McKenzie Long of Ironton will represent the US team at the 2024 Olympic Games

McKenzie Long (women’s 200 meters) and NCAA track and field champion from Ole Miss has secured her ticket to the Olympic Games in Paris after an outstanding qualifying performance on the eighth day of the 2024 US Olympic Qualifiers.

Long finished third in the women’s 200m final with a time of 21.91 (+0.6) to secure the final ticket to Paris. It was the second fastest wind-compliant 200m time of her career and the fastest time ever run by a third-place finisher at the Trials.

Long is the first woman in Ole Miss history to qualify for the Olympics in a running event and, along with Brittney Reese and Raven Saunders, is the only woman in the history of the track and field program to become an Olympian.

(Editor’s note: Long is from Ironton, Ohio and attended Pickerington Central HS.)

For Long, this is not only the culmination of her career so far, but also of a 2024 season full of ups and downs. She entered the race as the NCAA favorite after finishing second outdoors in 2023. And then her mother died in the middle of the indoor season.

And then she rocked the track, becoming the second-fastest runner in college history in the 200 meters and the sixth woman in Division I history to win the 100, 200 and 4×100 meter relay at the NCAA Outdoor Championships – all while keeping her mother’s presence at the forefront of her life.

“I was really grinning from ear to ear, honestly,” Long said. “I wanted to go into this race with complete confidence in what I’ve accomplished so far, and now to cross that finish line and know that I’m now an Olympian is so unreal. And I know my mom is smiling from ear to ear. I know she’s incredibly proud of me, and that’s all I could ever want from her.”

Despite being one of the fastest women in the world, Long faced a difficult task to make the U.S. team. She sits in lane 7 between U.S. 100-meter champion Sha’Carri Richardson and newly crowned world number one and 2021 Olympic medalist Gabby Thomas.

But despite the long college season, Long used her signature second gear to keep up with the veterans, edging Richardson out of third place. Thomas took the U.S. title with a 21.81, while Brittany Brown took second with a 21.90.

“In the last 60 meters, I really tell myself: Don’t let your form drop,” Long said. “That’s literally the deciding factor as to whether you finish first, second or last. Don’t let your form drop, no matter what. Just cross the finish line as strong as you can, and that will get you through. It’s a full 200 meters.”

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