El Camino's Justin Alexander has found out over the past few weeks that it takes a little bit of luck to advance to next week's World U20 Track & Field Championships in Poland.
First came the news that University of Houston's Amere Lattin, Alexander's 400 intermediate hurdle opponent at last month's USA Track National Junior Championships, had decided to drop out.
Lattin took second place, one spot ahead of Alexander, but Lattin also qualified in the 110 hurdle and decided to drop out of the 400 and focus on that. Lattin's exit meant Alexander jumped from third to second place, moving from alternate to qualifier for the U20 World Championships, scheduled for July 19-24.
The second stroke of luck came just after learning the news that he qualified. Alexander was able to secure a passport for the trip to Poland, a chore that can often take more than a month, in just one day.
"It kind of feels like its fate for me to get to this point," Alexander said. "All the stars and everything has aligned for me, it definitely feels meant to be."
Of course, luck only gets you so far, and Alexander has more than held up his end of the bargain on the track.
He earned the third-place finish at last month's Junior Championships in Fresno by blazing to a personal record of 51.74 seconds in the 400. Alexander was the only athlete to hit a PR in the final.
"He was just great, he has consistently gotten better this year and has ran his best in the biggest races," said El Camino's track coach John Hall.
Alexander is still 18, and doesn't turn 19 until October.
"He's a young 18, but you wouldn't know it on the track," Hall said. "Age-wise, he could still be on high school. But he shows so much maturity as a runner."
Alexander, who is fifth all-time at El Camino in the 400, said the reality of his advancing to the World Championships in Poland has finally begun to sink in.
"I've never left the country before, so I've had to Google some stuff and find out where to go and what to eat," Alexander said. "It's all really exciting."
Ultimately, the trip is about what Alexander can do on the track, and he said he's ready to prove himself on one of track's biggest stages.
"The workouts have been getting more intense. I'm really motivated to show what I can do," Alexander said. "I know this is going to be one of the biggest races of my life and I'm ready for it."
Justin placed 2nd in the 400 IH in this past May's CCCAA Championships.
Complete Results of the World U20 Championships can be found at http://www.usatf.org/Events---Calendar/2016/USATF-Junior-Outdoor-Track---Field-Championships/Live-Results.aspx.