The second day of the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 started on a cool, cloudy Thursday (13) morning with a session featuring qualifying rounds in six events and a number of quality performances.
The highlight came in the final track event of the day, the boys' 110m hurdles heats. Running in the first heat, De'Jour Russell of Jamaica took his personal best from 13.31 (already a world-U18-leading time this year) all the way to 13.08. The time made him the second fastest U18 athlete of all time, behind his compatriot Jaheel Hyde's world U18 best of 12.96.
Russell's time was all the more amazing given his slow reaction time of 0.221 and the fact he slowed down before the finish. With the semifinal and final scheduled for tomorrow, there may be much more to come from the Jamaican who recently clocked a world age-17 best of 13.32 over the senior height barriers.
None of the other hurdlers came near Russell's performance, but there were other notable runs, including the remaining heat winners: Enrique Llopis of Spain with 13.47 (a personal best by 0.25), Lu Hao-hua of Chinese Taipei with 13.57 and Saoud Al-Humaidi of Qatar with 13.72.
The early exit of Zayed Al Shamsi of the United Arab Emirates was also notable. The third fastest U18 athlete this year with 13.43 finished only sixth in his heat in 14.70 and was eliminated.
There was also some extravagant running in the heats of the boys' 3000m. Not content with merely qualifying for the final, the African favourites achieved some extraordinary times, especially considering Nairobi's altitude.
Selemon Barega of Ethiopia took the first heat in 7:55.73 after running the final kilometre in just outside 2:34. The performance took him to third on this year’s U18 world list. Stanley Mburu Waithaka of Kenya was the runner-up in 7:59.54, with Oscar Chelimo of Uganda and Merom Goitom of Eritrea both in the 8:08 range.
The pace of the second heat was only slightly more sensible. Edward Zakayo of Kenya took it in 8:04.85, evidently intent on proving a point to his Ethiopian rival Milkesa Mengesha, who finished second in 8:05.87. The final kilometre took just 2:31 for the winner, much faster than was necessary, considering the first non-automatic qualifier in that race finished some 45 seconds behind.
There were no such displays in round one of the girls' 800m, although the races featured some impressive running. The fastest of the qualifiers for the semi-finals was the Kenyan Jackline Wambui, winner of heat three in 2:08.24, 1.5 seconds ahead of Hirut Meshesha of Ethiopia. The event favourite, Kenya's Lydia Jeruto, took heat one in a relatively pedestrian 2:10.37, but looked strong, running the final 200 metres in about 31 seconds.
The second fastest among the entrants, Ethiopian Netsanet Desta strolled to what looked like an easy victory in heat two, but was subsequently disqualified for a lane violation, leaving Vimbayi Maisvoreva of Zimbabwe the winner in 2:11.09. The final heat winner, in what was the closest of the four races, was the Pole Milena Korbut with 2:11.67.
Sanique Walker of Jamaica, the fastest U18 in the world this year, was also the best in the girls' 400m hurdles heats, qualifying for Saturday's final with 58.74. The Lithuanian Gabija Galvydyte, running in the same heat as Walker, was the second fastest of the day with 58.94, a personal best by a whopping 1.7 seconds.
Chayenne Da Silva of Brazil with 1:00.05 and Zeney van der Walt of South Africa with 59.60 were the other heat winners. One major surprise was the elimination of another South African, Gontse Morake, the third fastest entrant in the event. After fading in the finishing straight, Morake finished fourth in 1:00.59 in her race, not good enough to earn a non-automatic-qualifying spot.
World U18 leader Nermin Stitkovac of Bosnia-Herzegovina led the way in the boys' shot put qualification with a first-round 19.60m, which remained the longest put of the morning. Germany’s Timo Northoff was the only other athlete to reach the automatic qualifying mark of 19.25m with his third-round 19.37m. Turkey's Alperen Karahan was the next best with his 19.00m.
While there were no major casualties in the qualifying competition per se, one medal contender who will be missing from the final is No.2 on the entry list, Jonas Tesch of Germany, a non-starter this morning.
Cuba’s world U18 leader Yaritza Martinez topped the standings in the girls' hammer qualification, needing just one attempt to qualify automatically with 67.90m. None of the other throwers got beyond the qualifying line, set at 67.00m. The other Cuban, Amanda Almendariz, and Gema Marti of Spain got closest, with 66.92m and 66.20m respectively.
There was at least one major upset, with world U18 No.2 Ana Adela Stanciu of Romania eliminated after three fouls. Also not making the final was the Ukrainian Valeriya Ivanenko, fifth on the entry list, whose best valid attempt of 55.91m put her down in 19th place.