Teen phenom Quincy Wilson's Paris dream may not be over even after falling short in 400 final

It’s now out of Quincy Wilson’s control whether he becomes the youngest male ever to make the U.S. Olympic track and field team.

The 16-year-old track phenom’s fate is in the hands of men’s relay coach Mike Marsh and a USA Track & Field selection panel.

Wilson’s captivating bid to claim an automatic berth to the Paris Olympics ended Monday night when he finished outside the top three in the men’s 400 meters final at the U.S. Olympic Trials. His time of 44.94 seconds put him in sixth place, well behind winner Quincy Hall and fellow Olympic qualifiers Michael Norman and Chris Bailey.

Sprinting around the final turn at Hayward Field, Wilson trailed eight of the fastest 400-meter runners in America, some of them seasoned pros as much as twice his age. Wilson chased down three of the men in front of him on the homestretch, not bad for a kid who just finished his sophomore year of high school.

EUGENE, OREGON - JUNE 24: Quincy WIlson and Justin Robinson compete in the men's 400 meter final on Day Four of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field on June 24, 2024 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Quincy Wilson finished sixth in Monday night's 400 meters final. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wilson could still become a Paris Olympian if he is chosen for USA Track & Field’s relay pool after Trials are over. The U.S. can bring up to seven men’s 400-meter runners to Paris, the three who qualified for the individual event, two who are eligible for the men’s 4x400-meter relay, and two more who can be part of the mixed relay.

In 2021, the top seven finishers in the 400 final at Trials all were part of the relay pool. Eighth-place Will London was an alternate in case someone else was injured or unavailable.

That Wilson is in this position is remarkable considering he turned 16 in January and still does not have a driver’s license. He’s about a year younger than middle-distance runner Jim Ryun, who made the U.S. Olympic team in 1964 at 17 years, 137 days old.

Wilson first attracted attention in track and field circles after his family moved from Chesapeake, Virginia, to Gaithersburg, Maryland, so that he could attend a private school known as a track and field powerhouse. The precocious young sprinter piled up trophies and shattered national age-group records as a freshman and sophomore at the Bullis School.

Last September, at just 15 years old, Wilson landed an NIL deal with New Balance. In April, he signed with WME Sports, the same agency that represents Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone.

Despite his talent and his impressive high school credentials, Wilson arrived at the U.S. Olympic Trials this past weekend as somewhat of an afterthought. It was one thing for a rising high school junior to consistently outrun his peers. It was an entirely different challenge for Wilson to hold his own against grown men.

As Wilson joked earlier this month during an appearance on the "CITIUS MAG" podcast, “I’m racing with the big dogs. I have to put on my big boy boots.”

Those big boy boots sometimes looked like they were rocket-powered.

In his Olympic Trials debut last Friday night, Wilson broke a 42-year-old under-18 world record when he won his men’s 400 heat in 44.66 seconds. That record lasted all of two days before Wilson lowered it again in the 400 semifinals, rallying after the final turn to run a time of 44.59 seconds and to advance to Monday’s final.

The buzz surrounding Wilson reached a crescendo after those performances. Deion Sanders congratulated him on X. So did Michael Johnson. He went from his preliminary heat not being shown live on NBC on Friday to a feature attraction of the network’s Monday night broadcast.

While the fairy-tale ending would have been Wilson cracking the top three in the 400 final, his more likely ticket to Paris was always as a member of the relay pool.

Wilson's driver’s test may have to wait.

The 16-year-old track phenom could be a little too busy this summer to prepare for it.