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Ten men’s events to watch at U.S. 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.

Track and Field Trials
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Men’s Preview
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Here are 10 men’s events to watch:

Shot Put
July 1
2012 Olympics: Reese Hoffa (bronze), Christian Cantwell (fourth), Ryan Whiting (ninth)
2015 Worlds: Joe Kovacs (gold), Reese Hoffa (fifth), Christian Cantwell (12th), Jordan Clarke (first round)

Outlook: The U.S. has earned a men’s shot put medal at each of the last eight Olympics, and that streak figures to extend in Rio. That’s because of Kovacs, who finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials and has since emerged to become the best in the world. He had four of the five best throws in the world last year and has three of the four best this year. All three men’s shot putters could be first-time Olympians for the first time in 20 years, with Ryan Crouser and Kurt Roberts ranking Nos. 2 and 3 in the world this year.

10,000 Meters
July 1
2012 Olympics: Galen Rupp (silver), Dathan Ritzenhein (13th), Matt Tegenkamp (19th)
2015 Worlds: Galen Rupp (fifth), Hassan Mead (15th), Shadrack Kipchirchir (16th)

Outlook: Rupp is the premier U.S. distance runner and a heavy favorite. However, he may drop this event for Rio if he makes the team, since he previously won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. The Olympic 10,000m is on Aug. 13. The marathon is on Aug. 21. After Rupp, the most interesting man in the U.S. field is Bernard Lagat, who will try to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at age 41. Lagat owns two Olympic medals, but they were in the 1500m in 2000 and 2004. He failed to finish his last race, the Pre Classic 5000m on May 28.

400 Meters
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Tony McQuay (semifinals), Bryshon Nellum (first round), LaShawn Merritt (first round)
2015 Worlds: LaShawn Merritt (silver), David Verburg (semifinals), Bryshon Nellum (semifinals), Vernon Norwood (semifinals)

Outlook: Merritt is the clear favorite as the fastest American this year by six tenths of a second. Starting with Arman Hall, at least the next 10 fastest Americans this year are within .36 of each other. Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic champion now 32 years old, is farther down the list but slated to give it one more go.

800 Meters
July 1-4
2012 Olympics: Duane Solomon (fourth), Nick Symmonds (fifth), Khadevis Robinson (first round)
2015 Worlds: Clayton Murphy (semifinals), Erik Sowinski (semifinals), Casimir Loxsom (first round)

Outlook: Two-time Olympian Symmonds is out of Trials due to a torn ligament and stress fracture in his left ankle. Symmonds took his sixth U.S. outdoor title last year then missed the World Championships in a contract dispute. Meanwhile, NCAA champion Donavan Brazier and world indoor champion Boris Berian are ranked third and fourth in the world this year.

Decathlon
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Ashton Eaton (gold), Trey Hardee (silver)
2015 Worlds: Ashton Eaton (gold), Zach Ziemek (15th), Jeremy Taiwo (DNF), Trey Hardee (DNF)

Outlook: Eaton provided perhaps the greatest moment of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials when he broke the world record in Eugene. He did it again at the 2015 World Championships and shouldn’t be challenged here. Hardee, if healthy, is a solid runner-up favorite as the last man to beat Eaton at a global meet (2011 Worlds). But he reportedly dislocated a foot in January after dropping out during the 2015 Worlds with a back injury.

Long Jump
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Will Claye (silver), Marquise Goodwin (10th), George Kitchens (first round)
2015 Worlds: Jeff Henderson (ninth), Michael Hartfield (12th), Marquis Dendy (first round)

Outlook: Goodwin is the story here. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver will try to become the first person to play in the NFL regular season and then qualify for a Summer Olympic team. Goodwin was with the University of Texas when he competed in London. He took nearly three years off from the long jump before returning last summer. This year, he has the two best jumps in the world. Watch out for Henderson, who had the three best jumps in the world last year but had a disastrous World Championships final.

