IU Freshman Tre’tez Kinnaird has competed for Team USA before. In 2011 he won the 800 meters in South Carolina to qualify for the World Youth Championships.
Sunday in Eugene, Ore. at the USA Track and Field Junior Championships Kinnaird did it again. Only faster.
Kinnaird won with a time of 1:48.01, a little more than two seconds faster than his effort in 2011.
A spot on Team USA for the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships awaits Kinnaird in two weeks, once again at Hayward Field in Eugene.
“Qualifying was a sigh of relief,” Kinnaird said. “I knew I had it in me and I had to just come out here and do it. I came out here just wanting to qualify and not really worry about how.”
The youth championships are for athletes from the ages of 15-17. The junior championships are for the best track and field athletes under the age of 20.
Kinnaird qualified by leading the race from start to finish, a strategy which worked thanks to his level of training throughout the season.
"He trained really well and at a high level since last August," IU Coach Ron Helmer said. "That's been what's most impressive to me this season is the level he's been able and willing to train, given the fact that he's a freshman."
Physical training was not the only thing that separated Kinnaird from the pack. He said the difference between himself now and three years ago is much larger than the two second difference in his times.
"I'm on a total different level than what I was in high school," Kinnaird said. "I've actually learned how to race and learned how to take criticism. I feel like I'm a way better runner than I was in high school."
This gap in quality expressed itself with 200 meters to go. It appeared as if Kinnaird was going to win easily as he approached the final curve. That is until Myles Marshall popped up behind Kinnaird.
"When I saw someone come up on my shoulder I didn't panic because I trust my kick and I trust my training," Kinnaird said. "With about 20 meters left I was like 'I did it,' it was a sigh of relief."
While Kinnaird was the only Hoosier to qualify for the World Championships, he was not the only one with a successful weekend.
Fellow freshman Eric Claxton came to Eugene just hoping to qualify for the final. He qualified with a PR of 3:53.14. Claxton would break that PR a day later in the final, running a 3:52.94 to finish fifth.
Claxton redshirted all season, and was a more successful cross country runner than track in high school. This weekend in Eugene served as an introduction to major track and field events.
"He's just learning," Helmer said. "He's just still so inexperienced at this level that he's just learning how to race."
Other competitors included freshman Chanli Mundy in the women's 5000 meter run and freshman Andrew Miller in the men's hammer throw.
Mundy finished eighth with a time of 18:13.76 and Miller finished sixth with a best mark of 62.61 meters.
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