ATHLETICS Preview: Noah Lyles ready to sing in Monaco … on and off the track at Friday’s Diamond League meet

U.S. sprint star Noah Lyles

American sprinter Noah Lyles is one of the most electric athletes in all of track & field, now fourth all-time in the 200 m (19.50) and standing equal-second on the 2019 world list in the 100 m (9.86). But he’s hardly just a speedster; he’s also a singer, having released a single with U.S. vault star Sandi Morris. We’re not kidding:

Friday in Monaco, however, the newest multimedia star will be back on the track in the 100 m at the annual Herculis meet, the latest in the IAAF Diamond League series.

It’s a showdown between Lyles, reigning World Champion Justin Gatlin (9.87) and Nigeria’s NCAA champion from Texas Tech, Divine Oduhuru (also 9.86), with American Cravon Gillespie (9.93) and Akani Simbine (RSA) trying to change the tune.

If Lyles wins this time, they shouldn’t interview him. Instead, ask him to sing a couple of numbers!

Just about every event in the meet is excellent; previews:

Men/400 m: Steven Gardiner (BAH) just ran 44.45 at the Gyulai Memorial in Hungary, but is barely in the conversation with four Americans ahead of him on the world list for 2019. He wants to change that and can on Friday. He will have to deal with 400 m hurdles star Abderrahmane Samba (QAT), himself a 44.60 man this year and world no. 2 Kahmari Montgomery of the U.S., just learning to run as a professional after his NCAA win (44.23) for Houston.

Men/1,500 m (non-Diamond League): We’re starting to get a steady cast in these races and a familiar theme. A lot of really great runners are assembled and none of them can beat Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot, the world leader at 3:28.77 with his brilliant win in Lausanne last week. Back for another try are placers 2-4: Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR: 3:30.16), Ayanleh Souleiman (DJI: 3:30.79) and Filip Ingebrigtsen (NOR: 3:30.82) plus 2017 World Champion Elijah Manangoi (KEN: 3:32.21 this year) and countryman Vincent Kibet (3:33.21). Cheruiyot has had the best finish of anyone in his four wins since losing by 0.26 to Manangoi in Doha; can anyone challenge?

Men/Pole Vault: All the usual suspects are here, starting with new world leader Piotr Lisek (POL: 6.01 m/19-8 1/2), Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis (6.00 m/1908 1/4), reigning World Champion Sam Kendricks (USA: 5.95 m/19-6 1/4), 2012 Olympic gold medalist Renaud Lavillenie (FRA: 5.81 m/19-0 3/4), 2011 World Champion Pawel Wojciechowski (POL: 5.76 m/18-10 3/4) and a lot more. The trio of Lisek, Duplantis and Kendricks have been hard to beat of late and have taken turns beating each other.

Men/Triple Jump: A re-run of the sensational Gyulai Memorial in Hungary, where Christian Taylor (USA) won with 17.93mw (58-10w) and a back-up jump of 17.68 m (58-0 1/4)! Fellow American Will Claye (17.66 m/57-11 1/4) was second and Portugal’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo (17.29 m/56-8 3/4) third. Let’s shake ‘em up again and see if it comes out differently.

Men/Javelin: World leader Magnus Kirt (EST: 90.61 m/297-3) is in, but will be chased by Germans Andreas Hofmann (89.65 m/294-1) and Rio Olympic champ Thomas Rohler (86.99 m/285-4) and Chinese Taipei’s Chao-Tsun Cheng (87.12 m/285-10).

Women/200 m: World leader and Rio Olympic champ Elaine Thompson has run 22.00 and Blessing Okagbare (NGR) just beat her at Stanford with a near-PR 22.05. But Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH) just won at the Gyulai Memorial in 22.18 and is undefeated at this distance since August 2017. Something has to give…

Women/800 m (non-Diamond League): With Caster Semenya (RSA) and Francine Niyonsaba (BDI) sidelined while the Swiss Federal Tribunal decides what to do about the IAAF gender regulations for the 400 m-mile, this race has nos. 3-4-6 on the world list for 2019: Ajee Wilson (USA: 1:58.36), Raevyn Rogers (USA: 1:58.65) and Nelly Jepkosgei (KEN: 1:59.00). Plus British stars Laura Muir and Lynsey Sharp and Jamaica’s Natalya Goule (1:59.50). Perhaps a Doha preview here?

Women/100 m hurdles: Showdown time, with the world leader, Jamaica’s Janeek Brown (12.40 at Arkansas to win the NCAAs) facing world no. 2 Keni Harrison (12.47), who just won at the Gyulai Memorial in 12.60, beating fellow U.S. stars Nia Ali (12.63), Sharika Nelvis (12.66) and Christina Clemons (12.73). Who’s the boss?

Women/400 m hurdles: American Sydney McLaughlin has run 54.14, 54.16 and 53.72 in her three races this season, all wins, including defeating world leader Dalilah Muhammad (USA) at the Bislett Games in Oslo. But the rest of the world is coming on, with two-time World Champion Zuzana Hejnova (CZE: 54.11) and Ashley Spencer (USA: 54.11) running 2-3 in Lausanne (SUI) last week. Something really special could happen here.

Women/High Jump: Russia’s Mariya Lasitskene has won 67 of her last 69 competitions and jumped 2.06 m (6-9) this season. No one else in the field has done more than Mirela Demireva (BUL) and her 1.97 m (6-5 1/2). Any questions?

Women/Triple Jump: Scheduled for Thursday, the top five on the 2019 world list are here, so this is about as good a preview of the Worlds as we’re going to get: 2017 World Champion Yulimar Rojas (VEN: 15.06 m/49-5), 2016 Olympic Champion Caterine Ibarguen (COL: 14.89 m/48-10 1/4), Liadagmis Povea (CUB: 14.77 m/48-5 1/2), Shanieka Ricketts (JAM: 14.76 m/48-5 1/4) and American Keturah Orji (14.66 m/48-1 1/4). Orji made her European debut in Oslo (NOR) for the Bislett Games and was a very good second at 14.53 m (47-8). Let’s see if her second trip is even better.

There is also a special women’s mile, renamed “Brave Like Gabe” to honor the late American distance star Gabe Grunewald, whose fight against cancer has been an inspiration. Dutch star Sifan Hassan leads the field, in which five women have run under four minutes this season in the 1,500 m.

The final event of the evening is the men’s 3,000 m Steeplechase, where Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali will be matched against Ethiopian record holder and world leader Getnet Wale (8:06.01), Kenyans Leonard Bett (8:08.61), Benjamin Kigen (8:06.13) and American Hillary Bor (8:08.41).

NBC’s Olympic Channel has coverage from Monaco beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Friday. Look for results here.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. on Tuesday, a low-key Sunset Tour meet at Azusa Pacific University hosted a series of tremendous marks for American stars:

Men/800 m: NCAA champ Bryce Hoppel proved his NCAA win was no fluke with a 1:44.48-1:44.68 win over Craig Engels (a PR for Engels).

Men/1,500 m: Nine men run under 3:40, won by Ben Blankenship in 3:36.22. Worth noting: Donavan Brazier’s lifetime best of 3:37.18 in third.

Women/800 m: A season’s best of 1:59.58 for Kate Grace was enough to win against a lifetime best of 1:5992 for Shelby Houlihan!

Women/1,500 m: Nikki Hiltz won the “A” race in 4:05.97, but U.S. Steeple record holder Courtney Frerichs won the second race in a lifetime best of 4:11.05.

Women/5,000 m: A lifetime best in a win for Karissa Schweizer by 15:01.63 (prior 15:02.44), the fastest by an American in 2019.

The complete results are here.

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