100 Meters
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Justin Gatlin (bronze), Tyson Gay (fourth), Ryan Bailey (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Justin Gatlin (silver), Trayvon Bromell (bronze), Mike Rodgers (fifth), Tyson Gay (sixth)

Outlook: Gatlin, while recently slower than his torrid spring pace from last year, is the clear favorite. Bromell, the 20-year-old future of U.S. sprinting, is a serious question mark due to an Achilles injury. The Trials will mark Bromell’s first race in one month. Luckily for him, he can still make the Olympic team in the relay by finishing top six. The joint-second-fastest American this year, Ameer Webb, curiously scratched to focus on the 200m.

Triple Jump
July 7-9
2012 Olympics: Christian Taylor (gold), Will Claye (silver)
2015 Worlds: Christian Taylor (gold), Omar Craddock (fourth), Marquis Dendy (first round), Will Claye (first round)

Outlook: After his Olympic title, Taylor struggled a little and then decided to change his takeoff leg. The risky upheaval paid dividends in 2015, when he recorded the second-best triple jump of all time, one cigarette shy of Jonathan Edwards’ world record from 1995. Taylor owns the two best triple jumps in the world this year. He’s followed by Claye, Chris Benard and Craddock all in the world top six.

1500 Meters
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Leo Manzano (silver), Matthew Centrowitz (fourth), Andrew Wheating (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Matthew Centrowitz (eighth), Leo Manzano (10th), Robby Andrews (11th)

Outlook: Centrowitz’s international standing took a hit last year. He had previously finished fourth or better at the 2011 Worlds, 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, but never won. Still, he is the cream of the American crop. Manzano has looked less impressive since London, which means two berths are likely up for grabs behind Centrowitz.

110 Meter Hurdles
July 8-9
2012 Olympics: Aries Merritt (gold), Jason Richardson (silver), Jeff Porter (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Aries Merritt (bronze), David Oliver (seventh), Aleec Harris (semifinals), Ronnie Ash (first round)

Outlook: The world-record holder Merritt is the story here, after earning bronze at Worlds with kidney function at less than 20 percent. He is coming back from a Sept. 1 kidney transplant (and a follow-up procedure in October). Incredibly, Merritt has returned to rank third in the U.S. so far this year, behind Oliver and Ash.

MORE: Lolo Jones scratches out of Olympic Trials

Devon Allen wins U.S. 110m hurdles title by two thousandths of a second

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Devon Allen waited out a three-hour thunderstorm delay to win by two thousandths of a second.

Allen, the University of Oregon wide receiver turned Olympian, claimed his second national title in the 110m hurdles on Sunday. By the fabric of his singlet.

Allen edged NCAA champion Grant Holloway of Florida — 13.452 to 13.454 seconds — on a wet Drake Stadium track in Des Moines, Iowa. It marked the slowest winning time at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships since another wide receiver, Super Bowl winner Willie Gault, captured his title in 1982.

The wind (1.8 meters/second at the hurdlers’ faces) and the delay did not help. The final went off at 8 p.m. local time, three hours later than scheduled, due to a storm passing through the Iowa capital with one hour left of the last day of competition at nationals.

The day’s other marquee sprints — the men’s and women’s 200m finals — were also delayed three hours. Olympians Jenna Prandini and Ameer Webb prevailed over fields that lacked recent U.S. champions and Olympic and world medalists.

The track and field season continues with a Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday with live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

USATF Outdoors: Full Results

Also Sunday, Shelby Houlihan repeated as 5000m champion, one day after winning the 1500m. The Sioux City native, who finished 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, moved to the lead with 250 meters left and breezed to win in 15:31.03, 1.68 seconds ahead of Rachel Schneider.

Only Regina Jacobs previously pulled off a 1500m-5000m double at nationals in 1999 and 2000, three years before testing positive for a steroid that would end her career.

Paul Chelimo led for the last mile of the men’s 5000m and held off Ryan Hill by two tenths of a second. The U.S. Army runner Chelimo, an Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, clocked 13:29.47, saluting as he crossed the finish line.

Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy recorded his biggest win since the Olympic Trials, clocking 1:46.50 and holding off NCAA champion Isaiah Harris by .61. Last year, Murphy bid to make the world championships team in the 800m and 1500m but withdrew during nationals with a hamstring injury.

World bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson claimed her third U.S. 800m title in a controlled 1:55.18, .39 ahead of Raevyn Rogers.

In the steeplechase, Evan Jager collected his seventh straight national title, three hours after first taking the track for the final. The Olympic silver medalist clocked 8:20.10 in the first event contested after the rain delay.

Shamier Little took advantage of Georganne Moline‘s stumble coming off the last hurdle to win the 400m hurdles in 53.61. Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer did not finish after crashing over an earlier hurdle. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin, the fastest in the world this year, did not compete at nationals.

Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris won the pole vault with a top clearance of 4.80 meters. Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champion and 10-time U.S. champion, finished third.

Olympic shot put champion Michelle Carter finished sixth in her second meet since August, failing in a bid for an eighth U.S. title and placing outside the top three for the first time since 2007. NCAA champion Maggie Ewen won with a 19.29-meter throw.

Jeff Henderson earned his third U.S. long jump title to go along with his gold medal from Rio. Henderson leaped 8.10 meters, matching the shortest jump to win a national title since 1975. He recorded the eventual winning jump before the rain delay, then didn’t show up for his final three jumps post-delay.

Erik Kynard, a 2012 Olympic high jump silver medalist, was beaten by Jeron Robinson, who cleared 2.31 meters. Kynard, a four-time U.S. champion, suffered a left foot injury and limped off with help.

Heptathlete Erica Bougard bagged her first national title after finishing third in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and second in 2017.

MORE: Lyles, Norman, green teens at Olympic Trials, now stars at USATF Champs

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Matthew Centrowitz redeems, Jenny Simpson upset at USATF Outdoors

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Matthew Centrowitz never doubted — and, based on post-race comments, other top American milers didn’t, either — but after a dreadful year that followed his Olympic breakthrough, and moving across the country, his fifth national title had unique significance.

“Satisfaction out there,” Centrowitz told Lewis Johnson on NBC after winning the 1500m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. “A little sense of relief, get back on top.

“I wouldn’t say it was my best race since the Olympics, but it was a step in the right direction.”

Centrowitz regained best American miler status 55 minutes after Jenny Simpson‘s run of four straight 1500m titles ended in Des Moines on Saturday.

Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years, won in typical fashion, moving toward the front on a 57-second penultimate lap and outkicking the field on the home stretch.

He crossed in 3:43.37, just .04 faster than his runner-up time a year ago and a comfortable .26 ahead of Izaik Yorks. Centrowitz, whose past celebrations included odes to Cam Newton and J.R. Smith, this time held his right hand to his ear to mimic a phone.

“I was calling 911,” Centrowitz said, “report a murder.”

It marked Centrowitz’s first win on this kind of stage since Rio. Last year, Centrowitz was unable to get more than two straight weeks of healthy training all season due in part to adductor issues and an ER visit with a viral infection. It showed at nationals, where Olympic teammate Robby Andrews beat him. It was clearer at worlds, where a listless Centrowitz finished last in his first-round heat.

Centrowitz announced in January he relocated from Portland, Ore., to work with his dad, a former competitive runner, in the D.C. area but would still be coached from long distance by Alberto Salazar. Then at the Pre Classic last month, Centrowitz was not the top finishing American in the Bowerman Mile for the first time since 2013 (though he missed the meet in 2016 and 2017).

Didn’t matter Saturday. Other U.S. milers still deferred.

“When you get into these big races with Matt, it’s like when you get into a big race with [four-time Olympic gold medalist] Mo [Farah], these guys, you kind of let them do things that you wouldn’t let someone you know you’re better than get away with,” third-place finisher and Nike Oregon Project teammate Eric Jenkins said. “They do what they want. They get into position. They take what they want. It comes with being as good as they are.”

Andrews, bounced in the first round Thursday, texted Centrowitz congratulations. Centrowitz is now one U.S. title shy of Steve Scott‘s post-World War II record. That’s on his mind.

