America's best track and field athletes will be gathering in Des Moines, Iowa this week to select the national champions and assemble Team USA, which will compete in the World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, August 10 to 18.
Drake Stadium will host the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships this Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 23. The meet promises the same drama and many of the same players as last year's exciting Olympic track and field trials.
With such a successful showing by the 2012 U.S. track team in London (29 medals), the sport's popularity has maintained a tangible continuity through 2013, and many of the same athletes are eager to prove the Olympic effort was no fluke.
And, as always, a rising generation of new stars are chomping at the bit to demonstrate their own validity.
The top three places in each event (providing they meet the qualifying standard) will secure a ticket to Moscow.
Some Athletes to Watch
Tyson Gay: Men's 100-Meter Dash, the 200, 4x100-Meter Relay
If Tyson Gay avoids injury, this will be the first year since 2008 we will have seen him 100 percent healthy and race-ready. Early races indicate he is approaching his dominant form of 2007. And word has it he has a decent start now.
Gay has stated he wants three medals in Moscow.
My instincts tell me veterans Gay and Justin Gatlin will go one-two in the 100. That third spot is wide open with Mike Rodgers, Doc Patton, Walter Dix and a covey of college hotshots in their wake.
In the 200, I see Gay, Dix and Wallace Spearmon Jr. contending for Team USA honors. Gay, one of the best turn runners ever, will surely give his body a test on the curve. If he holds up, he should be there to challenge the Jamaicans in Moscow.
Brianna Rollins: Women's 100-Meter Hurdles
The Clemson junior and 2013 NCAA national champion is fresh off a world-leading (by a ton) run of 12.39 seconds and looks unstoppable going into Des Moines.
Only problem with that—once there, she will meet seasoned Olympians Dawn Harper-Nelson (12.60), hometown girl Lolo Jones (12.70), Kellie Wells (12.73) and Queen Harrison (12.64).
This is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated finals of the meet, complete with a guarantee: However it shakes out, the USA will be sending another strong hurdles team to Moscow, in hopes of dethroning the defending world champion—the blond comet from Down Under—Sally Pearson.
Brad Walker: Men's Pole Vault
In an event begging for a captain to lead it back into international relevance, Brad Walker, the American record holder, stands like Moses on the edge of the promised land with a band of talented youngsters. But will he, himself be able to enter?
It wouldn't be unfamiliar territory. In 2007, Walker claimed the world championship.
After wandering for several years in a wilderness of injuries, Walker has been vaulting in 2013 with a renewed sense of confidence, twice nicely eclipsing the 19-foot barrier in late spring. Still, the European vaulters consistently taunt the Americans on the international stage.
If the critical atmospheric conditions are right in Des Moines, and the poles are bending as they should, the American contingent could send a strong message to those Moscow-bound rivals overseas.
It would be nice to see Walker leading that pack.
Mary Cain: Women's 1,500 Meters
The 17-year-old high school junior has captured the attention of a nation. If things go right for her at the national championships, an entire planet may soon be captivated.
Mary Cain, who demolishes a national high school record seemingly every time she runs, actually qualified (on time) for three separate events at nationals—the 800, the 1,500 and the 5,000—but will focus on the 1,500. She currently has the 16th-best time in the world (4:04.62).
While she is no stranger to racing with the world's best, most of Cain's records have come in the wake of more mature and experienced runners. On only one of her 2013 high school record demolitions did she finish in first place.
This is not an indictment of Cain's toughness or internal drive to win. Rather it is an indicator of her willingness to trust and follow coach Alberto Salazar's well-thought-out long-range plan.
Even so, when Salazar has given the green light, Cain has demonstrated an ability to kick and finish with the best of them. If she is in the mix on the bell lap of the 1,500 finals, I doubt she will be looking for anything but a win.
One other thing. Cain's post-race interviews are wonderful to behold. Hope we get to see some.
The governing body for USA track and field, The USATF, will be providing 50 hours of video coverage of the meet, which includes live TV coverage on ESPN2, Universal Sports and NBC Sports Network.
Here is the video schedule, via USATF's website:
USATF.TV Webcasting Schedule
2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and Junior Track and Field Championships
All times Eastern June 19, 1 p.m. to 7:20 p.m.
June 20, 11 a.m. to 10:25 p.m.
June 21, 11 a.m. to 10:35 p.m. (only field events from 8-10 p.m.)
June 22, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (only field events from 4-7 p.m.)
June 23, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (only field events from 3-6 p.m.)
USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
All times Eastern. Check Local Listings.
June 21, LIVE 8-10 p.m. on ESPN2
June 22, LIVE 4-5 p.m. on Universal Sports, LIVE 5-7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
June 23, 2-3 p.m. on Universal Sports, LIVE 3-4 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, LIVE 4-6 p.m. on NBC
Here is the meet event schedule.