U20 World Champs Report: Akins, Brackins earn Relay Medals

Johnny Brackins Jr.

Lee's Summit High School 2021 graduate Johnny Brackins Jr. won the USA Track and Field Under-20 Championships long jump title in late June. Brackins won the title representing USC. That came after a stellar freshman year at Baylor where he won the Big 12 long jump title with a personal wind-legal best of 8.06m/26-5.5''. He also earned All-America honors in the long jump and high hurdles.

Brackins committed to University of Southern California in high school, but after a change at the head coach and jumps coach positions, Brackins ended up at Baylor. He's now transferred to USC where he'll continue to compete in the jumps and hurdles. It wasn't the jumps or hurdles Brackins is bringing home a medal in from South America.

On Monday, August 1st in the 3-attempt long jump qualification round, Brackins finished with a best of 7.69m/25-2.75'', to finish 5th out of 25 and easily advance to the 12-man final. In the final on Tuesday, Brackins opened the event with a first-round 7.81m/25-7.5'' to put him 5th after the round. Brackins didn't improve on his first mark and was bumped down one spot in the final standings by his U.S. teammate's final attempt, and Brackins finished 6th.

Brackins couldn't just put his feet up and be fan the final four days. Brackins suited up to compete in the 4x100 for Team USA on Day 4 of the meet, Thursday. While he may not have touched a relay baton since anchoring Lee's Summit to an All-State 4x400 finish and securing a 3rd-place team trophy at the 2021 Class 5 Missouri state meet, Brackins is a great athlete and more than capable.

Brackins led off the American team in heat #4 of 4 in the preliminaries on Thursday evening. Brackins got out of the blocks and while the U.S.' second leg appeared to leave his starting position early, Brackins smoothly and successful passed the baton. As athletes made their way around the final curve, it appeared the Americans may have been in danger of not advancing to the finals.

However, things fell their way. Team Australia, leading, had their anchor leave much too early, and were far out of the exchange zone when both incoming and outgoing runners slowed and pulled up, never making a pass. Team USA's final pass was not a good one as the anchor slowed and looked back a couple of times before securing the stick. The US anchor started strong and moved to the lead, but Colombia and France closed strong, both edging the U.S. at the finish.

Team USA finished 3rd in the race and 8th overall, until both Colombia and France was disqualified. With just three of the six teams in the race successfully completing the race, the U.S. men were elevated to first in the heat and 6th overall.

In the final on Friday, Brackins and Michael Gizzi, the 100-meters 9th-placer, returned for from the prelims for Team USA. They were joined by Laurenz Colbert, who finished 7th in the 100 and didn't start the 200, and Brandon Miller, who placed 5th in the 200. Colbert led off and handed to Gizzi. Nearing the 2nd exchange zone, the USA appeared to be in the top 3. However, the 2nd exchange took about three attempts. After finally securing the baton, Miller made up ground on the field and passed the stick to Brackins.

Brackins hit the homestretch in second behind South Africa. However, Japan's Hiroki Yangita (5th in the 100), and Jamaica's Adrian Kerr got their batons quick and early in the exchange zone while Brackins waited a bit longer for the baton and the green light to go full speed ahead, later in the zone.

South Africa sprinted away for the title in lane #4. Japan's Yangita in lane #2 and Jamaica's Kerr in lane #8 closed fast in a photo finish for 2nd. Brackins and his long legs handled the curve and exchange zone well. He held off Yangita until about the last 50+meters and Kerr until the 30 or so, while putting ground on the others in the last 30-meters.

South Africa finished in 39.06-seconds, while Japan edged Jamaica for 2nd, both in 39.35. USA was fourth in 39.57. Brackins and Team USA were track side as the top-3 teams celebrated. A few minutes later though, South Africa was disqualified as the lead leg took at least two steps on the lane line to his inside on the turn. Brackins and teammates were elevated to 3rd and took to the track with American Flags to celebrate and pose for photos. Brackins posed with fans from the front row for selfies.

Brackins returns home having represented his country, gained international experience, and added a relay medal and a sixth-place World Championship finish to his resume. A resume with a lot more to be added in the coming years. After turning 19 on July 29, he won't have another opportunity to compete at the junior or Under-20 level. It will all be senior competition going forward. The next three years bring two world outdoor championships and an Olympic Games.


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