ATHLETICS: Coburn and Frerichs 1-2 in women’s Steeple; Ramsey and Saunders earn women’s shot berths; world-lead 21.98 for Gabby Thomas!

Emma Coburn, the 2017 World Champion in the 3,000 m Steeple (Photo: Tim Healy for TrackTown USA)

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The second half of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials started up on Thursday with lots of qualifying, but finals only in the women’s shot and the women’s 3,000 m steeplechase.

The women’s shot put was immediately thrown into chaos when Felisha Johnson – the U.S. leader and no. 4 on the world list at 19.45 m (63-9 3/4) – had three fouls and did not advance to the final. The qualifying leader was Raven Saunders, fifth in the 2016 Rio Games, with a season’s best of 19.16 m (62-10 1/2), now no. 10 on the 2021 world list.

In the final, the first-round leader was Jessica Ramsey, who reached an outdoor lifetime best at 19.45 m (63-9 3/4), just a couple of inches short of her all-time best. But everything changed in round three, when Saunders sent the 4 kg ball arcing past the last  chalk line to 19.96 m (65-6), a lifetime best and moving her to no. 4 on the all-time U.S.  list, with the seventh-best throw ever! She also moved to no. 2 on the 2021 year list.

But that only fired up Ramsey, whose fourth-round toss reached 20.12 m (66-0 1/4), a lifetime best and making her no. 4 in U.S. history with the equal-sixth-furthest throw in American history. Rio Olympic champ Michelle Carter is the only other American to throw that far (twice) in the last 10 years! Ramsey replaced Saunders as no. 2 for 2021.

Ohio State’s NCAA champ Adelaide Aquilla upset Maggie Ewen for the third ticket to Tokyo, 18.95 m-18.92 m (62-2 1/4 to 62-1).

In the Steeple, 2017 World Champion Emma Coburn was the favorite, along with American Record holder Courtney Frerichs, who was at or on the lead for the first four laps. Coburn, who usually hangs back, moved up to second with three laps to go and ready to pounce. With two laps left, Frerichs, Coburn and Leah Falland separated from the rest, but then Falland fell over the next barrier.

Coburn took the lead with a lap and a half left and she and Frerichs led at the bell, with Coburn in front by 3 m and expanding her edge. It was over on the backstraight and Coburn charged home in a Trials record 9:09.41, with Frerichs in 9:11.79.

Falland got up and ran with Marissa Howard on the last lap, but both faded and Val Constien came up to get third in a lifetime best of 9:18.34. Howard finished fifth and Falland was ninth.

In the early qualifying, the women’s hammer also had a surprise with UCLA junior Alyssa Wilson exploding to 73.75 m (241-11), now no. 12 on the 2021 list. It’s a lifetime best of more than 10 feet.

The qualifying was led by World Champion DeAnna Price at 77.10 m (252-11), followed by Wilson and Janee Kassanavoid at 72.89 m (238-6). Brooke Andersen and Gwen Price, nos. 2-3 on the world list, also qualified easily. The final is Saturday.

In the afternoon and evening events:

Men’s 1,500 m: Prep sensation Hobbs Kessler (3:34.36) announced on Wednesday that he has turned professional and focused on trying to make it to Tokyo instead of competing at Northern Arizona in the fall. He ended up winning heat one in 3:45.63 with a well-timed move out of a box on the final straight, moving into lane two to edge Josh Thompson (3:45.67).

Reigning Olympic 1,500 champ Matthew Centrowitz was the focus of heat two, but Oregon’s NCAA champ Cole Hocker led from start to finish, winning in 3:39.72, with Waleed Suliman (3:39.92), Craig Engels (3:40.03) and Centrowitz (3:40.09) following easily. The third heat was a classic mass finish with Sam Prakel winning in 3:39.02 and Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse jetting ahead of the rest in 3:39.09. Henry Wynne (3:39.10) was third and veterans Johnny Gregorek (6th: 3:39.36) and Ben Blankenship (9th: 3:42.46) also advanced to the semifinals.

Men’s 5,000 m: The first heat turned into a final-lap sprint with six runners trying for five auto-qualifying spots. Down the final straight, Eric Jenkins had the best sprint and won in 13:43.18, followed by Grant Fisher (13:4341) and 10,000 m winner Woody Kincaid (13:43.81). Jenkins finished in 55.06.

Heat two had nine runners in contact at the bell, but Rio 5,000 m silver medalist Paul Chelimo had control of the race, with Emmanuel Bor on his right shoulder. The pace increased, but Chelimo was unchallenged, winning in 13:36.66, ahead of Nico Young (13:36.74) and Hassan Mead (13:36.80) with Bor fourth (13:36.84).

