ATHLETICS Preview: Is the changing of the guard complete, or do the veterans still have something to say?

Last hurrah for Allyson Felix, or the start of her rise back to the top?

Will this year’s USATF National Championships could be the last hurrah for some of the greats we have enjoyed seeing for so long?

Medalists and stars like Tori Bowie, Allyson Felix, Brianna McNeal, Tianna Bartoletta and Michelle Carter are all looking up at youngsters on the lists of the top performers in 2019, but are all entered to compete at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa for an opportunity to make the U.S. team for the 2019 World Championships in Doha (QAT).

The young stars, like sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, hurdler Sydney McLaughlin and shot star Chase Ealey are ready to go in what should be one of the most interesting Nationals in several years.

A lot of eyes will be watching the great Felix, now 33, and winner of nine Olympic medals (six golds) and 11 World Championships in her marvelous career. But she is now married, a mom and increasingly active in causes she promotes, recently helping Nike revise its health insurance programs for sponsored athletes to allow for pregnancy coverage. Does she have anything left to show on the track?

Our preview looks at each event, starting with the leading declared performers based on 2019 marks:

100 m:
1. 10.75 ~ Sha’Carri Richardson
2. 10.95 ~ Kayla White
3. 10.98 ~ Twanisha Terry
4. 10.99 ~ Teahna Daniels
5. 11.02 ~ Kiara Parker

Changing of the guard? The top three ran their sensational times at the NCAA Championships and haven’t done much since. The stars of yesterday are recovering from injuries: Bowie has run 11.22 and English Gardner, 11.24, in very limited action. Will either be ready? Is someone else coming?

200 m:
1. 22.16 ~ Angie Annelus
2. 22.17 ~ Sha’Carri Richardson
3. 22.51 ~ Teahna Daniels
4. 22.52 ~ Kayla White
5. 22.53 ~ Jenna Prandini

Same story as the 100 m; Annelus and Richardson were 1-2 at the NCAA meet. Last year’s stars have been quite, with defending champion Prandini and Gabby Thomas running on the Diamond League circuit, but with middling results. Bowie is entered, but hasn’t run a 200 since April of 2018.

400 m:
1. 50.81 ~ Courtney Okolo
2. 50.98 ~ Chloe Abbott
3. 51.17 ~ Kayla Davis
4. 51.25 ~ Kaelin Roberts
5. 51.32 ~ Shakima Wimbley

Defending World Champion Phyllis Francis has a wild-card entry into the Worlds and has signed up for the 200 m to show fitness. This event has been awful in the U.S. so far this season, but perhaps last year’s stars – Wimbley, Lynna Irby, Jessica Beard and Kendall Ellis – have been waiting for the Nationals. And what about Felix? He last 400 m was a 52.01 for third in Marseille (FRA) last June … while pregnant. And now?

800 m:
1. 1:57.73 ~ Ajee Wilson
2. 1:58.65 ~ Raevyn Rogers
3. 1:58.75 ~ Hanna Green
4. 1:59.98 ~ Kate Grace
5. 2:00.43 ~ Sinclaire Johnson

Wilson has been the best 800 m runner in the world this year except for South Africa’s Caster Semenya. Rogers is moving along nicely and Hanna Green has improved from 2:00.09 in 2018 to 1:58.75 this year. An improving event for the U.S.

1,500 m:
1. 3:59.64 ~ Shelby Houlihan
2. 3:59.83 ~ Jenny Simpson
3. 4:02.99 ~ Kate Grace
4. 4:04.06 ~ Alexa Efraimson
5. 4:05.49 ~ Helen Schlachtenhaufen

Houlihan has run one race outdoors and Simpson has run two. They have been waiting for the Nationals and will be huge favorites to move through to Doha. Grace’s 4:02.99 is already a PR; does she have more to give?

3,000 m Steeple:
1. 9:04.90 ~ Emma Coburn
2. 9:09.75 ~ Courtney Frerichs
3. 9:11.41 ~ Colleen Quigley
4. 9:29.81 ~ Mel Lawrence
5. 9:31.44 ~ Allie Ostrander

Defending World Champion Coburn has a wild-card entry to Doha, so the U.S. can get four into the Worlds. Coburn has won the last five U.S. titles in the Steeple and seven of the last eight; is this the time for Frerichs to catch her? And is Quigley ready to reach the level of the top two?

