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Remember the name: 16-year-old Quincy Wilson leaves his mark in Eugene


EUGENE, Ore. — By next week, Quincy Wilson, the 16-year-old track phenom who made his presence felt at this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials, will know his summer vacation plans.

He’ll either join other Washington D.C. teenagers in enrolling in a three-week driver’s education course to begin earning his license, or he’ll fly to Paris to become the youngest American male runner to appear at the Olympic Games.

Naturally, he’d prefer the latter, putting his driving dreams on pause a while longer.

For now, all he can do is wait as his summer fate is determined. A selection committee’s forthcoming decision regarding relay teams is the only way Wilson can qualify for Paris. His blazing 44.94-second men’s 400-meter final on Monday secured a sixth-place finish — three places short of qualifying for the Olympics.

Whether his Olympic hopes come to fruition or not, the past few days in Eugene have been a memorable whirlwind for Wilson.

When he arrived at Hayward Field on June 21, the track diehards in the stands were the main ones applauding his introduction. By the end of the week, the entire stadium was doing it, adorning him with the kinds of raucous recognition that proved he had reached a rockstar-like status.

In-stadium, his ovations had become louder than virtually every other athlete. On social media, celebrities began tweeting at him. People from all over were taking notice of the kid from Maryland with the bright-shining smile.

“I’m happy that it’s a feel-good story,” Wilson’s coach, Joe Lee, said after the 400-meter final. “Everybody can identify with having somebody who they know and they’re close to who is a teenager and is wanting to aspire to great things. And seeing people support that, it made me feel good about the state of our country.”

Here’s how this past week went for the teen who became the latest American athlete to capture the attention of millions.

Friday, June 21

It took very little time for Wilson to leave his mark on this track.

During the trials’ second heat of non-decathlon races, Wilson stepped into the oval and instantly turned heads. First, he caught attention for the gray camouflage New Balance uniform he wore. On the uniform’s right side was a swatch of the Maryland flag, a hard to miss, multi-colored pattern.

“That was all him,” Lee said. “Usually I design the uniforms, but he wanted to do this one and I was like, ‘Have at it, kid.’

“He freaking killed it. I’m like, ‘I like it.'”

After winning the first round of the men’s 400-meter dash with a time of 44.66 seconds, Wilson left his indelible imprint by breaking the 44.69-second under-18 world record that Darell Robinson set in 1982.

“I’ve been looking at it all season,” Wilson said.

“I’ve been consistent at 45.1 throughout the whole season. So when I come to the big meets, I usually drop a second or a half a second, and I did just that in the prelim.”

Wilson was only 0.06 seconds slower than Quincy Hall, the winner of the heat who later took gold in the finals.

Chris Bailey, another elite mid-distance sprinter who took bronze in the finals, was also in the same heat.

“Even I didn’t plan on running that fast,” Bailey said of his own 44.86-second showing to start the trials, before turning his attention to Wilson. “He’s got his head on straight, so I’m pretty sure he’s prepared [to repeat the effort].”

In early stages of the race, Wilson held his ground near the front of the pack. He ran alongside Hall and Bailey coming into the final curve and the last 100 meters, making the all-important push that helped him set the world record.

“I felt very collected and very smooth, finishing that last 100,” Wilson said. “It’s a different game, I’m not running high school anymore. I’m running with the big dogs, so I just had to come out here and give it my all.

“It’s the first round, so I hope there’s many more of that record to break.”

Sunday, June 23

How prophetic were those words?

After a day off between the preliminary rounds and semifinals, Wilson set his sights on surpassing the record he had set in the first half.

First, however, he had to handle a request from a new fan.

On the same day he helped Olympic sprinter Noah Lyles — one of the few athletes who received louder ovations than Wilson by week’s end — show off a piece in his Yu-Gi-Oh! card collection during Lyles’ midday arrival, world-renowned rapper Snoop Dogg made it known he needed to see the young track star.

“He said he wanted to meet me, so we met outside right before I ran,” Wilson said.

It was one of several interactions Wilson had with celebrities within a 48-hour stretch. He exchanged tweets with Colorado Buffaloes football coach Deion Sanders and received a shoutout on X from Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill.

Washington Commanders minority owner Magic Johnson also invited Wilson and his family to watch the NFL team with him next season.

Friday’s world-record run put Wilson on the map. No longer were the track diehards the only ones who wanted to see him succeed. Many others wanted it now, too.

“This is a young kid who is trying to fulfill his dreams and to hear the crowd behind him and everybody, I mean, not even just a crowd, but on social media,” Lee said. “He’s getting shoutouts from famous people that I didn’t even know follow track.”

Once his meeting with the rap legend was complete, Wilson turned his attention back to his Day 2 race.

As Wilson settled into the blocks wearing a purple uniform with a white trim that mimicked the necklaced outline on Black Panther’s vibranium-infused superhero outfit, Wilson heard cheers for his name like he had never before.