Men’s 400 m hurdles: Some strange things going on in the heats, as Kenny Selmon won heat one in 49.03 ahead of Oklahoma’s Isaiah Livington (49.06), but with Quincy Downing clobbering the hurdle inside of him (!) as he came over the eighth flight, falling and finishing last. In heat two, superstar Rai Benjamin went out too casually and stutter-stepped hurdles two and three and didn’t get to the lead until the straightaway … and still ran 49.12, ahead of David Kenzeira (49.19).

World leader Sean Burrell of LSU was the headliner in heat three, but after Quincy Hall grabbed his leg after the second hurdle and fell to the track, Burrell fell over hurdle eight! Amere Lattin won the heat in 49.81, followed by T.J. Holmes (49.90). Heat four was a mad dash among collegians, with Cameron Samuel (USC) beat Jonathan Harvey (Oregon), Charles Brockman (Texas) and Trevor Bassitt (Ashland), 49.89-49.95-49.98-49.99.

Men’s Discus: The qualifying leaders were Legend Boyesen-Hayes at 62.59 m (205-4), followed by 2018 U.S. national champion Reggie Jagers (62.55 m/205-2) and Sam Mattis (62.15 m/203-11). But 2017 Worlds bronze medalist Mason Finley was way off his game, reaching only 59.64 m (195-8) after two fouls, but qualifying as 10th out of 12.

Women’s 200 m: Five heats to advance 16 to the semis, with Sha’Carri Richardson and Javianne Oliver – 1-2 in the women’s 100 m last Saturday – skipping this event. North Carolina A&T star Cam Sturgis flew down the straight to win in 22.37 (+1.7 m/s) over a season’s best from Teahna Daniels (22.54). Ohio State’s Anavia Battle, third at the NCAAs, won heat two in 22.37 (+1.2), over Dezerea Bryant in 22.71.

The revelation was Jenna Prandini in heat three, steaming around the turn and relaxing into the straight in a lifetime best of 22.14 (+1.9) – old, 22.16 from 2018 – and moving to sixth on the 2021 year list. Brittany Brown was second (22.49) and 400 m winner Quanera Hayes was third (22.58). Even faster was Gabby Thomas, running a world-leading 21.98 in heat four (+0.7)! She zoomed the turn and then pushed through the straight, blasting her old best of 22.17 from earlier this year. Thomas is now no. 10 in U.S. history and the 11th American woman to break 22 seconds.

Allyson Felix headlined the final heat, but NCAA runner-up Tamara Clark led off the turn and won in 22.54 (+1.0), with Morolake Akinosun (22.48) second and Felix finishing third (22.56, time qualifier).

Women’s 800 m: In heat one, Chanelle Price, the 2014 World Indoor Champion, led through 400 m in 58.7, through 600 m and then worked the straight right to the wire in 1:59.86, her sixth-fastest race ever!

Athing Mu showed why she is the most feared athlete in this event, controlling her race and winning in 2:00.69 over Hanna Green (2:00.79). American Record holder Ajee Wilson won heat three in 2:00.55, winning a sprint finish over Allie Wilson (2:00.71, no relation) and Michaela Meyer (2:00.75). Favorites Sabrina Southerland (2:00.85) and Raevyn Rogers (2:00.75) won heats four and five.

Women’s Pole Vault: Ten athletes cleared 4.50 m (14-9) to qualify, including stars Jenn Suhr, Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte, plus contenders including Morgann LeLeux and Olivia Gruver. Three made it at 4.40 m (14-5 1/4), so there will be 13 in the final.

Women’s Long Jump: Twelve advanced to the final, with no surprises. Four-time World Champion Brittney Reese led the qualifiers with a season’s best – right on time – at 6.86 m (22-6 1/4), followed by Quanesha Burks (6.81 m/22-4 1/4). Texas star Tara Davis reached 6.68 m (21-11) in the second round, and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta was ninth with a seasonal best of 6.54 m (21-5 1/2). Triple jump winner Keturah Orji also made it in at eighth at 6.54 m (21-5 1/2).

The women’s 400 m hurdles qualifying will be held on Friday, but CeCe Telfer – a transgender runner with a best of 57.53 from 2019 – was removed from the Trials for not meeting the World Athletics standards for eligibility. The World Athletics rules require that transgender athletes competing in events from 400 m to the mile have a testosterone level of 5 nmol/L or less, maintained for at least 12 months. The Associated Press reported, “USATF said it had been notified last week that Telfer had not met the conditions and the federation passed along that information to the runner.”

Telfer ranked no. 130 on the 2019 world list and her 57.53 best would rank no. 123 in 2021.

Friday also has a lot of qualifying events, but finals in the men’s discus and men’s 3,000 m steeplechase. The weekend schedules are almost all finals.

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