EUGENE, Oré. — When she was just a kid, Jenna Prandini dreamed of being world champion. When she arrived in Oregon to run with the Ducks, that dream began to come true.
Saturday night at Hayward Field, that dream came true. Prandini, a three-time NCAA champion with the OU track and field program, won a gold medal at the World Championships in Track and Field running the third leg of the team’s winning 4×100-meter relay American.
Prandini and her three teammates clocked a world record time of 41.14 seconds, edging second-placed Jamaica – whose lead leg was the recent NCAA Outdoor finalist in the 100 meters for the Ducks, Kemba Nelson. Jamaica finished in 41.18 seconds.
As she did in Friday’s prelims, Prandini ran the north curve of the track at Hayward Field on the relay. The United States then had the advantage over Nelson and Jamaica, and Prandini raced step by step with the legendary Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce before handing over to Twanisha Terry, who carried the American team home. first.
“It’s really special,” Prandini said. “Not only is it American soil, it’s Hayward Field – and Hayward Field is my home. I love coming back for any race, but being able to have the World Championships, the biggest race in the whole of year, it’s really really special.
“The ‘Hayward Magic’ was real tonight.”
Prandini won his third major championship medal with the USA 4×100 team and his first gold medal. Previously, she won silver at the 2015 World Championships and the 2021 Summer Olympics.
Nelson won his first major championship medal. Both athletes bounced back after failing to reach their individual finals — Nelson in the 100, Prandini in the 200 — to bring home medals for their country on Saturday.
“I’m really grateful and really blessed,” Nelson said. “The 100 didn’t go as planned, but that didn’t stop me from going out there and doing what I do best.”
Also on Saturday, the two remaining college-eligible OU athletes were in action. Emmanuel Ihemeje finished fifth in the triple jump, bettering his 11th place in Tokyo last summer, and Shana Grebo helped France qualify for Sunday’s 4×400 relay final.
Sunday’s final session of these championships will also feature OU alum Raevyn Rogers in the 800 meters. Alaysha Johnson slipped off the blocks in her preliminary 100 hurdles on Saturday and did not qualify for Sunday’s action.
Prandini’s potential to be world champion was evident from an early age; she won five high school state titles in California and the USATF U20 long jump crown in 2011. But she harnessed that talent, she said in Eugene on Saturday.
“It wasn’t until I came to Oregon that I really started to develop as an athlete,” said Prandini, a two-time NCAA long jump champion and 2015 NCAA full-time champion. air at 100 meters. “The coaches welcomed me, developed me and showed me that I could compete with the best in the world – turned my dreams into reality.”
Nelson was also able to live out a dream on Saturday. As a child, she idolized Fraser-Pryce, whose gold medal in the 100 meters at this meet was her 13th at the Olympics and world championships.
“When she won her first Olympics, I was only 8 years old,” Nelson said. “My dream was to run a relay with her. And I got it today. I’m really, really happy about that.”
Ihemeje, a three-time NCAA champion for the Ducks in the triple jump, cleared an effort of 17.03 meters – or 55 feet, 10.5 inches – in his second attempt to place sixth among the 12 finalists. Being in the top eight earned him a second set of three jumps, and on his final attempt he climbed 17.17 – or 56-4 – to move into fifth place.
Although the wind slightly exceeded the legal limit, it was still an all-conditions outdoor PR for Ihemeje, further than his 17.14 to win the 2021 NCAA Outdoor title.
“We call it ‘LOBO’ here in Oregon – latest, greatest,” Ihemeje said. “So a lot of positivity compared to last year in Tokyo.”
Ihemeje said he hoped to put himself in position for a medal on this final attempt. He settled for the all-conditions PR and a six-point improvement over his Tokyo standings.
“It’s progress,” he said. “I’m 23, so the world will definitely know me, that’s for sure.”
Grebo, who set the UO 400 hurdles record as a freshman in the spring, raced the second leg of the 4×400 for France on Saturday. That means she took over at around the same time as Team USA’s Allyson Felix, who came out of retirement to race on Saturday.
“It was such a great opportunity to say, OK, I’m running with this amazing athlete for her last, so that was super inspiring,” Grebo said. “I’m so grateful for that.”
Grebo was so nervous to take over on Saturday that she first lined up at the end of the exchange zone rather than the start. After getting into the correct position, she clocked a split time of 51.69 seconds, the second fastest for the French team. Having achieved the goal of qualifying for Sunday’s final, France will now be looking to finish in the top five, if not higher.
“It was amazing to come back here and compete for my country in front of all the Ducks, my coaches, my friends at U of O,” Grebo said. “So I’m super happy to finally be back here.”