Brackins, Akins, Bailey, and Burton set for World U20 Champs

The biennial World Under-20 Championships kicked off this morning in South America, Cali, Colombia specifically. The six-day meet will see many of the world's best athletes ages 16-19. Athletes must not turn 20 before January 1, 2023. The 2020 championships were postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the U.S. didn't send a team to the postponed meet last year, with coronavirus protocols and concerns the likely cause.

Four Missouri athletes will compete for Team USA and wear the red, white, and blue while a couple of others with Show-Me State connections will be a part of Team USA. Two are former Missouri preps competing after their first year of college, another an out of state native competing for a Missouri university, and the fourth athlete a current Missouri High School junior. These athletes will join the list of other Missouri greats who have competed for USA at the World Under-20 Championships or the Pan Am Junior Games, each held biennially in opposing years. The list includes Chris Nilsen, Jason Pyrah, Courtney Frerichs, DeAnna Price, Justin Robinson, Ravon Allen, and Taylor Werner, among many others.

Berths for the World Under-20 Championships are given out at a maximum of two per country, with qualification standards and field size targets set. Countries without any qualifiers can send one athlete to the meet. Berths to Team USA were handed out to the top-2 finishers at the USA meet, that met the qualification standards and had current passports.

Johnny Brackins, Zaya Akins, and Ames Burton are USA Track and Field Missouri Valley Association members from the western half of Missouri and the state of Kansas while Elizabeth Bailey is an Ozark Association member from the eastern half of Missouri. 

Johnny Brackins Jr.-Long Jump, USC Fr.,  

Baylor, Lee's Summit HS, Lee's Summit, MO.

Former Lee's Summit High School state champion Johnny Brackins will compete in the long jump in Cali. Brackins opened eyes as a sophomore, giving a glimpse of the talent within the tall and lean athlete. Brackins is actually Johnny Brackins Jr. He's the son of former University of Kansas team captain and long and triple jumper, Johnny Brackins Sr., Jr's jumps coach at Lee's Summit.

Brackins Jr. posted a big triple jump mark his sophomore year to move near the top of the 2019 U.S. triple jump list midway thru the outdoor season with a 48-10.5'' jump. Then, at the 2019 Class 5 state meet, a tornado-induced one-day affair at Columbia's Battle High School, Brackins performed extraordinarily at his second state meet and first competing in multiple individual events. He scratched out of the open 400-meter dash after a truncated meet schedule left little time between track and field events.

Brackins Jr. won the long jump and took 2nd in the triple jump and 110-meter hurdles. He measured 23-9.5'' in the long jump, 47-9.25'' in the triple and 14.20-seconds in the 110-hurdles. He followed up with 6th, 9th, and 19th in the long, triple jump and 110-meter hurdles at the 2019 USATF Under-20 Championships.

2020 was mostly wiped out by the coronavirus, but Brackins senior season performances in 2021 earned him the Gatorade Missouri Track and Field Player of the Year award. During the indoor season, Brackins jumped 15.25m/50-0.25'' to move into elite status in state history and the U.S. annual performance list.

Despite another one-day state meet (Covid) as a senior in 2021, Brackins again came thru big, leading Lee's Summit to the 3rd-place team trophy. Brackins kicked off the meet with a win in the long jump in 7.22m/23-8.25 with just 4 attempts allowed. Then he ran 13.79 to win the 2-section 110-meter hurdles in a Class 5 state meet record.  Brackins Jr. then went 14.72m/48-3.5'' to win the triple jump. Finally, Brackins split a 49.89 4x400 anchor leg to move the Tigers up one place to 4th-place and avoiding a tie for the 3rd-place team trophy with Hickman.

Brackins followed with NSAF Nike Outdoor Nationals All-American finishes in Oregon, placing 5th in the triple jump and 6th in the long jump. Brackins had committed to compete in college for USC. However, after the NCAA Championships, USC had changes at the head coach and jumps coach position. Brackins ended up at Baylor for his freshman year.

The former tiger standout hurdler and jumper is had a great freshman season for the Baylor Bears. Brackins starred at Baylor where he earned All-America honors in the 60-meter hurdles indoors, and the long jump and 110-meter hurdles outdoors.

At the NCAA Division I Indoor track and field championships in March, Brackins jumped to a 7th-place long jump finish to earn a top-8 NCAA All-America trophy in his first season. Brackins kicked off his outdoor season at the Texas Relays in late March. Brackins had a big wind behind him, helping him to leap 8.17m/26-9.75''. The 3.7-meters-per-second wind was over the allowable limit of 2.0 m/s, but still, if one hadn't seen the world-class potential of Brackins yet, the nearly 27-foot jump did that.

At the Big 12 Championships, Brackins would show the wind-aided 26-9'' jump wasn't a fluke. Brackins flew 8.06m/26-5.5'' with just 0.9 m/s wind behind him. The jump gave him his first conference title, and he was the only freshman among the top-9 finishers. Breaking the 6-meter barrier in the long jump for a 9.5'' win wasn't enough though for Brackins. He followed up with a 3rd-place finish in the 110-hurdles in a personal record (PR) 13.62-seconds.

After 6th and 7th-place NCAA West Preliminary Championships 110-hurdles and long jump finish, Brackins was headed back to Oregon for his first NCAA Outdoor Championships. At NCAA's, Brackins placed 17th and 19th in the long jump and 110-hurdles, which left him disappointed and wanting more.

Two weeks later at the USA Track and Field Senior and Under-20 Championships back in Oregon, Brackins was sporting a new uniform for the U20 110-hurdles and long jump. After committing to them originally in high school, Brackins showed up in the start lists as representing USC. Yes, Brackins ended up back in Los Angeles and was transferring to USC to compete for the head coach and jumps coach that began those rolls less than a year before.

At U20's, Brackins flew 8.03m/26-4.25'' on his second attempt to win the national title and earn a berth on Team USA. In the hurdles, Brackins ran to a 3rd-place preliminary finish in 13.64-seconds, 6/1000ths of a second ahead of 4th. In the final, Brackins ran a PR of 13.61 and placed 6th, settling for just one event spot for U.S. on the Under-20 World Championships team.

Brackins' 8.06m/26-5.5'' long jump PR and season best is the 2nd best PR and top season's best among the 30 athletes entered in the long jump competition. The 30 athletes in the event represent 24 different countries. Brackins will jump in the qualification round this morning, at 11:45 a.m. CT. Any jumper who goes 7.80m/25-7.25'' will automatically advance to the finals and at least the top-12 performers after the qualification round will advance to Tuesday's final at 4:16 p.m. CT.

Read more on Zaya Akins, Ames Burton, Elizabeth Bailey, and others on the following pages