DES MOINES, Iowa – Just 21 years old, Brianna Rollins is already running faster than some of the best hurdlers in history.
Rollins set an American record in the 100-meter hurdles at the U.S. track championships on a sweltering Saturday, one of several big performances by less-than-familiar names.
Rollins, a standout at Clemson before turning pro this month, finished in 12.26 seconds to break the mark of Gail Devers in 2000. It is also the fastest time in a 100 hurdles race in 21 years.
“I don’t think about records,” Rollins said. “I came out here and did what I have to do.”
Not to be outdone, 17-year-old Mary Cain finished second in the 1,500 meters to earn a spot at the world championships in Moscow in August. She was edged at the line by training partner Treniere Moser.
Cain is the first high-schooler to make the world team since Allyson Felix nearly a decade ago. Cain could hardly contain her enthusiasm after a nearly flawless race.
This after being petrified at the prospect of running against an elite field with so much at stake.
“I called my mom the other day crying and was like, ‘I’m just a little kid. I’m so scared,’ ” Cain said. “She’s like, ‘Mary I know you. If I could take you away right now, I would. But you would be kicking yourself for the rest of your life if you weren’t in that final.’ I let the nerves take over me for a minute. Then, I pushed them out.
“Getting to wear a Team USA uniform is amazing. I really wanted to get a uniform.”
Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross was slowed by a surgically repaired right big toe and didn’t qualify for worlds.
There were plenty of big names that shined, though, as LaShawn Merritt captured the 400 crown, and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton took the decathlon title.
“It’s very difficult to compete in the heat,” Eaton said.
Yet in the heat, there were three American records set. Michelle Carter set a mark in the shot put with a throw of 66 feet, 5 inches.
Later, Amanda Bingson broke the U.S. mark in the hammer throw with her toss of 248-5.
On a busy day at nationals, other winners included Nicole Bush (3,000 steeplechase), Brigetta Barrett (high jump), Janay DeLoach Soukup (long jump), Matthew Centrowitz (1,500), Maria Michta (20,000 race walk), Michael Tinsley (400 hurdles) and Natasha Hastings (400).
One thing is for sure: The world team will definitely have a different look. Quite a few of these athletes are hardly household names.