TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough High School rising senior Erriyon Knighton finished fourth in the final of the men’s 200 meters in the Tokyo Olympics.
The 17-year-old Tampa native ran 19.93 seconds and finished behind Canada’s Andre de Grasse (19.62), USA’s Kenneth Bednarek (19.68), and Noah Lyles (19.74).
School is not in session until next week, but his classmates, teachers and coaches still gathered in the Hillsborough High auditorium to watch the big moment.
“We went all-in for it,” Erriyon’s classmate Matthew Gawienczuk, draped in an American flag, said. “We love Erriyon. It was a great, great experience. I’m happy the school opened up for this.”
Hillsborough coaches, Earl Garcia and Joe Sipp, sitting at the edge of their seats as Knighton crossed the finish line.
“I haven’t felt something like that, played and coached in the state championship game, that was more intense than the opening kickoff,” Garcia, the school’s varsity football coach, said.
“It looks like he stumbled a little bit on the start and kind of put him behind in the race,” Sipp, the school’s track coach, added. “Hhe fought back and when they came off the turn I thought he was really going to get in and be able to compete. But I am so proud of him and his efforts and all he has accomplished at a short time.”
At 17 years old, Knighton became the youngest American man to compete in Olympic track and field since 1964. He has been running track for only three years and found himself competing against the brightest stars in the sport.
“He’s a child running against grown men,” Sipp said.
“We knew he was special, e didn’t know he was that special,” Garcia said. “We’ve had 19 NFL players, we’ve had first-round draft picks in Major League Baseball in our football program, but never an Olympian.”
His classmates are confident he’ll be back for two, maybe even three more Olympic games.
“He’s 17 (years old) with time,” classmate Patrick McCurdy said. “That man is coming in next time. He’s going to get the gold medal and you can quote that.”