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Just because there weren’t any finals in track events, doesn’t mean the heats at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon were lacking in excitement. The opening night of the USATF Outdoor Championships had its fair share of exciting upsets and fast times as racers dared not to be dropped in the preliminary rounds.
Here’s what caught our attention on day one–including the finals for two field events.
What Went On As Expected
Track stars advanced in two fields overflowing with incredible depth: the 1500m and 400m hurdles. With so much American talent in these two events, it was inevitable that big names would advance in the first round.
Heather MacLean and Elle St. Pierre, both Tokyo Olympians, and Helen Schlachtenhaufen pushed the pace in their first heat and had the fastest 1500m times of the night (4:07.96 for MacLean and 4:08.52 for the other two runners, with St. Pierre edging out Schlachtenhaufen by milliseconds). Though they didn’t run as fast, Sinclaire Johnson, Karissa Schweizer, and Nikki Hiltz also made the cut of 12 racers advancing due to finishing in the top three spots of their heat. Their times were 4:14.43, 4:14.80, and 4:15.05 respectively.
The runners now have a full day to recover before the 1500m final on Saturday.
In the 400m hurdles, Sydney McLaughlin not only won her heat, but also had the fastest overall time in 54.11. Anna Cockrell, who like McLaughlin was a 2020 Olympian, also advanced to the next round along with the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer. The 400m hurdle semi-finals will take place on Friday.
Also expected: the eruption of applause as the announcers called Allyson Felix’s name ahead of her 400m heat. The 7x Olympic champ has been very open about this being her final season before retirement and it’s clear that her fans would like to see her head to one more world championship before hanging up her spikes. As such, Felix advances to Friday’s semi-finals after winning her heat in 52.30.
One big surprise was the absence of Dalilah Muhammad. The 2016 Olympic champion and 2020 silver medalist in the 400m hurdles took a bye, due to a hamstring injury. As a defending world champion, Muhammad would normally need to still compete in at least one round of nationals, but has received a waiver from USATF so that she can still compete in the world championships in July–hopefully with a healed hamstring. Muhammad was also planning to double in the 400m at nationals, but had to pull out of that event entirely.
Another big surprise: Sha’Carri Richardson, who felt like a sure bet on what some were calling her redemption tour, failed to advance in the 100m. For those who may have forgot, Richardson won the 100 meters at the Olympic Track and Field Team Trials last year, but was ultimately suspended after testing positive for THC and forfeited her spot on Team USA.
On Thursday, Richardson finished 5th in her heat in 11.31, which ultimately landed her 23rd overall. It’s far from her season best, ran less than two weeks ago at the NYC Grand Prix, of 10.85. But her hopes for a national or international title are not yet dashed, as she intends to race the 200m on Saturday.
Day One Field Finals
Two women’s field events wrapped up on the first day of nationals leaving no question as to who will represent the United States at the world champs in July.
In the hammer throw, Nike athlete Brooke Anderson finished in first place with a 77.96m throw, followed by Janee Kassanavoid (76.04m) and Annette Echikunwoke (73.76m). In the long jump Quanesha Burks came in first with a 7.06m jump in her first attempt, followed by Jasmine Moore (6.80m) and Tiffany Flynn (6.69m–a season best).
The excitement of national competition continues Friday June 24 through Sunday June 26. Watch the best of the best continue on to the World Athletics Championship, also being held in Eugene July 15-24.