Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former WSU standout CJ Allen realizes his ‘greatest dream,’ makes U.S. Olympic team for 400 hurdles

CJ Allen looks on after taking second place in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene. Allen qualified for this summer’s games in Paris.  (Getty Images)
By John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review

CJ Allen cleared his biggest career hurdle yet Sunday afternoon.

The Washington State alum earned his way onto his first United States Olympic team.

Allen ran a strong second half in the men’s 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. trials at Hayward Field in Eugene and finished second to long-time rival Rai Benjamin to claim a spot on the team to Paris later this month.

“Since I was 10 years old and I saw the Olympics, I said one day I’d be an Olympian,” Allen told reporters after the race. “I’ve been running the hurdles for 19 years and this is probably my greatest dream to make this team today.”

It capped a productive weekend on tracks around the world for current and former Cougars, with at least four having now nailed down trips to Paris.

Allen’s race was a study in patience and grit.

Lined up just outside Benjamin in lane 8, Allen ran steadily even after the former USC runner made up the stagger in the first half of the race. In the middle of the track, Texas Tech’s Caleb Dean was even faster, leading through the fifth of 10 hurdles. Allen was fourth at the midway point, though very much on the pace.

That patience allowed for a strong move after the sixth barrier, Allen moving into second behind Benjamin and building a slight cushion over the rest of the field until struggling at the last hurdle, allowing Trevor Bassitt and Chris Robinson to make late charges.

While Benjamin cruised home in a meet record and world-leading mark of 46.46 seconds, Allen outleaned Bassitt for second by a hundredth of a second in 47.81. Robinson finished fourth in 47.96. Dean, among the pre-race favorites for a spot on the Paris team, crashed to the track at the eighth hurdle.

As he waited for official results to be posted on the Hayward scoreboard, Allen resisted celebration, and not until exchanging a hug with Bassitt did he break into a wide smile.

“There’s been so much pressure and so much stress, sitting in my hotel room the last week and a half watching the trials go off,” Allen said, “and knowing that I could be on this team but having to wait for the very end.

“I was so nervous all week – the nerves have been high. But overcoming that, that’s always been one of my strengths. Everybody’s going to feel that pressure, the weight of what this year means. It’s only every four years you get to be an Olympian – let alone in the U.S., the hardest team to make.”

It’s Allen’s second national team berth, having competed in last year’s World Athletics Championships, where he made the semifinals. He was the No. 2-ranked American hurdler in 2023, and his Sunday finals time was second only to his 47.58 best from last year.

The 29-year-old from Allyn, Washington, was a two-time Pac-12 champion at WSU, graduating in 2017.

“I knew coming in I was a heavy contender for this team – whether other people felt it or not, I knew it in my heart,” he said. “So it’s me vs. me at that point. I knew if I executed what I needed to do that I’d be on this team.”

Elsewhere during the weekend, former Cougars Louie Hinchliffe and Charisma Taylor claimed Olympic berths at their respective national championships in England and The Bahamas.

Hinchliffe, who equaled the WSU 100-meter record as a freshman in 2023 before transferring to Houston, won Great Britain’s title in 10.18, and made the Olympic standard earlier this spring with a 9.95 run in winning the NCAA title. Taylor, who competed for the Cougars for two years before transferring to Tennessee in 2022, finished second in the 100-meter hurdles in the Bahamian trials and also won the triple jump, the event in which she remains WSU’s school record holder.

NCAA runner-up Maribel Caicedo of Ecuador made the Olympic 100 hurdles standard this spring.

Cougars teammate Micaela De Mello won the Brazilian trials in the same event over the weekend, but hasn’t achieved the standard and must await the final World Athletics rankings to see if she makes the Games.

Jasneet Nijjar ran 51.84 seconds in the semis of the women’s 400 meters at the Canadian championships on Friday to break a 38-year-old WSU record. She could be in the pool for Canada’s 4x400 relay team after finishing fourth Saturday.