USATF outdoor meet to highlight American track season
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — For American track and field fans, this weekend's USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines will be the pinnacle of the 2018 season with no Olympics and no world championships.
The best of the best from Team USA is slated to compete, with sprinter Ronnie Baker, hurdler Keni Harrison and emerging star Sydney McLaughlin among a host of past Olympic medalists and champions aiming for domestic titles at Drake Stadium. The meet starts on Thursday and runs through Sunday.
"I feel like the (U.S.A) has the strongest competition when it comes to nationals. I think every event is super deep, and it's going to be fun to test yourself against the best athletes in the world and, to do it on home soil, that's not something that we get to do that often," said Kori Carter, the world 400-meter hurdles champion who will compete in the 100 hurdles this weekend.
Here are some of the key events to follow as the U.S. national outdoor meet returns to Iowa after a five-year absence:
The title of "World's Fastest Man" has been up for grabs ever since Usain Bolt retired. Baker, the former University of Kentucky star, hopes to soon claim it and he's been sporting a necklace with a "Flash" pendant since the start of this season. Baker, 24, has certainly progressed toward his goal, running a wind-aided 9.78 seconds in Eugene, Oregon and a 9.93 in Rome a week later in Diamond League action on May 31. "Flash is the fastest man in the world. That's my goal every single time I step out on the track," Baker said. "I'm not saving myself for next year (and beyond)."
WOMEN'S 100 HURDLES
Harrison is well known in Des Moines after becoming the first person since Lolo Jones to win this event three years in a row. Harrison, the world and American record holder at 12.20, took first on the Blue Oval in April in a wind-aided 12.37 after winning the world indoor title this spring. "I'm excited to be here because this track is really fast," Harrison said.
McLaughlin, the 18-year-old Kentucky star, turned pro two weeks ago. Though McLaughlin's specialty the 400 hurdles, she's ranked fifth in the world in the 400 after posting a 50.07 earlier this season. McLaughlin's main competition might be USC's Kendall Ellis. Her remarkable closing kick to help USC win the 1,600 relay at the recent NCAA meet was arguably the sport's most notable highlight in 2018.
This one is shaping up to be a matchup between a pair of Iowa natives: Jenny Simpson and Shelby Houlihan. Simpson is 10-1 all-time at Drake Stadium, where she shattered the American mark in the two-mile race back in April. Simpson, the first U.S. woman to win a medal in the 1500 at the Olympics (bronze in 2016), was upset by Houlihan at the Prefontaine Classic late last month. Houlihan, who grew up in Sioux City, finished in 3:59.16.
Five gold medalists from the Rio Games in 2016 will compete for U.S. titles in Iowa. Tianna Bartoletta (long jump) and Michelle Carter (shot put) lead the defending Olympic champions from the women's side and Ryan Crouser (shot put), Christian Taylor (triple jump) and Jeffrey Henderson (long jump) represent the American men hoping to make it two in a row in Tokyo two summers from now. Women's pole vaulter Sandi Morris won her first national title a year ago and will be looking to hold off Jenn Suhr, who won 10 of 11 American titles between 2006 and 2016.