Local Olympic Spotlight: Sydney McLaughlin of Dunellen, NJ Is Team USA Track & Field’s Youngest Competitor in Rio
Union Catholic High School 16 year-old Sydney McLaughlin is ready to make an even bigger name for herself, when she debuts on the big stage in Rio this summer.
McLaughlin shocked the world when she finished third place in the 400m hurdles at the U.S Olympic Trials, clinching her spot in the Olympics, as the youngest American track and field athlete since 1972.
However, her qualifying for the Olympics wasn’t a fluke. In that clinching race at the Trials, she set the world junior record. That time was good for the seventh fastest ran this year, including the senior level. Last year, she started what figures to be an impressive career medal haul, when she won a gold at the World Youth Championships in Colombia.
Despite her success, it’s still unlikely that McLaughlin will take away a medal from her first of what appears to be many Olympic Games. If there is one major thing going for her, it’s that she won’t have to face two runners who have ran faster than her this year, Georgeanne Moline and Shamier Little, because she bested them in the U.S. Trials. However, fellow Americans Dalilah Muhammad and Ashley Spencer figure to be fighting with Janieve Russell of Jamaica and Eilidh Doyle of Great Britain for medal position. It’s unlikely that McLaughlin will be able to even further push her personal best down to be able to surpass those established professionals.
It’s frightening to realize that she has reached this level of success while only still being a teenager in high school. The prime of her career is more than ten years away, and she has already qualified for the Olympics. Even if she doesn’t reach the podium, it is still a fantastic sign of the future trajectory of her career that she qualified this year. Making the finals of the event will be expected, with an outside shot at actually coming home with a medal.
McLaughlin comes from a long line of athletes. Her father, Willie, made the semifinals of the 400m in the 1984 Olympic Trials, and her mother, Mary, was also a high school runner. Her brother Taylor is also a hurdler at Michigan. McLaughlin will start her senior year at Union Catholic High School this fall. She was named the 2016 Gatorade National Female Athlete of the Year.