Iowa — The running joke between Dalilah Muhammad and some of her competitors goes like this: She orders the wet conditions. Because she reigns in the rain.
On a drizzly Sunday night, Queens native Muhammad broke a 16-year-old world record in the 400-meter hurdles by finishing in 52.20 seconds at the U.S. championships.
“I’m just shocked,” Muhammad said. “I broke the world record.”
With puddles formed on the track, the defending Olympic champion sloshed her way around the track to eclipse the mark of 52.34 set by Yuliya Pechonkina of Russia on Aug. 8, 2003.
Running out of the fourth lane, Muhammad didn’t let the rain drops deter her. She looked at her time and was almost taken aback.
No way that can be real, right?
Muhammad smiled, briefly put her hands on her hips and then slumped down when her time flashed on the screen at Drake Stadium. Third-place finisher Ashley Spencer emphatically celebrated behind her and teenager Sydney McLaughlin came over to hug Muhammad after finishing second.
It was also lightly raining when Muhammad won the Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games. Her competitors might want to start looking at the weather reports for the Tokyo Games, which are a year away.
“Ashley said, ‘You’re the one that brings the rain,'” the 29-year-old Muhammad cracked. “I don’t know what it is.”
In workouts, Muhammad has often been on world-record pace.
She put it all together for real.
To think, Muhammad fell in a training session two weeks ago and suffered a mild concussion. She missed three days of workouts to heal.
She lost none of her speed. Then again, the level of the competition brought out the best in her.
Muhammad believes it mark may not last too long. It may even fall again at the world championships this fall in Doha, Qatar. Defending world champion Kori Carter didn’t even compete at nationals in the event since she has an automatic bye into worlds.
“That 52 is going to get broke,” Muhammad said. “If not by me by the other women.”
McLaughlin finished in 52.88.
“It was a really fast race and I could feel the pace being pushed,” said McLaughlin, who turns 20 next month. “I’m happy to be a part of a world-record race.”
Muhammad’s performance stole the show on a big final night.
Soon after, Dezerea Bryant won the 200 in 22.47 seconds.
“I woke up this morning and I’m like, ‘I’m not going to be denied,'” Bryant said. “That was my attitude.”
Noah Lyles closed out the competition in style by doing a nifty little dance after taking the men’s 200 title in 19.78. He held off Christian Coleman and, after crossing the line, shook his rival’s hand before breaking off some dance moves.
The 22-year-old Lyles can certainly celebrate.
“Joy? Tons of joy. This is the hardest team to make,” said Lyles, who sprayed his hair silver. “The saying is, once you make the U.S. team, you better come away with a medal.”
Things to know on the final day of nationals:
Reigning world champion Emma Coburn captured her sixth straight national title in the steeplechase (eighth overall). She finished in 9 minutes, 25.63 seconds to narrowly edge Courtney Frerichs. Colleen Quigley was third. With Coburn getting an automatic bye, fourth-place finisher Allie Ostrander also is going to Doha.
Donavan Brazier is celebrating his berth to worlds by taking a fishing trip to Michigan.
“I would’ve gone either way,” he cracked.
The 22-year-old Brazier won the 800 in 1:45.62 to beat Clayton Murphy, his training partner at the Nike Oregon Project. University of Kansas runner was Bryce Hoppel was third.
Cheered on by a friendly Shelby Houlihan, a Sioux City, Iowa, native, won the 5,000. She also captured the 1,500 crown.
“Iowa strong, baby!” Houlihan said.
Craig Engels stands out with his mullet even if it may not be the most aerodynamic haircut. He’s also rocking a mustache.
“I just wanted to be different,” said Engels, who won the men’s 1,500 over Matthew Centrowitz. “This is what I landed on.”
LOMONG WINS AGAIN
Lopez Lomong won the 5,000 after taking the 10,000 earlier at nationals. He doesn’t have the world qualifying standard in the 5,000.
“I’m just going to concentrate a little more on the 10,000 meters and see what I could do on the world stage,” Lomong said.
Lomong fled Sudan to avoid a militia group when he was a kid. He lived in a refugee camp run for 10 years and became an American citizen in 2007.
Nick Christie (men’s race walk), Katie Burnett (women’s race walk), Valarie Allman (discus), Erica Bougard (heptathlon), Ajee Wilson (800), Daniel Roberts (110 hurdles), Chase Ealey (shot put), Ja’Mari Ward (long jump), Jeron Robinson (high jump) and Sandi Morris (pole vault) earned titles.
SHE SAID IT
“It really just gave me more confidence. I can race with every woman, not just in the U.S. but probably in the world,” said Athing Mu, who turned 17 and will be a high school senior in New Jersey this fall. She finished fifth in the women’s 800 in a personal-best 2:01.17.AlertMe