16-year-old Quincy Wilson to run men's 400m final tonight at U.S. Olympic trials

EUGENE, Oregon — A Hayward Field fan favorite has blossomed in the form of 16-year-old sensation Quincy Wilson.

Running against competitors nearly twice his age at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, Wilson’s captured the support and attention from spectators at the stadium and watching from home as he raced into Monday night’s 400 meters final. The top three finishers in the final will make Team USA and go to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Wilson broke the under-18 world record when he ran a 44.66 in the first round of the 400 meters on Friday. Then he broke the record again Sunday by running a 44.59 to advance to Monday’s final, which is scheduled for 9:59 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

Wilson will be running out of Lane 2.

"It means a lot to me because it means my hard work has been paying off," Wilson said after qualifying for the final. "I'm just excited for myself."

Wilson, who attends Bullis School in Maryland, is entering the 400 final with the fourth fastest qualifying time. He is behind Quincy Hall (44.42), Bryce Deadmon (44.44) and Vernon Norwood (44.50).

Not surprisingly, Wilson has earned the admiration of his competitors.

"It’s spectacular. A 16-year-old coming out here, competing like a true competitor, not letting the moment get too big but living in the moment," said Olympic gold medalist Michael Norman, who also advanced to the final. "It’s great to see young talents like him elevate and push us to run a little faster, and take us out of our comfort zone. I think he has a bright future."

Wilson said his race plan went out the window during the first rounds of the trials, and his ability to qualify was all heart.

“I’m just running for my life out there," Wilson said. "I have a lot of things I can do to improve myself. I’m in the world’s biggest final coming up. At 16 years old, I’m ecstatic right now. ...It’s one of the happiest days of my life."

Olympic hopeful doesn't yet have driver's license

In some ways, Wilson is like his fellow competitors: He’s repped by a major apparel company after signing an NIL deal with New Balance last September.

In other ways, he’s extremely different. He gets straight As, for example … because he’s still juggling full-time school with training. Also of note: He does not yet have his driver’s license, and isn't sure when he'll get it. He doesn't have time to study or practice driving, what with trying to make the Olympic team and all.

Wilson is coached at Bullis by Joe Lee, a former youth pastor who’s been at the Potomac, Maryland, private school for 11 years. Before Wilson, Lee coached Wilson’s cousin, Shaniya Hall, a sprinter who starred at college track powerhouse Oregon the last four years, where she helped the Ducks to two Pac-12 relay championships.

After his blistering opening round Friday, Wilson was asked if he held back at all considering it was just a heat. He smiled.

“It’s a different game," he said. "I’m not in high school anymore, I’m running with the big dogs now, so I gotta give it my all.”

He brushed off concerns about if he’d be able to recover fully.

“I know my training and my coaching,” he said. “They have me in the right position.”

That goes for the mental side, too. Asked what his nerves were on a scale of 1-10 after his first race, he again gave off his megawatt smile before declaring, “Probably like a 2.”

“I’m just racing against bigger people,” Wilson said, a nod to both his competitors' physical stature and brand names. “But to me everybody puts their spikes on the same way I do, and I train just as hard as they do.”

He made it clear he’s not just here to enjoy the experience, either. He wants to win.

Could Wilson make the Olympic team?

Norman, who ran in his first trials at 18, seemed somewhat skeptical that the 16-year-old would claim a spot on the Olympic team in the 400.

Asked if he viewed Wilson as a contender, Norman was blunt.

“It’s tough,” he said. “There’s people out there fighting for money right now. He made the final. It’s very hard to say. This is probably his first time running three rounds. I remember (my first trials), running three rounds in the 200, I was cooked.”

Quincy Wilson, who is 16 years old, looks on after competing in the men's 400 meter semi-final during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Quincy Wilson, who is 16 years old, looks on after competing in the men's 400 meter semi-final during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

But he wasn’t ready to write Wilson off entirely.

“Kids are different now, so it’s definitely possible,” Norman said. “He could definitely sneak into a relay spot for sure.”

High school track phenoms are rare at the Olympic Track & Field Trials, but not entirely unheard of: In 2016, 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone finished third in the 400 hurdles, and qualified for the Rio Games. She did not make the final in Rio. (McLaughlin-Levrone is favored to win the 400 hurdles later this week). McLaughlin-Levrone was the youngest athlete to make Team USA’s Olympic roster in 36 years.

Erriyon Knighton, one of the world’s top 200 runners, made the Tokyo roster as a high school junior, finishing fourth in Japan. Knighton won bronze at the 2022 World Championships. He’s entered in the 200 later this week.

Should Wilson qualify for Paris, he would be the youngest-ever male member of the American Olympic track team.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Quincy Wilson, 16, in men's 400 final tonight at Olympic track trials