The clock is one of track & field's wonderful simplicities. Sometimes, us track nerds try to overcomplicate things -- "What was the wind? What was the elevation? Was it sit and kick or hard from the gun?" -- but in the end, the clock does not lie. It is a concrete measure of ability.
And that means that in our sport, the newest talent can emerge anywhere, anytime. You can drop 55 points in an travel basketball game and have no idea how you compare to LeBron James
. But run 20.33 at an AAU track meet and everyone knows exactly where you stand.
That 20.33 for 200 meters last summer (watch it now if you haven't already)
is what caused adidas to sign 16-year-old Erriyon Knighton
, currently midway through his junior year at Tampa's Hillsborough High School. Sure, they will have talked to him, sized him up, evaluated whether he has the personality, drive, and support system to be worthy of their investment. But more than anything, it's simple math. If he can run 20.33 at age 16, what can he do when he's 22? Among U18 athletes, only Usain Bolt
has gone faster than Knighton. We know how that turned out.
Knighton is one of the most interesting names in what has been an unusually busy signing period. Nike has been shedding payroll, with Puma more than willing to scoop up the scraps -- Sandi Morris
, Renaud Lavillenie
, Gesa Krause
, and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde
are just a few who have gone from Nike to Puma in 2021. (You can keep track of all the new signings here
Adidas has struck gold before signing athletes straight out of high school (Noah Lyles
, Allyson Felix
) but there are plenty of high school stars who never panned out as pros. What does the future hold for Knighton? Even the almighty clock can't help with that one. We'll just have to wait and see.Photo courtesy Erriyon Knighton Instagram