With World U20 Championships Nearing, No U.S. Junior Team

* Texas native Jasmine Montgomery is the top ranked U.S. U20 athlete in 2021

Photo Credit: Chris Pietsch/The Register Guard/USA Today Sports

Just two days remain until the start of the World Athletics U20 Championships, a competition long known to feature the world's brightest up-and-coming track and field talents, in Nairobi, Kenya. 

But when the competition starts on August 18 -- a day later than expected due to travel concerns -- there will be no United States U20 team. 

In July, senior leadership at United States Track and Field sent an email out to potential athletes signaling that the U.S. would not be fielding junior teams at three upcoming world and Pan-American competitions: 

  • 2021 NACAC U23 Championships -- Costa Rica, July 9-11
  • 2021 World Athletics U20 Championships -- Nairobi, Kenya, August 17-22
  • 2021 Pan American U20 Championships, Iquique, Chile, October 22-24

In the email, USATF wrote: 

"Due to a number of factors including timing, logistics, and most importantly the health and well-being of our athletes and team staffs, USATF will not send athletes to the following 2021 events."

It was a devastating blow to athletes with hopes of competing for the USA at the U20 level. 

It is not known quite yet how many countries have opted out of the competition.

The World U20 Championships are a competition that features high school aged and first-year college-aged athletes from across the globe. 

Only three years ago in Tampere, Finland, the United States junior contingent featured future Olympians such as Jasmine Moore, Tara Davis, Elija Godwin and JuVaughn Harrison.

The World U20 Championships are often considered the highest-ranking junior development competition in the world, a precursor to future Olympic success.

It's where Briana Williams, an Oakland Park Northeast (FL) High School graduate who represented Jamaica in the 4x100 at the Tokyo Olympics and won gold, first scored her biggest honor, becoming the first athlete to secure the sprint double in the 100m and 200m

Back in March, though, signals were already forming. With COVID-19 still a concern across the globe, USATF made the decision to cancel the qualifier for World U20s, canceling the USAF U20 Championships. 

And yet, there was still a sense of optimism when the USATF qualified that in absence of a qualifying meet, it would select athletes for the meet "based on performance rank order for the period Friday, January 1, 2021 through Sunday, June 13, 2021." 

Many junior athletes in the United States trained under that period under the impression that selection was possible based on that criteria.