Winning Efforts Marked Intense Final Day Of U20 Champs

"I don't think any race at this point is just about winning. It's just about me coming out here and doing the best I can and qualifying for whatever for it is to qualify." -- Athing Mu 

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MIRAMAR, Fla. -- In Athing Mu's mind, there are no must-win races.

So, when the Trenton Track Club (NJ) runner was matched up with Stevens Point (WI) High School rising sophomore Roisin Willis -- in what was billed as a rematch of the New Balance Nationals Indoors final this winter -- at the USA Track and Field National Junior Championships on Sunday, revenge was far from Mu's purview.

"I don't think any race at this point is just about winning," she said. "It's just about me coming out here and doing the best I can and qualifying for whatever for it is to qualify." 

She did just that, dealing Willis a loss in a ridiculously stacked 800 meter final across her most tactical race yet, crossing the line in 2:05.59. Willis, making up a huge deficit in the final 100 meters, came in second with a time of 2:06.99. She passed third-place Morgan Chandler (2:07.75) and fourth-place Marlena Preigh (2:08.60) in the final strokes. 

In a race where all eight competitors were bunched together through the first 550 meters, Mu put a little distance between herself and Willis with 150 meters to go.

Willis made her move on the final turn, but Mu held off the charge from her future teammate at next month's Pan American Junior Championships in Costa Rica.

"It makes me feel confident knowing I can sit with the pros if they come out that fast," Mu said.

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Boling dashes to 200 title

Houston Strake Jesuit's Matthew Boling looked forward to Sunday not having to worry about competing in the long jump and 100 meter dash. All his focus was on the qualifying for the Pan American Championships in the 200m.

And Boling had no issues, winning the race in a US No. 10 all-time performance of 20.36. It was his first effort at the distance since April, and in doing so he locked up a new US No. 1 and a Texas No. 3 all-time effort. 

"I think it will be even better when I don't have all those events in one day," Boling said.

"I thought I'd be a little fast in finals, but I still have Pan Ams to do that," he added. "I'm excited. I know I'm faster when I'm fresh."

North Little Rock (AR) High School graduate Kennedy Lightner, a University of Arkansas signee, sought a bit of redemption after being disqualified in the 100 -- he finished fourth and secured what he thought was a spot on the 4X100 relay team, though was deemed to have touched his lane line during the finals race.

In the 200m, citing motivation in that DQ, he finished second in 20.59.

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Beavercreek's Ewert breaks own meet record in 10,000 race walk

It seemed the only person Beavercreek (OH) High School rising senior Taylor Ewert was competing against on Sunday was herself. 

The 2020 Olympic hopeful in the 20K race walk broke her own meet record at 10K, scoring a time of 48:24.61. It was over 30 seconds faster than last year's meet record, and she set a blistering final lap of 1:52.25.

"I knew I was going to be by myself for most of the race, so the biggest thing was just focus," Ewert said. "Florida, I knew coming in it was going to be hot and humid. I was trying to do as much heat acclimation as I could. But in Ohio the weather has been much cooler so that didn't really play to my advantage. I just wanted to come out here and be aggressive that first 5K because that how they tend to race internationally."

Ewert will make her third straight international appearance in July at the Pan American Junior Championships. A year ago, she reset her own American Junior record in Finland at the IAAF World U20 Championships and as a freshman went 50:01.00 at the Pan American Championships.

Westfield (NJ) rising junior Grace Endy turned in a time of 56:21.52 to finish runner-up. 

On the men's side, Missouri Baptist's Jordan Crawford followed up an eighth-place finish at the NAIA championships in the 5,000 race walk with a 53:40.03 in the 10,000 Sunday. He qualified alongside runner-up Samuel Allen, a rising senior at Woolwich Township (NJ) Kingsway who posted a 54:08.19.

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Georgia signee Hall cruises to women's heptathlon title

Valor Christian High School graduate Anna Hall hadn't competed in the high jump in a meet since March. A Grade 3 ankle sprain had kept her in a boot for much of her senior season.

But in her first practice back, she couldn't clear 5 foot, 6 inches, which would have been a problem at the Junior National Championships.

Of course, that was only a fleeting worry. The more she practiced, the more the future University of Georgia recruit got her touch back. Hall reached 5-11.5 on Saturday in the heptathlon as part of a day where she won three more events -- the 100 hurdles (13.95), shot put (40-00.75) and the 200 (24.20).

Everything was set for Hall to go after her own high school national record, but things didn't go to plan on Sunday. Hall called Day 2 "a disaster" as she finished third in the long jump (16-11.5) and javelin (105-6) before winning the 800 (2:14.73). 

"It's not that my ankle was hurting, but the time off and out where I was in a boot not running. I just wouldn't say it was my endurance fitness but just my longevity and ability to last during the two days," Hall said. "Aside from that I wasn't really cleared to jump and practice until two weeks ago. So, I still feel a bit rusty there. I was able to pull it together in high jump because that's something I've been doing my whole life. Long jump, not so much. I'm excited now that I'm healthy I'll be able to work on that again."