“The intro, it was amazing,” Wilson said, smiling. “I just want the crowd to keep hyping me up.

“But also, I looked around when they did it, and I seen Vernon [Norwood] behind me, Bryce Deadmon and it kind of fired them up. So [to the crowd] I was just like, ‘I don’t know, you may want to calm it down.’ But no, I love it.”

The crowd’s energy may have helped inspire Deadmon and Norwood to run 44.44 and 44.50-second times respectively in the semifinal, but it also helped Wilson rally late.

Wilson tossed his race plan out of the window when he slipped to the back of the pack nearly halfway through, but dug deep to find a way to salvage his finish.

“He’s a small guy running against bigger guys,” Lee said. “But the heart inside is immeasurable.”

As the racers entered the final straightaway, Wilson turned on another gear. Arms flying high, he caught back up with the leaders and pushed them as the line approached.

“That’s all heart,” Wilson said. “All the days that I’ve been on the hills, the 300s, the back-end work, all that.

“If you look at Vernon’s interviews he says, ‘I’m going to see you at 300 [meters].’ So I was seeing all of them at 300.”

Once the runners crossed the finish line and their times started to be revealed on the video boards, the buzz within the crowd grew. Not only had Hall paced everyone with a season’s best 44.42-second time, but the fourth-place finisher made up just enough ground to not only sneak into Monday’s final, but to set an under-18 world record again with a time of 44.59 seconds.

“I’ve never been this happy a day in my life when it came to track. I’ve been working for this moment,” Wilson said. “That record that I broke two days ago, that’s 42 years, 42 years of nobody being able to break that record, and I broke it twice in [three] days.

“That means a lot to me because that means my hard work has been paying off. Staying longer after practices, before practices … I’m just excited for myself.”

Monday, June 24

In April, Wilson and his Bullis School (Maryland) teammates were in Philadelphia, participating in the Penn Relays.

As part of the Bulldogs’ 4×400-meter relay team, the sophomore ran the anchor leg. His team was part of two races across a five-hour stretch that day, with Wilson posting remarkably low individual times in both.

After running the lowest 400-meter time ever recorded by a high school athlete at the Penn Relays (44.37 seconds) in the team’s first heat, Wilson came back to run a 44.69 in the next. While that wasn’t enough for Bullis to medal, the performance showed Wilson and his coaches something valuable.

“Penn Relays helped us know what we can do, but it also gave him the confidence of knowing you’re talking three quarters in four days [at U.S. trials], how about we did two in five hours?” Lee said. “He showed that works.”

For that reason, Wilson fully expected to walk away with an Olympic qualification after Monday’s 400-meter final, after having undergone the still grueling task of going sub-45 seconds two of the previous three days.

But sometimes, confidence alone just isn’t enough.

A slow start from the second-most interior lane doomed Wilson before he ever really got going. Forced to play catch up, the heart he showcased to close the semifinal had to make a repeat appearance.

When Wilson, flirting with last place, met his opponents once again at the 300-meter mark, another comeback ensued.

“I told myself I should’ve got out harder,” Wilson said, relaying his thoughts approaching the final straight. “It didn’t go as I wanted it to.”

Ultimately, he crossed the line in sixth place as he watched Hall, Michael Norman and Bailey celebrate top-3 honors to clinch trips to Paris. The run wasn’t a complete wash for Wilson, though. For the third time in four days, he ran under 45 seconds, clocking 44.94 seconds in the final.

“It is crazy,” Wilson said. “I can’t even believe that I’m out here running three 45s. Wait, see? I’m so used to saying 45, I don’t even know. But three 44s in four days. That’s just hard work and dedication.”

Lee was doubly amazed by Wilson’s outing in Eugene after saying his pupil lost valuable training time last month due to an illness that hospitalized him.

“He lost a full week of training and didn’t know if our season was over,” Lee said. “To battle from that to run 44.59, are you crazy?

“And then to run three 44s? Not many people did that. Even some of the winners didn’t have to run three. I mean, shoutout to Michael Norman, he did a great job, he came in second. But he got a chance to ease it through and run two 45s and then come back and run his 44.

“I’m not complaining. I’m just saying, the resilience of a teenager. I hope the world is watching what character looks like and what resilience in the face of adversity [looks like]. It’s a great story that we can all smile about and we got the memory of.”

Wilson said this was the first time in more than five years that he had a Lane 2 assignment in a 400-meter heat. It taught him a valuable lesson.

“Be grateful for what you have. You never know what you could have,” he said. “Everything is 400 meters, but when I go into practice, starting if it’s next week, tomorrow, in a couple months, I’m going to make sure that I practice in every single lane, not just the high lanes, the low lanes. I want to make sure I balance it out throughout the lanes, throughout the practices.”

Even as he awaits his summertime fate, Wilson is already preparing for his promising long-term future.


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