Stars gather in Oregon for USA Track and Field Olympic Trials

Trackstaa looks ahead to what promises to be some of the most intriguing and exciting athletics this summer as American athletes meet in Oregon for the US Olympic Trials.

USA Olympic trials - Track and field

For those who have been dreaming of representing USA at the Olympics, the final leg of a 5 year journey starts this weekend as athletes from across the USA gear-up for the US Olympic Trials knowing that, providing they’ve achieved the relevant standard, a top-3 finish in their chosen event means they’ll be going to represent the USA in Tokyo.

Once again, Hayward Field is the stage for all 524 athletes, across 20 events. The big talking points leading up to the trials include the form of the NCAA athletes, such as Cooper Teare, Yared Nuguse and Cole Hocker.

There are too many races and too many athletes to call them all and there are too many to root for. So we’ll just talk about the races we think are likely to be the most competitive.

Men’s 5000m

This race has 26 athletes declared, all of whom have run the necessary Olympic standard so this is going to about nothing but pure racing. The fastest in the field is Bowerman’s Woody Kincaid (12:58.10) with a further 3 Bowerman athletes (Lomong, Fisher and McGorty all in the top 6. Kincaid and Fisher are almost certainly favourites too but most people will have an eye on the college athletes, Cooper Teare’s 13:12.27 makes him 10th fastest qualifier whilst his University of Oregon teammate Cole Hocker is only 6 seconds back in 13:18.95.

I’m not in the business of predictions, but for what it’s worth, keep an eye on Paul Chelimo and Eric Jenkins, two Nike athletes who I can see turning up in good form to spoil the Bowerman party.

Men’s 1500m

In what is certainly the most anticipated and arguable most competitive race of the trials, the eyes of the World will be on reigning Olympic champion, Matthew Centrowitz (3:32.81). It’s almost impossible to call with high school athlete, Hobbs Kessler going into the race 4th fastest (3:34.36).

With only the first 3 qualifying and with all runners with a realistic chance of winning having already run the Olympic time, this is another event which just promises to be a great race. Craig Engels goes into the race as the favourite (3:33.64) and off some decent recent form but the incredible kick of Oregon athlete, Cole Hocker is going to be so dangerous and he’s bursting with confidence after his recent win in the NCAA outdoor championships. Don’t forget the inimitable Yared Nuguse who’s ran the fastest NCAA 1500m time ever. The professional athletes are going to find it difficult to drop these kids.

The dark horse in this race? I’m going to go for world 800m champion Donovan Brazier. As arguably the favourite for Olympic gold, he’s certainly got the pace and experience

I’ve already said I don’t make predictions…okay you twisted my arm. 1/ Engels, 2/ Nuguse and 3/ Centrowitz. Don’t @ me. As I review this article and as the owner of Trackstaa, I am going to disagree with our writers predictions. I am going to say 1/ Hocker, 2/ Engels, 3/ Centrowitz.

Women’s 400m and 800m

The likes of Phyllis Francis, Allyson Felix and others all breathed a collective sigh of relief as it looks like the frankly incredible Athing Mu looks set to run the 800m instead after she pretty much re-wrote every collegiate 400m record this season including a sub 49 second 400m relay leg!

That said it still promises to be a very competitive race with 4 of the top 6 having bests within 1 1/10th of a second of each other.

In the 8, it’s another competitive race with Nike athlete Raevyn Rogers looking to remind everyone that she’s still the best around and as mentioned earlier, every race that Athing Mu seems to run, she gets faster so exactly what she can do in the 800m promises to be hugely exciting.

Women’s 1500m

The women’s 1500m is likely to gain the most attention following the news that Shelby Houlihan will still be allowed to run, after a statement from the USATF. Quite what will happen if she goes on to qualify for the Olympics or, God forbid, win the race, I’m not sure. Regardless it’s going to be a huge talking point.

Take your pick from Elinor Purrier St. Pierre, Jennifer Simpson, Shannon Osika or Adidas athlete, Nikki Hiltz. It’s another very competitive race and in this one, I’m genuinely not making a prediction.

Men’s 400m and 800m

The men’s 400m is pretty much a certain victory for the undefeated Michael Norman (43.45). Kahmari Montgomery (44.23) is fast, sure, but he’s not quick enough to beat Norman. Arguably Norman’s biggest challenge was from the reigning US champion, Fred Kerley. Bizarrely he’s indicated that he will be concentrating on the 100 and 200 instead.

In the 800m, the key match-up is Donovan Brazier (1:42.34) and the often-underestimated Bryce Hoppel (1:43.23) who will be many people’s favourite for this race. One thing we can be fairly sure about is that both will be going to Tokyo.

Other star performers

USA is blessed with some special talents across the events, nonetheless than the sprints and hurdles where Sha’Carri Richardson, who up until SAFP’s 10.63 held the world lead, and Grant Holloway will line up in the 100m and 110m hurdles respectively, with Richardson also running in the 200m. Noah Lyles is the stand-out favourite in the men’s 200m but he’ll be chased closely in the final by Terrence Laird, Kenny Bednarek, Fred Kerley and the incredibly versatile Michael Norman.

In the 400m hurdles, superstars Sydney McLaughlin (52.23), Dalilah Muhammad (52.16 WR) and Rai Benjamin (46.98) lead the cast. With Karsten Warholm continuing to run faster over the pond in Europe, many will be wondering if Benjamin can go on to break the world record before his competitor. I’m not so sure, I think that’s likely to come in Tokyo where Benjamin and Warholm will go head to head.

When does it start?

The trials start, Friday 18th June and last until Sunday 27th June with 2 rest days in-between. The headline final tomorrow will be the 10,000m . Here’s the full schedule:

How to watch

For fans in the USA, you can watch it on the television on NBCSN and NBC. For everyone else, you’ll need to pay for a live stream subscription. We’ll be posting a free stream for the events if we can find one.