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Ten women’s events to watch at Olympic Track and Field Trials

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More than 100 athletes will qualify for Rio by the end of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10 on NBC Sports.

The top three finishers per event, provided they meet the Olympic standard, are in line to go to the Games. More finishers in the men’s and women’s 100m and 400m sprints, usually the top six, make the team for the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

The U.S. Olympic track and field team is always the largest in size across all sports.

This year’s squad could be favored for even more success than 2012, when it led the medal standings with 28 total and nine gold, with the Russian track and field out of the picture for now.

However, the U.S. will look to bounce back from the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where it topped the medal table with 18 overall, its smallest haul since 2003. Jamaica and Kenya took more golds.

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Here are 10 women’s events to watch:

Long Jump
July 1-2
2012 Olympics: Brittney Reese (gold), Janay DeLoach (bronze), Chelsea Hayes (first round)
2015 Worlds: Tianna Bartoletta (gold), Janay DeLoach (eighth), Jasmine Todd (first round), Brittney Reese (first round)

Outlook: Bartoletta is the reigning world and national champion. But the favorite may be Reese, who won every Olympic and world title from 2009 through 2013 and has the four best U.S. marks this year. DeLoach finished behind Bartoletta and Reese at the 2015 Nationals, and in last year’s world rankings.

High Jump
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Brigetta Barrett (silver), Chaunté Lowe (sixth), Amy Acuff (first round)
2015 Worlds: Chaunté Lowe (first round)

Outlook: Lowe is the reigning national champ, but Vashti Cunningham wasn’t present at that event because she was competing in Junior Nationals. The 18-year-old daughter of retired NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham posted the two best American marks in 2015. So far this year, Lowe owns the three top U.S. outdoor clearances, but Cunningham’s indoor best was better. Elizabeth Patterson could push them, and so, too, could 40-year-old Amy Acuff, who seeks her sixth Olympic appearance. Barrett is retired.

400 Meters
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Sanya Richards-Ross (gold), DeeDee Trotter (bronze), Francena McCorory (seventh)
2015 Worlds: Allyson Felix (gold), Phyllis Francis (seventh), Natasha Hastings (semifinals)

Outlook: Coming off an ankle injury, Felix’s first chance to earn a spot on her fourth Olympic team comes in the 400m, which she’s never run individually at an Olympics. But she won the world title last year after posting a personal-best 49.26. Richards-Ross won the London gold medal in 49.55 but failed to make the 2015 Nationals final and suffered a hamstring strain earlier this month. Keep an eye on Courtney Okolo, who set an NCAA record in April with a time of 49.71, second fastest in the world this year. Also in April, Quanera Hayes went 49.91.

800 Meters
July 1-4
2012 Olympics: Alysia Montaño (fifth), Alice Schmidt (semifinals), Geena Gall (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Brenda Martinez (semifinals), Molly Beckwith-Ludlow (semifinals), Alysia Montano (first round)

Outlook: The crowd favorite might be Montaño, who placed fifth in the London Olympics behind two Russians who later received lifetime doping bans. In 2014, Montano famously ran the 800m at Nationals while 34 weeks pregnant, and she won her sixth national title last year. But the actual favorite might be Ajee’ Wilson, who posted the world’s best 800m time in 2014, and the U.S.’ best in 2015 and so far in 2016. She would have been a medal contender at 2015 Worlds but pulled out due to a stress fracture in her left leg.

100 Meters
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Carmelita Jeter (silver), Tianna Bartoletta (fourth), Allyson Felix (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Tori Bowie (bronze), English Gardner (semifinals), Jasmine Todd (semifinals)

Outlook: Jeter withdrew before Trials with a quadriceps injury that has slowed her for years. Bowie’s 10.80 in May is the second-best mark this year, and Gardner’s 10.81 is No. 3. The race is likely for the third individual Olympic berth to join Bowie and Gardner. Three other American women have also gone under 11 seconds this year.

100 Meter Hurdles
July 7-8
2012 Olympics: Dawn Harper-Nelson (silver), Kellie Wells (bronze), Lolo Jones (fourth)
2015 Worlds: Brianna Rollins (fourth), Sharika Nelvis (eighth), Dawn Harper-Nelson (semifinals), Keni Harrison (semifinals)

Outlook: Americans went 2-3-4 in this event at the 2012 Olympics, and they very well could sweep it in Rio. U.S. women posted the world’s top 15 times last year, despite missing the worlds medals, and they have the best 11 so far this year. The top four all belong to Harrison, who broke Rollins’ American record at the Pre Classic on May 28. Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers posted the world’s best 2015 times.

400 Meter Hurdles
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Lashinda Demus (silver), Georganne Moline (fifth), T’erea Brown (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Shamier Little (silver), Cassandra Tate (bronze), Kori Carter (semifinals)

Outlook: Little has owned the 400m hurdles in the U.S. since posting three of the world’s five best times last year. Included in those marks were a world silver medal and U.S. and NCAA titles. Just behind her at Worlds and Nationals, and much of the rest of the year, was Tate. These two are near-certain locks to take the top two berths to Rio. Demus will miss the Trials due to injury.

1500 Meters
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Shannon Rowbury (sixth), Morgan Uceny (11th), Jenny Simpson (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Shannon Rowbury (seventh), Jenny Simpson (11th), Lauren Johnson (semifinals), Kerri Gallagher (semifinals)

Outlook: The battle here is really for the third Olympic berth, because Rowbury and Simpson should snag the first two. Rowbury and Simpson ranked third and fourth in the world, respectively, in this event last year, and Simpson already owns a top-10 time this year. Simpson edged Rowbury at the 2015 Nationals, but Rowbury broke the American record three weeks later.

