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Quincy Wilson, 16, is one race from becoming the youngest U.S. track Olympian ever

EUGENE, Ore. — When Quincy Wilson’s name was read on the loudspeakers ahead of the 400-meter semifinals Sunday night, the packed crowd at Hayward Field erupted in applause. 

“Quincy! Quincy!” a fan yelled from the stands. 

“I looked around when they did it and I saw Vernon (Norwood) behind me and Bryce Deadmon. It kind of fired them up,” Wilson joked. “So I was like, ‘I don’t know, you might want to calm down.’”

Wilson, a 16-year-old from Bullis School outside Washington, D.C., did the unthinkable one day prior: He broke a 42-year record for the fastest 400-meter time for an under-18 runner in history.  

And Sunday, he topped it.

Not only did Wilson finish third in his heat at 44.59, besting the world record he had just set, but he earned a coveted spot in Monday’s final (9:59 p.m. ET/6:59 p.m. PT). 

If he grabs a top-three spot, he’ll become the youngest athlete to ever make the men’s U.S. Olympic track and field team. No matter the result, he could go to the 2024 Paris Games if selected for the 4×400 relay team. 

“I’ve never been this happy a day in my life when it comes to track,” Wilson said after the race. “I’ve been working for this moment. That record I broke two days ago, that’s 42 years of nobody being able to break that record. I broke it twice in two days. It means a lot to me because it means the hard work is paying off.”

Wilson, who only 19 days ago finished his sophomore year of high school, is competing with some of the world’s fastest runners. Norwood is 32 years old, twice Wilson’s age. Michael Norman, 26, finished fifth in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Norman called Wilson’s performances “spectacular.”

“A 16-year-old is going out here competing like a true competitor,” Norman said. “He’s not letting the moment get too big. He’s living in the moment and competing, so it’s great to see young talents like himself elevate, push us to run a little bit faster and take us out of our comfort zone. He has a bright future in front of him as long as he stays grounded and focused.”

Wilson could have faded in that semifinal. At the final turn, he was in fifth place with a lot of ground to make up down the stretch. The 5-foot-9, 140-pound Wilson said, “the race plan went out the window” at that point and he had to dig deep. 

“Stay calm,” he said he told himself in that moment. “I didn’t get out the way that I wanted to, but like my coach said, the race starts at 300. Coming up from fifth to third, it means a lot. If you look at me, I’m not as strong, so it’s 100% heart inside.”

Norman, who competed in the U.S. Olympic trials at 18 years old, said the odds are not in Wilson’s favor Monday because of the fatigue with running three races in three days. Though never say never.

“He’s 16 years old. I remember (as an 18-year-old) I ran three runs of 200 and was cooked in the final,” Norman said. “I was so tired. But kids are different now. Anything is possible. He could definitely sneak in a relay spot for sure. It’s all in his hands.”

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