All the hoopla that followed 15-year-old sprint phenom Jamal Walton to the IAAF World Junior Track Championships got much louder inside hallowed Hayward Field on Tuesday.
Walton, regarded in some track circles as the next great world junior long sprinter since breaking Usain Bolt’s U-16 and U-17 400-meter records, opened his bid for an IAAF World Junior track title by finishing second in prelims in Eugene, Oregon.
The Miami Gardens Xpress Track Club standout, who is representing the Cayman Islands, clocked 47.22, off his personal-best 46.97 to cruise into Wednesday’s semifinals.
Although the comparisons to Bolt are flattering, Walton, a showman in his own right on the track, is eager to etch his own signature on the world track stage.
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“I want the world to know Jamal Walton,” said Walton, who is ranked No. 4 in the World U-18 400-meter rankings. “[I want people] to know my name and the work I had to put in to succeed. I know a lot of people will be coming at me. It doesn’t faze me. They will have to catch me.”
Walton has dominated the AAU track scene with three national age-group records and an undefeated streak in four years but elevated his stock to a world-class level by clocking 47.28 to break Bolt’s U-17 mark (47.33) at the CARIFTA games and then 47.01 at the CAC World Youth Championships in Mexico to best Bolt’s U-16 mark (47.17).
Miami Gardens Xpress coach Darius Lawshea, who has helped build an AAU powerhouse, said Walton’s ability to maintain his smooth-striding form in the last 200 meters brings to mind a young Jeremy Wariner.
“Jamal floats on the track,” Lawshea said. “He makes it look effortless. He is not the greatest sprinter, but in the 400 his sprint is better than everybody else’s. They say it’s impossible to sprint the entire 400 complete, but Jamal looks like he is sprinting the entire race. It’s almost like he is gliding. No wasted motion.”
Northeast High grad and LSU signee Daeshon Gordon will represent Jamaica in the girls’ 100 hurdles following a year wait to make her world track debut.
Last summer she clocked a career-best 58.92 in the 400-meter hurdles, No. 3 in the world, to qualify for the IAAF World Youth Championships in Ukraine, but a problem with her Jamaican documentation cost her a shot at competing.
“Just to wear the uniform and know I am a Jamaican athlete is something I have been waiting for,” Gordon said. “I know it’s a greater level than I ever been on. It’s a happy and welcoming feeling to know everyone can know what I am capable of on the next level.”