* Jonathan Simms enters as the top seed in the 17-18yo men's 400m at the AAU Junior Olympics.
Photo Credit: Dan Loughlin/MileSplit North Carolina
WATCH LIVE: THE 2023 AAU JUNIOR OLYMPIC GAMES
BEGINS AIRING LIVE JULY 29-AUGUST 5
We're now just days away from the 2023 AAU Junior Olympic Games and it's going to be a fierce one in both the sprints and hurdles disciplines.
Record-holders, state champions and up-and-coming young talents highlight some of the top entrants in events from the 100m to the 400mH.
We break down some of the top storylines to follow in the days ahead in Des Moines.
Continue below for our top athletes, matchups and more in the sprints and hurdles events at the 2023 AAU Junior Olympics.
AAU Junior Olympic Games Previews:
HOW TO WATCH:
Streaming: You can watch the 2023 AAU Junior Olympic Games LIVE on FloTrack. MileSplit subscribers will need to upgrade to the Universal plan to access the livestream.
On Your TV: Now available on Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast and Apple TV.
Cast: Cast to your smart TV, including Vizio, Samsung and LG TVs.
On The Go: Download the FloSports app on iOS or Android
Video footage from the event will be archived and stored in a video library for both MileSplit and FloSports subscribers to watch fro the duration of their subscription.
FIVE ATHLETES TO WATCH
* Makeriah Harris discusses her 100mH win for the 17-18yo age group at the 2022 AAU Junior Olympics.
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Jonathan Simms, Allen (TX), Class of 2025, 15-16yo: It's been seven years since the all-star sprinter from Texas broke the 9yo national record in the 400m at the 2016 AAU Junior Olympics, but 2023 could be the year that he adds another record to his name. The UIL Texas Class 6A state champion in the 400m will line up in Des Moines looking to threaten the 15-16yo age group record, having already clocked 45.90 at Brooks PR earlier in the season. Tyrese Cooper's record of 45.23 from 2016 could prove challenging to tackle, but with Simm's experience winning the quarter-mile at JOs, don't count him out.
Nia Armstrong, Vast Track Club (FL), Class of 2029, 13yo: The New Balance National Outdoor champion in the middle school 100mH could very well challenge Adrianna Haynes' 14.37 100mH record for the 13yo age group from last year. Armstrong won her New Balance crown in 14.22 (+1.1) in mid-June, putting that 14.37 record well within reach. Armstrong will also enter as the favorite in the 200mH where she enters with a seed time of 27.81 from the qualifying rounds.
Antwan Hughes Jr., Parkland Magnet IB (NC), Class of 2024, 17-18yo: Hughes developed into one of the breakout stars of the 2023 track season and he'll look to end his season at the Junior Olympics on a high note. Hughes recently had one of the best performances of his career at New Balance Nationals Outdoor when he set a lifetime PR of 10.27 (+1.6) seconds for fifth in the 100m. During the indoor season, he made national news behind his 6.19 state-winning performance in the 55m at the NCHSAA 4A State Championships. The 15-16yo 100m Junior Olympics champion from 2022 will return to the AAU circuit looking to repeat in the 100m and add a 200m win to his name as well.
Makeriah Harris, Scotlandville (LA), Class of 2024, 17-18yo: The third-fastest 100m hurdler from the spring season will return to the AAU Junior Olympics where she has a history of winning championships. In 2022, Harris won the 100mH and took second in a close 400mH race for the 17-18yo division; this year, she enters as the favorite to defend her 100mH title in 2023. She will also look to upgrade her hardware in the longer 400mH event, going up against reigning champion Morgan Roundtree. Harris holds season bests of 13.18 for the 100mH and 59.71 at the 400mH, the latter of which earned her a title at the AAU Primary & Club Championships earlier this month.
Jazonte Levan, Seaford (DE), Class of 2024, 17-18yo: Coming off two races at the USATF U20 Championships in Eugene, Levan will make the trip to Des Moines as one of the top entrants in both the men's 17-18yo 100m and 200m. Levan set an all-time 100m PR of 10.47 at the AAU Region 3 Qualifier in June and holds a best of 20.61 in the 200m, also from the Region 3 competition. On the U20 stage, the Seaford (DE) rising senior earned the bronze in the 200m in 20.72 -- narrowly missing out on making the U.S. team for the U20 Pan American Games -- and took sixth in the 100m in 10.48.
TOP EVENT TO WATCH
* Kendrick Jones Jr. enters the 15-16yo boys 100m as one of the top seeds.
Photo Credit: Matt Bogues/MileSplit Texas
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The 15-16yo boys 100m could turn into the matchup of the games. And we mean, the entire AAU Junior Olympic Games.
