Jenna Prandini is ready to make her mark

The race for sprint supremacy in the United States will be a two-fold affair. For that matter, when it comes to the Tokyo Olympics, the slice of the pie may well be divided up into four pieces.

That’s because the women’s 100 meters U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials champion, Sha’Carri Richarson, will not try to force the issue to dominate the 200.

Quanera Hayes locked up the women’s 400. So that leaves the 200 and the 800 left to be conquered. Not since the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, Mexico, have an American woman (Madeline Manning) captured the two-lap race at the Olympics.

This year the race is wide open for the taking. But when it comes to the women’s 200, the field is just as up in the air.

US Olympic Track and Field Trials
June 24, 2021-Tamara Clark outsprints Allyson Felix to the finish line in a 200-meter heat during the 2021 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Clark won her heat in a time of 22.4. Felix was clocked at 22.56. Photo credit: Paul Merca for TrackTown USA

Before worrying about the Jamaican track team, the business at hand is seeing who is the best that America has to offer in the shorter races. After looking at the opening round of the women’s 200, the answer will not be clear-cut until the finals. However, there is one we know for sure: it won’t be Richardson. That means the door is open for someone else to step up to the plate and take over that mantle.

“Today, my coaches told me to just get out and hold on to the end because everybody wanted it,” University of Alabama star Tamara Clark said after posting the sixth-fastest time in a women’s 200 heat. “I wasn’t thinking about anybody else racing. I was just thinking about my race.”

The 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field sprint double champion, Cambrea Sturgis, who is trying to nail down an Olympic spot, said she is trying to let her wings fly. Her winning performance at the NCAA championships lifted her confidence, she said.

“My self-confidence changed ‘cause after winning, being a two-time national champion, I had more confidence knowing where I stand and while I was doing Olympic Trials, I got a good place in the 100 which gave me confidence going to the 200,” Sturgis said after she ran 22.37 in her 200 round. 

Ajee Wilson wins the 800 at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials
June 24, 2021-American runner Ajee’ Wilson wins her 800 heat during the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Wilson (center) won her race with a time of 2:00.55. Photo credit: Paul Merca for TrackTown USA

Allyson Felix, who made her fifth Olympic team by qualifying in the 400, hopes she has enough left in the tank to compete with the younger sprinters. But the two names to watch out for are former Oregon Duck standout Jenna Prandini and Gabby Thomas.

“I was nervous going into it,” Thomas said. “I had good success in the 100 for me. I had high expectations. I wanted to compete for a good lane in the semis. I wasn’t expecting the time but I’m happy with it.”

After the preliminary rounds, Prandini and Thomas lead the pack with sensational times. Thomas looked strong in winning her heat in 21.98.

“It’s surreal,” said Thomas. “I know I’ve been working really hard and have a great team around me. I’m not surprised but it’s a great feeling. Especially at the Trials.”

Prandini was out to such a large lead in her 200-meter heat that she shut the engines down with about 50 meters to go and still clocked 22.14, the second-fastest time of all the heats.

“The race plan was to just get out hard and run the first 150 hard,” Prandini said.

Prandini said she’s expecting to run faster in the next round and in the women’s 200 finals.

“My practices have been going really, really well, and my coaches have been telling me that I am ready to run pretty fast,” Prandini said.” “Be ready on Friday, because I know there are a lot of fast runners.”

Prandini is not the only runner with fast aspirations. Thomas, who feels she can go faster, is right there in that assessment.

“I was surprised,” said Thomas. “I slowed down at the end. I think I have more left.”

Featured Image Caption: June 24, 2021-Jenna Prandini sprints across the finish line in a 200-meter heat during the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Prandini won her heat with a time of 22.14. Photo credit: Paul Merca for TrackTown USA