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Who Will Make the 2021 USA Olympic Women’s Track Team?

The Olympics will not take place in 2020. This unfortunate yet inevitable news broke to the world on March 21st. Amid the ongoing pandemic, the games have been pushed to August of 2021. The postponement affects every athlete in a different way. Some are thankful for the extra time to rehab from an injury that may have prevented them from competing in 2020. Others are at the tail end of their careers, and a year delay could put a damper on their Olympic hopes.

The one thing that won’t change? America will send three athletes from 16 different individual track and field events along with four more for each of the two relays. To punch their ticket to Tokyo, an athlete must finish top three in their event at the U.S. Olympic Trials next June at the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

The women’s side will feature plenty of intriguing battles, and given the depth of the talent that U.S.A. Track and Field has to offer, nothing will be easy. With that being said, here are the favorite’s to make it out of the trials and onto the biggest stage in sports. Go check out our men’s predictions for the 2021 men’s track team.

100 Meter Dash: Teahna Daniels, Morulake Akinuson, Sha’carri Richardson

This may be one of the youngest teams the U.S. has had in this event in a very long time. The top four Americans in the event in 2019 were all collegiate athletes last year. But these rising stars have not yet shown an ability to perform at the highest level.

Only one of those top four, Teahna Daniels, was able to make the U.S. team that went to Doha, Qatar for the 2019 IAAF World Championships. The other two members of the team were Morulake Akinuson and English Gardner. WIth an extra year for the young stars to develop, expect them to do much better at the trials.

The two who are most likely to go to Tokyo are: Teahna Daniels, who has already proven herself on the world stage, and Sha’carri Richardson, the 2019 NCAA champion in the event. The one veteran sprinter likely to make the team is Akinuson, who made it to the Olympics in 2016. But if any of these three are not up to the task, Kayla White and Twanisha Terry, the other pair of young stars, are going to be ready to steal themselves a spot on the team.

In terms of the international competition once they get to the games, a medal for the U.S.A. in the 100 will certainly be difficult in what is likely to be a loaded field. But this event has seen plenty of surprises, and there is no doubt that the U.S. has the talent to make some serious noise.

200 Meter Dash: Anglerne Annelus, Sha’carri Richardson, Dezereah Bryant

Young talent continues to shine through as we look at the list of candidates to represent the stars and stripes in the longer of the two sprinting events. Richardson, the 20-year old phenom, is likely to qualify in this event as well, as she ran 22.17 seconds in the event, the fastest American time, and sixth fastest in the world last year. Likely to be racing alongside her in Tokyo is Anglerne Annelus, an athlete that Richardson knows all too well.

The two went head to head multiple times during the 2019 collegiate season culminating in a hair raising 200 final at the NCAA Championships. Annelus ran a 22.16, the fifth fastest time in the world, and still barely hung on to beat Richardson. These two will probably be joined by Dezereah Bryant.

There are other American women who have run faster than Bryant, but the 27-year old brings an experience that the rest of the field lacks, and expect it to show when the U.S. trials arrive. The medal situation for America is likely to be similar to the 100. With many of the same big names in both events, such as Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain and Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, any medal in this event is not going to be easy, but it’s not out of the question.

400 Meter Dash: Wadeline Jonathas, Phyllis Francis, Shakima Wimbley

This should be one of the more experienced groups for the U.S. women in Tokyo. All three of the projected qualifiers for the 2021 games ran at last year’s World Championships. That being said, the fastest of the trio might be the youngest.  Wadeline Jonathas is only 22, but has proven herself in the biggest races at every level.

Last year she was the NCAA champion in the 400. But that was only the beginning of her season. She got third at the USA Track and Field Championships earning her a ticket to Doha. There she made it all the way to the final and ran stride for stride with worlds best, coming in fourth place, and ran the fifth fastest time of the year.

Her teammates in the quarter mile are no stranger to high pressure racing either. Phyllis Francis is the back to back reigning national champion in the 400, won gold in the event at the 2017 World Championships, and has been a part of multiple historic 4×400 meter relay teams. Her fifth place finish last year at worlds was definitely disappointing, but she is still one of the elite.