Not only do you have the 14yo AAU Junior Olympics national record-holder Kendrick Jones Jr. headlining the field, but you also have other elite athletes in the mix for a win.
Jones Jr., the Lake Belton (TX) rising sophomore, enters the 15-16yo age group after setting a 10.76 14yo all-time JOs best in 2022. He's coming off an impressive spring campaign, too, where he won a UIL Texas Class 5A state title in the 200m in 20.57 (+2.6).
But Jones Jr. won't be alone.
Jayden Finley of North Richland Hills (TX) holds the top seed mark from the AAU qualifying rounds of 10.53. And Finley isn't new to racing Jones, either, as he finished ahead of him in the 100m at the UIL Texas Class 5A State Championships in 10.41 for third, just in front of Jones Jr. in fourth.
What makes the field even more exciting is the potential for dark horses to emerge, one of them being Terrance Mahomes. The rising sophomore, who competed for Bullis School (MD) this year only raced during the indoor season, but won the freshman 60m at New Balance Nationals Indoor in 6.85.
And athletics runs in the family for Mahomes, who is the cousin of Super Bowl champion quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Other competitors that could shoot for the Junior Olympic title include Justin McDonald-Stewart, who ran 10.57 seconds at adidas Outdoor Nationals in June; as well as Brayden Williams and Kameran Warren, both of which hold seed marks under 10.80. Evan Boykin, of Charlotte, has run 10.59 seconds and should also be among the contenders.
AN AAU THROWBACK
At the 2021 AAU Junior Olympic Games, MileSplit followed current University of Georgia talent and former Track Life University (MI) star Kaila Jackson as she sought to earn national titles and records.
That's the record-breaking mark Kaila Jackson set in a dominant fashion to win the 17-18yo 200m title at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics -- a time that still stand to this day.
When looking for AAU legends, look no further than Jackson, who earned four individual Junior Olympic titles during her youth career and helped Track Life University to countless relay wins across all age groups.
At the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics, MileSplit profiled Jackson, at the time a rising senior, as she embarked on one of the most impressive Junior Olympic sprint performances in history.
ON THE LINE
* The MileSplit gang discusses the top returners headed to the AAU Junior Olympic Games in 2023
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8-and-under Girls -- Juliah Bolden, Wichita, KS, 13.86, 2017; 8-and-under Boys -- Willie Washington, Hampton City, VA, 13.46, 2011; 9yo Girls -- Aleia Hobbs, Avondale, LA, 13.23, 2005; 9yo Boys -- Jaikeem Mitchell, Dallas, TX, 12.86, 2022; 10yo Girls -- Sabree Brooks, Indianapolis, IN, 12.76, 2017; 10yo Boys -- Bershawn Jackson Jr., Wake Forest, NC, 12.43, 2022; 11yo Girls -- Aaliyah Brown, Matteson, IL, 12.45, 2006; 11yo Boys -- Walker Williams, Detroit, MI, 12.04, 2004; 12yo Girls -- Tamari Davis, Clermont, FL, 11.92, 2015; 12yo Boys -- Chadney Cross, Virginia Beach, VA, 11.56, 2022; 13yo Girls -- McKenzie Rogers, Flourissant, MO, 11.83, 2021; 13yo Boys -- Brayden Robinson, Red Oaks, TX, 11.09; 2021; 14yo Girls -- Tamari Davis, Clermont, FL, 11.48, 2017; 14yo Boys -- Kendrick Jones Jr., Temple, TX, 10.76, 2022; 15-16yo Girls -- Myasia Jacobs, Paterson, NJ, 11.51, 2010; 15-16yo Boys -- Ryan Berard, Houston, TX, 11.27, 1996; 17-18yo Women -- Laila Hackett, Plano, TX, 11.46, 2022; 17-18yo Men -- Xavier Alson, Houston, TX, 10.11, 1996.
