Track Shorts: 2018 USA Outdoor Championships Preview

Photo of Drake Stadium (during the Drake Relays) in Des Moines, IA, site of the 2018 USA Championships

You Really Ought to Give Iowa a Try

musical accompaniment from The Music Man

Okay, we will. This year’s USTAF Outdoor Nationals are going to be in Des Moines from June 21 to June 24. Thank goodness we won’t have to ask them about their weather in July.

We’ve heard that with no Olympic or World Championship team berths at stake, the championships won’t have the same intensity as other years. Maybe, but it’s not like nothing’s at stake here. First, the championships will serve as the selection meet for the NACAC Senior Championships in August. For those not fluent in acronyms, NACAC stands for the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association. More importantly, the event winners at USATF qualify for the first ever Athletics World Cup to be held in London on July 14-15. Here’s hoping that the simple and compact format for the World Cup will generate some much-needed attention for our sport.

We’ll leave the more thorough and expert analysis to the, well, experts. In this edition of Track Shorts, we’ll take a more parochial look at our AB prospects for the meet.

Seven Is A Crowd

There are seven ABers confirmed for the women’s 1500 (Martinez, Eccleston, Vaughn, Osika, Schneider, Mackey, Johnson). We’ll concede that Houlihan and Simpson go in as favorites but Martinez has the number three performance on the US list and ABers have won some of the bigger events this year. Surely an ABer is going to be on the medal stand.

Same for 100H, seven more ABers are confirmed (Stowers, Carter, Harrison, Barber, Manning, Owens, McGhee). Again, hard to think that there’s not a medalist in that crowd.

Top Seeds

Looking at the US leaders list through 6/12, we see a bunch of ABers topping their events. That doesn’t necessarily mean they go in as the favorite but does suggest they are at least in the mix.

Gwen Berry just took her HT AR back from DeAnna Price; those two are more than 10 feet ahead of everybody else so that looks like a good head-to-head battle. Kara Winger has the top javelin throw by over 10 feet. Sandi Morris still has the best vault of the year; she’ll be tested by Jenn Suhr and Katie Nageotte. Jessica Tonn put up the leading 10k time back in May at the Payton Jordan Invitational; certainly Molly Huddle (even at less than 100%), Emily Sisson, and Molly Seidel are formidable but Jessica looks to be in the mix.

Jeff Henderson tops the yearly list in the long jump; there are several close to his mark but none named Juan Miguel Echevarria (28’ legal, 28-11-3/4 wind aided) so this has got to be easier than what he’s seeing in Europe. Sam Mattis’s 66.32 (217-7) discus toss in May is the US leader; Andrew Evans is the only other American over 66 meters so far. Kind of the same story for Sean Donnelly; he and fellow ABer Alex Young are the only two hammer throwers over 76 meters this year.

Some others with top marks deserve mention as well. Charlene Lipsey goes in with the number two time behind only Ajee’ Wilson and looks to be a solid medal contender at 800. Speaking of 800, everybody’s favorite racer Erik Sowinski’s 1:45.07 in Europe is good for second on the US list. Garrett Heath’s 27:56 at the Payton Jordan Invitational is one of just two sub-28s so far this year. Everybody knows about Shelby Houlihan at 5K but ABers have the 2nd, 5th and 7th best marks heading into the nationals in Lauren Paquette, Rachel Schneider and Katie Mackey. And remember what happened the last time Riley Masters was overlooked; he clocked a 13:16.97 for a world leader at the time. That’s still number three on the US list so watch out. Johnny Gregorek’s 2018 time is 4th best but his seed time for the nationals is number two; either way, he looks like a player at this meet.

Don’t Forget About Us

Wait, we’re not done yet. There’s a slew of ABers with solid marks this year that could end up being contenders in Des Moines. These include Ryan Hill (5K), Donald Scott (TJ), Michael Stigler (400H), Cassandra Tate (400H), Dani Hill (SP), Amanda Bingson (HT), and Whitney Ashley (DT). In some cases, these athletes haven’t put up great marks yet this year but their performances last year suggest we shouldn’t count them out.

Remember the Stamp

Certainly nothing is automatic in this sport but the most serious threat to Michta-Coffey and Melville not going 1-2 is insufficient postage on their entry applications. Well, that or not competing. Which is apparently the case for Melville, as she has scratched from the competition.

There Is Life After Multi-eventing

Okay, so maybe you’re not up for a decathlon or heptathlon. Always good to be really strong in one event so you can jump into the national championships. Thus, we have Curtis Beach in 800 and Sharon Day-Monroe in JT.

We Will Also Be Rooting For…

  • Sarah Pease – ST – had a big spring winning the Louisville Triple Crown of Running
  • Riley Dolezal – JT – following a fall-time achilles rupture, he is back throwing 70+ meters
  • Tim VanLiew – JT – entered the year with a #4 ranking from T&FN
  • Donn Cabral – ST – a two-time Olympian, he consistently finds his way into a solid finish at the big events
  • Hannah Fields – 800 – Beasts are tough to not keep an eye on in any event they enter
  • Cecilia Barowski – 800 – was in the mix at Pre and the USATF Distance Classic
  • Kendra Chambers – 800 – completed a Master’s degree just last month and put up a winning performance as part of the USA Red 4×400 team at the Penn Relays
  • Dana Mecke – 800 – set a 1500m PB earlier this season
  • Tia Brooks – SP – entering in her final Championships before retiring from full-time track and field
  • Chris Giesting – 800 – fresh off a season’s best time in the 800 and a PB in the 600
  • Reid Buchanan – 5000 – had a big indoor season and is coming off a win in the same event at the USATF Distance Classic
  • Chelsea Hayes – LJ – Has been battling injuries for a few years now and has already put up numbers that we have not seen from her since 2015
  • Reed Fischer – 10000 – With a W already on this track this year (5000 at Drake Relays), you can’t count him out when running at his alma mater
  • Emily Grove – PV – off to a solid 2018, having set a new PB of 4.61m and jumping in her first ever Diamond League event earlier this year (Doha)
  • Kortney Ross – PV – seeing consistent progression in her jumps each year since moving to Chula Vista, and was in the mix here at the Drake Relays just two months ago
  • Carolina Moll – PV – coming off a strong finish just last week in Toronto at the Nathan Phillips Track and Field Takeover

Our Predictions

You may recall last year the TS team took a shot at picking a dark horse from the AB squad for a surprise performance. Not that it went so well last time. Hey it wasn’t as bad as the Sports Illustrated jinx. So we’ll try it again.

  • Jack – Erik Sowinksi – the ultimate racer’s racer – this time he takes gold
  • Steve – Jessica Tonn for the medal stand in the 10K
  • Aaron – Donald Scott for the Triple Jump – he will be leaving Des Moines with the hardware

Click “Join the Conversation” below to give us your predictions for this weekend’s action! ?

How To Watch

If you have NBC Gold, you’re, well, golden. They’ll be live everyday starting at 2 pm on Thursday, 12:30 pm on Friday, 11 am on Saturday and 12:30 pm on Sunday. Non-streamers won’t be out in the cold but the coverage is not as extensive and not all of its live. Friday NBCSN has the coverage from 11 pm to 1 am. On Saturday and Sunday, NBC takes over with live coverage from 4-6 pm. Wow, this is awesome – no overlap with World Cup soccer and my total sports viewing for each day shouldn’t be much over eight hours.

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