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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

Simone Biles routing field, edging note card at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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BOSTON — Simone Biles leads the field by a whopping 3.1 points halfway through the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. She beat the number at the bottom of the note card in her locker at the World Champions Centre in Texas by a much smaller margin.

No matter the perspective, Biles was more dominant on Friday night than during most of the Rio Olympic cycle. In just her second meet in two years. Nine months after returning to training after a 14-month break.

Biles tallied the highest score on every apparatus in the field and the world’s highest all-around score since Rio — 60.1 points. The second-highest score since Rio? Biles’ 58.7 from her comeback meet at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago.

“At Classics, I was still easing back into everything and kind of feeling the surroundings and getting used to competing again,” Biles, 21, said on the fifth anniversary of her first U.S. all-around title. “I feel like today I really embraced it.”

NATIONALS: Scores | TV/Stream Schedule

In the last Olympic cycle, Biles averaged a 1.94-point lead after the first day of nationals.

She rolls into the final day of competition Sunday, looking to become the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles and the first non-teen to win since 1971. And send another message ahead of October’s world championships.

Morgan Hurd, who won the 2017 World all-around title in Biles’ absence, is in a distant second after four clean routines. The margin between Biles and Hurd is greater than the margin between Hurd and the eighth-place gymnast.

Asked to put her 60-pointer in perspective, Biles brought up the note card.

“I think it says 60 at the bottom,” said Biles, who hit 62.366 in Rio under a different scoring system.

Biles hit 60 points in a practice meet at her gym right before she left for the U.S. Classic. Her new coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi, encouraged Biles to keep the visual reminder placed in her locker leading up to nationals.

“I wanted to show her that she could reach that score,” Laurent Landi said. “It’s not a big deal. If she does normal, she can be there.”

But nobody else can. Biles had 25.4 total points in difficulty on Friday. The next-highest gymnast (Hurd) had 22.7.

Biles essentially began the meet with a 2.7-point head start. She then was judged to have better overall execution than everybody else, even though she had the disadvantage of performing harder routines.

“She’s just mentally there,” said Riley McCusker, who led Biles going into the last rotation at the U.S. Classic and is in third place here. “She can take that time off and [be] physically there, too.”

BILES ROUTINES: Balance Beam | Floor Exercise | Uneven Bars | Vault 1 | Vault 2

Biles’ flaw in her comeback meet three weeks ago was the uneven bars. She fell trying a more difficult routine than in Rio.

On Friday, Biles nailed her bars set, receiving applause from Laurent Landi, who coached Madison Kocian to a bars silver in Rio.

Biles has never won a national title on bars. At the Olympics, she had the highest scores in the all-around on beam, floor and vault and the seventh-highest score on bars.

“She needs to go through more mental belief that she [belongs] at this level on the bars,” said Laurent Landi, a 40-year-old former French gymnast.

Landi insisted Biles was not at her best Friday. He noted her two overcooked tumbling passes on floor that cost her six tenths for going out of bounds. Imperfect landings on other events. He dismissed Biles’ lead and said he already has plans for upgraded routines before worlds, next year and possibly in the Olympic year.

“Sometimes when it’s difficult in the gym, we, my wife and I, try just to remind her who she’s trying to beat,” he said. “It’s herself.”

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GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?

Laurie Hernandez faces big decisions before comeback

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BOSTON — Laurie Hernandez still hopes to compete in 2019, but she must find a coach and a gym first. And transition from conditioning to regular gymnastics training.

“Kind of dipping my toe in the water,” she said Friday at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, where she is strictly a spectator.

Hernandez hasn’t competed since earning team gold and balance beam silver in Rio. Other than Simone Biles, she is the only member of the Final Five openly expressing a desire to return to elite competition next year.

“Because I’m still passionate about it,” she said. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved it, and I still do. It’s still really important to me.”

Hernandez said she has been on gymnastics equipment every so often but not consistently. She has said hello to new U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster.

She hopes to pick Aly Raisman‘s brain about coming back. Raisman took almost a year off after the 2012 London Games, then trained for a full year before returning to competition in March 2015.

Unlike Raisman, Hernandez said there is no unfinished business from the Olympics that motivates her.

“I know what I’m getting myself into,” Hernandez said. “It’s kind of like curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. Being 16, being so curious, not really knowing what I’m walking into, that was such an interesting experience [in Rio].”

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