U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials 2024

Inspiring Stories From The U.S. Olympic Trials: CJ Allen Makes 400mH Team

Inspiring Stories From The U.S. Olympic Trials: CJ Allen Makes 400mH Team

This is the first of 10 inspiring stories we're calling back to following the conclusion of the U.S. Olympic Trials. First up, CJ Allen.

Jul 2, 2024 by Cory Mull

Ten years can feel like a lifetime in track and field, so when CJ Allen made his first Olympic team on Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, nearly 20 years into his career, perhaps it felt like he was born again. 

Because it was easy to remember his failures. It was easy to call back to his misses, the times he was close but came up short. 

Perhaps those moments made his success all the much greater. 

"I've been running the hurdles for 19 years," Allen said after finishing second in the men's 400 meter hurdle final on Sunday in 47.81 seconds, qualifying for his second U.S. team overall. "This is probably my greatest dream to make this team. I don't think it's fully hit me yet. It probably won't hit me for a couple days." 

He was 21 years old and a junior in college at Washington State when he competed at his first U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016. He went out in the rounds that year. 

Proceeding meets at the U.S. Outdoor Championships would see him out in the semifinals in 2017 and 2019, not finish in 2019 and come up agonizingly short in the 400mH finals in 2018 and 2022. 

In 2023, Allen made his first U.S. team, qualifying for the World Championships in Budapest with a time of 48.18. That wasn't a PR then. On Sunday, it didn't take a PR, either. 

Allen was in one of the worst lane draws, blind in lane eight -- well, at least until Rai Benjamin met him 270 meters into the race on his inside. 

"I knew I had to stay focused on my race pattern," he said. "I knew with me being in the outside lane, I was running blind. For me, it was all about execution. I train by myself, I train by myself for the last five years. There's nothing different than practice. I train out in lane seven." 

Allen was aggressive from the start, even challenging Benjamin over the first four hurdles, eventually putting himself in prime position to make the team. 

"The nerves have been high," Allen said. "But overcoming that? That's always been one of my strengths. Everybody is going to feel those nerves, everybody is going to feel that pressure and that weight of what this year means. It's only every four years to get a chance to be an Olympian, let alone the U.S., the hardest team to make." 

His effort moved him up to No. 7 in the world for the 2024 season. He's one of only 12 men to break 48 seconds for the 400mH this season. 

Rai Benjamin, 27, scored the overall victory, setting the world lead at 46.46 seconds, while unsponsored Trevor Bassitt, 26, netting his own success story, making his third U.S. team and his first Olympic roster by finishing third in 47.82.

When Are The Paris 2024 Olympic Games?

The Olympics begin on July 26 and end on August 11. The track and field events will begin on Aug. 1. 

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