USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships: Ten events to watch

Allyson Felix
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Ten events to watch at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships that start Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. The top three in most events are in line to make the team for July’s world championships, also in Eugene. Events with reigning world champions or reigning Diamond League season champions who have byes into worlds get four individual spots on the team. Statistics via World Athletics and Tilastopaja.org … 

Men’s Shot Put (Final Friday 9:42 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Ryan Crouser (gold), Joe Kovacs (silver), Payton Otterdahl (10th)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Crouser (23.02), Kovacs (22.49), Darrell Hill (21.84)

Crouser is on world record watch after breaking it at Hayward last year at Olympic Trials, then repeating as gold medalist with an Olympic record throw. Kovacs, ranked second in the world this season, has a bye onto the team as reigning world champion. Rio Olympian Darrell Hill and Josh Awotunde and Adrian Piperi are also ranked in the top 10 in the world this year, but no more than two of them can make this team, assuming Crouser qualifies.

Women’s 100m (Final Friday 10:21 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Teahna Daniels
(seventh), Javianne Oliver (semifinals), Jenna Prandini (semifinals)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Aleia Hobbs (10.83), Sha’Carri Richardson (10.85), Cambrea Sturgis (10.87)

Richardson won the Olympic Trials, then was disqualified for testing positive for marijuana, ruling her out of Tokyo. She was the world’s third-fastest woman in 2021. Hobbs beat her fellow former LSU star Richardson on June 12, lowering her personal best for the first time in five years. They’re followed in the 2022 rankings by the fastest NCAA sprinters over the last two years — Sturgis, Melissa Jefferson and Twanisha Terry. Brittany Brown, the 2019 World 200m silver medalist, ran 10.66 on April 23, but it was with too much of a tailwind to count as a legal time. Daniels is the lone member of the Olympic trio to break 11 seconds this year (10.99).

USATF OUTDOORS: Broadcast Schedule

Men’s 100m (Final Friday 10:30 p.m.)
Tokyo Olympics: Fred Kerley
(silver), Ronnie Baker (fifth), Trayvon Bromell (semifinals)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Micah Williams (9.86), Bromell (9.92), Christian Coleman (9.92), Kerley (9.92)

Coleman was the world’s fastest man in the last Olympic cycle, but missed all of last year over a ban for missed (but not failed) drug tests. He gets a 100m bye into worlds as reigning world champion and could decide to focus on the 200m this week. That means three others will join him on the individual 100m team. Bromell had the world’s top time in 2021 leading into the Tokyo Games, where he was eliminated in the semifinals. He still finished as the world’s fastest man for the year. Williams, a 4x100m relay member at the Olympics, ran that 9.86 at NCAA Regionals on May 26, then ran 10.19 two weeks ago at the NCAA Championships, where he was seventh. Kerley, who dropped down from the 400m to the 100m last year, has broken 10 seconds in all four of his races this year. Baker last raced in April and didn’t enter nationals.

Women’s 400m (Final Saturday 5:21 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Allyson Felix (bronze), Quanera Hayes (seventh), Wadeline Jonathas (semifinals)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Talitha Diggs (49.99), Britton Wilson (50.05), Athing Mu (50.42)

Felix, an 11-time Olympic medalist in her farewell season, told On Her Turf on Tuesday that she does not know if she will race the 400m at worlds should she finish in the top three at nationals. She has said she’s hoping to run at least one relay at worlds, which would probably require a top-eight finish at nationals. Hayes has a bye into worlds as reigning Diamond League season champion. Wilson, a 400m hurdler, and Mu, the Olympic 800m champ, will not race the 400m at nationals. That puts Felix joint-third-fastest this year among women entered in the event at nationals. She is bidding for a U.S. record-extending 10th world championships team. Internationally, only race walkers have competed in more than 10 world championships, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

ON HER TURF: Allyson Felix has a retirement date, but her legacy is still evolving

Women’s Shot Put (Final Sunday 4 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Raven Saunders (silver), Jessica Ramsey (12th), Adelaide Aquilla (qualifying)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Chase Ealey (20.13), Aquilla (19.64), Ramsey (19.38)

Maggie Ewen, who missed the Olympic team by three centimeters, has a bye onto the team as reigning Diamond League season champion. That extra worlds spot may be important for Saunders, who ranks sixth in the nation this season. It should also help 2016 gold medalist Michelle Carter, who plans to return to competition for the first time since April 2021 and after having a benign tumor on her right ankle removed last year.

Women’s 800m (Final Sunday 4:54 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Athing Mu (gold), Raevyn Rogers (bronze), Ajeé Wilson (semifinals)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Mu (1:57.01), Wilson (1:58.06), Allie Wilson (1:58.18)

At 19, Mu won Olympic gold and broke the American record in Tokyo, then lowered it again 18 days later. She’s fastest in the world again this year and undefeated at 800m for two years. Rogers and Ajeé Wilson own a combined eight medals among the Olympics and world indoor and outdoor championships. But none of them have a bye into worlds, which makes it a tad precarious given the presence of Allie Wilson, a 26-year-old former Monmouth runner who was sixth at Olympic Trials, lowered her personal best by 4.38 seconds since the start of 2021 and is fifth fastest in the world this year.

Men’s 200m (Final Sunday 5:38 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Kenny Bednarek (silver), Noah Lyles (bronze), Erriyon Knighton (fourth)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Knighton (19.49), Lyles (19.61), Fred Kerley (19.80)

Lyles has a bye as reigning world champion but will run at least one round this week. Knighton, 18, moved up to fourth on the all-time list with his 19.49 on April 30, behind Usain BoltYohan Blake and Michael Johnson and one hundredth better than Lyles’ personal best. Kerley missed the Olympic 200m team by one spot. Bednarek ranks sixth this year among those entered in the 200m at nationals, just behind Coleman and Matthew Boling. If Lyles races all the way through, the winner here likely becomes the favorite for worlds.

