Hurdler Alaysha Johnson earns spot to Paris Games wearing borrowed spikes and uniform she designed

EUGENE, Ore. — Alaysha Johnson ran in shoes she borrowed from a fellow hurdler and in a uniform she designed herself.

Both fast and fashion-forward.

The 100-meter hurdler earned a spot to the Paris Games with a second-place finish in a competitive field at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on Sunday. Johnson, the hurdler who has hypothyroidism and trains around NFL and NBA players, ran a personal-best time of 12.31 seconds to finish .06 behind winner Masai Russell.

To think, Johnson was a long shot to make this team — a long shot, that is, to everyone but herself.

“People like me who come from the inner city of Houston … it’s hard for us to get opportunities,” said the 27-year-old Johnson, who ran at the University of Oregon and at Texas Tech. “It always takes what I say is double the effort to get half as far. I always tell people if we had a little bit more support, I probably could have been here a long time ago.

“But it made me understand that regardless of how many people have your back, I’m still strong enough to do this on my own two feet.”

Running down the track in borrowed spikes, no less. Tonea Marshall, who finished fifth, was gracious enough to give Johnson a pair after the first round when Johnson said the “bubble popped” on the only pair she brought.

It hasn’t been the traditional path to the starting line for Johnson.

For one, she doesn’t train around sprinters/hurdlers so much as some recognizable names in the NBA and NFL realms. She said the list includes Kansas City Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant.

“Anybody that you ever knew that was amazing, on those cereal boxes, we probably trained them,” Johnson said of the staff she works with.

Among the support staff for Johnson is an endocrinologist. She has hypothyroidism, a condition with her thyroid gland that leaves her tired and lethargic. She cut down on her warmup Sunday, “to make sure I can conserve as much as I could to be able to get through 10 hurdles,” she said.

Once she crossed the line, she anxiously looked at the board.

“I had no idea what place I was and I was like, ‘Hurry up and put these names up,’” said Johnson, who has a deal with Oakley but not a shoe contract. “I knew I was ready to make this team. I knew nothing or nobody was going to come in between me and making this team. So I feel fulfilled.

“We did this ground up. So honestly, I just hope that somebody sees that I’ve worked my tail off — my team has worked their tails off — to get this far. We could have been this far a long time ago, had we had a little bit of help.”

In the men’s 400 hurdles, Rai Benjamin won in a 46.46 seconds, a trials record, the best time of the year and the sort of time men only started dreaming about a few years ago.

Benjamin was part of the fastest 400 hurdles race ever at the Tokyo Games, where he ran 46.17 but finished second to Norway’s Karsten Warholm, who ran the first sub-46 hurdles in history.

Grant Fisher won the 5,000 meters in 13 minutes, 8.85 seconds to complete the distance double. He opened the meet with a victory in the 10,000.

Fisher holds the American record in both races. He withstood an early gamble by Woody Kincaid, who went out fast early in hopes of reaching the Olympic standard that he did not have (13:05). But Fisher was part of a pack that caught Kincaid midway through the race. Then, Fisher beat Abdihamid Nur in a sprint to the line for a .16-second win.

At Jamaican nationals, world champion Shericka Jackson won the 200 meters in 22.29 seconds. Brian Levell won the men’s race in 19.97, followed by Andrew Hudson.

Hudson’s trip to world championships last year was marred when the cart he was riding to the waiting area for his race crashed into another cart, spraying glass shards into his eye.

— Maggie Malone Hardin won the javelin throw and will head to the Olympics. Second-place finisher Kara Winger, who came out of retirement to compete, threw 62.94 meters (206 feet, 6 inches), which was short of the Olympic standard of 64 meters (209-11). She said she needed to throw 64 to go to the games because she has lost her world ranking.

— Bridget Williams won the pole vault, with reigning Olympic champion Katie Moon earning a spot by taking second place. Sandi Morris, the 2016 Rio Games silver medalist, wound up fourth.

— Shelby McEwen cleared 2.30 meters (7-6 1/2) to take the high jump title. JuVaughn Harrison, an Olympic medal hopeful, didn’t make the Olympic squad.

— Bryce Hoppel won the 800 and Nikki Hiltz the 1,500 — both with meet records. Daniel Haugh (hammer) and Salif Mane (triple jump) also won.


AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed.


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