Of all the numbers Erriyon Knighton has compiled this year — and what an assortment there is — from beating Usain Bolt’s under-18 world record in the 200 meters with a time of 20.11 seconds to becoming just the third American teenager to break 10 seconds in the 100, the number that sticks out most is his age.
He is 17 years old.
Knighton just completed his junior year at Hillsborough. He did not run track at his school this year, opting to forgo his high school and college eligibility by signing with Adidas in January.
That move was to better prepare for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 200.
On Friday, Knighton began his quest by competing in the preliminaries of the 200, his signature event, at the trials.
It was only natural to think of Knighton’s chances more in terms of the future than the present.
After all, he was competing against a stellar field in his heat that included Noah Lyles, a former youth Olympic champion in the event, and Fred Kerley, who already qualified for the Summer Games in Tokyo in the 100..
Because of that, Knighton seemed destined to win championships later rather than sooner.
There were older, more experienced runners who have been waiting for their turn at the top, and Knighton has not served the lengthy apprenticeship that seems mandatory before winning these kinds of titles.
But for Knighton, the future is now.
He showed that by blazing past an impressive field and into the record books — again.
Knighton won his 200 heat in 20.04 seconds to set the national high school record in the event, surpassing the previous time of 20.09 set by Lyles at the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Better still, Knighton did it while running into a headwind.
These were just the prelims. Knighton still has to get through the semifinals and finals to secure his spot on the team.
But after Friday’s performance, he might be considered the overall favorite.