Women’s 200m (Final Sunday 5:46 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Gabby Thomas (bronze), Jenna Prandini (semifinals), Anavia Battle (semifinals)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Abby Steiner (21.80), Thomas (21.98), Brittany Brown (21.99)

Thomas ran 21.61 to win the Olympic Trials, then 21.87 in the Olympic final. She last raced May 21, then withdrew on the eve of a June 12 meet to avoid the risk after doing “something funny to my leg during a sprint.” Steiner, a Kentucky junior, smashed the college record by winning the NCAA title in 21.80 on June 11. She has run 47 races so far in 2022. Prandini, who lowered her personal best from 22.16 to 21.89 over three rounds at Olympic Trials, has a best time this year of 22.45 in three wind-legal races. Brown, the 2019 World silver medalist, lurks.

Men’s 110m Hurdles (Final Sunday 5:54 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Grant Holloway (silver), Devon Allen (fourth), Daniel Roberts (semifinals)
2022 U.S. Rankings: Allen (12.84), Trey Cunningham (13.00), Holloway (13.06)

The intrigue here isn’t so much about who makes the team as it is world record watch. Holloway, who last year missed the world record by one hundredth, has a bye as reigning world champion, but will run at least one round this week and perhaps all three. He may be motivated by what happened on June 12, when Allen ran the third-fastest time in history, handed Holloway his first defeat to an American since August 2019 and arguably supplanted Holloway as the favorite for nationals. Allen, eyeing his first global championships medal next month at his college home of Oregon, will head to Philadelphia Eagles training camp after worlds.

Women’s 400m Hurdles (Final Saturday 5:51 p.m. ET)
Tokyo Olympics: Sydney McLaughlin (gold), Dalilah Muhammad (silver), Anna Cockrell (eighth)
2022 U.S. Rankings: McLaughlin (51.61), Britton Wilson (53.75), Muhammad (53.88)

Muhammad, the 2016 Olympic champion and second-fastest woman in history, withdrew on the eve of nationals after not racing since May 21 due to injury. She received a waiver from USA Track and Field to still get her bye into worlds as reigning world champion. Muhammad’s bye takes a lot of the drama out of the battle to make the world team in an event that used to be one of the two or three deepest in the U.S. but has since seen McLaughlin and Muhammad separate themselves significantly. In her last three meets running the 400m hurdles dating to last year, McLaughlin has run three of the four fastest times in history, including breaking the world record twice. Her one race so far this year reportedly had a hurdle in an incorrect position, messing up her steps, but her time is still listed in World Athletics rankings. Two more women can make the team after Muhammad and McLaughlin. Wilson, the NCAA champion from Arkansas, lowered her personal best by 2.61 seconds this year. She has run six of the 10 best times this year among Americans. The field also includes veteran Olympic or world medalists Cassandra Tate, Shamier Little and Ashley Spencer, but they along with Cockrell may be fighting for one spot.

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Luz Long’s Olympic silver medal for sale from Jesse Owens long jump duel

Jesse Owens, Luz Long
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One of the most consequential Olympic medals ever awarded is on the auction block — the silver medal captured in 1936 by Germany’s Luz Long, the long jumper who walked arm in arm through the stadium with Jesse Owens to celebrate their triumphs while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands.

Long’s family has decided to auction the medal and other collectibles from the German jumper’s career. Long was killed in World War II in 1943.

The auction house selling the medal has labeled Long’s collection “The Beacon of Hope.”

“The story of Jesse Owens never seems to end,” said Long’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, in a phone interview from her house in Munich. “My grandfather has always been inspirational and influential in the way I choose to see the world, and this is something I think the world outside needs. Now more than ever. It gives us hope.”

Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures.

There’s also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn’t foul on his last try. Owens took that advice and went on to win the title — one of four he captured in Berlin — with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches).

Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.

The camaraderie between Owens and Long, and the relationship that ensued between the men and their families, are often held up as the prime example of what the Olympics are supposed to be about — a peaceful coming together of people from different countries and cultures who set their differences aside in the spirit of competition.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me,” Owens said, years later. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

The decision to sell came shortly after Luz’s son (and Julia’s father), Kai, died at age 80. Kellner-Long said the great responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s memorabilia should be passed onto an individual, or museum, that has the time and resources to do so. The family also wanted to use the sale to rekindle the story of Long and Owens.

“Even 86 years later, shining a beacon of hope is an important and realistic value, especially in a time of increasing racism, increasing exclusion and hatred,” Kellner-Long said.

The auction house started the bidding for Long’s medal at $50,000, and estimated the value at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. The bidding runs through Oct. 15. The value of Olympic medals on the open market varies widely. One of Owens’ four gold medals from 1936 fetched $1.46 million. Bill Russell’s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics recently sold for $587,500.

David Kohler of SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, said the medal is about Long, but also “the story of the courageousness and the athlete and what he did there.”

Long didn’t live long enough to see his legacy play out. He was killed in 1943 in the battle of St. Pietro on the Italian island of Sardinia. Shortly before that, he wrote a letter to Owens, one he predicted would be “the last letter I shall ever write.”

In it, Long asked Owens to go to Germany after the war and find his son.

“Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war,” Long wrote. “I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

Owens and Kai Long met several times over the years, including at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1966. Owens later was a best man at Kai’s wedding.

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Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
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Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

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