High Performance, Medals for Queens Women at 2017 Worlds

It’s rare that athletes from New York City’s Public School Athletic League (PSAL) high school background go on to represent the USA in track and field at the professional and international level. At the August 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, New York City, Queens in particular, saw three of its own achieve high performance and success at the Championships.

Sheer brilliance, determination and tenacity are just two adjectives that describe the performance of women’s 400m gold medalist Phyllis Francis (above), women’s 400m hurdles silver medalist Dalilah Muhammed and women’s 200m finalist Deajah Stevens, fifth in 22.44secs, a mere 400th of a second from first place.

All three young ladies have a number of things in common, and their ascendancy to the top of their event is not surprising. Francis, Muhammed and Stevens were born in Queens, and their track and field career paths have run parallel since they started at an early age representing selected track clubs in AAU- and USATF-sanctioned meets, through which they became well known in New York track and field circles.

During that time, Francis was known more for her middle-distance-running prowess and as the girl in the tall white socks running with her younger sister, Claudia. Francis was ferocious in her approach on the track and took a no-prisoner mentality. Coach, as well as athletes competing against her, concluded that when both sisters were in a race, all other athletes in the line-up were competing for third place.


Then there were the similarities in how they dominated high school running, especially the PSAL; all three were New York State champions. While Stevens and Muhammed attended and graduated from Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens, Francis attended and graduated from Catherine McAuley High School in Brooklyn. At the end of high school, all three girls received track scholarships to universities; Francis and Stevens went on to represent the University of Oregon, and Muhammed went to the University of Southern California (USC).

Muhammed created history when she defeated a world-class field in the 400m hurdles (53.13) at the 2016 Rio Olympics to become the first American woman to win gold in the event at any prior Olympics.

Some two weeks ago, Muhammed celebrated her London World Championships silver medal behind her compatriot Kori Carter, for she was “very happy to make the podium.” However, she noted disappointed in her performance, understandably so since she ran a personal best (PB) for that event at the Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, California just over four weeks before London. Pudits, therefore, expected her to take gold in London.

Francis copped her second gold medal at the 2017 IAAF World Championship when she anchored the American quartet in the women’s 4x400m relay in a world-leading 3:19.02 and become the only American to leave the Championships with two gold medals.