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U.S.A.'s Youngest Track Athlete, 17, Qualifies for 400-Meter Hurdle Semifinal — While Battling a Cold

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

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Sydney McLaughlin, a 17-year-old high school senior, has earned a place in the semifinal of the Olympics’ women’s 400-meter hurdles. And she did it while battling a cold.

The New Jersey student ran a time of 56.32 on Monday night, taking fifth in her heat of the Rio trials. That time was a few seconds short of the 54.15 she clocked in this summer’s Team U.S.A. trials.

It was enough, though, for McLaughlin to nab one of the six wild card semifinal spots – not that that satisfied her.

“It’s hard coming to a place like this, so many people, so much expectations, the rain, the change in weather, I’m sick – I have a cold,” McLaughlin told reporters after her heat. “It’s a lot to take in, a lot to process, and a lot to deal with at the same time.

“I mean, I’m not happy with that race, but it happens.”

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McLaughlin said that in preparation for Tuesday night’s semifinal, she’ll remember that “these people aren’t here to play.”

“Everybody’s trying to earn their spot, and I think if I want to earn mine I have to work a little bit harder,” she said.

McLaughlin is the youngest American track athlete to compete in an Olympic Games since 1972.

Team U.S.A.’s Ashley Spencer and Dalilah Muhammad also qualified for the semifinal, with Muhammad coming in third among the 24 runners who qualified Monday night, and they will compete against first-place finisher Ristananna Tracey, of Jamaica.