Jun 25 Track & Field's All-Star World Team

By Karen Rosen | June 24, 2013, 11:30 p.m. (ET)
Tyson Gay runs to victory in the semifinal of the men's 100-meter
at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake
Stadium on June 21, 2013 in Des Moines, Iowa.

From steely-eyed veteran Tyson Gay to exuberant teenager Mary Cain, the U.S. team for the IAAF World Championships is a mix of new faces and old, and – in the case of a 32-year-old hurdler making his first international team – a combination of the two.

Ryan Wilson prevailed in the 110-meter hurdles at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa for his first major title since 2003, when he won the NCAA crown for USC. Wilson ran 13.08 seconds, tied for second-best in the world this year, to edge American record holder David Oliver (13.11), world record holder and Olympic champion Aries Merritt (13.23), and defending world champ and Olympic silver medalist Jason Richardson (13.24).

All four will race at the World Championships from Aug. 10-18, thanks to IAAF rules which award byes to defending world champions and Diamond League trophy winners.

David Payne, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, and 2012 Olympian Jeff Porter did not make the team that will compete in Moscow.

“This is the best hurdle nation in the world, always has been,” Wilson said, joking that “10 years of hard work is starting to pay off.”

SMASHING RECORDS

Brianna Rollins broke the 13-year-old American record in the 100-meter hurdles, running the fastest time in the world since 1988. Her world-leading 12.26 seconds (shattering Gail Devers’ mark of 12.33), made world and Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia tweet that she would have to bring her “A++ game to Worlds.”

Rollins, the NCAA champ from Clemson who just turned pro, finished comfortably ahead of Queen Harrison, a 2008 Olympian in the 400-meter hurdles, whose time of 12.43 equaled sixth on the U.S. all-time list. Nia Ali, the 2011 NCAA champion, had a personal best of 12.48 to edge 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Kellie Wells (12.54) and two-time Olympic hurdler and Olympic bobsled hopeful Lolo Jones (12.55).

Dawn Harper Nelson, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, competed in the preliminaries and withdrew, knowing her 2011 world title assured her of the fourth U.S. berth in Moscow.

“We’re definitely going to the next level,” Harrison said.  “This is going to be a year to remember and I’m excited about it.”

American records were also set by Olympians Michelle Carter in the shot put (66 feet, 5 inches) and Amanda Bingson in the hammer throw (248-5). Bingson, a former gymnast, celebrated with an impressive round-off back handspring.

MEDAL HUNT

Tough conditions faced the competitors in Des Moines, as temperatures were often in the 90s with stiff winds. However, many medalists from the 2011 World Championships and 2012 London Olympic Games again won the right to wear USA on their chests.

“It never gets old representing the U.S.,” said Reese Hoffa, Olympic bronze medalist in the shot put.

In Russia, Team USA will attempt to reach a total of 30 medals for the first time since 1992.

“I think there is a lot of momentum coming off London and they want to back it up,” said head women’s coach Beth Alford Sullivan.

The team has not been finalized. Some athletes have not attained the requisite qualifying standards, and can pursue them until July 20.

“Everybody seems to be fit and competing at a high level,” said head men’s coach Mike Holloway. “We have a good young team that has stepped up to the plate.”

At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, the U.S. won 25 medals (12 gold, eight silver, five bronze). A year later, Team USA captured 29 medals at the 2012 Olympic Games (nine gold, 13 silver, seven bronze).

SPRINGBOARD FOR SPRINT MEDALS

In London, Team USA won only one of nine medals in the men’s sprints – the 100, 200 and 400 – with Justin Gatlin taking home the bronze in the 100.

Gay will try to double that number single-handedly. After being plagued by injuries the past few years, he pronounced himself healthy and proved it in Des Moines by running world-leading times of 9.75 in the 100 meters and 19.74 in the 200.

That should set up a showdown with Jamaican sensation Usain Bolt, who won his 100-meter national championships with a time of 9.94. He ran a 19.79 in the 200 earlier this season.

Gay had not won a national title since winning the 100 in 2008 and last doubled in 2007, when he went on to win three gold medals at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

“It just shows when you're healthy, there's an even playing field,” Gay said.

He will be joined in the 100 by Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champ who was hampered at nationals by a hamstring injury, and NCAA champion and 2010 world junior silver medalist Charles Silmon.

Walter Dix, who won silver medals in both the 100 and the 200 in Daegu, was injured in the semifinals of the 100, ending his hopes of making the team. Ryan Bailey, the third man in the 100 in London, strained his right hamstring in practice before the meet. 

COLLEGIATE SENSATION

Post-London, the most exciting female sprinter at nationals was English, as in English Gardner. Fresh off an NCAA title in the 100 for Oregon and competing as a pro in her first meet, Gardner won with a time of 10.85 seconds. She became the first woman since Carlette Guidry in 1991 to win both the NCAA and U.S. titles in the same year.

Gardner has been struggling to overcome an ankle injury from the NCAA meet.

“I am not going to say I shocked the world, but I definitely shocked myself,” she said.

Octavious Freeman and Alexandria Anderson also made the team. None of the women on the world-record setting 4x100-meter relay team from the London Olympic Games appeared in the final.