“At this point in my career, I want to keep checking off boxes to leave my mark in the 1500m in the U.S,” said Centrowitz, who personal best from 2015 of 3:30.40 makes him the third-fastest American all time behind Bernard Lagat and Sydney Maree.

With no world championships or Olympics this season, Centrowitz still has motivation. He would like to win a Diamond League race (no U.S. man has done so in the 1500m) and finish the year ranked No. 1 in the country.

“My dad always calls it the three Hs,” Centrowitz said. “I’ve got to be happy, healthy and hungry. …. Relatively speaking, I’ve been healthy since Jan. 1, and I was hungrier than ever today.”

USATF Outdoors conclude Sunday on NBC (4-6 p.m. ET) and NBC Sports Gold (12:30-6 p.m.), highlighted by 200m, 5000m and 110m hurdles finals.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Results | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist, was beaten by Olympic 5000m runner Shelby Houlihan for the second time this season. The Sioux City native Houlihan surged past Simpson on the final straight, just as she did at the Pre Classic last month.

“I’m totally bummed, but I guess I have a lot of practice at losing as well as winning,” Simpson told media in Des Moines. “It felt a little weird being at U.S. Championships and getting outkicked.”

Houlihan won in 4:05.48, .73 ahead of runner-up Simpson.

“I feel like she’s way ahead of me,” Houlihan said of Simpson. “She’s someone I’ve looked up to since high school.”

In other events, Deanna Price took the American record back from Gwen Berry with a 78.12-meter hammer throw, the best in the world this year.

Shakima Wimbley and Kahmari Montgomery won their first U.S. titles in the 400m.

Wimbley prevailed in 49.52, lowering her personal best by .66, tying the fastest time in the world this year and torching a field lacking the last two world champions, Phyllis Francis and Allyson Felix. Wimbley showed promise at the Pre Classic last month, finishing third behind Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Francis.

Montgomery clocked 44.58 to win, two weeks after finishing seventh at the NCAA Championships for the University of Houston. The men’s field lacked 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt and Michael Norman, the fastest man in the world this year who opted to race the 200m this week.

World-record holder Kendra Harrison repeated as 100m hurdles champion. Harrison clocked 12.46, off of her world record of 12.20. Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, who beat Harrison in Shanghai on May 12, was not in the field.

World gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs went one-two in the 3000m steeplechase. Coburn, the Olympic bronze medalist, earned her seventh national title in eight years by clocking 9:17.70. She pulled away from Frerichs on the last lap to win by .99. Nobody else finished within 15 seconds.

“[Frerichs] gave me a run for my money,” Coburn, who has been beaten by a countrywoman once in eight years, said on NBC. “This is going to be a battle that’s worth watching for years to come.”

In the pole vault, Olympic bronze medalist and world champion Sam Kendricks cleared 5.85 meters for his fifth straight U.S. title.

Vashti Cunningham repeated as high jump champion by clearing 1.95 meters. Cunningham, whose father and coach is retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, was 13th at the Olympics and 10th at the world championships.

Darrell Hill upset Olympic champion Ryan Crouser in the shot put, winning with a 21.57-meter throw. Hill improved to 3-17 against Crouser. Crouser came to Des Moines with the top 23 throws by an American this year out of his 24 total legal throws, according to Tilastopaja.org. But on Saturday he had five fouls in six throws. His only legal throw was 20.99 meters for second place.

NCAA runner-up Kenny Selmon won the 400m hurdles from lane eight against a field that lacked Olympic champion Kerron Clement. Selmon clocked 48.21 seconds, three tenths ahead of TJ Holmes, who was fifth at 2017 Worlds.

The favorites advanced to Sunday’s semifinals in the 200m and 110m hurdles, including 400m indoor world-record holder Michael Norman and Olympian Ameer Webb in the 200m and world-record holder Aries Merritt, Olympian Devon Allen and NCAA champion Grant Holloway in the hurdles.

MORE: Lyles, Norman, green teens at Olympic Trials, now stars at USATF Champs

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