Tianna Bartoletta

Allyson Felix set for ninth world championships team, first as a mom

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DES MOINES — Allyson Felix finished sixth in the USATF Outdoor Championships 400m, which will likely put her in a ninth straight world championships. And her first as a mom.

But a fifth Olympics, not a ninth worlds, are at the front of her mind.

Felix made that clear after racing three times in as many days in her first meet since having daughter Camryn via emergency C-section at 32 weeks on Nov. 28.

The top three go to worlds in Doha in two months in the individual 400m. The top six are generally taken for the 4x400m relay pool.

This will be the first time in Felix’s 16-year pro career that she will not be going to the Olympics or worlds in an individual event. Unsurprising given she said before the meet, her first in more than a year, that she was “far from” her best.

Felix said she will talk with her coach, Bobby Kersee, and consider her fitness before deciding whether to accept a potential relay invitation.

“It’s bigger than world championships,” said Felix, who had four and a half months of good training before this meet, shorter than she would normally prefer. “I would love to be running for an individual spot at world championships, but where I’m at in my career — I’m grateful for all my experiences at world championships — I want to be back at the Olympics. I want that more than anything. I want to go out on my terms.”

Felix was sixth in 51.94 seconds, 1.73 seconds behind winner Shakima Wimbley. In three rounds here, she ran 52.50, 51.45 and 51.94, well off her personal best of 49.26 and her routine ability to get close to 50 flat, and usually break it, at major meets from 2011 to 2016.

Felix, the most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete with nine medals and six golds, has made every U.S. Olympic and world team dating to 2003, when she was 17 years old.

This was her toughest team to make yet. Camryn and husband Kenneth Ferguson wore “Felix the Cat” clothing in the Drake Stadium stands.

“I did this off very little training, so that gives me a lot of hope,” she said.

USATF Outdoors conclude Sunday with finals including the men’s and women’s 200m.

USATF OUTDOORS: TV Schedule | Full Results

In other events, Michael Norman was upset in the 400m by Fred Kerley, who clocked a personal-best 43.64 to become the sixth-fastest man in history. Norman, undefeated the previous two years, was second in 43.79 to make his first world team. Norman revealed afterward that he didn’t practice the previous two weeks because of an unspecified strain.

“Originally, I wasn’t supposed to run,” said Norman, has run 43.45 this year. “I made [the decision] the day of racing. I warmed up and said I could do it.”

Paralympian and double amputee Blake Leeper was fifth, which would normally be enough to make worlds in the relay (like Felix), but he is facing a legal battle with the IAAF.

World-record holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.44 and will be joined on the world team by Olympic gold and silver medalists Brianna McNeal and Nia Ali.

Shelby Houlihan repeated as U.S. 1500m champion, clocking 4:03.18 to relegate Jenny Simpson to second place by overtaking the Olympic bronze medalist on the last curve. They’re joined on the world team by Nikki Hiltz. Simpson, 32, has made 10 straight Olympic/world teams.

Two American records fell: DeAnna Price broke her own mark in the hammer (78.24 meters). Sam Kendricks broke Brad Walker‘s 11-year-old mark in the pole vault, clearing 6.06 meters. Only Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka has cleared a higher height outdoors.

Vashti Cunningham, daughter of retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, took her third straight high jump crown. Cunningham, who ranks third in the world this year, cleared 1.96 meters.

Hillary Bor won the men’s 3000m steeplechase that lacked Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager, who will miss worlds due to a foot injury.

Rio gold medalists Tianna Bartoletta (long jump) and Kerron Clement (400m hurdles) will not be going to worlds after finishing last in their finals. Bartoletta jumped off her opposite foot following an injury last year, NBC Sports’ Paul Swangard said. Clement’s streak of 10 straight Olympic/world teams ends.

In non-finals, Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman moved closer to a showdown in Sunday’s 200m by advancing to the semifinals. Lyles is the fastest 200m runner in the world for two straight years. Coleman is the fastest 100m runner in the world for three straight years.

Olympic bronze medalist Tori Bowie and two-time U.S. champion Jenna Prandini scratched their 200m first-round heats. Both Bowie and Prandini also scratched out of the 100m, meaning Prandini will miss worlds.

Bowie can still compete at worlds in the 100m, where she is defending champion, because she competed in the long jump later Saturday. Defending champions have byes into worlds if they compete in at least one event at nationals.

Sha’Carri Richardson, who last month won the NCAA 100m in 10.75 seconds to become the ninth-fastest woman in history, missed the 200m semifinals by .001. The 19-year-old will likely miss the world team after placing eighth in the 100m on Friday.

