In just a few short minutes, Hannah Waller went from relishing a second-place finish in the women’s 400 meters and a trip to Europe to heartbreak at the USA Track & Field Junior Outdoor Championships on Sunday.
Running for the final time on her home track at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Waller crossed the finish line in 52.86 seconds, right behind Lynna Irby (52.51) to claim the second of two spots to Poland for the IAAF World U20 Championships.
But while she waited for the medal ceremony, Buchanan High track coach Brian Weaver pulled Waller away from the podium to deliver devastating news: Waller was disqualified for a lane violation.
They are IAAF rules, where if you touch a line on a turn, at any point, you’re automatically disqualified and that’s what happened.
Buchanan High track and field coach Brian Weaver, on Hannah Waller’s disqualification in the women’s 400 finals
“The rules are a little bit different here. They’re a little more strict than what they are for high school and even NCAA. They are IAAF rules, where if you touch a line on a turn, at any point, you’re automatically disqualified and that’s what happened. She touched a line coming around the last turn so it disqualified her from the event,” Weaver said.
It’s an unfortunate final chapter to Waller’s illustrious career at Buchanan, where she was the 2015 state champion in the 400, the 2016 runner-up, along with a third-place finish in the 200. She was named the Bee’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the second straight year.
However, Weaver believes it will only help Waller improve as she continues her career at Oregon.
“It was an accident. It’s something that just occurred,” he said, adding that Waller acknowledged that she will learn from the situation. She said it, ‘I know I’ll be better, it’s just that it hurts.’
“I think that’s the hardest thing, where you see somebody that is so amazing, have their heart hurt, it’s hard for everyone,” Weaver said. “But she’ll be amazing down the road. She already is amazing, but will be even better.”
Waller still knocked out her personal goal for the weekend, breaking 53 seconds in the 400, “but with a little heartbreak,” Weaver added.
Lopes takes second – Edison High grad Lyndsey Lopes placed second in the women’s heptathlon with 5,171 points, 20 points behind first-place finisher Emma Fitzgerald, of Braintree, Mass, who earned the event’s only qualifying spot to Poland. Lopes, who will be a sophomore at USC in the fall, entered Sunday with 3,231 points to lead the field of 14. In the final three events, she was fourth in long jump (18-4 1/2 ), eighth in javelin (100-9) and eighth in the 800 meters (2:27.78).
Vista Murrieta’s Michael Norman continued his tear at Veterans Memorial Stadium, setting a meet record to win the men’s 200 in a personal-best 20.15 seconds that is also the third-fastest high-school mark of all time. Last month, the USC commit won the 200 and 400 at the CIF state finals.
Bria Matthews, of Georgia Tech, was the weekend’s only double winner, taking both the triple and long jump events. Matthews won Saturday’s long jump with a mark of 21 feet, 3 1/2 inches before taking Sunday's triple jump in 43-2 1/4 .