This week, America’s fastest runners, strongest throwers, and most gravity-defying jumpers will head to Des Moines, IA, where Drake Stadium hosts the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The event kicks off today (June 19) with a schedule of junior contests, and the main events will begin tomorrow. Come Sunday afternoon, when the final race—the men’s 110-meter hurdles—will be run, we’ll know which male and female athletes will represent the United States in August at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
As the Bleacher Report points out, the U.S. track team had a merry old time in England last summer, hauling in 29 medals at the 2012 London Olympics and giving the sport a major boost in popularity here. Accordingly, fans are buzzing about the Des Moines competition, which brings together famed Olympians and promising newcomers alike. The top three finishers in each event will head to Moscow, so there’s a lot riding on this week’s races. (In events in which an American is the defending World Champion, that athlete is automatically qualified and will be joined by three others.)
Perhaps the most talked-about athlete traveling to Iowa this week is Tyson Gay. The 30-year-old sprinter will line up in the 100 and 200 meters, and now that he’s feeling healthy again after battles with hip, groin, and hamstring injuries, he’s hoping for strong showings in both events—which would likely qualify him for the 4x100-meter relay as well.
"Last year is pretty much out of my system," Gay recently told Sports Illustrated, referring to a disappointing London outing in which he only nabbed one medal, a silver in the relay. "I'm a lot healthier now. Everything is a lot better this year mentally and physically." He’ll be up against 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, who edged him for the 100-meter bronze medal in London.
Another runner to watch is Mary Cain, a 17-year-old phenom from Bronxville, NY, who will test her mettle in the 1500-meter run. Cain is the 16th-fastest woman in the world at the distance in the world this year (4:04.62), and while she’s spent the year obliterating high school records, she’s been racing adult competitors and consistently placing well—including winning the National Indoor Championship at one mile. The talented youngster has a legitimate, if slim, chance to make the national team in one of the United States’ strongest events; she’ll face defending World Champion Jenny Simpson and two-time Olympic finalist Shannon Rowbury, among others.
Click here for the full USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships schedule.
NYRR congratulates all the local athletes who’ll be competing in the meet:
Gwen Berry - Hammer Throw
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg