London or Bust: Olympic Track and Field Trials Guide
For America’s elite runners, the road to Olympic glory begins at the TrialsBy: Peter Gambaccini
Race to the Olympics
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Outside of the Summer Games themselves, the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials is America’s most anticipated track meet. (Search: U.S. Olympic Trials 2012) From June 21 to July 1, the nation’s best track runners will compete at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. (The Marathon Trials were in January.) A top-three finish and an Olympic-qualifying time earn a spot in the London Games, which start July 27. Here, we scout the favorites, underdogs, and key story lines in every running event in Eugene.
Trials TrackerSave these dates and times, then follow live Trials updates at runnersworld.com/trials.
Friday, June 22
4 p.m. – Men’s Decathlon (Day 1)
9:45 p.m. – Men’s 10,000
10:20 p.m. – Women’s 10,000
Saturday, June 23
12:30 p.m. – Men’s Decathlon (Day 2)
8:45 p.m. – Women’s 100 Hurdles
8:52 p.m. – Women’s 100
Sunday, June 24
7:20 p.m. – Men’s 400
7:35 p.m. – Women’s 400
7:48 p.m. – Men’s 100
Monday, June 25
9:50 p.m. – Women’s 800
10:47 p.m. – Men’s 800
Thursday, June 28
9:30 p.m. – Men’s 3000 Steeplechase
10:15 p.m. – Women’s 5000
10:38 p.m. – Men’s 5000
Friday, June 29
1:30 p.m. – Women’s Heptathlon (Day 1)
7:45 p.m. – Women’s 3000 Steeplechase
Saturday, June 30
6 p.m. – Women’s Heptathlon (Day 2)
9:40 p.m. – Men’s 110 Hurdles
9:50 p.m. – Women’s 200
Sunday, July 1
7:02 p.m. – Women’s 400 Hurdles
7:12 p.m. – Men’s 400 Hurdles
7:23 p.m. – Women’s 1500
7:37 p.m. – Men’s 1500
7:50 p.m. – Men’s 200
All times ET. Listed times for finals only. NBC and NBC Sports Network will broadcast 12 hours of live Trials coverage; check local listings.
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Carmelita Jeter is 32, ancient for sprinters, but she’s the second fastest 100-meter woman ever (behind Florence Griffith-Joyner) and has been ranked number one in the world since 2009. She won easily at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Jeter’s closest competition, Marshevet Myers (née Hooker), withdrew due to pregnancy, so young talents Candyce McGrone and Alex Anderson should qualify.
1 Carmelita Jeter
2 Candyce McGrone
3 Alex Anderson
Like Jeter, two of America’s top male sprinters seek to defy Father Time in 2012: Tyson Gay, 29, the World’s Fastest Human who isn’t Jamaican; and Justin Gatlin, 30, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist and 60-meter winner at the 2012 World Indoor Championships. (Video: Train Like Tyson Gay) But if Gay is slowed in his recovery from hip surgery, rising star Walter Dix, 26, who had a blazing win at April’s Mt. SAC Relays, will challenge him in a close one.
1 Tyson Gay
2 Walter Dix
3 Justin Gatlin
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Elegant and wiry but absolutely fierce on the track, Allyson Felix, 26, has always been just a smidgen away from superstardom. A “smidgen” could be the difference between silver and gold in this half-lap sprint in London. She’ll have her hands full with Jeter at the Trials, who edged Felix for the 200 silver in Daegu. We give Felix, who already has two Olympic silvers in this event, a very narrow advantage.
1 Allyson Felix
2 Carmelita Jeter
3 Shalonda Solomon
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Walter Dix is one of America’s most undervalued track stars. In the continuing hoopla over Jamaica’s superheroes, it was hardly noticed that Dix won 100 and 200 bronze in Beijing. He left Daegu with silver medals in the same events. Beyond him, this is not as strong an American event as it once was. Two-time USA Outdoor champion Wallace Spearmon Jr., 27, and NCAA champion Maurice Mitchell, 22, should join Dix in London.