8-and-under Girls -- Lilyanna Duvra, Ocoee, FL, 28.29, 2021; 8-and-under Boys -- Sidi Njie, Atlanta, GA, 27.80, 2015; 9yo Girls -- Lilyanna Duvra, Ocoee, FL, 27.55, 2022; 9yo Boys -- Tyler Mapson Jr., Union City, GA, 26.46, 2012; 10yo Girls -- Elise Cooper, Owings MIlls, MD, 26.05, 2017; 10yo Boys -- Omar Thomas, Pompano Beach, FL, 25.25, 2021; 11yo Girls -- Aaliyah Brown, Matteson, IL, 25.14, 2006; 11yo Boys -- Willie Washington, Hampton, VA, 24.69, 2014; 12yo Girls -- Aaliyah Brown, Matteson, IL, 24.63, 2007; 12yo Boys -- Aaron Brown-Nixon, Austin, TX, 23.65, 2010; 13yo Girls -- Kendall Baisden, Detroit, MI, 24.03, 2008; 13yo Boys -- Durian Moss, Miami, FL, 22.34, 2019; 14yo Girls -- Tamari Davis, Clermont, FL, 23.26, 2017; 14yo Boys -- Kendrick Jones Jr., Temple, TX, 21.25, 2022; 15-16yo Girls -- Kendall Baisden, Detroit, MI, 23.42, 2010; 15-16yo Boys -- Erriyon Knighton, Riverview, FL, 20.33, 2020; 17-18yo Women -- Kaila Jackson, Detroit, MI, 23.01, 2021; 17-18yo Men -- J-Mee Samuels, Winston-Salem, NC, 20.58, 2004.
8-and-under Girls -- Kharisma Watkins, Miami Garden, FL, 1:05.04, 2018; 8-and-under Boys -- Tyler Mapson, College Park, GA, 1:03.44, 2011; 9yo Girls -- Chizaram Stephens, Richmond, TX, 1:01.60, 2018; 9yo Boys -- Jonathan Simms, Plano, TX, 59.25, 2016; 10yo Girls -- Tiana Welbon, Gaithersburg, MD, 59.37, 2019: 10yo Boys -- Omar Thomas, Pompano Beach, FL, 55.74, 2021; 11yo Girls -- Kayla Davis, Charlotte, NC, 57.07, 2014; 11yo Boys -- Prentice Jones Jr., Long Beach, CA, 55.51, 2021: 12yo Girls -- Brandi Cross, Missouri City, TX, 55.11, 2000; 12yo Boys -- Lewis Murphy, Pearland, TX, 52.55, 2021; 13yo Girls -- Christin Facey, Pembroke Pines, FL, 54.00, 2019; 13yo Boys -- Jaelen Hunter, South Gate, CA, 49.98, 2022; 14yo Girls -- Kendall Baisden, Detroit, MI, 53.05, 2009; 14yo Boys -- Quincy Wilson, Chesapeake, VA, 47.59, 2022; 15-16yo Girls -- Kendall Baisden, Detroit, MI, 52.71, 2010; 15-16yo Boys -- Tyrese Cooper, Miami Gardens, FL, 45.23, 2016; 17-18yo Women -- Jameesia Ford, Fayetteville, NC, 52.41, 2022; 17-18yo Men -- Aldrich Bailey, Arlington, TX, 45.45, 2012.
11yo Girls -- Tia Jones, Kennesaw, GA, 12.49, 2011; 11yo Boys -- Zacchaeus Brocks, Detroit, MI, 12.10, 2019; 12yo Girls -- Tia Jones, Marietta, GA, 11.71, 2012; 12yo Boys -- Greg Foster, Lumberton, NJ, 11.67, 2016.
13yo Girls -- Adrianna Haynes, Warner Robins, GA, 14.37, 2022; 13yo Boys -- Litchfield Ajavon, Baltimore City, 13.39, 2014; 14yo Girls -- Kendell Williams, Kennesaw, GA, 13.82, 2009; 14yo Boys -- Jordan Bracy, Mesquite, TX, 13.17, 2009; 15-16yo Girls -- April Williams, Dallas, TX, 13.55, 2004; 17-18yo Women -- April Williams, Dallas, Tx, 13.38, 2006.
13yo Girls -- Kayleigh Stargell, Mableton, GA, 26.84, 2019; 13yo Boys -- Caleb Roberson, Jurupa Valley, CA, 24.62, 2014; 14yo Girls -- Kendell Williams, Kennesaw, GA, 26.10, 2009; 14yo Boys -- Jeremiah Smith, Topeka, KS, 24.10, 2019.
15-16yo Girls -- Shamier Little, Chicago, IL, 57.83, 2011; 15-16yo Boys -- Robert Griffin III, Copperas Cove, TX, 51.77, 2006; 17-18yo Women -- Jacquelyn Coward, Knoxville, TN, 57.74, 2007; 17-18yo Men -- Robert Griffin III, Copperas Cove, TX, 49.56, 2007.
FOUR BIG MATCHUPS
Category: 17-18yo Women's 400mH
Seed Marks: 59.71 & 1:01.81
Category: 17-18yo Men's 110mH
Seed Marks: 14.07 & 14.35
Category: 9yo Girls 100m
Seed Marks: 13.93 & 13.93
Category: 12yo Boys 400m
Seed Marks: 54.12 & 54.47