5,000 m:
1. 15:01.63 ~ Karissa Schweizer
2. 15:02.27 ~ Marielle Hall
3. 15:05.20 ~ Kim Conley
4. 15:06.71 ~ Rachel Schneider
5. 15:07.58 ~ Vanessa Fraser

10,000 m:
1. 30:49.57 ~ Emily Sisson
2. 30:58.46 ~ Molly Huddle
3. 31:51.66 ~ Sarah Pagano
4. 31:55.72 ~ Elaina Tabb
5. 32:06.19 ~ Jessica Tonn

The 1,500 m final is on Saturday, and the 5,000 m final is on Sunday, so Houlihan (the American Record holder at 14:34.45) and Simpson (15:21.12 this year) could hop out if they make the 1,500 m team, but as of now, they are entered. The field also includes Elinor Purrier (15:08.61) and Shannon Rowbury (15:19.14 in 2019) and should be one of the most intriguing races on the track.

The 10,000 would appear to belong to Sisson and Huddle, the American Record holder. The qualifying standard of 31:50.00 could be a barrier to a third U.S. entrant in Doha. Huddle is the four-time defending champion.

100 m hurdles:
1. 12.43 ~ Keni Harrison
2. 12.52 ~ Chanel Brissett
3. 12.57 ~ Tonea Marshall
3. 12.57 ~ Nia Ali
5. 12.58 ~ Christina Clemons

The resurgence of the Jamaicans – Danielle Williams (12.32) and Janeek Brown (12.40) are 1-2 on the year list – put some more pressure on the U.S. to perform better. Brissett, still 19, has improved rapidly this year and Ali and Clemons have been solid of late. But what about 2016 Olympic champ Brianna McNeal (12.71), Sharika Nelvis (12.65) and Queen Claye (12.63)? Are they contenders any more?

400 m hurdles:
1. 53.32 ~ Sydney McLaughlin
2. 53.61 ~ Dalilah Muhammad
3. 53.73 ~ Shamier Little
4. 54.11 ~ Ashley Spencer
5. 55.09 ~ Kori Carter

Carter was World Champion in 2019, so she has a pass for the Worlds. In front of her, McLaughlin and Muhammad are by far the best in the world in 2019. When right, Little is close too, but no one knows what will happen with her in any given race. If Little falters, Spencer should be on the spot to get a ticket to Qatar.

High Jump:
1. 2.00 m ~ Vashti Cunningham (6-6 3/4)
2. 1.90 m ~ Jelena Rowe (6-2 3/4)
3. 1.88 m ~ Amina Smith (6-2)
4. 1.88 m ~ Nicole Greene (6-2)
5. 1.88 m ~ Zarriea Willis (6-2)

Cunningham has been terrific this season and finally crested over 2 m at the Pre meet; she stands third on the 2019 world list. The Worlds qualifying standard of 1.94 m (6-4 3/4) means she might be the only one going to Doha.

Pole Vault:
1. 4.91 m ~ Jenn Suhr (16-1 1/4)
2. 4.82 m ~ Sandi Morris (15-9 3/4)
3. 4.82 m ~ Katie Nageotte (15-9 3/4)
4. 4.73 m ~ Olivia Gruber (15-6 1/4)
5. 4.61 m ~ Emily Grove (15-1 1/2)

Morris has won the last two USATF titles, but Suhr won the previous five and 10 of the prior 11. If Suhr is healthy, the top three should be set.

Long Jump:
1. 6.95 m ~ Brittney Reese (22-9 3/4)
2. 6.92 m ~ Kenyattia Hackworth (22-8 1/2)
3. 6.80 m ~ Keturah Orji (22-3 3/4)
4. 6.78 m ~ Tori Bowie (22-3)
5. 6.78 m ~ Kate Hall (22-3)

Reese has her entry into the Worlds from her 2017 victory, so four Americans could go (note the qualifying standard of 6.72 m/22-0 3/4). Hackworth jumped her PR in Chula Vista in June and Bowie is suddenly long-jumping again after a five-year hiatus. Rio Olympic champ Tiana Bartoletta is entered and has been jumping, but very poorly with a seasonal best of just 6.32 m (20-9).