1 Walter Dix
2 Wallace Spearmon Jr.
3 Maurice Mitchell
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It’s shaping up to be a “Super” year for the Rosses. Aaron Ross won a Super Bowl ring playing cornerback for the New York Giants; meanwhile, his wife, Sanya Richards-Ross, 27, should contend for 400-meter gold in London. The five-time USA Outdoor champion won bronze in Beijing and gold at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Keep an eye on Francena McCorory, 23, the U.S. indoor record holder.
1 Sanya Richards-Ross
2 Allyson Felix
3 Francena McCorory
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After winning 400-meter gold in Beijing, LaShawn Merritt, 26, saw his career blossoming until he tested positive for a banned substance in 2009 and 2010. He served a 21-month suspension but is now nearly back to peak form. Jeremy Wariner, 28, the 2004 gold medalist and Michael Johnson protégé, is on the downside of his career but should make it to London. Relay beast Jamaal Torrance, 28, gets our nod for third.
1 LaShawn Merritt
2 Jeremy Wariner
3 Jamaal Torrance
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100-/110-Meter HurdlesWomen (100-Meter)
Lolo Jones, 29, is known as much for her compelling personal story (she grew up very poor and was homeless for a period as a child) as for her impressive hurdling abilities. She’ll draw the most attention, but we think Beijing gold medalist Dawn Harper, 28, rises to the occasion and wins the Trials. The U.S. is loaded in this event; we’ll say Kellie Wells just edges Danielle Carruthers.
1 Dawn Harper
2 Lolo Jones
3 Kellie Wells
David Oliver, 30, is massively muscled and has “crossover” superstar potential. He won bronze in Beijing, and his 2010 hurdling season was one of the best ever, but he hasn’t quite risen to that level since. A disqualification of Cuba’s Dayron Robles moved Jason Richardson, 26, to the gold position in Daegu (Oliver finished fourth). Richardson should win here, too, beating Oliver in a photo finish.
1 Jason Richardson
2 David Oliver
3 Aries Merritt
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If not for the fact that disaster perpetually looms in any event involving wooden barriers, we’d call Lashinda Demus, 29, the most prohibitive track favorite at the Trials. Demus, the 2011 World Outdoor champion and three-time USA Outdoor champion, could proceed cautiously and still win this final. Queen Harrison, a rising talent who made it to Beijing at age 19, should lead the rest of the pack.
1 Lashinda Demus
2 Queen Harrison
3 Turquoise Thompson
America swept this event in Beijing, but silver medalist Kerron Clement was strangely adrift in 2011, and we expect two-time gold medalist Angelo Taylor, at 33, to slow down. The charismatic Bershawn “Batman” Jackson, 2008 bronze medalist and four-time U.S. outdoor champion, should prevail in Eugene, followed by a pair of recent NCAA champs, Jeshua Anderson and Johnny Dutch.
1 Bershawn Jackson
2 Jeshua Anderson
3 Johnny Dutch
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Alysia Montano, 26, is a droll wit who races with a flower in her hair. But the Cal-Berkeley grad matches her quirks with serious skill: She’s a three-time USA Outdoor champion and took bronze at the 2010 World Indoor Championships. Montano should win in the final of what may be track’s most tactically complex event. New phenom Erica Moore, who took 800-meter bronze in Istanbul, will challenge.
1 Alysia Montano
2 Erica Moore
3 Maggie Vessey
Nick Symmonds, 28, won at the 2008 Trials and should do the same here. “I’d love to win both Trials and sandwich every single (USA Outdoor) championship in between (he won in ’09, ’10, and ’11),” he says. Former Virginia star Robby Andrews, 20, turned pro early specifically to make this Olympic team; we think he will. We expect the 6'5" Andrew Wheating to leg out his second Olympic berth.
1 Nick Symmonds
2 Robby Andrews
3 Andrew Wheating
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In the last decade, the 1500 has become one of the U.S.’s most talent-rich events, led by Daegu gold medalist Jenny Simpson, 25, and Morgan Uceny, 27, ranked number one in the world in 2011. In March, Uceny made her goals clear to the Los Angeles Times: “I’m a selfish person. I want to be on the podium, and I don’t really care about other Americans getting [there]. I just know that’s where I want to be.”
