What to Watch on Thursday at the USATF Championships

By Jesse Squire

June 21, 2018

The US Outdoor Track and Field Championships get started today, and national champions will be crowned in six events. Chris Chavez and Kevin Liao recorded the CITIUS Mag preview podcast yesterday, and here is your quick-and-dirty guide to today’s action.

Depending on what device you’re on, our handy visual schedule is either below or to the left. Blue is men’s events, pink is women’s.

Live results link
USATF Championships home page

Coverage will be via NBC Sports Gold, with separate feeds for field events and track events.

We will have Chris, Kevin, Ryan Sterner, Nicole Bush, Scott Olberding and Pat Price in Des Moines all weekend so keep visiting CITIUS MAG and follow us on all social channels for insight into the 2018 U.S. Outdoor Championships.

Today’s Finals

Women’s Triple Jump (6:15pm EDT)
This will be the best event of the day. It usually does not get much attention since the USA has rarely been internationally competitive, but all of a sudden there are two Americans in the world’s top five.

Keturah Orji just completed her collegiate eligibility at Georgia and won seven out of eight possible NCAA championships in this event. Her fourth-place finish at the 2016 Olympics is the only time an American woman has ever finished in the top ten.

Orji held the American Record from 2016 until this May, when Tori Franklin surprised the world with a big 14.84 meter (48-8¼) jump. It’s the current world leader, and Franklin confirmed her form with a second-place finish at the Oslo Diamond League meet. As for Orji? She recorded the #3 US mark of all time at the SEC Championships on the exact same day that Franklin took her record.

Orji and Franklin have not competed against each other since April, when Orji defeated Franklin at the Mt. SAC Relays. In fact, Orji has not lost to another American since the 2015 USA Championships. We’ll see if that holds up.

Women’s 10,000 meters (8:00pm EDT)
This is an intriguing contest between Molly Huddle, Gwen Jorgensen, Emily Sisson, and maybe another surprise runner.

Huddle has been at the forefront of US distance running for a decade and has all but abandoned the track for road racing and marathoning. She’s extremely fit and as smart a racer as there is, but if finishing speed comes into play then she probably doesn’t have what it takes to win.

Jorgensen is the reigning Olympic triathlon champion who has turned to running full-time in an attempt not just to run in the 2020 Olympic marathon but to contend for the win. It’s hard to know what to expect out of her, but she won the Stanford Invitational back in March and is clearly able to run fast. If she has a weakness it’s in lack of experience in track racing.

If I were to pick a favorite I’d have to go with Sisson. She trains with Huddle and is in great shape, has lots of racing experience, and at age 26 is hitting her peak track racing years.

More often than not, some dark horse ends up in contention late in the race. I’d call Marielle Hall that person this time around but I don’t know if a 2016 Olympian counts as a dark horse. She seems to be rounding into shape at just the right time, so don’t overlook her.

Men’s 10,000 meters (8:40pm EDT)
Shadrack Kipchirchir is the overwhelming favorite in this race. It’s not just because he became the #3 American of all time with his 27:07.55 at last year’s World Championships, but also because only one other man in the top 100 in US history is entered (Garret Heath). While it is true that times don’t tell the whole story, especially in the longest distances, with that kind of difference there’s a lot of room for error.

Women’s Discus (3:00pm EDT)
The first US champion to be crowned this weekend will be in the women’s discus, which looks like a three-way battle between four-time US champion Gia Lewis-Smallwood, 2016 Olympic Trials champion Whitney Ashley, and reigning NCAA champion Maggie Ewen. Lewis-Smallwood narrowly defeated Ashley at the Doha Diamond League meet, their only head-to-head meeting this year.

Women’s Javelin (3:00pm EDT)
Bet the house on Kara Winger, the USA’s only Diamond League-level javelin thrower.

Jesse Squire

I was second in the 1980 Olympic* long jump. (*Cub Scout Olympics, Pack 99, 9-10 age group.)