USATF: Great Performances Are Looming
Prelims Reveal Athletes Are Ready
July 6th, 2023
Today is the day the nation’s most accomplished track & field athletes have been waiting for. After years of training, tapering, and final preparation, these gifted athletes now have what they’ve wanted: the opportunity to perform at their highest level in a quest to earn a berth on the United States world championship track & field team.
Alicia Monson, Elise Cranny, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
There were only two track event finals on Day One, but they were memorable. In the women’s 10,000m final, the championship race resembled a stroll of attrition. With the opening gun, the bunched field of 21 crept around the first lap in 85 seconds. Reluctantly, Karissa Schweizer, the defending champion, tucked in behind Kasandra Parker as the field dawdled through the first kilometer in 3:35. Soon, Edna Kurget took the lead, but the pace barely changed. At 7K, Utah’s Emily Venters jumped up front as a leading pack of Venters, Natosha Rogers, Alicia Monson, Kurgat, Schweizer, Weini Kelati, and Elise Cranny picked up the pace and left the others behind. At 9K and after a kilo in 2:59, Monson, the American record holder in this event, moved to the front, grabbed the lead, and the real racing got underway. Monson began twisting the screw, methodically increasing the pace with every lap. After a 69-second circuit and just 3 laps remaining, Monson remained in command with only Rogers and Cranny in her wake. It was Monson and Cranny at the bell. With 250 meters remaining, Cranny struck, powering past a disconsolate Monson. Cranny sailed on for the win, finishing the final lap in 62.5 and crossing the line in 32:12.30 with Manson (32:17.51) in the runner-up position. Rogers (32:22.77) grabbed third to complete the trio, which will compete in Budapest.
Joe Klecker, Woody Kincaid, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
The men’s 10,000-meter final was another cat-and-mouse affair. Oklahoma State’s Isai Rodriguez took the initial leadership chores but was soon passed by an impatient Paul Chelimo, who, with help from 3-time US champ Sam Chelanga, towed the field through a series of sub-3:00 kilometers, passing 5000 meters in 14:28. As race moved on, Olympian Joe Klecker, world champion finalist Sean McGorty; 5000m Olympic finalist Grant Fisher; former NCAA cross country champion Conner Mantz; and Olympic Trials 10K champion Woody Kincaid joined the leaders. With just over a mile remaining, Mantz moved to the front and lifted the pace. With 3 laps to go, Fisher, who had been patient throughout, moved to the front and began a long drive to the finish. At the bell, it was Fisher, followed closely by Klecker and Kincaid. With less than 200 meters left, Kincaid uncorked a blistering move that rocketed him past Klecker, then Fisher. Kincaid sprinted on, finishing the final lap in 54.76 and crossing the line for the win in 28:23.01. Meanwhile, several scrambled for the remaining Budapest berths in Kincaid’s wake. Klecker finished 2nd while a hard-charging McGorty passed Fisher in the final 15 meters to grab 3rd. While Kincaid, Klecker, and Fisher have met the world championship standards, the athlete to be awarded the final ticket to Budapest is not yet clear.
Woody Kincaid, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
In the mDT / Final: A mighty 5th round throw by New York Athletic Club’s Sam Mattis (65.93m / 216’3”) was just enough to secure him the victory in the men’s discus throw. Turner Washington was one foot back at 65.60m / 215’3” while Brian Williams (63.36m / 207’10”) captured 3rd.
wJT / Final: In a spirited battle of the win, Nebraska athlete Maddie Harris clinched the victory with a 5th round throw of 60.73m / 199’3”. Maggie Malone finished 2nd with a best mark of 58.79 / 192’10”. Maddison Wiltrout earned 3rd place with a top mark of 55.51m / 182’1”.
wTJ / Final: There have been many great triple jump battles between Tori Franklin and Keturah Orji. But the Day One showdown between these two world-class champions may have been one of the closest as there was only one centimeter separating the victor Franklin (14.44m / 47’4½”) and Orji (14.43m / 47’4¼). Both will represent the USA at the world championships later this summer, while Florida’s Jasmine Moore (14.19m / 46’6¾”) finished 3rd and earned the final world championship berth.