Triple Jump:
1. 14.66 m ~ Keturah Orji (48-1 1/4)
2. 13.77 m ~ Bria Matthews (45-2 1/4)
3. 13.72 m ~ Chaquinn Cook (45-0 1/4)
4. 13.70 m ~ Kelly McKee (44-11 1/2)
5. 13.68 m ~ Crystal Manning and Tori Franklin (44-10 3/4)

Orji is now a professional, having dominated the collegiate TJ scene while at Georgia. But with the Worlds qualifying standard at 14.20 m (46-7 1/4), she might be the only one on the U.S. team. American Record holder Franklin (14.84 m/48-8 1/4 in 2018) has not been the same in 2019, at least not yet.

Shot Put:
1. 19.67 m ~ Chase Ealey (64-6 1/2)
2. 18.90 m ~ Jessica Ramsey (62-0 1/4)
3. 18.82 m ~ Dani Hill (61-9)
4. 18.72 m ~ Jeneva Stevens (61-5)
5. 18.58 m ~ Maggie Ewen (60-11 1/2)

Ealey is no. 2 on the year list and a contender for medals in Doha. Rio Olympic champ Michelle Carter is only at 18.28 m (59-11 3/4) this season, but has she just been waiting for the Nationals?

Discus:
1. 67.15 m ~ Valarie Allman (220-3)
2. 63.64 m ~ Whitley Ashley (208-9)
3. 63.32 m ~ Kelsey Card (207-9)
4. 63.26 m ~ Laulauga Tausaga-Collins (207-6)
5. 61.77 m ~ Gia Lewis-Smallwood (202-8)

Allman stands third on the 2019 world list and is the defending champion. Ashley won in 2016 and Lewis-Smallwood was the USATF winner in 2013-14-15-17. This is a resurgent event in the U.S., but Allman has not always been at her best in the biggest meets. Is anyone ready to challenge her?

Hammer:
1. 77.43 m ~ Deanna Price (254-0)
2. 76.75 m ~ Brooke Andersen (251-9)
3. 76.23 m ~ Gwen Berry (250-1)
4. 75.43 m ~ Janeah Stewart (247-5)
5. 73.00 m ~ Janee Kassanavoid (239-6)

Long-time observers can barely believe that U.S. throwers in this event – a backwater for decades – are sitting 1-2-4-6 on the world list for 2019, so someone good isn’t going to make it to Doha. Price threw her American Record of 78.12 m (256-3) in Des Moines last year and a new mark could very well be set this year. Andersen has been a revelation, improving from 68.62 m (225-1) in 2017 to 74.20 m (243-5) last year to 76.75 m (251-9) this year.

Javelin:
1. 63.54 m ~ Ariana Ince (208-5)
2. 63.11 m ~ Kara Winger (207-0)
3. 57.45 m ~ Kylee Carter (188-6)
4. 56.13 m ~ Skylar Ciccolini (184-2)
5. 56.09 m ~ Jenna Gray (184-0)

Winger has won two USATF titles in a row and eight of the last 11. She’s been all over the Diamond League, with a best this season of fourth in Rome, with her seasonal best. Ince made one Diamond League appearance (a seventh in Shanghai), but has been warming up of late, with her season best two weeks ago. The Doha qualifying standard is 61.00 m (200-1), so it looks like only two can go.

Heptathlon:
1. 6,412 ~ Kendell Williams
2. 6,374 ~ Erica Bougard
3. 6,222 ~ Astin Zamxow
4. 6,111 ~ Riley Cooks
5. 6,098 ~ Annie Kunz

The Doha qualifying standard of 6,300 comes into play here, with only Williams and Bougard currently set to compete there. They are 8-9 on the year list and are the last two U.S. champs: Bougard in 2018 and Williams in 2017.

As with the men, there is prize money in this meet of $8,000-6,000-5,000-4,000-3,000-2,000-1,000-1,000 for the top seven placers.

NBCSN has coverage on Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern time, on NBC on Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern and on Sunday on NBC from 8 p.m. Eastern time. Look for results link here.