REIGNING OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST, 6 AMERICAN RECORD HOLDERS TO HIGHLIGHT FIRST-DAY ACTION
How’s this for an opening act on Day One of the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Drake Stadium fans will be graced by the presence of four medalists from the 2016 Olympics and seven current American record holders.
Feature photo: Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Arizona St©Latinos Corriendo-2018
Finals are scheduled in six events, featuring a trio of current American record holders vying for titles in field events.
Preliminary qualifying rounds will be held in nine running events on the blue oval with Matthew Centrowitz, reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500, headlining the men’s entries.
There are also four women’s American record holders on the track led by Molly Huddle, who is favored in the first running final – the women’s 10,000 scheduled at 7 p.m.
Emma Coburn(women’s steeplechase), Jenny Simpson(2 mile) and Ajee’ Wilson(800) are expected to lead the qualifying rounds in their respective races.
Centrowitz, who also won the 1500 at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, returns to Drake Stadium where he won his first U.S. Outdoor title in 2013. Since then he’s also won national outdoor titles in 2015 and 2016. Centrowitz became the first American to win the gold medal in the Olympics since Mel Sheppard in 1908.
Native Iowans Simpson(Webster City, Iowa) and Shelby Houlihan(Sioux City, Iowa) renew their rivalry in the first round of the women’s 1500 qualifying. Houlihan, who ran in the 5000 at the 2016 Olympics, won the women’s 1,500 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., May 26 running in a then world-leading3 minutes 59.06 seconds, while upsetting Simpson who placed third-3:59.37.
Simpson has won seven career U.S. Outdoor national titles including the last four straight years in the 1,500.A three-time Olympian, Simpson became the first U.S. woman ever to earn a medal at the Olympics when she placed third in the 1500 at the 2016 Games in Rio DeJaneiro, Brazil. She won the gold medal at the 2011 World Outdoor Championships, while earning a silver medal in 2013.
Coburn, who will be seeking her seventh straight U.S. national title in the steeplechase dating back to 2011, set the American mark in the women’s steeplechase each of the last two years en route to becoming the first American woman to win the steeplechase at both the World Championships and Olympics At the 2017 World Championships in London, Coburn lowered here steeplechase mark to 9:-2.59, breaking her own American record of 9:07.63 set at the 2016 Olympics. She ranks No. 5 on the 2018 world list at 9:08.13.
Wilson, who won a silver medal in the 800 at the 2018 World Indoor Championships, ranks No. 2 on the 2018 world outdoor 800 list at 1:56.86 en route to a second—place finish at the Prefontaine Classic. May 26. Wilson has won six career U.S. national titles in the 800, including outdoor crowns in 2014 and 2017. She set the current American record of 1:55.61 at the 2017 Diamond League meet in Monaco.
First-round qualifying in both the men’s 800 and 1,500 feature all six runners who represented Team USA at the 2016 Olympics.
The men’s 1500 also includes Robby Andrewsand Ben Blankenship, who both competed at the 2016 Olympics, as well asLeo Manzanowho earned a silver medal in the 1500 at the 2012 London Olympics. Blankenship was fifth in the 1500 at the 2018 World Indoor Championships.
Clayton Murphy, who captured a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, joins fellow Olympic teammates Boris Berianand Charles Jockin the 800. But the trio will face strong challenges from Isaiah Harris(Penn State) whose time of 1:44.76 to win the NCAA Outdoor meet ranks No. 9 in the world as well as two-time USA Indoor champ Erik Sowinski.
The first round of the men’s 100 at 6:10 p.m. features four sprinters ranked among the top six on the 2018 world outdoor list along with current American record holder Tyson Gay(9.69). Mike Rodgersand Isiah Young, rank No. 2 in the world at 9.92, while Ronnie Baker andNoah Lyles, are No. 5 on the world list at 9.93. Baker won the 60 at the 2018 World Indoor Championships. Lyles won the gold medal in the 100 at the 2016 World Junior Championships and he has run a world leading 19.69 in the 200 this season.
Aleia Hobbs, who won thee NCAA titles for LSU this past season, will lead the women’s sprinters in the 100 prelims. Hobbs won the 100 at the NCAA Outdoor meet after earlier anchoring the women’s 4×100 relay to a title. In March she tied the NCAA Indoor collegiate 60 record.
American record holders Kara Wingerand Keturah Orjiare favored in the women’s javelin and triple jump respectively.
Winger, a three-time Olympian will compete at 5 p.m., set the existing U.S. record of 218-8 in the 2010 USA Championships at Drake Stadium. She will be seeking her eighth national title in the event capturing championships in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Orji, who set the American record of 48-3 ¼ in the triple jump at the 2016 Summer Olympics, will jump at 5:15 p.m. She closed out her collegiate career at Georgia by winning her fourth straight NCAA Outdoor triple jump title June 9. She also became just the third woman in NCAA Division I history to claim outdoor titles in the long jump and triple jump in the same season. Orji is ranked No. 5 in the world in 2018 in the triple jump, soaring 47-11 ¾.
Huddletook advantage of Almaz Ayana’s world-record pace to run an American record of 30:13.17 en route to a sixth-place finish in the 10,000 at the 2016 Olympics. The former 10-time NCAA All-American is aiming for her fourth straight national title in the 10,000. She was 11thin the 5,000 at the 2012 London Olympics and won both the 5,000 and 10,000 titles at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
The women’s discuss final at 2 p.m., features 2016 Olympians Whitney Ashleyand Kelsey Cardalong with 2012 Olympian Gia Lewis-Smallwood. Recent Arizona State graduate Maggie Ewenmade history by becoming just the fifth woman in NCAA Division I history to pick up outdoor titles in the shot put and discus in the same season, including being the first to do so since 2000. She captured the shot put title (62-10¾) just two days before winning the discus on her final throw (198-5). Ewen had already picked up the indoor shot put national title while setting collegiate records during the outdoor season in the hammer throw and the shot put.
Finals also will be held in the men’s 10,000-meter run (7:40 p.m.) featuring 2016 Olympian Shadrack Kipchirchir,—the top ranked American who owns the ninth fastest time in the world this season at 27:39.65 at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Stanford, Calif., May 3. Kipchirchir was ninth in the 10,000 at the 2017 World Outdoor Championships.
Look for 2016 Olympian Zachery Ziemek as the decathlon begins its opening day of competition.
The men’s 20k race walk will conclude Thursday’s opening session starting at 8:40 p.m.