Starting on June 18th, the nation’s most elite athletes will travel to Eugene, Oregon, to compete for a place in the world’s most prestigious competitive event, the Olympics. That said, we are here to talk about track and field, so get yourself a hot beverage and enjoy the ride!
Talking Track and Field
The USA has been a dominant force in track and field for decades but was overshadowed by Jamaica in sprint events during the 2000s and 2010s. Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Asafa Powell played a major factor in the island’s dominance, while World Champions Elaine Thompson-Herah and Omar McLeod rounded out an elite crew.
Now, riding behind a youthful crew, the USA looks to be staking its claim as the best sprinting nation in the world again.
Christian Coleman’s 9.76 at the 2019 World Championships in Doha was enough to earn himself a gold medal over 100 meters, while veteran Justin Gatlin’s 9.89 beat Canada’s Andre DeGrasse by one millisecond to the silver medal. Unfortunately, the same fortune is unlikely to meet these two men in the July Olympics.
Coleman, for starters, was banned from competing for two years back on May 14, 2020, for several consecutive missed drug tests. His punishment has since been reduced to 18 months, but he will still miss out on next week’s Olympic Trials, thereby missing his opportunity to qualify for the Olympic team.
Gatlin is now 39 years old and is currently 12th in the 100m world rankings this season, running a time of 9.98 seconds. This time is ninth amongst Americans this year and would theoretically put him out of the final at the Trials, though his experience should at least help him get through to the final race.
The presumptive favorite to win outright is Trayvon Bromell, a Baylor University product that has run a world-leading time of 9.76 seconds. Bromell has suffered several injuries throughout his young career, some of which were career-threatening, but appears to be fulfilling the potential that he had shown as a former World Champion Silver Medalist, and collegiate champion.
Marvin Bracy and Isiah Young appear to be Brommell’s greatest competition for the American title this year, having run the second and third fastest times in the world, though neither man has won an individual medal on the international stage.
Moving on with our track and field talk, let’s focus on the women’s side of the proceedings; it is all the Sha’Carri Richardson show. Richardson is a full .17 seconds ahead of her closest countryman this season and is sitting at #2 in the world behind Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Six American women have run times between 10.89 and 10.97 this season, setting the stage for what could be a crazy final in a few weeks.
Four members of Team USA— English Gardner, Teahna Daniels, Morolake Akinosun, and Tori Bowie— were present at the 2019 World Championships, though none of them have made it inside the top-20 times in the world this season and are outside the current top-10 Americans. If any of these women are to compete for a spot at the Olympics, they will need to show up and show out at Hayward Field.
23-year old Noah Lyles has not had the greatest season of his career thus far but is still the fourth-fastest man of all time over 200m, and likely American champion.
Lyles took the world by storm after running 19.50 in 2019 and has been a serial winner of the 200m, using immaculate breakaway speed down the home stretch to cover his bad habit of mediocre starts.
Terrance Laird of LSU currently owns the title of the world’s fastest man in 2021, having dropped a 19.81 at the Texas Relays that was good for third all-time at the collegiate level.
Kenneth Bednarek is the second-fastest American this season and has run 19.88 but will likely need to improve upon this to guarantee a spot inside the top three.
Georgia sophomore Matt Boling is another young talent with international experience, albeit at the junior level, who is currently seventh in the world with a 20.06. Sandwiched around Boling are Florida’s Joseph Fahnbulleh and Kentucky’s Lance Lang, making it a trio of college students that are in with a shot at qualifying for the Olympics.
The youngest competitor in the track and field will be 17-year-old Erryon Knighton, who sits at ninth in 2021 with a time of 20.11. Knighton turned pro before graduating high school and already looks as if he may compete for the world record one day, though his current talent will be put to the test in Oregon.
The women, unlike the 100m, will have an open battle for the 200m title. Sha’Carri Richardson again leads the field with a 22.11 but is closely followed by a 22.13 from Tamara Clark, a 22.17 from Gabriel Thomas, a 22.26 from Cambrea Sturgis, and a 22.28 from Anavia Battle.
If Richardson pursues the double, she will be the favorite to take both events: her personal best of 22.00 would put her some distance ahead of the field, even despite the tired legs that come with doubling down on races.
Only one of the past five Olympic 110 meter hurdles has been won by an American (Aries Merritt in 2012), but 2019 World Champion Grant Holloway will be looking to reverse these fortunes.
Holloway holds the fastest time in the world this season with a 13.07 and is .15 seconds ahead of his greatest competition, Devon Allen. There are a few names close behind Allen for the second spot, but the experience of the former Oregon man should make it a clear 1,2 for Holloway and Allen.
Although she may be second amongst Americans this season, Kendra Harrison is the one to watch in the women’s 100-meter hurdles at the Trials. Harrison is the world record holder with a time of 12.2 and sits .04 seconds behind the fastest in the USA in 2021, Tonea Marshall.
The American women have a strange habit of constantly interchanging their representatives at the international stage from year to year, so look out for Sydney McLaughlin, a 400-meter hurdle expert, to throw her hat in the ring and continue to shake up the standings.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.