Spots for Team USA are on the line at this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field. The top American track and field athletes are in Eugene, Oregon, from June 23 through June 26, looking to earn a trip back to Hayward for the World Athletics Championships in July.
It’s mostly prelims on Thursday and Friday, but the action kicks into high gear on Saturday and Sunday.
Here are the highlights from the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships.
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Friday, June 24
Fred Kerley commands the men’s 100-meter victory
Fred Kerley made a statement in the first semifinal heat, cruising to a 9.76 personal best and meet record. Last year’s world leader Trayvon Bromell and defending world champion Christian Coleman responded with a 9.81 and 9.87, respectively, in the second semifinal. But when the men lined up for the final, Coleman was absent. He already qualified for the championships by winning the 2019 title, so he chose to scratch the race.
Bromell had the better start after the gun, but Kerley pressed the gas pedal mid-race to blaze away from the pack with a 9.78. Back in 2017, he won his first national title in the 400 meters. Five years later and 300 meters shorter, Kerley adds another gold medal to his collection. Marvin Bracy took second in 9.85, while Bromell finished third in 9.88.
Melissa Jefferson shocks the favorites to win her first U.S. title
After Sha’Carri Richardson failed to make it out of the first round, all eyes were on Aleia Hobbs and Twanisha Terry to win the women’s 100-meter title. But as the women battled down the stretch, Melissa Jefferson of Coastal Carolina University pulled ahead to surprise the crowd with an upset victory.
Jefferson, who was just eighth at the NCAA championships two weeks ago, set a new meet record with her time of 10.69. It’s also the second-fastest time in the world this year behind Shelly-Ann Frazier Pryce’s 10.67 from May 7. Hobbs took second in 10.72 and Terry third in 10.74—both personal bests, but not enough to earn a national championship.
The stage is set for another battle between Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs
Olympic silver medalist and American record holder Courtney Frerichs easily won the first semifinal heat of the women’s steeplechase in 9:31.25. A few places behind her, 2016 Olympian Colleen Quigley qualified for the final after battling injuries for the past year.
Emma Coburn began the quest for her seventh consecutive U.S. title by comfortably winning the second semifinal in 9:40.53. Recent NCAA champion for Brigham Young University Courtney Wayment, now competing for On Athletics, finished behind Coburn in 9:41.64.
Rai Benjamin eases into next round of the men’s 400-meter hurdles
With Olympic champion and world record holder Karston Warholm injured, Rai Benjamin—American record holder and second-fastest 400-meter hurdler in history—has an open road to a world championship title. His first stop on that journey is the U.S. championships. Benjamin easily qualified for the 400-meter hurdles semifinal, winning his heat in 48.41. The next round is Saturday, June 25, and the final is on Sunday, June 26.
Thursday, June 23
Sha’Carri Richardson gets knocked out in the first round
The biggest shock of day 1 was watching Sha’Carri Richardson fail to advance in the women’s 100 meters. In heat 3, the sprinter finished fifth in 11.31 while heat winner Tamari Davis crossed the line in 11.04. Aleia Hobbs ran the fastest time of the day by winning the first heat in 10.88.
The performance came as a surprise after Richardson ran 10.85—the fifth-fastest time in the world so far this year—on June 12 in New York City.
Last year, Richardson won the 100-meter final in 10.86 at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials but tested positive for THC after her victory. USATF handed Richardson a 30-day suspension for the positive test, which kept her from representing Team USA at the Tokyo Games last summer.
This weekend, Richardson will have another chance to qualify for the U.S. team headed to the World Athletics Championships. She is scheduled to race the 200 meters, which begins on Saturday.
Fred Kerley runs a world lead in the 100 meters
Olympic silver medalist Fred Kerley sent a message to his competitors in the first round of the men’s 100 meters on Thursday. The former Texas A&M standout won heat 2 in 9.83, the fastest time in the world so far this year. The performance is a new personal best for the world bronze medalist.
Podium favorites and medalists Trayvon Bromell and Christian Coleman will also advance based on their top finishes in heat 1 and heat 3, respectively. The finals will be on Friday.
Allyson Felix wins first round of her last national championship
The most decorated American track athlete in Olympic history kicked off her final USATF Outdoor Championships with a dominant win in the first round of the women’s 400 meters. Felix finished heat 1 in 52.30, well ahead of the competition at Hayward Field.