Shakima Wimbley may not have the same kind of resumé that Francis has, but she is an experienced world class athlete. She did not make it to the finals in Doha, but still ran the seventh fastest time of the year. This team is talented and ready for the bright lights, so don’t be surprised if they walk away with at least one Olympic medal next year

800 Meter Run: Ajeé Wilson, Raenyn Rogers, Hanna Green

The U.S. may not have a better shot at a gold medal on the track than in this event. Ajeé Wilson is the fastest women’s 800 meter runner in American history. She led in the finals at worlds last year until the last 100 meters, before she unfortunately fell to third. But with the fastest time in the world last year, she is still the favorite heading into Tokyo.

Behind her will likely be Raenyn Rogers, who is one of the two athletes who outkicked her in the final 100 meters at worlds. She was the sixth fastest in the world last year, and has a puncher’s chance at medaling next year.

And for the third spot, I have Hanna Green. She beat Rodgers at USA’s, but had a poor showing in Doha by falling out of the initial heats. Her season best was only .01 seconds behind Rodgers though, so she has shown that she is capable of world class performances.

In terms of other U.S. athletes that might challenge at the Olympic trials, there aren’t many. Expect this trio to separate themselves from the rest of the field. Assuming there aren’t any hiccups getting to Tokyo, the group has the chance to give the U.S. the kind of success they rarely have in this event.

1500 Meter Run: Jenny Simpson, Shelby Houlihan, Nikki Hiltz

I am not exaggerating when I say that this has the potential to be the best women’s 1500 meter team that the U.S. has ever put together. Since its birth in 1972, no American woman had ever won an Olympic medal in this event until 2016. Jenny Simpson pulled off this milestone by winning bronze at the 2016 Rio games. She will be back for more in 2021 no doubt to show that she is still an elite middle distance runner.

But there is another American looking to upstage Simpson and grab a medal of her own. Shelby Houlihan has had a fantastic few years of racing culminating in a fourth place finish in the 1500 final at worlds. She is an experienced runner in the prime of her career. If there is anyone that can pull off something special for the U.S. it’s her.

It’s pretty clear, barring something truly catastrophic, Simpson and Houlihan will easily make it through the trials and qualify. Who their number three will be is less clear. Many athletes are seemingly bunched up behind these two stars. The one name that does separate themselves from the crowd ever so slightly is Nikki Hiltz.

The 25-year old had an impressive 2019 season by placing third at USA’s and qualifying for the final in Doha. Her personal best trails behind the top women quite a bit, but she is a tough racer and isn’t afraid of the bright lights. But if it is not her day at the trials, keep an eye out for Shannon Osika and Rachel Schneider, two veterans who know how to manage the unique challenges of a championship race.

5000 Meter Run: Karissa Schweizer, Elinor Purrier, Marielle Hall

As on the men’s side, this event is not the strongest one for the U.S. women. They have never medaled in the event, and this does not look like the year that trend is going to be broken. America did manage to qualify two athletes for the 5k final at worlds, Karissa Schweizer and Elinor Purrier, but they finished ninth and eleventh, respectively.

Those two will most likely be back this year with hopes of personal bests more than medals. Joining them will probably be Marielle Hall, a 27-year old who has the range to excel in both the 5k and the 10k. This trio is unlikely to reach glory at the 2021 games, but they can take an important step in the growth of American distance running.

10000 Meter Run: Molly Huddle, Emily Sisson, Marielle Hall 

With many of the same high profile athletes from the 5k also running the 10k, a medal in this event is unlikely. However, likely to be on this team is the fastest American woman in this event ever. Molly Huddle broke Shalane Flanagan’s national record in the event on her way to finishing sixth in the 10k final at the 2016 Olympics. Unfortunately Huddle, at 35, is on the backside of her career on the track, and has begun to shift more towards the marathon, as many older athletes do.

However, she still ran the 15th fastest 10k in the world last year and won the U.S. title in the event for the fifth straight time. One U.S. woman will be right on her heels in 2021, though. Emily Sisson is Huddle’s training partner, friend, and often her competitor. She finished second behind Huddle at the 2019 U.S. Championships by only four seconds and ran the ninth fastest time in the world in 2019 at the Stanford Invitational in March. But surprising enough, neither of these women were the first to cross the line for the U.S. at the World Championship 10k final.

Marielle Hall, who is probably the only athlete with a chance to qualify in the 10k and the 5k, finished eighth in Doha last year. So yes, this team is unlikely to medal, but they still have a chance to put multiple women into the Olympic final.

