|Tori Bowie wins the 100-meter at the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meet in June 2014 in New York.
The biggest track and field names in the U.S. are slated to compete this week at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Sacramento, California, but perhaps no athlete is more primed to step into the spotlight than long jumper/sprinter Tori Bowie, who begins her quest for her first U.S. championship with the first round of the 100-meter Thursday night.
It’s already been a breakout summer for Bowie, who, almost out of nowhere, has exploded onto the scene by winning three straight Diamond League titles, finishing second in the long jump at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships before qualifying for the IAAF World Indoor Championships, and winning both the 100-meter and 200-meter at the Nike Prefontaine Classic.
“Tori has been phenomenal this year,” said 1996 Olympic gold medalist decathlete Dan O’Brien, who is serving as USA Track & Field’s on-field emcee this week in Sacramento. “On the women’s side, nobody has really risen to the forefront like this, in all of these events (long jump, 100 and 200), since Marion Jones.”
This is obviously high praise for anyone, let alone an athlete like Bowie who really only has this one year of world-class results to her credit. But the numbers don’t lie, and Bowie has been flat-out dominant of late. In winning the aforementioned 200-meter at the Prefontaine Classic, Bowie, who was competing in just the second 200-meter race of her life and only got a place in the field at the last minute, ran 22.18 seconds for what remains the fastest women’s 200-meter time in the world so far this year.
“No one expected me to run well,” Bowie told local reporters after her victory in Eugene, Oregon, which was referred to by some as shocking. “I heard people say, ‘You’re going to get your butt whooped.’ I wanted to prove everybody wrong.”
Bowie likely went into the 100-meter at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome earlier this month with a similarly defiant mindset. Against a loaded field that included Jamaica’s IAAF World Athlete of the Year and two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Bowie, after a slow start that left her in eighth place after 40 meters, hit the turbo button over the last half of the race to record the win with a personal best time of 11.05 seconds.
“I have been working so hard in practice, so I am not shocked at all about (this) result, but I am very, very delighted,” Bowie told the IAAF after her victory in Rome. “I’ve come out and raced with the best women in the world and I got the win.”
Bowie, who until a recent relocation to Florida was doing her training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, has no plans to choose between the sprints and the long jump any time soon, or maybe ever. Any why would she? Her college coach, Kevin Stephen of the University of Southern Mississippi, where Bowie won the long jump national championship in 2011, told the Hattiesburg American that he is not surprised at the success Bowie has had since turning pro, calling his former standout a “natural” sprinter whom he also believes has what it takes to be the No. 1 long jumper in the world.
With another big-time showing this week in Sacramento, where she has the chance to walk away with three U.S. titles, Bowie would further affirm all the praise that has come her way over the past few months.
More Athletes To Watch At The USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
Ashton Eaton, 110-meter hurdles: Eaton, who is the current world record holder, Olympic gold medalist and three-time defending U.S. champion in the decathlon, is turning his focus this week to the open division of the 110-meter hurdles. Eaton has proven he can compete in the open division, winning the 400-meter hurdles earlier this year in Oslo, Norway.
Trey Hardee, decathlon: Without Eaton in the field, Hardee, the 2009 U.S. outdoor champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist, has a great opportunity to win his second U.S. title.
Bernard Lagat, 5,000-meter: Can Lagat, who holds seven American records and continues to defy age at 39 years old, win his sixth U.S. outdoor championship in the 5,000-meter?
LaShawn Merritt, 400-meter: Merritt, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist who has recorded six of the eight fastest times in the world this year, is looking to win his fourth U.S. outdoor championship.
Sanya Richards-Ross, 400-meter: Long considered one of the fastest women in the world, Richards-Ross, who holds the American outdoor record with a time of 48.70, is looking to win an impressive seventh U.S. outdoor championship in the same Hornet Stadium where she won the 2003 national championship with the University of Texas.
Brianna Rollins, 100-meter hurdles: The defending U.S. outdoor champion and 2013 world champion, Rollins, who owns the fastest time in the world this year (12.56), is the clear favorite to win in Sacramento.