Orji sets record at USA Track and Field Championships
DES MOINES — Keturah Orji set a meet record in the triple jump with a leap of 47 feet, 10 1/2 inches, highlighting the opening session Thursday at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.
Mike Rodgers, at 33 years old, set a world mark for 2018 in the 100 meters at 9.89 seconds in an opening round heat, just 0.04 seconds shy of his personal best.
Molly Huddle won the women’s 10,000 for a record fourth straight time, and Lopez Lomong took the men’s 10,000 in 28.58.38.
But it was the triple jump — which has proven to be uncharacteristically fallow for Team USA in international competition — that took center stage, with Orji and Tori Franklin turning the once-overlooked event into a riveting duel.
Orji, whose fourth-place finish at the 2106 Rio Games was the best-ever for an American, started with a stadium record of 47-0 3/4, only to have Franklin set a meet record at 47-6 1/4 about five minutes later.
Orji, who just graduated from Georgia, then broke Franklin’s recent USATF outdoor mark on her third jump.
The crowd rose and cheered after Franklin’s final jump, which looked like another meet record. But it was wind-aided and went for 47-7 3/4.
Nonetheless, having a pair of Americans perform so well two years before the next Olympics in Tokyo — and in a year where there’s no world championship to look forward to either — bodes well for the Americans moving forward.
“I know a lot of times when I was in high school people would be like ‘Oh, the U.S. triple jump isn’t strong,'” Orji said. “We’re just looking to bring a lot more attention to it.”
Sprinting star Sydney McLaughlin, 18, pulled out of the first round of the 400 after feeling tightness in her quad while warming up, according to USATF. McLaughlin, who in 2016 became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete in the Olympics in 44 years, won the NCAA title in the 400 hurdles at Kentucky earlier this season before turning pro.
Huddle used what seemed like an effortless kick over the final two laps to finish in 31.52.32. But perhaps the most fascinating runner in the field was Gwen Jorgensen, the 2016 Olympic triathlon winner who has transitioned to distance running with an eye on winning the gold medal in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics. Jorgensen was seventh out of 20 runners with a time of 32.24.09. “Molly started to pick it up, and I just wasn’t able to cover that speed change,” Jorgensen said.
Unheralded Reed Fischer, running on his old college track, led the way until just before the final lap, when Shadrack Kipchirchir blew past him for first. Lomong joined Kipchirchir at the front and then turned it on in the last 100 meters to win by just 1.29 seconds.
The first title of the meet went to Stanford’s Valarie Allman, who got the best of former Arizona State star Maggie Ewen with a winning throw of 208-6. Allman finished third to Ewen under brutal conditions at the recent NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon — with Ewen knocking Allman off the lead and clinching the title on her final throw. “I was having a little bit of flashbacks, but I believe everything happens for a reason,” Allman said. Four-time U.S. champion Gia Lewis-Smallwood was fourth.
Kara Winger cruised to her eighth national championship in the event, winning with a throw of 206-3 on her final try. It was the longest throw by an American this season. “It’s a big relief,” Winger said.