Marathon: Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, Sally Kipyego

Unlike all other events, the qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic marathon team have already been decided. The trials happened in late February, in Atlanta just before the world seemingly stopped spinning due to Covid-19. The trio that qualified has little experience on the word stage. None of them have ever raced at an Olympics or a World Championships at the distance.

Molly Seidel is only 25, which is very young for a world class marathoner. Sally Kipyego is a very experienced runner, who won a silver medal in the 10k at the 2012 Olympics, but she has not proven much in any of the major marathons. Aliphine Tuliamuk is a highly decorated cross country runner and road racer, but in the marathon, she has never accomplished anything close to her 2020 win at the U.S. trials.

Nonetheless, this group has the talent to compete at the Olympic level. A medal would be quite the shock though, as the strength of the Kenyan and Ethiopian teams are as good as they have ever been.

100 Meter Hurdles: Nia Ali, Kendra Harrison, Chanel Brissett  

This is an event that the U.S. has had tremendous success in the last few years. They pulled off the rare Olympic sweep by going one-two-three in Rio and grabbing gold and silver in Doha last year. Expect this streak of success to continue into 2021.

Nia Ali is the reigning world champion and 2016 Olympic silver medalist. And she might not even be the fastest American in the event. Kendra Harrison beat her at the U.S. Championships and finished just behind her for second at worlds. She also just happens to have run the fastest time ever in history of the event.

So those two are locks to make the team and probably the two favorites for gold. The U.S. field behind them is a different story though. Besides Harrison and Ali, there were five more Americans that ran top ten times in the 100 hurdles. Given this kind of depth, it could be anyone’s day to shine at the U.S. trials.

With that being said, the woman that I believe will punch her ticket to Tokyo is Chanel Brissett. She is only 20, but has already proven that she can run with elite competition. She ran a 12.52 making her the sixth ranked woman in the world, and she got second at the NCAA championship behind only Jamaican sensation Janeek Brown, who had to run the third fastest time in the world to beat Brissett.

But if she is not at the top of her game during the trials, look for experienced hurdlers like Christina Clemons and Kendell Williams to seize the opportunity. Either way, the U.S. should come home from the games with at least two medals. 

400 Meter Hurdles: Dalilah Muhammad, Sydney Mclaughlin, Ashley Spencer

Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney Mcluaghlin might be the most dominant duo in U.S. track and field history. Last year at the World Championships this event sported one of the deepest fields in history. Yet Muhammad and Mclaughlin had put everybody else away with 200 meters left. They ran the two fastest times in the history of the event with Muhammad winning at the line. She beat Mclaughlin by .07 seconds. The third athlete to finish was 1.51 seconds behind.

These two superstars are seemingly on a crash course to battle it out again for gold, this time on the biggest stage in sports. So it is easy to forget that the U.S. will send a third athlete in the event to the games. This will most likely be Ashley Spencer, a finalist at worlds and owner of the third fastest time in 2019. If not for her teammates, she would be considered one of the stars of Team USA. With this trio we may see the first ever Olympic sweep in the 400 hurdles.

3000 Meter Steeplechase: Emma Coburn, Courtney Frerichs, Colleen Quigley

This event has only been in existence for women since 2005 at the World Championships and 2008 in the Olympics. Given it’s short history, there have not been many athletes who have really put their stamp on the event. Emma Coburn has a chance to cement a legacy as the first truly great steeplechase athlete. Still just 29, she already has an Olympic bronze and two World Championship medals including a gold in 2017.

She ran the second fastest time in the world in 2019 and has a real shot at gold in next year’s games. Her two probable teammates are Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley. Frerichs won silver behind Coburn at 2017 worlds, and Quigley ran the eleventh fastest time in the world last year, but has not proven herself on the world stage yet. Both intriguing runners, but neither of them are likely to medal.

4×100 Meter Relay: Teahna Daniels, Morulake Akinuson, Sha’carri Richardson, Tori Bowie

The U.S. has won the last two Olympic golds in the 400 meter relay, but that streak is in jeopardy. Without U.S. track legend Allyson Felix anchoring the team, and with two of the three fastest sprinters in the world likely to be on the Jamaican relay, America is no longer the favorite.

In Doha, they managed just third behind Jamaica and Great Britain. Teahna Daniels and Morulake Akinuson were both on that team in 2019 and should be on it again. Tori Bowie is the veteran of the group, and is the only one of this four that was on the Rio team that won gold, but it may be Richardson who will be the x-factor on this team.

