From Jenny Simpson and Aries Merritt to Ryan Hill and Keni Harrison, a number of athletes look to clinch their spot in Rio as the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials continue.
The first weekend of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials was packed with drama, surprises and world-class performances by some of the world’s greatest athletes. More than 40 competitors secured their place for the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, which are less than a month away.
Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin roared to victory with world-leading times in the women’s 400 meters and men’s 100 meters, respectively. Fan favorite Alysia Montaño got tangled up and fell in the final strides of the 800 meters, missing out on her second Olympic team, and Kate Grace was crowned as the new 800-meter champion.
The sprint, distance and field events will only get better as the trials continue. Here is a spectator’s guide to the second half of the trials from July 6–10.
Men’s Olympic stars to watch
Event: 110-meter hurdles (2012 Olympic champion, world-record holder)
Merritt may not be running close his world record of 12.80 in the 110-meter hurdles, but he’s one of the most impressive athletes on the track. Merritt looks to make his second Olympic team less than a year removed from a kidney transplant. He won a bronze medal at last summer’s world championships with very low kidney function and underwent surgery four days later. Merritt has returned to run 13.24, which is sixth in the world as of July 5.
Event: 5,000 meters (Two-time Olympian)
Lagat wilted in the heat on the first day of competition in the men’s 10,000 meters; he dropped out a little more than halfway through the race and refocused his attention on the 5,000 meters. In the first round of qualifying for the 5,000, he clocked the fastest closing lap of everyone with a 53.64 final lap. Even at 41 years old, Lagat has closing speed that may put him on the Olympic team. If he makes it to Rio, he will be the oldest U.S. distance runner in Olympic history.
Event: Steeplechase (2012 Olympic finalist)
Jager, who competed in London and led for a few laps of the 2012 Olympic 3,000-meter steeplechase final, has since developed into a true contender for the medal stand in Rio. He has lowered his American record to 8:00.45 and can compete for the win on the world stage against the East Africans. Barring no fall or other disaster, he should be a lock for his second Olympic trials win.
Event: Triple jump (2012 Olympic champion)
Taylor won gold in the triple jump in 2012 and now has his sights set on another gold and the world record. Last summer, he became the second-best jumper of all-time as he recorded a 18.21-meter leap for gold at the world championships in Beijing. No American has won back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics since Myer Prinstein in 1900 and ’04.
Event: High jump (2012 Olympic silver medalist)
Kynard remains in the medal conversation for the high jump in Rio just four years after taking silver. Since London, he finished fifth at the 2013 world championships and then eighth at the 2015 world championships in Beijing. Kynard is the best U.S. high jumper and should have no problem advancing to his second Olympics.
Women’s Olympic stars to watch
Event: 200 meters (2012 Olympic champion)
Felix conquered the women’s 400 meters with an impressive winning time of 49.46 seconds—the fastest time in the world for 2016. To top it off, she ran on an injured ankle. Up next is the 200 meters, the event in which she won Olympic gold in London. If she achieves her goal, she’ll become one of a handful of women to chase golds in the 200- and 400-meter double.
Event: 1,500 meters (2012 Olympian)
Simpson has raced sparingly in 2016, hoping to peak in Rio de Janeiro. She will be challenged by American record holder Shannon Rowbury, who sat on her heels and chased her down last summer in Monaco, claiming the 3:56.29 record. Simpson hopes to make her second Olympic team and redeem her early exit in 2012.
Event: Pole vault (2012 Olympic champion)
Suhr is the reigning Olympic champion, the current world-record holder and the 2016 world indoor champion. Despite several injury setback in her 2016 outdoor season, she’s a favorite to claim a spot in Rio.
Event: 5,000 meters (2012 Olympian)
Conley failed to make the Olympic team in the 10,000 meters after stopping mid-race to adjust her shoe and failing to catch the lead pack. Her speed will be tested as she drops to 5,000 meters, the event in which she qualified for the 2012 London team.
Potential new men’s Olympians to watch
Event: 1,500 meters (2011 NCAA champion at 800 meters)
Andrews has emerged as one of the most ferocious 1,500 meter runners in the country as he manages to win races despite being in last place going into the final lap. Andrews missed the 2012 Olympic team by less than one second. He qualified for last summer’s world championships and made the 1,500 meter final in Beijing.
