Anja Niedringhaus  /  AP
U.S. sprinters Shawn Crawford, center, Bernard Williams (3362) and Justin Gatlin (3263) race in the 200 meter finals at the Olympic Stadium Thursday night.
By Rehema Ellis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/28/2004 4:24:13 AM ET 2004-08-28T08:24:13

Lightning fast, fresh, and capturing the silver in the 200 meter, Allyson Felix, at just 18, makes you ask: Marion who? — Jeremy Wariner, just 20, and leading the U.S. men's sweep in the 400 meters — Justin Gatlin, 22, sizzling through the 100 meters — and sprinter Shawn Crawford, 26 — they're all Olympic rookies — and a new generation of American track stars. 

Young blood may be just what the sport needs. At a time when at least 11 of its athletes are caught up in drug scandals, some say track and field is desperate for a new start.

"They need to win, they need to win clean and they need to represent the sport even better than the generation that's going out," says Sports Illustrated writer Tim Layden.

18-year-old sensation
Her nickname is "chicken legs" but don't underestimate Allyson Felix. She's already broken Marion Jones' 200 meter national high school record, in place for ten years. Is this a passing or a snatching of the baton?

Womens 200m Round 1
Nick Laham  /  Getty Images
U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix competes in a preliminary round of the women's 200 meters. She evenually won the silver medal.
"Oh, I think the young people, we want it bad, and so it's great just to see the shifting of everything. And just, we're so passionate, and so it's time," says Felix.

Felix is on such a fast track — turning pro right out of high school — that she had no time to even go to her prom.

Sprinting from the switch
Van Wyck, South Carolina is planning a party for Shawn Crawford. His mother saw his speed first, when he was only a kid.

"He'd just run away from everything, to keep from getting a whoopin'," remembers Sylvia Crawford.

"There's times when I'm still picturing myself running from that switch when my momma was trying to get me, tryin' to give me a whoopin'," agrees Shawn.

Once the little bad boy, today Crawford has the discipline of a world class sprinter, but still enough swagger to land him in Vanity Fair.

"I do respect authority, but sometimes I do have a problem with somebody tellin' me what to do," he says.

But he understands the pressure on him and his peers is not to only win medals, but to set an example.

"Being a fresh new face, I think it's our job, to prove that you know, this sport is a very clean sport and, you know, it's an honorable sport," says Crawford.

The new age of stars — already making their mark on and off the track.

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