Pole Vault
July 8-10
2012 Olympics: Jenn Suhr (gold), Becky Holliday (ninth), Lacy Janson (first round)
2015 Worlds: Sandi Morris (fourth), Jenn Suhr (fourth), Demi Payne (first round)

Outlook: Suhr shouldn’t have a problem getting back in the Games to defend her gold medal, but the 34-year-old will be challenged by the 23-year-old Morris. They were part of a three-way tie for fourth at last year’s Worlds. Earlier last summer, Suhr handily defeated Morris at Nationals.

200 Meters
July 8-10
2012 Olympics: Allyson Felix (gold), Carmelita Jeter (bronze), Sanya Richards-Ross (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Candyce McGrone (fourth), Jeneba Tarmoh (sixth), Jenna Prandini (semifinals)

Outlook: Felix hopes to complete the 200m-400m double in Rio, but first she has to qualify in both events. This has long been her best event: defending 200m Olympic champion, two previous Olympic silvers and three world titles. She didn’t run the 200m at the 2015 Worlds as she focused on the 400m. Bowie’s 21.99 is the second-fastest in the world in 2016, and tops among Americans, but Felix hasn’t yet raced the 200m this year due to her ankle injury. Keep an eye on Ariana Washington, the Oregon freshman who swept the NCAA 100m and 200m titles; her 22.21 in the 200 is fifth in the world this year.

MORE: Olympic Track and Field Trials broadcast schedule

U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet

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The U.S. and Great Britain go head-to-head in a track and field meet on July 21 at the London Olympic Stadium.

“The Meet” will include nine running, jumping, hurdles and relay events and last two hours. Specific events and athletes will be announced early next year.

The U.S. topped the overall medal standings at every Olympics and world outdoor championships since 2004.

Great Britain is one of three countries to earn at least five medals at every Olympics and worlds since 2007, joining the U.S. and Kenya.

British athletes made six podiums at the just-completed worlds at the London Olympic Stadium, including in all four relays. The other two medals came from Mo Farah, who is moving to road racing and marathons after this season.

“The Meet” is similar to swimming’s “Duel in the Pool,” a biennial head-to-head competition between the U.S. and rival Australia from 2003 through 2007 and between the U.S. and Europe between 2009 and 2015.

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Five women’s gymnasts to watch at P&G Championships

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As Rio gold medalists decide on their futures, this week’s P&G Championships mark the first showcase for a new class of U.S. women’s gymnasts.

For the first time since 2008, nobody in the nationals field in Anaheim has competed at an Olympics. Usually, a gymnast or two carries over into the post-Olympic year, like Bridget Sloan in 2009 and Kyla Ross in 2013.

But this year, the feeling is akin to 2005, when no woman (or man) from the 2004 Athens Games chalked up at nationals.

Back then, a 15-year-old Nastia Liukin, who had already starred in a commercial during the 2004 Olympics, made her senior nationals debut and won the all-around. Three years later, Liukin won the Olympic all-around in Beijing.

There will be talk this week of finding the next Liukin, or Gabby Douglas, or Simone Biles, who, like Liukin, won her senior nationals debut the year after the Olympics.

“Some of them [from Rio], hopefully Simone, will be coming back, but I think this is a great opportunity for some of these girls to go out there and prove that they’re just as ready to compete at a world championships,” said Liukin, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “They have to step up a little bit and kind of become the leaders.”

Gymnasts this week are vying to impress new U.S. national team coordinator Valeri Liukin (Nastia’s father). The four-woman roster for October’s worlds, where there is no team event, will be named after a selection camp later this summer.

Five gymnasts to watch at the P&G Championships:

Ragan Smith
Rio Olympic alternate
2017 AT&T American Cup champion

The Texan performed admirably in her first senior season in 2016, placing fifth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. Her best events are balance beam and floor exercise, and the U.S. needed uneven bars help in Rio, so she went to the Games as an alternate at age 15.

Smith, coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal, emerged this year as the U.S.’ most reliable all-arounder and clear favorite this week. She won the AT&T American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. A definite all-around medal favorite at October’s worlds.

Ashton Locklear
Rio Olympic alternate
2014 World team champion

Locklear was beaten for the Olympic team bars specialist spot by Madison Kocian after nearly matching Kocian in scores in four routines between last year’s P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old is not considered an all-around threat this week but is favored to make the world team based on her bars ability. She was fourth in the event at 2014 Worlds.

Riley McCusker
2017 Jesolo Trophy all-around winner

McCusker, who has the same coach as Laurie Hernandez, struggled at the American Cup in her first senior competition, falling on bars and beam. She rebounded to win Jesolo a month later and remain in the mix as the No. 2 U.S. all-arounder (Smith wasn’t at Jesolo).

However, McCusker was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July and said she expected to be back to peak form in September, not August.

Morgan Hurd
2017 Stuttgart World Cup bronze medalist

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware.

Liukin, asked to name gymnasts to watch this week, started with Hurd, whom she says has the highest floor exercise start value in the world. “She could be capable of winning a world all-around medal and possibly become a world champion on floor,” Liukin said.

Jade Carey
2017 U.S. Classic vault winner

The U.S. has a tradition of sending a vault specialist to worlds, but neither of the top vaulters from the last Olympic cycle — Biles and MyKayla Skinner — are competing this week. Enter Carey, a 17-year-old who wasn’t an elite gymnast before this season.

Carey performed the difficult Amanar vault at July’s U.S. Classic, where she was the only gymnast to perform two vaults, which is required to compete for medals on the event at worlds.

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