All the favorites advanced in the 110m hurdles (Grant Holloway, Daniel RobertsDevon Allen) and 400m hurdles (Dalilah MuhammadSydney McLaughlinShamier Little).

MORE: Noah Lyles responds to Usain Bolt question

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Matthew Centrowitz, after ‘rock bottom,’ glad with runner-up at USAs

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Matthew Centrowitz said he hit rock bottom two weeks ago.

“I was ready to do the depressed thing that most people do,” Centrowitz, whose normal dark buzz was topped with faded blonde, said Saturday. “Bleach it like Justin Bieber.”

Back then, Centrowitz did not believe he would be racing this weekend at the USATF Outdoor Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.

The Olympic 1500m champion was sidelined for weeks due to a series of ailments.

A left adductor strain in April. A May visit to the emergency room with a viral infection similar to his 2014 bout with pericarditis. His heart rate was through the roof. Then, a right adductor tear.

“I was ready to can the season, to be honest with you,” said Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m gold medalist in 108 years. “I was like, no one’s going to see me. I’m done with my year. So I dyed it.”

The next day, people told Centrowitz that, regardless of hair color, he would be racing. At some point, he came to believe them.

So, on about 10 days of training, Centrowitz came to Sacramento to try and earn a place on the three-man world championships team.

Centrowitz did just that Saturday, finishing second to Robby Andrews in the 1500m final.

Third is as good as first,” said Centrowitz, who is going to his fourth straight worlds, seeking to complete his medal collection (bronze in 2011, silver in 2013).

Andrews, in fifth place going into the final lap, surged past Centrowitz on the last straightaway to win in 3:43.29. Centrowitz was second in 3:43.41.

“He’s been banged up, I’m not going to say it’s a true battle,” said Andrews, who was second to Centrowitz at the 2015 USATF Outdoors, 2016 USATF Indoors and 2016 Olympic Trials.

Andrews, who was disqualified in the Rio semifinals, is not yet on the team for worlds in London in August. He must still run the world championships qualification standard of 3:36.00 by July 23.

USATF OUTDOORS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

Earlier Saturday, Allyson Felix headlined the qualifiers for Sunday’s 200m semifinals, which do not include Justin Gatlin.

World-record holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.60 seconds, after shockingly failing to make the Rio Olympic team. Harrison was followed by Olympic silver medalist Nia Ali in 12.68. Also making the world team was 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper.

Harrison had not raced since May 5 after breaking her left hand in a warm-up and undergoing surgery.

“In a few more weeks, my hand will be back to normal,” said Harrison, whose world record from July is 12.20. “I’m not race sharp.”

Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson took the women’s 1500m in 4:06.33. She’s joined on the world team by Olympian Kate Grace and surprise Sara Vaughn, a 31-year-old mother of three daughters.

“It’s a lot of times about squeezing in the training whenever I can do it,” Vaughn, a first-time world team member, told media in Sacramento. “It’s not always the primary focus, so coming out to Sacramento for a week and pretending to be nothing but a professional runner is kind of weird for me. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I felt extra light on the track. It brings a lot more joy to the sport when I can share it with my three daughters.”

American record holder Shannon Rowbury shockingly missed the world team, fading to eighth.

In the 400m, Fred Kerley and Quanera Hayes each won their first U.S. titles.

Kerley, who didn’t make it out of the Olympic Trials first round, won comfortably in 44.03 seconds. The NCAA champion from Texas A&M now owns the five fastest times in the world this year.

Kerley is joined on the world team by Olympian Gil Roberts (44.22), Wil London III (44.47) and 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt. Merritt has a bye into worlds as the 2016 Diamond League champion, so he didn’t race the 400m in Sacramento.

Kerley and Merritt are medal contenders, though gold will be difficult against South African Wayde van Niekerk, who broke Michael Johnson‘s world record in Rio.

Hayes, who was eighth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, won the women’s 400m in 49.72 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. She’s joined on the world team by Olympian Phyllis Francis and Kendall Ellis.

Three-time Olympian Natasha Hastings finished fourth, just missing the individual 400m world team. She also finished fourth in the Rio 400m.

Hayes, Francis and Ellis join the 2015 World champion Felix on the U.S. team in the 400m in London. They’re looking to unseat Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas.

Olympic champion Michelle Carter was upset in the shot put, finishing third behind Raven Saunders and Dani Bunch. They’re all going to worlds.

Tianna Bartoletta edged Brittney Reese in a battle of Olympic long jump champions, 7.05 meters to 6.98 meters.

Olympic bronze medalist Sam Kendricks became the first American to clear six meters in the pole vault since 2008.

MORE: Gatlin gets one more shot at Bolt after surprise U.S. 100m title

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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