Friday, July 20, 2018 | ePaper
US athletics stars escape the routine at national meet
Several American athletics stars will compete outside their feature events when the US Outdoor Track and Field Championships begin Thursday at Drake University Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
With no Olympic or world championship team berths at stake for the only time in a four-year cycle, many big names are sitting out and others are using the meet as a way to spice up their season schedules.
Rising sprint star Noah Lyles, unbeaten at 200m in two years, will run the 100. Phyllis Francis, the reigning 400 world champion, will run the 200 while Kori Carter, the reigning 400 hurdles world champion, is in the 100 hurdles against world record-holder Kendra Harrison.
Olympic champions Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin, Tori Bowie, LaShawn Merritt, Brianna McNeal, Kerron Clement and Dalilah Muhammad are among those not in the four-day event.
Reigning world 100m champion Gatlin and world runner-up Christian Coleman will not run the 100 but Lyles, 20, will chase the crown in a change-up from his usual 200s.
Also in the 100 is Ronnie Baker, who beat Coleman in the 100 last month in Diamond League meets at Rome and Eugene, Oregon. Baker also won at Jamaica and Mt SAC this season. His 9.93-second career best from Rome three weeks ago matches Lyles' 100 best from a Jamaica meet earlier this month.
Norman, a 2016 world 200 junior champion, won this year's US college indoor and outdoor 400 crowns.
Carter and Harrison are solid favourites in a 100 hurdles field that features the entire Rio Olympic podium - champion Brianna Rollins, runner-up Nia Ali and bronze-placer Kristi Castlin - plus 2008 Olympic champion and 2017 world runner-up Dawn Harper-Nelson in her farewell nationals at age 34.
Harrison won the 60 hurdles world indoor title earlier this year after breaking the 100 hurdles world record with a 12.20 effort in 2016.
Sydney McLaughlin, who became the youngest US athletics Olympian in 44 years when she reached the Rio 400 hurdles semi-finals, will make her pro debut and chase her first national crown.
But a tough field includes world indoor 400 champion Courtney Okolo and Shakima Wimbley, who helped US 4Ã—400 relay wins at last year's worlds and this year's world indoors meets.
Reigning Olympic champion Ryan Crouser and 2015 world champion Joe Kovacs pace the men's shot put contenders while world and Rio Olympic runner-up Sandi Morris defends her women's pole vault crown against past Olympic champions Jenn Suhr and Stacy Dragila.