EUGENE, Ore. (WNCN) — Hope Mills native and Livingstone College graduate Quanera Hayes edged out the United States’ most decorated women’s Olympic champion Allyson Felix in the women’s 400-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to earn a trip to the Tokyo Olympics.
Despite the close finish, both women will hear their names called on the track when events begin during the Olympic games.
Hayes’ time of 49.78 seconds was her fastest time since winning the 2017 U.S. title in a personal best 49.72. Felix was right behind her, clocking her season-best time of 50.02. In third was Wadeline Jonathas — by one-hundredth of a second.
Those three will represent Team USA at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 next month, with Hayes and Jonathas making their Olympic debuts.
For Felix, 35, a six-time Olympic gold medalist, she qualified for her fifth consecutive Olympic team. Since 2004 she has won nine medals, including the six gold, which makes her the most decorated American woman in Olympic track and field history.
It was a long road back for both Hayes and Felix, both of whom gave birth to their first children within weeks of each other in the fall of 2018.
“Coming back was very tough,” recalled the 29-year-old Hayes, who finished eighth at the 2016 trials. “I had to learn how to run all over again. I couldn’t come out of blocks, my stride was different. I would do one run in practice and I would just stop because it would just hurt and I would get discouraged because I wasn’t hitting my times.”
The two track stars’ young children, Hayes’ son Demetrius and Felix’s daughter Camryn joined their mothers on the track after the race for celebratory hugs and high-fives.
Felix found herself in sixth place during the homestretch, but her trademark closing speed allowed her to make up the gap to pass everyone except Hayes.
“I just told myself before the race that when it comes to it, I have to fight,” said Felix after the race. “And that’s been a theme of mine for the past couple of years. I was going to give my all and leave it all on the track.”