The 20-year old star has shown her world class talent at all levels, and if she can have a good leg, we may see the U.S. right with Jamaica in the home straight. Always an entertaining event, the 4×1 in Tokyo is sure to be an exciting one.

4×400 Meter Relay: Phyllis Francis, Wadeline Jonathas, Dalilah Muhammad, Sydney Mclaughlin

The U.S. may not have won an individual medal in the 400 at last year’s worlds, but in the 4×4 they made a statement. With the addition of the two star hurdlers Muhammad and Mclaughlin to go along with the two best U.S. 400 runners, Francis and Jonathas, they dominated the final. Putting the race away before even handing off to the anchor leg, they ended up winning by three seconds.

All four of these athletes might be racing in individual events at the 2021 games already, but with the schedule as spread out as it is at the Olympics, it shouldn’t be a problem. If this is indeed the team that the U.S. puts together, it will undoubtedly be there’s to lose. 

High Jump: Vashti Cunningham, Inika Mcpherson, Tynita Butts-Townsend

In terms of medal hopes in this event for the U.S., it is all about one athlete. Vashti Cunnigham is only 22, but she already has a World Championship bronze medal under her belt. Last year she jumped a personal best of two meters flat making her the fifth ranked woman in the world. She is America’s clear frontrunner in the event, and one of brightest young stars on the entire U.S. team.

Her teammates will most likely be two experienced jumpers who were her teammates for worlds last year. Inika Mcpherson and Tynita Butts-Townsend are both unlikely to compete for a medal, but they are talented women who can definitely make their mark in this competition. They will certainly be a good veteran presence for Cunningham as well, and will hopefully guide her to an Olympic medal.

Long Jump: Brittney Reese, Tori Bowie, Kenyattia Hackworth

Field events generally receive much less attention than the events occurring on the oval. But the US women’s long jump team is one to look out for in 2021. Brittney Reese set the highest American mark last year at 7.00 meters and won the national title. However, at worlds she was shown up by Tori Bowie, who finished fourth overall, while Reese failed to qualify for the final.

But possibly the best of the three didn’t even make it to Doha. Kenyattia Hackworth jumped 7.02 last year, which would have been the best American jump of the season, but it was not wind legal. Nonetheless, she jumped a wind legal 6.92 ranking her fourth in the world.

Unfortunately she injured her hamstring in the middle of the season leaving her unable to compete at USAs meaning she could not qualify for the World Championships. All three of these jumpers had their moments last year, and any one of them could bring home an Olympic medal.

Triple Jump: Tori Franklin, Keturah Orji, Bria Matthews

If the World Championships are any indication of how the U.S. will do in Tokyo, they don’t have a great chance of medaling. They qualified two jumpers for the final, but the best they could do was seventh. Keturah Orji was that athlete, and she is America’s best shot in this event. She jumped 14.72 early last year, the fifth highest mark in the world, but did not get close to that mark again for the rest of the season.

The clear number two in the event is Tori Franklin, who finished ninth at worlds and has the experience to be able to jump well when the lights are the brightest. After those two there is a steep drop off, but the most likely candidate to fill the third slot is Bria Matthews, who is a 22-year old with a lot of potential.

Shot Put: Chase Ealey, Maggie Ewen, Michelle Carter

As with the men, the U.S. shot put team on the women’s side is not given the hype it deserves for it’s talent. All three of the throwers projected to make the team were top ten in the world last year, and all have a chance to medal. They are led by Chase Ealey, the number two thrower in the world last year. She had a disappointing World Championships by placing only seventh.

Maggie Ewen, on the other hand, overachieved in Doha by coming in fourth. And the third athlete, Michelle Carter, is the reigning Olympic champion. She has definitely passed her prime, but is still capable of top tier performances and will certainly save her best for the Olympic stage. So don’t be surprised if the U.S. ends up with multiple medals from the shot put.

Javelin Throw: Ariana Ince, Kara Winger, Kylie Carter

In yet another parallel to the men’s team, the women’s javelin crew would have to pull off quite the upset to medal in Tokyo. In fact, the U.S. has not done that since 1976. Kara Winger is the one thrower that qualified for the final at world’s, but she still only ranked ninth last year.

Other than her there isn’t really anybody that has a real shot at making the Olympic final. Ariana Ince is ranked 18th in the world, and Kylie Carter is all the way down at 68th. So if you are looking for an event where the US excels, look elsewhere.

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