1 Jenny Simpson
2 Morgan Uceny
3 Shannon Rowbury
Like father, like son? Matthew Centrowitz, the elder, qualified for the 1976 Olympics in the 1500 in Eugene, and Matthew Jr. aims to do the same this year. At 22, he’s already a master of handling multiple rounds of the 1500. Leo Manzano, 27, who took second at the ’08 Trials, is a bit erratic but has a blazing kick. David Torrence, 26, has won three USA road mile titles; he’ll do well on Hayward’s track.
1 Matthew Centrowitz
2 Leo Manzano
3 David Torrence
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NCAA and USA Outdoor champion Emma Coburn, 21, exhibits poise beyond her years and comes from the same Colorado track hotbed as Jenny Simpson, who ran the steeple in Beijing. Bridget Franek sandwiched a 2010 NCAA Outdoor title between ’09 and ’11 U.S. medal finish-es. Sara Hall, wife of star U.S. marathoner Ryan Hall, may have found her Olympic-qualifying event in the steeple.
1 Emma Coburn
2 Bridget Franek
3 Sara Hall
Alas, this is probably America’s weakest track event, as not a single American qualified for the final in Daegu. But a newbie could shake things up at the Trials. Evan Jager, 23, who made the 2009 World Outdoor Championships team in the 5000, won the first steeplechase of his life at April’s Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, California, clearing the barriers smoothly and setting a meet record in the process.
1 Evan Jager
2 Dan Huling
3 Billy Nelson
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Injuries to American record holder and 2011 USA Outdoor champion Molly Huddle, 27, (plantar fasciitis) and Daegu finalist Lauren Fleshman, 30, (IT band, stress reaction) complicate this event. We can’t be certain Fleshman will be ready for the Trials. If Julia Lucas and Julie Culley can hold together the form they both showed at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in April, we like their chances.
1 Molly Huddle
2 Julie Culley
3 Julia Lucas
Bernard Lagat, 37, was a bronze medalist in the 2000 Olympics and won silver in 2004 (both in the 1500) while representing his native Kenya (he has run for the U.S. as a naturalized citizen since 2005). A master tactician, he’s a four-time U.S. outdoor champion, took silver in Daegu, and had a brilliant 2012 indoor campaign. Lopez Lomong, 27, stunned with an audacious 13:11 in April.
1 Bernard Lagat
2 Lopez Lomong
3 Chris Derrick
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Olympic Marathon Trials champion Shalane Flanagan, 30, will run in Eugene but only plans to compete in the 26.2 in London. Her training mate, Lisa Uhl, 24, could outkick her at Hayward. In 2010, Uhl won the NCAA Outdoor 10,000 and 5000, and took second in the 10,000 at nationals. With Flanagan’s slot open, Jen Rhines, 37, could squeeze in behind Amy Hastings to make her fourth Olympic team.
1 Shalane Flanagan
2 Lisa Uhl
3 Amy Hastings
The top U.S. 10,000-meter runner since 2009, Galen Rupp, 26, broke the American outdoor record in 2011. Rupp benefits from the coaching expertise of Alberto Salazar and the world-class example of training partner and U.K. elite Mo Farah. Behind Rupp, it’s a scramble, but Dathan Ritzenhein, who just missed qualifying for the Olympic Marathon, seems determined and ready to atone here.
1 Galen Rupp
2 Dathan Ritzenhein
3 Matt Tegenkamp
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The winner of the Olympic heptathlon is dubbed the “World’s Greatest Athlete” of her gender—but for her silver in Beijing, Hyleas Fountain, 31, barely attracted a ripple of notice. A neck injury slowed her in 2011, but when healthy she’s easily America’s best. Sharon Day, 27, claimed the 2011 USA Outdoor title in her absence, but youngster Ryann Krais could edge her out.
1 Hyleas Fountain
2 Ryann Krais
3 Sharon Day
The Trials title is up for grabs between three Americans who should all contend for gold in London. Reigning Olympic champion and 2004 silver medalist Bryan Clay, 32, is one of the best ever, but the wear and tear of persistent injuries may finally catch up to him. Expect two-time world outdoor champ Trey Hardee, 28, and the precocious Ashton Eaton, 24, to battle for the top spot.
1 Ashton Eaton
2 Trey Hardee
3 Bryan Clay
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