Noah Lyles wins 100 meters at U.S. trials to clinch Olympic berth

Notable Track & Field world records to know ahead of Paris Olympics (1:14)

Dive into the numbers of the track and field world-record holders as we prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympics. (1:14)

EUGENE, Ore. -- To understand how Noah Lyles found himself wearing a gold medal at the U.S. Olympic trials late Sunday night, go back, he says, to this past winter.

Across one monthlong stretch in February and March, he entered a trio of 60-meter indoor races. He believes they were key in helping him qualify for the Olympics for the first time in an event long deemed his second best: the 100 meters.

"That was the goal [at trials]: Win from the 60 meters each time," Lyles said. "That's why I did so many 60s indoor. I was preparing, getting faster and faster each time."

Lyles got so fast late in Sunday's 100-meter final that when he hit top speed and eased away from his eight competitors still meters short of the finish line, he extended his right arm high into the pre-dusk sky and pointed to the heavens in early celebration.

It was his sudden realization that after a shaky showing in the event at the last U.S. trials, he was finally going to compete for Olympic gold in it. His seventh-place finish at the trials for the Tokyo Games three years ago didn't qualify him for the 100 meters; he was limited instead to the 200 meters and in the 4x100-meter relay.

During Sunday's first-place, 9.83-second finish, Lyles crossed just ahead of the two American men who will join him in Paris as 100-meter participants: Kenny Bednarek (9.87 seconds) and Fred Kerley (9.88 seconds). All three are making their second Olympic appearances.

"It's go time," said Kerley, the 100-meter silver medalist at the Tokyo Games. "Hey, the season started today. So it's only up and forward."

Like Lyles, Bednarek has spent this year trying to shake the moniker that he's really only a 200-meter runner. Sunday's silver-medal result proved he can also handle the shorter sprint.

"Yeah, I'll finally call myself a 'hundred-meter man' now, but I always knew I had this in me," Bednarek said. "It was just a matter of time of when I was going to make the team. Last few years I was dealing with stuff, but this year I was healthy and I've always said a healthy me is a dangerous me."

At the last Olympics, Bednarek and Lyles finished second and third respectively in the 200 meters, lending some credence to the belief they both were better at that event than they were in the 100.

Part of Lyles proving he had 100-meter ability meant preparing for the trials races in a different way. That's what all his 60-meter indoor entries were about.

"When I came out here, it was like, 'I'm one of the fastest in the field. I mean, there's only one other guy faster than me in the 60, so I'm going to take care of business each time,'" Lyles said of preparing for his three 100-meter heats this weekend.

"So when I finally got to the finals, it's like, 'Alright, we're not only going to win from the 60, we're going to keep going.' Let's see what we do from that point, and every step I took it felt correct, and I felt well in my positions. We got into the acceleration phase, my hips came through and I didn't feel like I had to press very hard."

After pacing his group in Saturday's preliminaries with a 9.92-second time, Lyles bolted to a wind-aided, 9.80-second time in the semifinals. Then, in the final, he matched his personal best, set at last summer's world championships.

"I'd say from this week, I'm pretty confident [in the 100]," Lyles said. "Every time I did a block start, there wasn't a lot of thinking. It was kind of just doing. It was a lot closer to how I feel in the 200, which is what I've been waiting to feel for a very long time now. And every time I get that feeling, it makes the race that much more confident."

That growing confidence helps explain what led Lyles to celebrate his big win a little prematurely. As he prepares for the 200-meter preliminaries Thursday, though, he's rethinking such pre-finish actions.

"I told myself I wasn't going to ease up at the end, but I definitely eased up just to do a celebration," Lyles said. "So next time I run, no celebrations."