Vance Nilsson Runs US No. 4 All-Time 400H At Olympic Trials

"It was a great experience for me, (I was) out here trying to do as best as I can and I did that."

Chris Nilsson, Gilbert HS

It has been a fantastic season for Vance Nilsson.

He set a new national record and became the only American high schooler to run sub 35-seconds in the 300-meter hurdles with his 34.83 at the AIA Division I state meet.

Recently, Nilsson signed to run at the University of Florida for college and he won the USATF U20 Championships in the 400-meter hurdles to make the U-20 World Championships.

However, this week brought more accolades and accomplishments.

The recent Gilbert High School (AZ) graduate was just named Gatorade boys track and field athlete of the year for the state of Arizona.

Furthermore, he was competing in the 2024 US Olympic Trials with hopes to make Team USA for the 2024 Paris Olympics. All he did was run two personal bests and tie the No. 4 all-time 400-meter hurdles performance by a high school runner.

There were three rounds to the qualifying structure; athletes had to compete and advance through two preliminary rounds to earn a lane in the finals, which would give them an opportunity to compete for three Olympic Games positions in the event.

The high schooler wasn't competing against his usual level of high school aged athletes. Nilsson was the youngest person in the field which consisted of collegians and professional athletes. These athletes were more experienced, stronger, and mature. We found out, that didn't necessarily mean they were better.

In the first round, Nilsson showed that he had the talent to be a factor at the Olympic Trials. He produced a 50.13 run for second place in his heat; that would earn him the right to move on to the second round, where even higher level of running and experience awaited. 

In the second round heat with Nilsson was Caleb Dean, the second fastest American this year and the 2024 NCAA Champion in the event from Texas Tech University. It also had Khallifah Rosser in it who finished in fifth place at the 2022 World Championships.

US All-Time 400-meter hurdles Performance List

  1. Kenneth Ferguson, MI, 2002 - 49.38
  2. Robert Griffin III, TX, 2007 - 49.56
  3. William Wynne, GA, 2007 - 49.70
  4. Kerron Clement, TX, 2002 - 49.77 - - Vance Nilsson, AZ, 2024 - 49.77

Nilsson ran a very solid first six hurdles going through 250m in 25 seconds. His strength is perhaps the second half of the race and his ability to finish strong. He went through 300m at 36 seconds, but was five meters behind Dean and Rosser. Over the last 100m and final two hurdles, Nilsson was able to close the gap, but wasn't able to grab a top-two finish that would have automatically placed him in the finals.

Finishing in third place, just .05 behind Rosser, he had just missed earning a spot through to the finals. Despite not making the finals, Nilsson demonstrated an encouraging attitude, saying, "it was a great experience for me, (I was) out here trying to do as best as I can and I did that."

The impressive youngster's time of 49.77 was fast enough to tie Olympic silver medalist and World Championship gold medalist Kerron Clement on the all-time list. He only sits behind Kenneth Ferguson - 49.38, Robert Griffin III - 49.56, and William Wynne - 49.70.

Before heading off to Florida in the fall, Nilsson still has the option of running at the U-20 World Championships where he would have the opportunity to improve his standing on the all-time performance list in the 400-meter hurdles