TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Armani Wallace’s baptismal on the international stage included swirling winds inside Zawisza Stadium and the finest assembly of triple jumpers under the age of 21 ever assembled.
To say that the conditions were less than ideal for bringing out his best would be an understatement. After all, Wallace arrived in Bydgoszcz, Poland five days prior to the start of Wednesday’s triple jump qualifying rounds at the IAAF World U20 Championships.
It marked the first trip outside the United States for the Orlando, Fla. native, who just completed his freshman season with the Florida State track & field program.
Wallace could have easily been unnerved by his first-attempt, but the USATF Junior silver medalist found his footing – and his steps – in time to deliver when it mattered most. Building on a second-attempt mark of 15.49 meters (50-10), which left him outside the top 12, the soft-spoken 19-year-old summoned the fourth-best mark of his career on his final attempt.
Racing down the runway in his bright red USA uniform, Wallace recorded the fourth-best mark of his career – 16.04 meters (52-7.50) – climbing from 16th to fifth in the standings to secure a spot in Thursday’s finals.
“I’m really proud of Armani,” said FSU coach Bob Braman, who was on hand to take in the feat. “He really focused and nailed that third jump. It was a great gut-check for such a young athlete.”
While Wallace came into the competition seeded 14th in the field 38 jumpers, he brought plenty of momentum. Four of his last 10 marks have exceeded 16 meters, highlighted by his career-best matching 16.12 (52-10.75) at the USATF Junior Championships.
Wallace, however, was not satisfied with his first foray into international competition and will be looking for more when the finals get underway at 2:10 p.m.
“I’m not proud nor content with my performance,” Wallace said following Wednesday’s competition. “It was only by the grace of God that I was able to conjure something respectable enough to place. I am grateful that I was able to make the final, however, that is now in the past as I am looking forward.”
While all 12 finalists will begin with a clean worksheet, Wallace’s hopes for a medal will rest on his ability to rise once again against a stout field. Cuba’s Cristian Napoles (16.53m) and Lazaro Martinez (16.49) posted the top two marks of the qualifying rounds, followed by France’s Melvin Raffin (16.20) and Austria’s Philipp Kronsteiner (16.19).
“Knowing that I am in medal contention only gives me more confidence to jump further,” Wallace said. “As of now, the cobwebs have been dusted off and I am confident in myself to perform even better in the final.”
While Wallace was moving on, fellow freshman Shaquania Dorsett’s meet came to an end as she did not make her start in the 400-meter semifinals. With Dorsett’s likely inclusion on the Bahamas’ Olympic 4×400 relay, she chose to pull out as a precautionary measure.