From Tampa to Tokyo: Hillsborough High teen becomes youngest runner to make Team USA in decades

A Tampa high schooler is heading to Tokyo after making history to become the youngest track-and-field athlete to join Team USA since 1964.

Erriyon Knighton, a 17-year-old at Hillsborough High School, came in third place overnight in the men’s 200-meter trials with a time of 19.84, earning a spot on the team ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. He finished behind Noah Lyles – who won in 19.74 seconds, the best time in the world this season – and Kenny Bednarek. The trio were the final Americans to earn spots in the Olympics across 28 sports.

Knighton is the youngest male track Olympian since Jim Ryun in 1964.

The race didn’t actually start until shortly after midnight. Temperatures at Hayward Field in Oregon reached 108 degrees and the surface of the track exceeded 150. It forced USA Track and Field to put a halt to the action Sunday afternoon.

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A few weeks ago, Knighton broke Usain Bolt’s 200-meter record for athletes under 18 – the fastest qualifier heading into the final. 

"I knew I was going to run fast, but I wasn't sure that I was going to break the record because it wasn't something that was on my mind," Knighton told FOX 13. "I'm not going to say I knew I was going to win, but I knew that I was going to do something better in the 200. I knew I was about to [set a new personal record]."

At Hillsborough High School, this is just Knighton's third year in track. He initially got into the sport to help with his speed in football. However, along the way, it became more clear: Knighton was a track star in the making.

"During my sophomore year of high school, I was running times that college people are running in their senior year," Knighton recalled. "I was like 'I can do something bigger than just football.'