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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

“Blurred nightmare”: USA’s Suhr posts heartwrenching letter to fans

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Jenn Suhr’s goals went from defending her gold medal to just getting out of bed to compete in Rio.

The 2012 Olympic champion in the women’s pole vault, Suhr became “sicker than I have ever been” once she arrived in Brazil in what she’s calling “a blurred nightmare”.

Suhr finished tied for 7th in Rio after clearing 4.6m, which is still impressive considering 4.75 won her gold in London, though she had aims of hitting 4.9.

Gold winner Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece cleared 4.85, the same height as American silver winner Sandi Morris. The bronze distance was 4.80, won by New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney.

Suhr hails from Western New York, whose populace likes to view itself as the most blue of blue collar types, and she lamented her position in saying, “Western New Yorkers are tough, we are workers, and we don’t quit. We give 100% even if we aren’t.”

Read the full statement below. We want to give her a high-five and tell her we understand, and that she should feel no shame.

Rio Olympics track and field Tuesday schedule (live stream)

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Usain Bolt is back for the 200m semifinals in Rio, and he’s bringing his rivals and friends with him.

Yohan Blake, Justin Gatlin and Lashawn Merritt will also be running Tuesday morning.

WATCH LIVE: Morning session | Evening

USA pole vaulter Jenn Suhr is back to defend her gold in the morning, while American jumpers Will Claye and Christian Taylor aim for gold in the triple jump.


8:30 a.m. EDT — Women’s 5000m Round 1

USA: Shelby Houlihan, Kim Conley, Abbey D’Agostino

8:45 a.m. EDT — Women’s Pole Vault qualifying

USA: Jenn Suhr, Sandi Morris, Lexi Weeks

8:50 a.m. EDT — Men’s triple jump final

USA: Christian Taylor, Will Claye

9:30 a.m. EDT — Men’s 1500m Round 1

USA: Matthew Centrowitz, Robby Andrews, Ben Blankenship

10:05 a.m. EDT — Women’s 100m hurdles

USA: Nia Ali, Kristi Castlin, Brianna Rollins

10:20 a.m. EDT — Women’s discus throw

USA: TBD

10:50 a.m. EDT — Men’s 200m Round 1

USA: Ameer Webb, Justin Gatlin, Lashawn Merritt

JAM: Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt

CAN: Aaron Brown, Andre De Grasse


7:30 p.m. EDT — Men’s high jump final

USA: Erik Kynard

7:35 p.m. EDT — Women’s javelin throw qualifying

USA: Maggie Malone, Brittany Borman, Kara Winger

7:40 p.m. EDT — Men’s 110m hurdles

USA: TBD