Feels Like This Year’s Women’s 400 Meters at Worlds Is Wide Open

By Kyle Merber

April 19, 2023

Most fans have only ever known the version of Britton Wilson that is dominating the NCAA in an Arkansas kit. That’s because a 58 second 400m hurdler doesn’t get the same amount of attention, which is how fast she was running two years ago while at Tennessee. In fact, her personal best was two years old at that point – Wilson had actually run 56.36 to win USATF Juniors in 2019. (Track and Field News)

This year Wilson opened up her season 1.4 seconds faster than last year, running 53.23 to win the Tom Jones Memorial. Then the next day in the flat 400m, she proved that it wasn’t the altitude in Albuquerque when she set the American Record of 49.48. This time it was 49.51 to break Athing Mu’s outdoor collegiate record.

Last week, 200m world champion Noah Lyles tweeted: "Someone needs to write an article on how open the US women’s 400m is. No one is dominating as of now so it’s open for a lot of Women to make that Worlds team."

Noah is right! But what he’s saying applies outside of America, too. Let’s quickly remind everyone of the podium from last year’s World Championship final, which featured zero Americans:

  1. Shaunae Miller-Uibo - 49.11 SB
  2. Marileidy Paulino - 49.60 (48.99 SB)
  3. Sada Williams - 49.75 SB

Maybe it is because Shaunae is missing this year with a child on the way, but it does feel like this year’s 400m at Worlds is wide open. But let’s not mistake it being open with being weak, because it is not! In 2022, there were 9 women who dipped below 50 seconds. That did not include Wilson, McLaughlin-Levrone, or Mu. In 2021, there were 12 women below that barrier. There are 5 on average most years. The last two are the deepest in history.

To Noah’s point, no one is dominating and that’s partially because Sydney, Britton, Femke, and Athing have their collective focus on other events. Is it possible to do both? Sort of… it would require six laps in five days, with the 400mH heats and 400m semi-finals a bit over two hours apart. For Athing, there would be eleven hours to recover from the 800m heats before running the 400m final. Having jogged 2:01 in multiple opening rounds before, it could be a nice warm-up.

But I’m not holding out hope for one of these stars to attempt the double. (Selfishly, I’d love to see it! It would be great for the sport for fans to get the chance to watch McLaughlin-Levrone or Mu or Wilson or Bol race more often.) So I guess we’ll just have to hope that from the ranks of 49.X women currently focusing solely on the 400, one of them makes the jump and reaches the same superstar status. The power is yours!

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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.