North Carolina State's Timara Chapman (5,383 points) will be joining Hall in Costa Rica, while Millville (NJ) High School's Bryanna Craig broke her own high school freshmen record with 5,094 points. She's the first freshman in high school history to have broken 5,000 points. 

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Auburn's Hill hyped after winning men's high jump title

The focus on Sunday for Auburn rising sophomore Dontavious Hill was solely on making the Pan American Championships team. However, after clearing 6 feet, 11.75 inches to best the rest of the field, he couldn't help but let out a, "Let's go!"

Hill followed with three failed attempts at 7-1 before sitting back and watching a jump off between Apex (NC) graduate Charles McBride and Colorado's Jeremy Cody. After McBride cleared, Jeremy Cody couldn't get over.

"I mentally prepared myself to stay clean throughout out the first three, four bars and I knew I was going to be on the team," Hill said.

Competing in the talent-rich SEC, Hill was coming off a freshman season where he PRed at 7-1.5 and jumped 6-11 to finish 23rd at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

"The main thing I learned is to worry about yourself because if you worry about other jumpers you can get complacent and then you start thinking about. 'Oh am I going to clear this next bar.' Just worry about yourself."

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Georgia signee Tyler wins second straight Juniors national championship

Despite winning an Indiana high school state high jumping championship, Noblesville's Shelby Tyler had mixed feelings about her outdoor season. She was unsuccessful in her quest to clear six feet.

Until Sunday.

After two misses at six feet with a National U20 title on the line, the Georgia signee got over the bar while runners-up Sanaa Barnes of Villanova, Blaine (MN) rising senior Madison Schmidt and Baylor's Alyssa Miller faltered.

Toward the middle of the competition, Tyler was aware it would come down to a make at six-feet. She said despite a few misses, she continued to remind herself each time that she had the opportunity to bounce back.

"Third attempt I just tried to clear my head and get off the ground as fast as I can," Tyler said. "That makes me jump higher. I also prayed a lot so that helped too."

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Kayla Davis dethrones defending champion Alexis Holmes in women's 400

On Sunday, Run U Xpress' Kayla Davis wasn't going to back down to Big Ten champion Alexis Holmes.

And she knew running Holmes' race would have been a mistake.

Instead, the New Balance Nationals Outdoor champ dug in over the final 200 meters to post a time of 51.28 seconds, edging Holmes (51.52). It was Davis' second straight week hitting a sub-52 second race at 400m. 

"I ran my race," Davis said. "I wasn't going to go hard when other people were going hard. I wasn't going to switch up because other people were going out hard and other people finish hard. I have to do what I do."

Georgetown Day's Ziyah Holman (52.12) and Buford (GA)'s Kimberly Harris (52.16) will round out the 4X400 relay team in Costa Rica.

Hazelwood West (MO) rising senior Justin Robinson came out on top in a men's 400 field stacked with college talent, recording a time of 45.59 seconds after finishing fourth in the event at Juniors last year. The effort marked his first time in the 45-second category. 

"I ran 46 pretty easy (in preliminaries) and I knew I had a whole bunch left in me," Robinson said.

Southern Miss' Trey Johnson (46.41) was the runner-up, followed by Houston's Frederick Lewis (46.66) and Baylor's Matthew Moorer (46.68).

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Britton Wilson comes out on top in 400 hurdles battle with Masai Russell

Mills Godwin (VA) High School graduate Britton Wilson said on Sunday that she loved racing Kentucky's Masai Russell.

Because ultimately, she knows racing that kind of talent will bring out the best in her.

It certainly did this time, as Wilson beat Russell in the 400m hurdles and the pair punched their tickets to Costa Rica.

"I'm really happy. I went out there thinking to leave it all on the track and just run as fast as I could," Wilson said. "I think I did that."

Wilson clocked in at 56.36 while Russell came in at 56.78. The two will start to see a lot of each other after the Pan American Junior Championships when Wilson competes for Tennessee next season. Kentucky's Russell will likely face off against the freshman in the SEC. 

Russell doubled up in her Pan American Junior Championship bids on Sunday, finishing second to Greater Atlanta Christian's Jasmin Jones (13.19) in the 100 hurdles.

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UCLA's Ogbonnia secures Juniors crown on last attempt to win men's shot put

Even down to his last throw, UCLA's Otito Ogbonnia remained confident that Kentucky's Joshua Sobota's mark of 68-6 wouldn't stand.

"I was just in my head a little bit," Ogbonnia said. "It was just a matter of time. It was just matter of listening to my coach and listening to my cues."

Ogbonnia, a defensive lineman on the Bruin's football team, unleashed a toss 70-3 on his last attempt to secure his first spot on a world junior team alongside Sobota.

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Kansas' Ferguson, McMahon (CT)'s Forde duel in triple jump

Brien McMahon (CT) High School graduate Justin Forde knew the mark to beat early on in the men's triple jump because Kansas' Treyvon Ferguson set it on his first attempt.

Forde, a New Balance Nationals Indoor and Outdoor champion, came an inch away, hitting 52-11 on his second attempt, but couldn't catch Ferguson. He came up inches short on his final attempt.

But those efforts extended both athlete's seasons, with Ferguson continuing a hot streak that saw him PR at 53-1 and finish 10th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

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