Photos by: Klotz Images
PORTLAND – Eighteen-year old Vashti Cunningham, the phenom high school high jumper from Nevada and recent Nike signee, was the youngest winner at the World Indoor Championships last weekend, but she was not the sole face of a youthful revolution in track and field that was on display. Meet organizers put on quite a show and attracted groups of kids for various promotions during the two weeks that the indoor track facility was set up at the Oregon Convention Center, even letting some lucky high school athletes race on the same track as the pros!
But it was the successful display of youth at the actual World meet that was most impressive to me, where 10 athletes aged 22 or younger won either Gold or Silver medals in individual events. Many more young athletes were in the hunt for a medal!
Here is a list of the top performances by young athletes at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships. Many of these athletes had experience competing in Oregon as they were veterans of the 2014 World Junior Track and Field Championships and/or the NCAA Championships, held at Hayward Field in Eugene.
Trayvon Bromell, 20, USA – With his Gold medal in the men’s 60-meter dash (6.47), Bromell became the youngest ever World Indoor Champion in the short sprint. Bromell won gold (4x100 relay) and silver (100m) at the 2014 World Junior Championships. Bromell tied for the Bronze medal in the 100-meters at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing last summer.
NCAA Accomplishments (Baylor): 2014 NCAA champion at 100-meters, 9.97 seconds (World Junior Record). 2015 NCAA Indoor Champion at 200-meters.
Yomif Kejelcha, 18, Ethiopia – Kejelcha is a former World Junior champion at age 17 over 5,000-meters (2014), this time he won Gold in the men’s 3,000-meters (7:57.21). Kejelcha, who was 4th at the 2015 outdoor World Championships in the 5,000-meters, joined Vashti Cunningham as the only 18-year old winners in Portland.
Max Hess, 19, Germany – Hess won the Silver medal in the men’s triple jump 56-4 (17.14m). Hess also won the silver medal in the triple jump at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene.
Abdul Haroun, 19, Qatar – By winning the Silver medal in the men’s 400-meters (45.59), Haroun became the youngest ever indoor medalist in the 400m.
Konrad Bukowiecki, 19, Poland – Although Bukowiecki didn’t medal, he placed 4th in the men’s shot put 67-5 (20.53m), an event usually reserved for older, experienced veterans, not someone who turned 19-years-old on the first day of the meet. Bukowiecki won gold in the shot put in Eugene at the World Junior Championships in 2014.
Vashti Cunningham, 18, USA – Cunningham won Gold in women’s high jump, clearing 6-5 (1.96m), to become the youngest winner at the meet. Vashti, the daughter of NFL legend Randall Cunningham, signed with Nike the next day, giving up her senior year of eligibility at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.
Yulimar Rojas, 20, Venezuela – Rojas only had one legal jump, but it was enough to win the Gold medal in the women’s triple jump 47-3 (14.41m).
Ajee Wilson, 21, USA – Wilson raced to a Silver medal in the women’s 800-meters (2:00.27). Wilson was the 2013 World Junior Champion over 800-meters.
Ashley Spencer, 22, USA – Spencer won the Silver medal in the open women’s 400-meters (51.72) and added a Gold medal as part of Team USA’s winning 4x400m relay. NCAA Championships (Illinois, Texas): 2012 and 2013 NCAA 400-meters.
Dawit Seyaum, 19, Ethiopia – Seyaum won the Silver medal in the women’s 1,500-meters (4:05.30). Gudaf Tsegay, 19, Ethiopia – Tsegay followed her teammate to a 3rd place finish in the women’s 1,500-meters (4:05.71) for the Bronze medal. Both have previous experience in Oregon running at Championship meets, as Seyaum won gold and Tsegay silver in the 1,500m at the 2014 World Junior Meet in Eugene.
Eliza McCartney, 19, New Zealand – McCartney set a National Indoor Record 15-5 (4.70m), by placing 5th in the women’s pole vault. McCartney won the Bronze medal in the pole vault at the 2014 World Junior Championships.
Kemi Adekoya, 23, Bahrain – Adekoya looked super strong in winning the Gold medal in the women’s 400-meters (51.45).
Francine Niyonsaba, 22, Burundi – Niyonsaba raced the first indoor races in her life in Portland, and was very impressive in winning the Gold medal in the women’s 800-meters (2:00.01).
Two 20-year old University of Georgia student-athletes had very solid results.
Kendall Williams, 20, USA – Williams placed 6th in the Pentathlon with 4,586 pts. Williams won the Gold medal in the 100-hurdles at the 2014 World Junior Championships. NCAA Championships: 2014 – indoor Pentathlon and outdoor Heptathlon Champion. 2015 – Indoor Pentathlon Champion. (Collegiate record holder in the indoor Pentathlon).
Keturah Orji, 20, USA – Orji placed 4th in the women’s triple jump 46-5 (14.14 meters). NCAA Championships: 2015 outdoor triple jump champion.
USA’s Kendall Williams was not the only young woman to excel in the women’s Pentathlon, as young multi-event athletes from England, Canada and Germany were also very impressive.
Morgan Lake, 18, England – Lake placed 7th (4,499) in the women’s pentathlon. Lake was one of the stars of the meet when she won Gold medals in the heptathlon and high jump at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene.
Georgia Ellenwood, 20, Canada (University of Wisconsin) – Ellenwood placed 10th (4,324) in the women’s pentathlon.
Celina Leffler, 19, Germany – Leffler placed 11th (4,181) in the women’s pentathlon.