U.S. championships track stars aim to duplicate Usain Bolt’s doubling down in worlds

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone beside a sign after winning the 400-meter hurdles at the 2022 World Athletics Championships.
Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone poses by a sign after winning the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the 2022 World Athletics Championships. She will try to qualify for an additional event this year.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
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For a sport working under a self-described mandate to increase its fanbase within the United States, track and field found a giant spotlight in 2022 by hosting the World Athletics Championships in the U.S. for the first time.

More mainstream exposure will return in 2024 during the Paris Olympics.

This year, by contrast, can feel quieter. Though another world championships will be held, it won’t arrive until late August as other sports claim airtime in the U.S. This week’s U.S. championships, held Thursday through Sunday at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, will have portions broadcast live on CNBC, the first time NBC has not carried the meet live on its network in 17 years.


It doesn’t mean the performances will be dimmed. Last year, the U.S. team dominated the world championships medal count. This year’s world championship team will be formed this weekend in Oregon.

Story lines to watch as the meet unfolds:


Good bye for runners

Noah Lyles lets out a scream after winning the men's 200-meter final at the World Athletics Championships last year.
Sprinter Noah Lyles would like to qualify for two World Athletics Championships events this year.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone isn’t running the 400-meter hurdles, the event she has dominated since 2021. Fred Kerley isn’t competing in the 100, one year after claiming the world championship. You won’t see Athing Mu in the 800, Noah Lyles in the 200 or Michael Norman in the 400.

There’s a reason for all that movement. Each owns a bye into August’s world championship in their signature event by virtue of winning last year’s world title.

That has led to experimentation this weekend at the U.S. championships, where McLaughlin will run the 400, Kerley the 200, Lyles the 100 and Norman the 100 and 200.


Norman’s and Mu’s intentions behind the switch in events are slightly different than the others, as Norman’s goal this season — one slowed by discomfort behind a knee in early May that led him to withdraw from competitions — was to transition to the 100 all along.

A healthy Colleen Quigley will return to the steeplechase at the U.S. track and field championships next month. Then she’ll plunge into triathlon training.

June 22, 2023

Although Mu’s coach, Bobby Kersee, has teased the idea of a future 800- and 1,500-meter double, that might not be the case this season, as her fastest 1,500 is more than 13 seconds slower than the standard to reach the world championships.

It sets up the possibility of McLaughlin-Levrone, Kerley and Lyles doubling up at the world championships should they qualify in their secondary events. Lyles has made no secret it is his intention to try.

“We haven’t had a doubler since [Usain] Bolt,” Lyles told reporters Wednesday in Eugene, Ore. “And it’s about time we had one. Why not me?”

McLaughlin won’t decide which event she would run at the world championships until after the U.S. championships.


Giant leap for Tinch

Cordell Tinch reacts after competing in the men's 110 meter high hurdles during the 2023 Mt. SAC Relays.
Cordell Tinch reacts after competing in the men’s 110-meter high hurdles during the 2023 Mt. SAC Relays. He has had an unusual path to the track.
(Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

After sweeping the top three places in the 100 and 200 meters at last year’s world championships, the U.S. men have the potential for another sprint sweep — in the 110-meter hurdles.

Cordell Tinch (12.96 seconds), reigning world champion Grant Holloway (12.98) and Daniel Roberts (13.01) own the world’s three fastest times this season. Devon Allen’s 13.04 is tied for fourth-fastest with Japan’s Shunsuke Izumiya.

Tinch’s remarkable time comes with a remarkable backstory. A former Minnesota signee in both track and football, he switched schools multiple times before leaving the sport and working for three years, including installing cable and selling cellphones.

A stint at a community college led to Division II Pittsburg State — and a breakout season that could end in a world championships berth.


More hurdles to clear

Rai Benjamin on his way to winning the 400-meter hurdles during a Diamond League track meet  on May 5.
Rai Benjamin on his way to winning the 400-meter hurdles during a Diamond League track meet on May 5. That is the last time he raced.
(Hussein Sayed / Associated Press)

Since turning professional Rai Benjamin, the former UCLA and USC hurdler, always has been easy to find at the sport’s biggest meets. At the world championships in 2019 and 2022, and the 2020 Olympics, Benjamin was a constant on the podium after claiming silver medals in one of the sport’s deepest events.

This season, however, he arrives at the U.S. championships having not competed since May 5. He planned to race at the Los Angeles Grand Prix in late May but withdrew because of a sore quad.

Benjamin’s credentials are lengthy — only the world record holder, Karsten Warholm, has cleared 10 hurdles over 400 meters faster. Benjamin’s chief challenger for the U.S. title, and a spot on the world championship team, will be Trevor Bassitt, last year’s world bronze medalist.


Teen sensations

Shawnti Jackson competes in the 100 meters at the World Athletics U20 Championships last summer.
Shawnti Jackson competes in the 100 meters at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia, last summer.
(Pedro Vilela / Getty Images)


Seven years ago, the U.S. championships were the backdrop when McLaughlin-Levrone served notice that she was not just part of track’s next generation but also its present when she qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics at just 16 years old.

This week, two teen sprinters also are attempting to upend expectations in the sprints where headliner Sha’Carri Richardson — who, looking to make her first world championships team for the U.S., will run both the 100 and 200 — is still among the prohibitive favorites.

Shawnti Jackson, who as a North Carolina high school senior ran a wind-legal 10.89 seconds in May to break the national prep record, is seeded seventh in the 100.

The daughter of 2008 Olympic 400-meter hurdles bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson will be joined in the field by Mia Brahe-Pedersen. Just weeks after finishing her junior year at Lake Oswego (Ore.) High, Brahe-Pederson is seeded 17th with a time of 11.0 seconds, which ranks fourth-fastest in prep history.

It could be could argued that Rafer Johnson lighting the torch to open the 1984 Summer Olympics is the greatest moment in 100 years of Coliseum history.

June 23, 2023

Brahe-Pedersen also is entered in the 200 meters, where her time of 22.43 — second to Allyson Felix in the prep record books — qualified for 14th. She arrives with off-track fanfare this week when she became the first high school track and field athlete to sign a name, image and likeness contract with Nike, the global sportswear giant whose corporate campus is only a short drive from her high school campus.



The most unpredictable event might be the men’s 1,500 meters, with a deep field of qualifiers led by Yared Nuguse’s run of 3 minutes, 29.02 seconds earlier this season.

The field events could be a source for world championship medals. Among the women, Maggie Ewen (shot put), Brooke Andersen (hammer), Valerie Allman (discus) and Katie Moon (pole vault) and, on the men’s side, Ryan Crouser (shot put) and JuVaughn Harrison (high jump) have posted world-leading marks this season.