Noah Lyles, photo by Kevin Morris
Noah And The Bark: On the eve of Day One, Noah Lyles held court in the pre-meet presser. He kicked off with his thoughts about NBC’s absence of network coverage of the USATF’s national championship meet. “I know that NBC and USATF have a contract where they have a set amount of hours for the year,” explains the 200-meter American record holder. “If you count up most to our track meets, I think we might have run out of those hours. We’re asking for a primetime spot, and that takes money. This is a business. We can’t buy the spot if we don’t have the money. I don’t know all the details, but this is definitely something that I would keep thinking about and trying to figure out. I would want to know what USATF is going to do with the money they didn’t spend to get this product.” Noah’s thoughts on how he views the opportunities to perform at the sport’s highest levels: “When we get to the middle of the season, I’m not ready to trade a silver and a bronze for a gold medal. [My coach and I] both knew that my chances to break the American record were very high last year. And we just decided to back away from [my slight injury] and will focus on the 2 again. After last year, having such a dominant reign and holding on to the 200, we now have the comfortability to go and really put in what we need for the 100. We can dial in specifically to run more 100s. As you can see from this year, I’ve run more 100-meter races than I have in any other year. I’ve only run the 200 two or three times this year. That’s very rare. Usually, I’m doing at least four 200s under my belt by the time we get to USA Championships. We’ve been honing in on absolute speed, top-end running, and the drive phase, working in that 10 to 20 [meter] area. My coach says, ‘You’ve got be nasty in here.” That’s where I’m good at making the biggest difference. That’s really been our mindset. We had our talk like we did last year when we decided to just do 200. We had to talk again and were both on the same page. He’s like, ‘I’m not ready to back down.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not either. All right. We’re going for the target then.’ If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m going for the win. Because if I win, everything takes care of itself.”
Anna Hall, photo by Kevin Morris
Heptathlon: As if the cavalcade of the multi-events was not enough, the 16 intrepid heptathletes soldiered through the relentless and steamy weather as they navigated through Day One. At the end of the day, Adidas athlete Anna Hall had amassed a point total of 4009 and positioned herself in the lead after Day One. In 2nd position is Asics Tallyah Brooks with a first-day point total of 3890. And Chari Hawkins is in 3rd place with a point total of 3831. The second and final day will feature the long jump, the javelin throw, and conclude with the 800m run.
Decathlon: The decathlon is shaping up to be a truly tight showdown among three athletes. At the end of Day One, the top three-point leaders are two-time Olympian Zack Ziemek in 3rd with 4370 points, Iowa athlete Austin West in 2nd with 4430 points, and former Stanford Harrison Wilson with the Day One lead at 4465 points. The Day Two conclusion of this multi-event with be Friday and will include the 110-meter hurdles; the Discus Throw; the Javelin; and the 1500-meter run.
m800m / Prelim: For 800 meter athletes it is a 3-prong process to earn a place on the podium. And the first step was the preliminary round which was held on Day One. The competition was closely matched. In the Day One preliminary round, the finishing times for the top 10 performers were within 0.60 seconds. Looking especially sharp were Georgia freshman phenom and reigning NCAA 800m champion Will Sumner who went wire to wire in 1:46.47; Heat 2 winner Bryce Hoppel (1:47.87); ’16 Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy whose winning time of 1:46.34 was the fastest of the day; and Heat 4 winner and Tokyo Olympic finalist Isaiah Jewett (1:46.55). The semi-final round will take place Friday when the middle-distance warriors will battle for one of the 8 lanes in the 800m final, which will take place early Sunday evening
w800m / Prelim: This is shaping up to be another middle-distance battle among some equally-talented performers. In the preliminary round, the well-seasoned athletes raced as expected, as Raevyn Rogers (2:00.8), Ajee Wilson (2:00.32), and Charlene Lipsey (2:00.10) raced true to form and look ready for the final. But you can’t overlook the emerging young blood: former Penn athlete Nia Akins (fastest time of the preliminary round at 1:59.09); Roisin Wills (2:00.23), and young upstart Juliette Whitaker (2:00.74). The preliminary round is Friday, with the final late afternoon on Sunday.
w100m / Prelim: Most people know that sprinters perform well in hot weather. But no one was expecting the performance that Sha’Carri Richardson delivered. With a solid start and a most effective drive phase, Richardson ran away with the race, shut it down with 10 meters to go, and crossed the line in 10.71 – a new world leader, a new personal best, and tied the meet record. Brittany Brown had the only other sub-11:00 clocking with a personal best of 10.96. The third fastest time in this prelim was an 11.02 by adidas athlete Tamara Clark.
