winning 4x400-meter relay at the 2019 IAAF World Championships.

“All of the glory to God. Honestly this season, working with my new coach and new support system is truly about faith and trusting the process,” McLaughlin said on the NBC broadcast.

In the summer of 2020, McLaughlin started working with renowned sprints coach Bobby Kersee, who trains 10-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix. This season, Kersee and McLaughlin worked on her short speed by racing the 60-meter hurdles and 100-meter hurdles. By the end of the regular season, she lowered her personal best to 12.65 in the 100-meter hurdles. The effort ultimately paid off with a massive improvement on her previous 52.23 personal best in the 400-meter hurdles.

“I think I saw the benefit of the 60 and 100 [meter] hurdles in practice,” McLaughlin said. “I knew right away it was making sense. As time progressed and the strength started to build. Bobby knows how to put things together when the time comes.”

Muhammad, 31, is the defending Olympic champion and four-time national champion in the event. She earned silver medals at the 2013 and 2017 IAAF World Championships and upgraded to gold at the 2019 world championships in Doha, Qatar, where she improved on her own world record by running 52.16 to beat McLaughlin.

“It was just such a long season coming. I had so many setbacks….want to thank my coach honestly for not allowing me to give up,” Muhammad told NBC.

Cockrell, 23, a senior at USC, recently became just the second woman ever to win the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships from June 9 through 12. Tokyo will be her first Olympic Games. At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Cockrell didn’t advance past the semifinal, but she has developed into a medal contender after giving herself time to process her goals during the pandemic.

“I got to a point in 2018-2019 where I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this anymore,” Cockrell said after the race. “During COVID, I took a lot of time off. I eventually rediscovered my love for track, and just moving for the sake of moving, and during COVID rediscovering my love for the sport is what has gotten me through this whole season. I’m here because I love it, because I’m good at it. I love it, but it’s not what defines me.”

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