Erriyon Knighton, the 17-year-old high school junior and track phenom from Tampa who turned professional and signed with adidas after his sophomore year, outdid all of his prior mind-blowing performances on Monday night at the American Track League, blowing past the competition in the 200m to capture a new World U18 best of 20.11 (+1.6).
The 200-meter dash best was previously held by the World's greatest sprinter ever in Usain Bolt, who ran at 20.13 in 2003. Knighton accomplished this feat just a year after posting a then-career best of 20.33 at just 16 years old.
Racing against two world-class sprinters in Trayvon Bromell and Zharnel Hughes, Knighton snuck up and shocked them from the inside.
Running in Lane 3, Knighton caught Bromell in the final 50 meters and looked completely in control. Bolt's U18 best had lasted for 18 years. In fact, Knighton was not even born yet (January 29, 2004) when Bolt set the previous record.
Ironically, as impressive as Knighton's race was, there is this odd feeling that he has not been getting the attention or fanfare that he deserves and merits.
It might have to do with him being stuck in this weird transition zone in between the high school and professional track communities, which are not often intertwined.
If he was not signed and running professionally for adidas, Knighton would have been competing this past high school track season at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida, and dominating virtually every track meet with record times putting his peers in awe as one of the nation's most-covered and discussed high school athletes. Since he skipped out of his last two years of high school track as well as all of his college eligibility, Knighton's following among those large segment of media, athletes, fans, and coaches is likely not as large as could have been seen competing often in the same meets after taking his unconventional path and quick rise to becoming a signed pro athlete.
Meanwhile, while racing now on the pro circuit, the veteran and more well known as well as established names seem to still get more of the media attention and focus than the young phenom Knighton as even the announcers on the ESPN telecast seemed totally clueless until after the race finished who Knighton was until he was officially declared as the race winner in a play-by-play call miss.
Knighton earned his pro contract offer after a pair of jaw-dropping times as a 16-year-old high school sophomore last summer at the AAU Junior Olympic Games of 10.29 in the 100 and 20.33 in the 200 with both being wind-legal efforts. He was all the buzz and biggest news coming out of the AAU championship event hosted at Satellite High School on the Florida Space Coast that one shoe company was willing to capitalize on that sudden interest and make a long-term investment in a generational young talent such as Knighton.
If he can make the 2021 Olympic team which will be no given considering the depth of American sprinting, the awareness and marketability of Knighton's track talents will only skyrocket similarly to the early rise of a young Usain Bolt who transferred his dominance at the World Junior level over to the Olympic Games for several starting with the 2008 Beijing Games as a 21-year-old.
If NBC Sports and other mainstream media outlets ate up the young Usain Bolt bursting onto the scene in the 2008 Games in Beijing, imagine the media frenzy for the storyline of a 17-year-old American kid running faster than Bolt and making an Olympic team 4 years quicker?
America had an American in Michael Phelps as the leading star in swimming to root for dominating with his record medal hauls at many consecutive Olympics, but a Jamaican in Usain Bolt as the top star promoted during the same era for track & field to the United States viewing audience for several Olympic Games.
What if Knighton could become America's Bolt that we have been looking for dominate the next few Olympic Games? He's certainly got the time to develop and compares already time-wise to Bolt's progression at this age.
It should definitely be a major storyline to follow at least during the Olympic Trials later this month every time that Knighton toes the starting line at Hayward Field against the rest of the best amongst the Olympic hopefuls for the United States.