Event: 5,000 meters (2016 world indoor silver medalist)
The Hickory, North Carolina native is poised to make his first U.S. Olympic team just one year after capturing his first U.S. championship win at 5,000 meters. He has represented the United States at the last two world championships and won a silver medal at the 2016 world indoor championships in March. Hill’s closing speed is among the best in the country and it may come to play in the men’s 5,000 meter final.
Event: 200 meters (2013 NCAA champion)
Webb made a bold decision in choosing not to run the 100 and opted instead for the 200. His 19.85 is the second fastest in the world for 2016. Webb has never represented the U.S. at a global championship and could be a medal favorite in Brazil – possibly for gold as well given Bolt’s injury.
Event: 110-meter hurdles (2014, ’16 NCAA champion)
Allen returned to the track after a knee injury while playing football knocked him out for the 2015 outdoor season and he missed a chance at competing for a spot at the world championships. He dominated his collegiate competition and now will be tested against pros in the 110-meter hurdles for the first time since he won the 2014 U.S. national title. Without a world championship or Olympics in 2014, this year’s field is much deeper than the one he won against.
Event: 400-meter hurdles (2014 U.S. champion)
Dutch has run some of the fastest times in the world for the 400-meter hurdles in each respective year since the 2012 Olympics in London but he manages to underperform in the finals at U.S. championships. His 48.10 is the fastest of 2016 and if he makes the Olympic team, he may find a way onto the medal stand. He needs to get through the trials first.
Potential new women’s Olympians to watch
Event: 100-meter hurdles (American record holder)
Harrison could be a gold medal candidate in Brazil after setting the women’s 100-meter hurdle American record of 12.24, which is also the second-fastest time in history. She could threaten to break the world record of 12.21, which was set by Bulgaria’s Yordanka Donkova in 1988.
Event: 3,000-meter steeplechase (2015 NCAA runner-up)
O’Connor returns to Eugene just one year after a fall in the last water barrier cost her a chance at making her first world championship team. The former Michigan State star opened her steeplechase having run 9:18.85 to become the third-fastest American in the event.
Event: 400-meter hurdles (2015 World Youth champion)
We may have to wait until 2020 to have an Olympian born after 2000 but for now McLaughlin could be the closest to that millennium mark. The 16-year-old set a World Junior Record (U-20) of 54.46 in the 400-meter hurdles, which makes her the fourth fastest American in 2016. If she can manage to finish in the top three of the Olympic trials final, she would be the youngest female U.S. Olympian since Sandi Goldsberry (16) and Cindy Gilbert (15) competed in the high jump at the 1972 Olympics.
Event: 400 meters (2015 world championship silver medalist, 2016 NCAA champion)
Little rose to prominence after winning silver in the 400-meter hurdles at last summer’s world championships. She has improved her personal best to 53.51 as she won the NCAA title for Texas A&M in June. Gold is in her reach.
Event: Pole vault (2016 world championship silver medalist)
The former Arkansas pole vault star has made a smooth transition to her professional career as she competed at last summer’s world championships, won silver indoors in March and could win at the Olympic Trials. A snapped pole resulted in an injury that wiped out most of her preparation for the trials but she should still be able to make the U.S. Olympic team in healthy.
Women’s 100-meter hurdles
The United States owns the five fastest times in the world this year and only three women will be able to compete in Rio. This field is deeper than the Olympic final and that is not an exaggeration.
Women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase
Emma Coburn appears to be a lock for the top spot but there are about five other women that will fight for the remaining two spots.
Men’s 5,000 meters
While Lagat seeks to make his final Olympic team, Galen Rupp could also be eying history as he tries to make the Olympic team in the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon. He already has his place on the 10,000 and marathon team but it is likely he only chooses two of the three events. Only 17 men in history have pulled off the triple.
Women’s 400-meter hurdles
Shamier Little and Sidney McLaughlin lead a young U.S. core of stars that could medal at the Olympics. The U.S. owns seven of the top 10 times in the world for this event and only three go to Rio.
Men’s 200 meters
Justin Gatlin returns to action looking to secure another lane to face Usain Bolt in Rio de Janeiro. Many of the athletes that missed out on spots in the 100 will try to redeem themselves in the 200.