High stakes racing with spots at the World Championships on the line
USA’s are a big deal every year, but some more than others. 2018 was essentially an off year for track and field, with no major championships. 2019 however, has all the sauce. Up for grabs at USA’s this year is a spot on the World Championships team headed to Doha in late September.
One of the great things about the USATF selection policy is that it’s the first three across the line at this meet who get to represent their country (provided they have the IAAF specified qualifying standard). Other nations, such as Australia, give athletes a much longer window to achieve a time and then they select the best times from that pool (more or less - there are exceptions). That’s cool and all, but we don’t get the build up and the excitement of one-race-to-rule-them-all.
The event this year is being held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. As an outsider, it’s a curious choice - the weather conditions mean it’s too hot to see super quick times, denying athletes a possible last ditch attempt to hit the standard. The track is blue though, so that’s nice.
Check back here daily to cop our updated coverage of each day at the meet. Now would be a good time to tell you that we’ll be focused on the track events.
Most of the schedule for today is heats, with our first glimpse of Shelby Houlihan in the 1500m and a look at the men’s steeple, which will have a new winner this year with 7-time winner Evan Jager not recovering from injury in time.
Before that though, heats of the 100m, the 800m, and the 400m hurdles, among others.
Justin Gatlin qualified second fastest in the 100m(10.16), pipped at the line by friend Isiah Young. Gatlin was all smiles after the heat.
The 1,500m heats were wild - Shelby Houlihan, Nikki Hiltz, Jenny Simpson, and Kate Grace all got through as expected, but the big news came with Corey McGee getting a DQ for jamming her way to the front of her race in the last 20 metres.
Former University of Oregon star Raevyn Rogers not only qualified quickest in the 800m, she went out of her way to keep fans happy after her race.
The evening session was reserved for the distance events, with the heats of the men's steeple, and the finals of the 10k for men and women.
Finally, it was time for the 10,000m finals, starting with the women.
At first glance, this race had Em Sisson’s name all over it. She’s had a stellar 2019, punctuated by her performance in the London Marathon in April. Similar could be said for Molly Huddle, while Steph Bruce and Marielle Hall are always ones to watch.
As it was, it looked like Huddle’s race until about 3 laps remaining, a strong front group of Sisson, Huddle, Hall, Steph Bruce, and Kellyn Taylor all vying for position. Ultimately, Huddle went with 800m left and won in 31:5847 from Sisson.
On the men’s side, Kirubel Erassa, Shadrack Kipchirchir, and Leonard Korir present as a cut above the rest of the field, including 2018 champ and hero Lopez Lomong (I know it has been out since forever, but if you haven’t yet read Lomong’s book, make sure you do). That was…until the race started. Kipchirchir led Lomong in a fast race from the gun, the two of them separated from the field within the first 10 laps. Then with 3 to go, Lomong made his move, storming home to a famous victory, and earning the WC standard in the process.
A much lighter schedule for Day Two, the focus of which being the heats of the men's 1500m, the women's steeple, and of course the 100m finals as the prime time event on the card.
The women's steeple went largely to plan - Courtney Frerichs and Allie Ostrander a clear 1-2 in Heat 1, and Emma Coburn and Colleen Quigley a cut above the rest in Heat 2.
The men's 1500m were typical of the early rounds at a championship meet, the fastest time of the day a 3:42.12 (Josh Thompson - Bowerman). All the big names got through as expected.
The big names got through in the women's 800m, with the exception of Ce'Aira Brown who missed out on the last spot by .03 of a second.
Finally, the title of fastest man and woman in the US was up for grabs with the 100m finals. On the men's side, Justin Gatlin skipped the final (he has an auto qualifier for Doha), and Christian Coleman ran a 9.99 to take the win.
In the women's, Teahna Daniels won a close one.
That's it for Day Two, check back tomorrow for coverage from a big Saturday in Des Moines.
The women's 1500m was arguably the drawcard of the day, with local hero and hot favourite Shelby Houlihan headlining a stacked field, including Kate Grace, Jenny Simpson, Nikki Hiltz, and more.
Shelby was pushed all the way to the end, taking a narrow win over Jenny Simpson and Nikki Hiltz, who was ecstatic to make her first team.
The men's steeple final had a different feeling without 7 time winner Evan Jager in the field, and it was left to Hillary Bor (ARMY) and Stanley Kebenei to battle it out up front, a sprint in the home straight giving Bor the victory.
We got a look at Syd McLaughlin in the 400 hurdles heats, as she went up against Dalilah Muhammad in her heat. They qualified 1-2 for the final.
The final of the men's 400m saw Michael Norman go up against Fred Kerley. Kerley in lane 7 took the win in 43.64 from Norman in 43.79.
Finally, the women's 100m hurdles final went to Keni Harrison, beating out the highly favoured Nia Ali.
It's finals day here in Des Moines with championship races in the 800's, women's steeple, the 5,000m, hurdles, men's 1,500m, and the 200's.
The first final on the schedule is the men's 800, which sees Clayton Murphy going up against Nike Oregon Project Donovan Brazier.
The women's steeple has been owned by Emma Coburn for years, with Courtney Frerichs and her BTC teammate Colleen Quigley strong favourites for the other two spots on the World Champs team. There's also some interest in seeing what Allie Ostrander can do in a fast race - she's certainly quicker than her PR of 9:31.44.
The race was measured from the start, no one eager to push the pace in less than ideal conditions. Emma Coburn was not to be denied her 6th straight national title, winning from Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley. Allie Ostrander was 4th.
The men's 5000m was thought to be one of the safest bets of the weekend with Paul Chelimo heavily favoured. No one told 10,000m champion Lopez Lomong, as he edged Chelimo at the line. One of the surprises of the day was BTC's Woody Kincaid coming in third in a PB of 13:26.84.
Shelby Houlihan was of course the favourite for the women's provided she could back up from the 1,500m late yesterday. Karissa Schweizer, Rachel Schneider, and Jenny Simpson were all considered likely podium options.
In the end, Houlihan won a tactical race from first year pro Schweizer, with New Balance athlete Elinor Purrier coming in 3rd, edging out Schneider.
The women's 400m hurdles was a 3 way battle between Syd McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad, and Ashley Spencer. In wet conditions, Dalilah Muhammad shocked the packed crowd with a new world record of 52.20.
One of the biggest events of the day was the men's 1,500m - Craig Engels spent a lot of his warm up time joking with the crowd and getting a cheer going, while Matt Centrowitz, Ben Blankenship, Pat Casey, and others looked a lot more dialled in. In a thrilling and tactical race, Engels made his move at the bell and despite a late push from Centro, held on for a huge victory.
Other events of note were the 800m finals, won by Donovan Brazier and Ajee Wilson respectively, the 110m hurdles won by Daniel Roberts after Grant Holloway fell at the line, and the 200's finished off the meet - won bt Noah Lyles and Dezera Bryant.
That's it from us - hope you've enjoyed seeing the 2019 USATF Outdoors through our lens.