Kenny Bednarek waited a long time for his moment.
He got it on Sunday night.
The Rice Lake alumnus took second place in the men’s 200-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., punching his ticket to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. He clocked in at 19.78 seconds, finishing 0.04 seconds behind winner Noah Lyles.
Just three years ago, Bednarek was dominating on the track with Rice Lake. Now, he’ll represent the United States on the sport’s biggest stage.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bednarek said on NBC’s broadcast. “When I was younger, I always thought about being an Olympian, wanted to be an Olympian. Now I’m here. I’ve fulfilled my dream, but I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
He’ll take serious medal aspirations with him to Tokyo in late July. He’s one of the top 200 runners in the world, and proved it in Eugene. His 19.78-second run was a personal best.
“Running a personal best in the final after all these rounds, I’d say it’s pretty amazing,” Bednarek said in his post-race press conference. “I’m happy I did it. There’s just a lot of things that I’ve got to work on to make sure that I can be better the next time I step on the track.”
Originally slated to run on Sunday evening, Bednarek had to stay patient following a delay due to extreme heat at the Trials.
It was the latest postponement he needed to sit through after the Trials were pushed back from 2020 to this year.
But the wait didn’t dash his Tokyo dreams.
“I didn’t really think anything of it,” Bednarek said of the delay. “I was ready to go once we got there the first time, but then they said we had to wait, so it was like, ‘OK, just have the same mentality.’”
He stayed near the front of the group for the entire race, finishing a hair behind Lyles in a strong run from start to finish.
Bednarek led narrowly at the turn, but Lyles, the world champion in the event in 2019, made up enough ground coming into the stretch.
“(I was thinking) just stay focused and run my race,” Bendarek said. “I had to make sure to get off with a good turn and then try to maintain that. That’s what I did. Hoped to do a little bit better, but the result’s the result, and I’m happy that I’m able to represent U.S.A.”
He would have liked to finish first, but there will be another chance for that in Tokyo.
“I thought I had a good start and tried to maintain the lead, and I had a little hiccup,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of small, minor things to work on to make sure I”m better next time in my next race.”
Erriyon Knighton, a 17-year-old, took third to grab the final Olympic-qualifying spot.
The men’s 200 begins on August 3 in Tokyo, with the finals slated for August 4.