Carmelita Jeter skipped nationals to rest a sore right quadriceps, but makes the world team by virtue of her 2011 title in the 100. She won the silver medal in the 100 in London and the bronze in the 200.

 
Allyson Felix competes in the opening round of the women's
200-meter at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at
Drake Stadium on June 22, 2013 in Des Moines, Iowa.

After doubling in the 2011 worlds (200 and 400) and the Games (100 and 200), Allyson Felix gave herself a breather by competing only in the 200. However, she was edged by Kimberlyn Duncan in a wind-aided race, 21.80 to 21.85. Jeneba Tarmoh, who famously tied Felix for third last year in the 100 at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, was third to complete the team.

Natasha Hastings leads the women’s 400-meter contingent. Sanya Richards-Ross, the Olympic gold medalist still recovering from surgery on her toe, placed sixth, but is expected to be in the relay pool for the 4x400.

In the men’s 400, LaShawn Merritt will continue his duel in Moscow with world and Olympic champ Kirani James of Grenada. While James has the best time in the world so far this year (44.02), Merritt ran 44.21 in Des Moines.

GOING THE DISTANCE

Duane Solomon’s 1:43.27 in the 800 meters was the ninth fastest ever and ended Nick Symmonds’ streak of five straight U.S. titles. Symmonds was second while Brandon Johnson, a former 400-meter hurdler, made his first international team in the 800.

“The resurgence of distance running in the USA, it’s great to have us coming up here and people not doubting us anymore,” Solomon said. “We can go into championships knowing that people are not going to count us out anymore. We’re contenders now.”

World champion Jenny Simpson opted to skip the 1,500 – where she enjoys a bye – and won the 5,000 instead. However, she will race only the 1,500 in Moscow. Treniere Moser won a tactical 1,500m race in Des Moines by overtaking Cain, the high school phenom, just before the tape. Cain, who turned 17 in May, is the youngest athlete to make a Team USA squad since the World Championships began in 1983.

“I have to admit I was pretty terrified,” Cain said. “She got me at the line, but who cares, I'm going to Moscow.”

Moser won her fourth U.S. title, but first since 2007. She has been rejuvenated by training with Cain’s coach, marathon legend Alberto Salazar.

“I’m 31 years old and I’m keeping up with a 17-year-old,” Moser said. “At this point all I can say is, never give up.”

At age 38, Bernard Lagat is again a medal threat in the 5,000. Lagat, who won the silver in Daegu, outkicked Galen Rupp, the Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000, down the stretch, roaring through the final 1,600 meters in 3:55 to win his ninth national title.

MULTI-THREATS

The U.S. will again be strong in the decathlon. Trey Hardee, the reigning world champ, competed in only a few of the decathlon’s 10 events in Des Moines since he has a bye. World record holder Ashton Eaton, who was second to Hardee in Daegu and then turned the tables on him in London for the gold medal, trailed 20-year-old Gunnar Nixon by 44 points following the first day of competition. Eaton went on to win with 8,291 points, with Dixon second.

High jump Olympian Sharon Day became the fifth American to go over 6,500 points in the heptathlon. She exceeded her personal best by 207 point to score 6,550, which could make her a contender at worlds.

IN THE FIELD

Shot putters Ryan Whiting and Hoffa have the top seven throws this year and will attempt to make up for 2011, when the U.S. was shut out in the event at worlds for the first time since 1983.

Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard made another high jump team, while Jesse Williams, the reigning world champ, will try to get back into shape for Moscow after an ankle injury kept him off the podium.

Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett posted a world-leading mark in the women’s high jump (6-8 ¼). Chaunte Lowe, who is expecting her third child in July, is hoping to show her fitness in time for worlds, so she can exercise her Diamond League wild card.

Reigning Olympic pole vault champ Jenn Suhr will be seeking her first world outdoor medal.

In the sand, the U.S. is led by world and Olympic gold medalists Christian Taylor (triple jump) and Brittney Reese (long jump). Reese was battling injury and fouled her three jumps, but has the wild card, as does men’s long jump champ Dwight Phillips. Olympic medalists Will Claye and Janay DeLoach Soukup also made the team.

Shalane Flanagan crosses the finish line to win the women's
10,000-meter at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
at Drake Stadium on June 20, 2013 in Des Moines, Iowa.

LEADING THE WORLD

Shalane Flanagan has the world best time in the 10,000 of 31:04.85.

World leader Kori Carter did not start in the women’s 400-meter hurdles semifinals due to illness, but has a silver lining: she can now be a bridesmaid in her sister’s wedding in August.

In the men’s 400 hurdles, Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley posted the world-leading time (47.96) and is the only man under 48 seconds. Johnny Dutch, who ran 48.02 in May, did not make the team, finishing behind Kerron Clement (48.06) and Bershawn Jackson (48.09).

Jackson has made every world team since 2003, but was depressed when he did not qualify for the 2012 Olympic Team.

“I am a fighter and a warrior,” Jackson said. “I was not going to let the same thing happen twice.”

Clement won world titles in 2007 and 2009 and was the Olympic silver medalist in 2008.

Heading into Moscow, he said, “I feel really good. I will say, ‘The world is in trouble.’ I’ll leave it at that.”

Karen Rosen is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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