U.S. Track & Field Trials: Noah Lyles primed for Paris after 100m victory

The fastest man in America strutted into Hayward Field on Sunday evening, cameras capturing his every step.

Noah Lyles wore a navy blue Gucci suit, dark shades and gleaming white pearls woven through his hair. At his side was Snoop Dogg, carrying a silver briefcase containing the shiny red Adidas jersey that Lyles intended to don later that night.

When it came time for Lyles to race, he once again proved he's not just a showman away from the track. Lyles roared back from a sluggish start to win the men’s 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, cementing himself as America’s best hope to secure Olympic gold in Paris later this summer.

Lyles’ winning time of 9.83 seconds is the third fastest in the world in the men’s 100 this year and matched his previous personal best. Only Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala (9.79) and Jamaica’s Oblique Seville (9.82) have run faster so far this season.

The two Americans who joined Lyles in securing their tickets to Paris in the men’s 100 also have extensive international experience. Second-place Kenny Bednarek is a former junior college product who first blossomed into an Olympic silver medalist in the 200 at the 2020 Games and now has also become a standout in the 100. Third-place Fred Kerley won a silver medal in Tokyo in the 100 three years ago and came within one hundredth of a second of Olympic gold.

Sunday night’s hard-luck fourth-place finisher was Christian Coleman, the self-proclaimed “greatest 60 meters runner ever.” As usual, Coleman accelerated out of the blocks like a rocket was strapped to his back, but this time he faded badly in the latter third of the race, allowing first Lyles and then Bednarek and Kerley to blow past him.

A grimacing Coleman sat on the edge of the infield for several minutes after the race, the very picture of frustration. Three years ago, he missed the Olympics while serving a suspension due not making himself available for drug testing three times in a 12-month period. This time, he simply got beat. It might have been the last chance for a decorated sprinter who will be 32 by the next Olympic Trials.

EUGENE, OREGON - JUNE 23: Noah Lyles signs a miniature Eiffel Tower after winning the men's 100 meter final on Day Three 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Track & Field at Hayward Field on June 23, 2024 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Noah Lyles signs a miniature Eiffel Tower after winning the men's 100 meter final to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Qualifying for Paris in the 100 keeps alive Lyles’ audacious goal of achieving something this summer that not even the iconic Usain Bolt did. The American has said that he hopes to capture Olympic gold in four different running events.

At last year’s world championships, Lyles claimed the sprint treble, winning the men’s 100 and 200 before leading the U.S. men’s 4x100-meter relay team to gold with a dazzling anchor leg. Lyles is hoping USA Track & Field will give him the chance to add the 4x400-meter relay to his repertoire this summer.

“[Bolt] has won three already and he has the world records when he did it,” Lyles told Jimmy Fallon of "The Tonight Show." “What do you got to do to be better than that? You got to get four. Nobody’s done four. Now you’re going on the Mount Rushmore. Now you’re the greatest of the great. That’s what I’m trying to attain.”

The 200 remains Lyles’ specialty, but he has worked tirelessly to become competitive in the 100 in recent years. It showed on Saturday evening when Lyles throttled down after 60 meters and still won his heat with ease in 9.92 seconds.

“One of the easiest 9.9 I’ve seen!” U.S. sprinting legend Michael Johnson tweeted afterward.

Lyles inched closer to booking a spot to Paris the following evening, running a wind-aided 9.80 seconds to win his semifinal. Coleman answered a few minutes later, crossing the finish line first in his semifinal with a wind-legal time of 9.86 seconds.

That seemed to set up a showdown that figured to come down to the same thing every race between Lyles and Coleman does. Could Coleman put Lyles away early with a blistering start. Or could Lyles stay in striking distance and reel Coleman in over the second half of the race?

In the end, Lyles seized the moment and Coleman picked a bad night for an off race.

Now Lyles can add U.S. 100-meter champion to his resume and can turn his attention to qualifying for Paris in his bread-and-butter 200 next weekend.