Earlier this year, Felix announced that the 2022 season would be her last before retiring from a career that includes 11 Olympic medals. This week, Felix, her sponsor Athleta, and the nonprofit &Mother partnered to provide athlete mothers, coaches, and staff with free childcare at the USATF Outdoor Championships.
Felix and the rest of the women’s 400-meter qualifiers will return to the track on Friday for the semifinal.
Athing Mu looks poised to dominate the women’s 800 meters
To kick off the first round of the women’s 800 meters, American record-holder Athing Mu led heat 1 wire-to-wire. The Olympic champion ran away from the field and eased into the finish in 2:01.24. Mu automatically advanced two weeks after setting a new world-leading time of 1:57.01 at the Rome Diamond League meet.
Fellow podium favorites and Olympians Ajeé Wilson and Raevyn Rogers also easily advanced out of their respective heats. The top three finishers plus the runners with the next four fastest times moved on to the semifinal scheduled for Friday.
Donavan Brazier wins despite battling injury
The first round of the men’s 800 meters saw the favorites plus a high school star advance to the semifinal scheduled for Friday.
In heat 2, 2019 world champion Donavan Brazier ran his second outdoor race of the season while reportedly dealing with a case of bursitis in his right foot. Brazier won the section in 1:46.49, the fastest time of the day. As the defending world champion, Brazier has a bye into the World Athletics Championships in July. But in order to be selected to Team USA, he had to run at least one round at the national championship. Brazier announced that he will not contest the semifinal.
Behind Brazier, high school senior Cade Flatt finished second in 1:46.53 to make his first semifinal at a senior national championship.
Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and world indoor bronze medalist Bryce Hoppel also advanced out of their respective races. Out of four heats, the top three finishers plus the runners with the next four fastest times advanced to the semifinal on Friday.
Dalilah Muhammad skips the meet because of injury
Defending world champion Dalilah Muhammad was notably absent from the first round of the women’s 400-meter hurdles. The former world record-holder is dealing with a hamstring injury and received a waiver from USATF to withdraw from the national meet and accept her bye into the World Athletics Championships in Eugene.
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Sydney McLaughlin took care of business on day 1 by winning the first heat in 54.11. The world record-holder is coming off a world-leading performance in Nashville, where she ran 51.61 on June 5.
Cole Hocker doesn’t advance in men’s 1500 meters
Another surprise came later in the men’s 1500 meters when Olympic finalist Cole Hocker faded to sixth in heat 1 and failed to qualify for Saturday’s final. The former Oregon runner, who turned pro as a 20-year-old after competing for Team USA at the Tokyo Games last summer, was leading the race until the last 50 meters where he was overtaken by Yared Nuguse, Eric Holt, Reed Brown, Brett Meyer, and Vincent Ciattei on the homestretch. Hocker’s time of 3:39.57 wasn’t fast enough to advance after the results from all three heats were tallied.
The favorites move on in the women’s 1500 meters
The Tokyo Olympic roster of Heather MacLean, Elle Purrier St. Pierre, and Cory McGee all advanced to the women’s 1500-meter final by finishing top three in their respective semifinal heats on Thursday. MacLean and St. Pierre, who are also training partners in the New Balance Boston group, finished 1-2 in heat 1. MacLean ran 4:07.96, the fastest time of the night. McGee kicked to victory in heat 3 to secure her place in the final.
Three weeks after winning thewomen’s 10,000-meter final at the USATF Outdoor Championships, Karissa Schweizer doubled back to finish second in heat 2 of the 1500 meters. She will also race in the final on Saturday.
Evan Jager makes promising return to national championships
On Thursday, Evan Jager looked in control while competing in his first steeplechase since 2018 at the USATF Outdoor Championships.
On the bell lap of heat 1, the American record-holder made a move to the front of the lead pack on the backstretch and kicked to a runner-up finish in 8:23.57, a season’s best. Daniel Michalski won the section just ahead of Jager in 8:23.39.
After spending the last four years battling injuries, the Olympic silver medalist returned to his signature event in April at the Mt. SAC Relays, where he finished second in 8:34. He’s made steady progress in the last several weeks, collecting a fifth-place finish (8:27) at the USATF Distance Classic on May 19 and a third-place finish (8:28) at the Portland Track Festival on June 10.
Fellow Olympians Hillary Bor, Benard Keter, and Mason Ferlic are among the podium contenders who also advanced to Saturday’s final.
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