Christian Coleman, photo by Kevin Morris
m100m / Prelim: This sprint prelim featured the good, the bad, and the ugly. Looking ready to roll, Christian Coleman posted the only sub-10 second clocking with his 9.95. Young J.T. Smith pronounced that he was ready to dish out “shock and awe” after his prelim time of 10.02. Noah Lyles (10.50) had a truly bad start but nonetheless qualified to move on to Friday evening’s final. And Michael Norman (10.31), the reigning Olympic and World champion at 400m, had an atrocious start to finish way back in the field of 33 and will not be moving on in this event. The final of the men’s 100m dash is Friday’s final event.
w400m / Prelim: During the athlete introductions for the 2nd heat of the women’s 400m dash, the Hayward fans showered applause upon Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the reigning Olympic and World Championship gold medalist and the world record holder in the 400m hurdles. Sure, she’s been learning about the one-lap event for the past several months. But how will she perform against top-flight seasoned quarter milers? The answer is ‘Very well, thank you.’ The one-lap novice put on another clinic as she tempered her initial 200m, then turned up the burner, running away from the field, gliding in the final 12 meters, and crossing the line in 49.79. Britton Wilson (50.08), coming off a hard-luck showing in her unsuccessful attempt to execute a 400m/400H double in the NCAA Austin steam bath, looks back in action. And Lynna Erby-Jackson (50.80) also looks to be on the hunt. And Sydney? She is in a world all her own.
m400m / Prelim: This is another event that features similarly gifted and prepared athletes. How else would you explain the 16 advancers in the preliminary round, all of whom posted marks between 45.04 and 45.98? That said, keep your eye on Arkansas’s Chris Bailey (45.04), a seasoned veteran with Olympic and World Championship relay medals Vernon Norwood (45.06), and Olympic and World Championship Relay Gold Medalist Bryce Deadmon (45.12)
wSt / Prelim: In warming up leading to the preliminary round, Olympian Colleen Quigley sensed a hip flexor problem and withdrew from this event. The others carried on with 25 athletes seeking to gain a berth in the 14-athlete final. Advancers include Heat One winner Logan Jolly, rising star Courtney Wement; Olivia Markezich; and 10-time USA champion and ’17 World Champion Emma Coburn, seeking yet another USA championship. American steeplechase record holder Courtney Frerichs took a nasty fall, stumbling over a barrier in the early going of Heat 2. Keeping her cool, Frerichs popped right back up and began a measured attempt to regain a position in the lead pack. Her calm effort helped her finish in enough time to secure a time qualifier that sends her to Saturday’s final.
mSt / Prelim: Six steeplechase athletes turned in prelim performances that make them look likely to be in the hunt for medals in Saturday’s final: adidas athlete Mason Ferlic (8:24.14); Air Force’s Daniel Michalski (8:24.16); Bowerman athlete Duncan Hamilton (8:24.66); newly-minted NCAA steeplechase champion Kenneth Rooks (8:24.73); and veteran Olympian Andrew Bayer (8:25.15)
m1500m / Prelim: This is another event where much talent and savvy abound. In the prelim rounds, these four looked most promising: Yared Nuguse (3:35.37), who went wire-to-wire for the win; Washington’s Joe Wascom (3:36.31), who may want to bounce back after his unsuccessful attempt to defend his 2022 NCAA 1500m title; John Gregorek (3:36.95) who looks ready perform at his best; and Sam Prakel (3:42.78) who unleased a stunning kick to hit the line first in his heat. Olympic gold medalist 1500m Matt Centrowitz (3:37.36), who squeezed by with a little q but is nonetheless always dangerous. Saturday’s final should be a dandy…
W1500m / Prelim: Athing Mu (4:10.33) has earned the respect of everyone. But is she ready to do battle in what is basically a new event for her? She’ll have plenty of competition: Corey McGee (4:09.62); Heather Maclean (4:07.90); Sinclair Johnson (4:07.84). And especially keep your eye on Nikki Hiltz (4:11.55), who looks hungry and uncorked a devastating final 100 meters to win her heat – and to send a message. / Dave Hunter /