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Five women’s events to watch at USATF Outdoor Championships

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The women’s fields at the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) feature the most decorated female track and field athlete of all time (Allyson Felix).

They feature the deepest races of the meet (100m hurdles, 400m hurdles).

And two inspiring stories — Gabriele Grunewald contesting the 1500m in between chemotherapy treatments and Alysia Montano in the 800m while five months pregnant.

Then there’s the world-record holder who shockingly missed the Rio Olympics (Keni Harrison) and two strong head-to-head rivalries (noted in events to watch).

The top three finishers per event make the roster, should they reach the qualifying times or marks.

In addition to the top three, reigning world champions from 2015 and Diamond League champions from 2016 receive automatic byes into worlds, should they toe the start line in Sacramento.

The women could well produce the headlines every day at nationals, beginning Thursday on NBC Sports Gold. A full broadcast schedule is here.

Here are five women’s events to watch:

100m
Thursday (first round)
Friday (semifinals, final)
2016 Olympics: Tori Bowie (silver), English Gardner (7th), Tianna Bartoletta (semifinals)
2017 World Rankings: Aleia Hobbs (4th, 10.85), Mikiah Brisco (7th, 10.96), Deajah Stevens (8th, 11.00), Ashley Henderson (9th, 11.01)

Outlook: Hobbs, Brisco, Stevens and Henderson are all collegians and may be hard-pressed to repeat those best times two weeks after the NCAA Championships. Hobbs’ 10.85 was an outlier during a 12-race season where her second-best time was 11.02, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Bowie is just behind them in this year’s rankings but also ran a wind-aided 10.80 in April. She’s the favorite. Less certain are fellow pros Gardner and Bartoletta. Gardner dealt with a reported calf tear this spring and came back to run 11.32 on June 10. Bartoletta may be focusing more on the long jump, her Olympic gold-medal event. Her last three wind-legal 100m times were 11.26, 11.47 and 11.49.

The door could be open for Allyson Felix, who ran 11.07 on May 20, her only 100m in the last two years. She is planning to race the 100m in Sacramento, but with a bye into the worlds 400m, the short sprint may not be in her long-term gameplan.

MORE: Five men’s events to watch

1500m
Thursday (first round)
Saturday (final)
2016 Olympics: Jenny Simpson (bronze), Shannon Rowbury (4th), Brenda Martinez (semifinals)
2017 World Rankings: Kate Grace (17th, 4:03.59), Simpson (19th, 4:04.16), Rowbury (23rd, 4:04.61), Lauren Johnson (34th, 4:05.88)

Outlook: Storylines on both days here. First, Gabriele Grunewald will be magnetic on the opening day in Sacramento, racing in between chemotherapy treatments. The final will likely be a battle between rivals Simpson and Rowbury. Simpson is the three-time reigning U.S. champion. Rowbury is the American record holder. Martinez is only racing the 800m in Sacramento, despite holding the two fastest 1500m times this year among Americans.

400m Hurdles
Friday (first round)
Saturday (semifinals)
Sunday (final)
2016 Olympics: Dalilah Muhammad (gold), Ashley Spencer (bronze), Sydney McLaughlin (semifinals)
2017 World Rankings: Spencer (1st, 53.38), Shamier Little (2nd, 54.44), McLaughlin (3rd, 54.03), Georganne Moline (4th, 54.09)

Outlook: Unquestionably the U.S.’ best event this year — male or female. In only one other event does the U.S. have the top two in the world rankings (men’s triple jump). Americans make up the top four here, and that’s not even including the Rio Olympic champion Muhammad or the Diamond League champion Cassandra Tate, who has a bye into worlds. Two world medal threats are guaranteed to be left off the London team.

200m
Saturday (first round)
Sunday (semifinals, final)
2016 Olympics: Tori Bowie (bronze), Deajah Stevens (7th), Jenna Prandini (semifinals)
2017 World Rankings: Bowie (1st, 21.77), Kyra Jefferson (4th, 22.02), Stevens (5th, 22.09), Allyson Felix (7th, 22.33)

Outlook: Bowie, a sprint medalist of every color in Rio, shaved .22 off her personal best to win the Prefontaine Classic on May 27. She beat the Rio Olympic 200m and 400m gold and silver medalists handily. She is in a class of her own. Felix, who used to own this event, will have to oust either Jefferson or Stevens for one of the other two berths. Felix is 31 years old. Jefferson and Stevens are each 22 but could be at a disadvantage if they peaked for the NCAA Championships two weeks ago.

Pole Vault
Sunday
2016 Olympics: Sandi Morris (silver), Jenn Suhr (7th), Lexi Weeks (19th)
2017 World Rankings: Morris (2nd, 4.84m), Suhr (3rd, 4.83m), Morgan Leleux (9th, 4.65m), Annie Rhodes (15th, 4.61m)

Outlook: Morris and the 2012 Olympic champion Suhr are both near locks to make the world team, but the excitement is in their head-to-head battle. Morris was second to Suhr at nationals in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before breaking out in Rio. Suhr coughed up blood the morning of the Rio final, affected by illness. This year, Suhr and Rio gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece are the only women to clear 4.80 meters both indoors and outdoors.

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MORE: Chemo, then U.S. Champs for distance runner

USA’s Felix hits Brazilian, relay fails baton pass; Will re-run solo tonight

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The United States women’s 4×100 relay team couldn’t complete the first race, but will have a chance to advance to the final in relatively unique fashion.

WATCH: U.S. women drop baton

USA superstar Allyson Felix couldn’t get the baton to English Gardner, making contact with a Brazilian runner who was intruding on the Americans’ lane.

In a post-race interview, Felix said she felt contact. Team USA has protested the result, and “The IAAF jury of appeals has confirmed that the United States women’s 4x100m relay team  will re-run their relay” at 7 p.m. EDT. If the U.S. bests China’s time of 42.70, it moves on to the final.

Justin Gatlin, English Gardner lead Olympic 100m team

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Justin Gatlin and English Gardner qualified for the U.S. Olympic team with wins in the men’s and women’s 100m.

Gatlin took the men’s competition in 9.80 seconds, the fastest time of the year. He will compete at his third Olympics in Rio and look to add to his four Olympic medals.

“I wasn’t too worried about the time,” Gatlin said. “Last year I was all about time and running fast and consistent, but this year I was trying to rise to the occasion, rise to the moment.”

Gatlin made his Olympic debut at the 2004 Games where he won three medals. After missing the 2008 Olympics while serving a four-year doping ban, he returned to the track and competed at the London Games where he won bronze in the 100m. At the 2015 World Championships, he finished second to Usain Bolt in the 100m and 200m.

Trayvon Bromell (9.84) and Marvin Bracy (9.98) will join Gatlin as part of the U.S. Olympic men’s 100m team.

Tyson Gay, the American record holder, finished in fifth. He will not compete individually at the 2016 Games, but should make it onto the 4×100 relay.

English Gardner won the women’s 100m in 10.74 seconds. Gardner has won silver medals in the 4x100m at both the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, but she was seventh in the 2012 Olympic Trials.

“I remember in 2012, I sat in the car, and I cried,” Gardner said. “I cried my eyes out and came to the realization that I never wanted to feel that feeling again, and so when I crossed the line and saw the results, I didn’t really care if I came in first, second or third, I was just excited that I made the team.”

She will make her Olympic debut in Rio alongside Tianna Bartoletta (10.776) and Tori Bowie (10.779) on the U.S. Olympic women’s 100m team.

MORE: Ashton Eaton wins Olympic Trials decathlon, will defend Olympic title in Rio