Jamal Walton, Cayman Islands’ only athlete in the IAAF world championships in London, finished fourth in his semifinal heat of the Men’s 400-meters on Sunday.
His time of 45.16 seconds was not fast enough to put the 18-year-old through to the finals on Tuesday, but Walton’s performance against the world’s best runners was impressive nonetheless. Overall, he finished midway through the field of 24 competitors.
Walton qualified for the semifinal on Saturday, finishing third behind two big international names in track. One of the event’s favorites, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, won the qualifying heat in 44.56, the fastest time posted by any of the 400m runners Saturday in London. Former U.S. Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt was second in the qualifiers, in 45 seconds flat.
Walton’s time in the heat, 45.05 seconds, was just 0.06 seconds off his personal best and just 0.05 seconds behind Merritt.
In the semis on Sunday, Steve Gardiner of the Bahamas had the fastest qualifying time for the finals, 43.89. Nathon Allen of Jamaica was second in 44.19, and six others qualified for the finals in under 44.7 seconds.
Walton started turning heads in 2014 when – at age 15 – he beat a 400m junior record set by Usain Bolt when Bolt was a teen.
Walton, who is based in the U.S., went on to become a two-time champion at the Pan American Under-20 games in the 400m, and this year ran a personal best of 44.99 at the Pan Am Junior Championships in July, the fastest 400m by a high school student in the last 35 years.
Walton will begin his final year at Florida’s Miramar High School this fall.