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Quincy Wilson can earn Olympic bid in 400 meters at U.S. track trials


EUGENE, Ore. — In the aftermath of what he described as one the best days of his life, Quincy Wilson studied the times of the men he raced against. He noticed many of them had run the best 400 meters of their season, if not their entire career.

“I pushed them today,” Wilson said, breaking into his irresistible smile. “Because they didn’t want to get beat by a 16-year-old.”

Wilson’s competitors — the ones who can legally drive a car and vote — will have to deal with him again. Wilson, a rising junior at Bullis School who has burst on to the national sporting scene, advanced to the 400-meter final Sunday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials with his second history-making lap in three days. Monday evening, a few weeks removed from earning straight A’s as a high school sophomore and days after being named All-Met Athlete of the Year by The Post, Wilson will run one race with a chance to make the Paris Olympics.

Wilson stormed into the finals with a gutsy semifinal run, passing a pair of rivals in the final 100 meters to finish third in his heat in 44.59 seconds. The U.S. high school record had lasted 42 years before Wilson ran 400 meters in 44.66 seconds in Friday’s opening round. It survived only one day before Wilson broke it again.

“That’s 42 years of nobody being able to break that record, and I broke it twice in two days,” Wilson said. “It means a lot to me, because it means my hard work is paying off — staying longer after practices, before practices.”

The Hayward Field crowd roared for Wilson as he settled into the blocks, decked in a lavender racing suit with “Bullis” across the chest. Wilson tried to conserve for his kick, but it cost him early in the race. After 200 meters, he was in eighth place. He came around the final turn in fifth, seemingly in trouble.

“Stay calm,” Wilson thought. “One hundred percent, stay calm. I didn’t get out the way I wanted to, but like my coach said: The race starts at 300.”

Above anything, Wilson trusted the work he has done, all the hills and grueling 300-meter sprints he ran. He ran the final 100 meters in 12.06 seconds, the fifth-fastest split of 27 semifinalists, and caught everyone but Quincy Hall (44.42), Bryce Deadmon (44.44) and stalwart Vernon Norwood (44.50).

“All I’m doing is heart,” Wilson said. “Someone that’s 16 years old, they’re most likely to get scared when they go into the big competitors. Vernon, he’s 32 years old. I’m half his age. I’m just running for my life when I’m out there. The race plan went out the window.”

The performance validated Wilson’s belief that he can withstand three rounds across four days at a draining distance. “I’m 16 years old,” Wilson said, laughing again. “I didn’t even feel anything.”

Not every competitor has been converted. Michael Norman, the reigning world champion, competed at his first U.S. trials at age 18. Norman raved about Wilson — “spectacular,” he said — but waffled when asked if he viewed Wilson as a legitimate contender to finish in the top three Sunday and grab an Olympic spot.

“It’s tough,” Norman said. “There’s people out there fighting for money. He made the final. It’s very hard to say. This is probably his first time running three rounds. He’s 16 years old. I remember running three rounds in the 200, and I was cooked. But kids are different now. Anything is possible.”

The 400-meter final is scheduled to be run Monday at 9:59 p.m. Eastern. Should Wilson finish in the top three and claim an Olympic bid, it would present a complication unique to him: If he competes in Paris, he will not have time to take driver’s ed classes.

When Wilson came off the track Sunday, his coach Joe Lee met him. Lee first told Wilson he was proud of him. Then he quickly started breaking down his race and explaining how he could improve for Monday, the next biggest race of his life.

“I can’t wait for tomorrow,” Wilson said.

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