We were blown away by the first two days of the IAAF World Youth Championships Cali 2015, and things only got better. The latter half of the 17-and-under champs featured a mouthwatering TWENTY-EIGHT finals. 28! Out of all the incredible action, here's what we loved the most.

Blue hot track

Blue Hot Track ()

We’re big fans of the Pascual Guerrero’s two-tone blue track. So were the athletes.

You couldn’t move for personal bests as the results flickered through after each race, and we witnessed championship records on the track in the boys’ 100m, 200m and 1500m, and in the girls’ 100m and 400m hurdles. We were also treated to Candace Hill’s astonishing world youth best 22.43 in the 200m, completing a memorable sprint double for the 16-year-old.

In the field there were CRs in the boys’ hammer, pole vault and long jump, and indeed in the decathlon (although this was the first time a ten-eventer had been staged at a world youths). Likewise, there was a heptathlon CR, which Switzerland’s Géraldine Ruckstuhl sealed with a quite astounding 9-second personal best in the 800m. Dizzying stuff for stat nuts. 

In the 400m, Jamaican Christopher Taylor won gold in 45.27 to break Usain Bolt’s old national youth record. We’re putting it down to the azul under foot, after all it was on the Berlin bluey that Bolt set his 100m and 200m world records.

Splish splash I'm running the steeple

Chebet Steeple ()

We thoroughly enjoyed Sandrafelis Chebet Tuei’s (right) way of dealing with the water jump in the 2000m steeplechase. The Kenyan embraced the drink, landing two-footed in the deep end each time before wading out and getting on with her race.

It’s not a technique many coaches would recommend, but it worked for the 17-year-old as she went on to win a sodden silver behind fellow Kenyan Celliphine Chepteek Chespol.

Running on emotion

Anthony Jose Zambrano ()

A championships really comes alive when there’s a home hero to cheer. We got that in Cali in the form of Anthony Zambrano.

The 17-year-old ran a personal best 46.27 to win his 400m heat on day one. He then ran a perfect semi, the noise from the crowd deafening as he stormed the last 200m to win ahead of champion-in-waiting Christopher Taylor. In the final he looked leggy, the emotion of three races in three days clearly taking its toll as he finished outside of the medal places.

Nonetheless, his turns typified the gusto shown by every single Colombian who performed over the five days. The fervent support they were given by the locals in the crowd (and by SPIKES – we're suckers for schmaltz) will live long in the memory.

A divine inspiration

Salwa Eid Naser ()

Running the 400m is hard. Running it at 3,300ft is even harder. Running it in humid 30ºC heat while covered from head to toe is not something we ever want to try. Yet that’s what Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser did in Cali.

The 2014 Youth Olympic Games silver medallist progressed through the rounds with wins in each of her races. In the final she ran perfectly, chasing down the USA’s Lynna Irby to claim gold in a personal best and world youth leading time of 51.50.

We asked her just how hard it is to race wearing the hijab. “It’s not easy, but it’s my religion so it’s ok,” she shrugged. Phenomenal attitude. Phenomenal athlete.

Cocodrilos be jumpin’

Christian Atanay Napoles ()

If you look at Cuba from above it kind’a looks like a crocodile, hence its sometime nickname El Cocodrilo del Caribe. That’s just the first (admittedly vague) cultural connection with Jumps-U: like the University of Florida’s Gators (geddit?) track team, the island republic is responsible for producing a crop of very fine horizontal jumpers.

Aspiring to replicate the feats of 18-metre-man Pedro Pablo Pichardo Peralta is a tranche of younger Cubans. In Cali, Christian Atanay Napoles (pictured) jumped 16.13m to win hop-skip-jump gold on a windy Friday night, while his compatriot Julio César Carbonell bagged bronze. This came the day after Maykel Demetrio Masso earned long jump gold with a championship record 8.05m.

And there was another podium finish for a Cuban jumper on day 4: Yanna Anay Armenteros claiming bronze in the triple jump with a 13.04m to complete a remarkable haul for los Socios.

O solo mio

Georgia Hulls ()

Lane eight was an even lonelier place to be than usual for New Zealand’s Georgia Hulls. She was wrongly dee-queued from her 200m semi, and after waiting patiently for twelve track contests to be run, she was able to have her crack at making the final, all on her own (cue link to wrap from last year's world juniors).

With no peers to pace her it was a tough ask. The 15-year-old was given vociferous backing from the Cali crowd and ultimately finished a mere 0.11 seconds outside of a place in the final.

Hulls said afterwards that it was the hardest race of her life. It looked it.

Mega mix

USA Relay ()

Not another shout out to the DeeJay, but a big thumbs up for the mixed 4x400m relays. Teams were open to choose which legs their two boys and two girls ran, making it anyone’s guess who held the edge right until the very end of each race.

In the final, the Americans stormed to gold. But it was in the battle for silver where the real drama lay: Canada elected for Kyra Constantine to anchor, and she took off in second place. Behind her, South Africa’s Kyle Appel tried to close the gap. With 100m to go the inevitable looked, well, inevitable. But Constantine held and held and held until the line, where Appel only just beat her on the dip. He ran so hard that he had to be stretchered off the track, a testament to both athletes’ efforts. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Casualties aside, SPIKES can’t think of a better way to end a championships than with such an insanely chaotic spectacle.

Los locales

Cali Crowd ()

La gente de Cali really embraced these world youth champs into the warmth of their ample bosom. There were platoons of luminous-orange-t-shirted volunteers all over the place, and SPIKES made sure to make friends every single one of them.

Local and national media ensured great coverage across the country. We loved the super-rapido Spanish-speaking commentators rattling on behind us, even when there was definitely nothing going on the track or in field. This correspondent even pulled out the Basil Fawlty phrase book to give an interview live on Colombian radio. Sincere apologies to all involved.

The crowds in the Pascual Guerrero were brilliant, cheering everyone in every event, and taking a particular shine to the field contests. Even during the pole vault warm ups, they whooped and hollered as the athletes sprung over the elastic band they test themselves on before the competition proper.

We’ll leave the last words on the matter to the USA’s Josephus Lyles, who won 400m bronze:

“The crowd was amazing, they pushed me so high and I could feel that energy all the time. I want to thank all the people from Cali. Not many fans are like this.”

Amen to that.