Tianna Bartoletta

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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

Elaine Thompson beats Tori Bowie in first 100m match up since Rio

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In their first match-up since the Rio Olympics, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson handily topped the U.S.’ Tori Bowie in the 100m at the second Diamond League meet of the season in Shanghai.

Thompson, the 100m and 200m gold medalist in Rio, raced to 10.78 seconds. Bowie – who took the silver medal in Rio – clocked a season’s best, 11.04, for second place.

“I made a great start and I was able to bring it home,” Thompson told media. “I am pleased with the time.”

Thompson added that her next stop will be to compete in the Jamaica Invitational later in May, followed by more world championships preparation.

Two-time Olympic 200m gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown from Jamaica finished sixth in 11.23 and Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta of the U.S. was last in 11.49.

In the men’s 100m hurdles, Olympic champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica came out ahead of Spain’s Orlando Ortega, 13.09 to 13.15. China’s Xie Wenjun was third in 13.31, followed by Hansle Parchment of Jamaica and Sergey Shubenkov clocking 13.35. Aries Merritt finished sixth in 13.36.

“I didn’t get out that great and that did not allow me to control the race,” McLeod said after the race, despite winning. “I didn’t execute that well and it turned into a bit of scrap. I know [Ortega] is a great competitor, so I’m pleased to win. Every time you go out to the track and win, it is a confidence booster. You don’t want to be defeated as that throws your confidence off.”

The U.S.’ Noah Lyles equaled the world’s fastest time this year at 19.90 in the 200m, ahead of teammate LaShawn Merritt who clocked 20.27.

Lyles, the 2016 world junior champion in the 100m, told media he believes the 200m is his strong suit. He plans to focus on that when competing in the Diamond League Rome meet, the Adidas meet, and the U.S. Trials.

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David Rudisha beaten, Keni Harrison wins in Stockholm as Olympic Trials near

David Rudisha
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Kenyan Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha was fourth, while rising U.S. hurdles star Keni Harrison prevailed Thursday in a cold and wet Stockholm, site of the final Diamond League stop before Olympic Trials meets.

Rudisha was passed in the final straightaway by countryman Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich, France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and Poland’s Adam Kszczot.

“I am really in good form, so I am a bit sad I can’t run far in these conditions,” Rudisha said, according to the IAAF.

Rudisha, also the reigning World champion and world-record holder, was fifth in his previous 800m race on May 14, one that was marred by a faulty starter’s gun. The Kenyan Olympic Trials are June 30-July 1.

Full Stockholm results are here.

In the women’s 100m hurdles, Harrison remained undefeated this year. She clocked 12.66 seconds, her slowest time of 2016, into a slight headwind and on that wet track.

“Conditions slowed me down a little, but I’m happy,” Harrison said, according to the IAAF.

Nia Ali and Queen Harrison, Olympic hopefuls behind Harrison, were second (12.85) and third (12.87) against a weak field in Stockholm.

The U.S. Olympic Trials are July 1-10 in Eugene, Ore., (broadcast schedule here), with the women’s 100m hurdles semifinals and final July 8. The top three will make the Olympic team.

In the Stockholm men’s 400m hurdles, the fastest American from 2015 failed to start the race. And the fastest American from 2014 failed to finish it.

Bershawn Jackson, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, was disqualified for a false start.

Michael Tinsley, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, curiously stopped with a little more than 100 meters to go but was not noticeably limping.

In their absences, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Javier Culson of Puerto Rico won in 49.43 seconds. That time won’t worry American Johnny Dutch, who was not in Stockholm but owns the two fastest times in the world this year — 48.10 and 48.36.

Dutch appears a strong favorite going into the Olympic Trials, with Jackson and Tinsley among those in the mix to finish in the top three to make the Olympic team as well.

Serbian Ivana Španović prevailed in a meeting of every 2015 World Championships medalist, plus Olympic champion Brittney Reese, in the long jump. Španović leaped 6.90 meters, which is not among the best marks this year.

Reese placed second at 6.88 meters, with countrywoman and World champion Tianna Bartoletta third at 6.68 meters, continuing her underwhelming start to 2016.

French Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie won a head-to-head with Canadian World champion Shawn Barber in the pole vault. Lavillenie cleared 5.73 meters for the victory, with Barber failing all three attempts at that height.

“It wasn’t the worst conditions I have competed in, but it was one of the worst,” Lavillenie said, according to the IAAF.

American Sam Kendricks, who beat Lavillenie and Barber on May 14, wasn’t in Stockholm but remains the top-ranked vaulter this year with a clearance of 5.92 meters.

American Christian Taylor won his 10th straight triple jump competition, according to Tilastopaja.org. Taylor, the Olympic and World champion, registered 17.59 meters, which is farther than any other man has triple jumped this year.

Taylor’s best triple jump this year was 17.76 from the Pre Classic on May 28.

U.S. Olympic hopefuls Chris Carter (16.52 meters), Chris Benard (16.39) and Omar Craddock (16.29) struggled behind Taylor in the tough conditions.

The Diamond League resumes in Monaco on July 15.

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