Our Editors Have Predicted Which Runners Will Make the 2021 U.S. Olympic Track Team

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Photo credit: Photo Illustration by Jesse Southerland / Getty Images
Photo credit: Photo Illustration by Jesse Southerland / Getty Images

Starting on June 18, the nation’s greatest track and field athletes will compete against one another at the postponed U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. These athletes have persevered through a pandemic with the goal of making the Tokyo Olympics at the championship in Eugene, Oregon.

Based on the athletes’ experience, accomplishments, and recent performances, the Runner’s World editors have made picks on who we believe is a lock to finish within the top three and represent Team USA in every running event—from the 100-meter dash to the 10,000 meters. Here is a breakdown of our predictions for each event.

How to watch the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

100 meters

Women: Sha’Carri Richardson

Sha’Carri Richardson held the world-leading time in the women’s 100 meters this year until June 5, when Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce blazed the track with the second-fastest time ever. In April, the former LSU athlete—who turned pro in 2019 after breaking the collegiate record as a freshman—set the stage for a breakthrough year by winning the Miramar Invitational 100 meters in 10.72, a personal best. With the exception of the Gateshead Diamond League meet, which took place in rainy and windy conditions, Richardson has won every 100-meter race so far this season. She looks poised to keep that winning streak alive in Eugene—and possibly Tokyo.

Men: Trayvon Bromell

In his return from a string of injuries, Trayvon Bromell has made one of the most impressive comebacks ever. On June 5, he ran a world-leading time of 9.77 at the NACAC New Life Invitational, his latest achievement in an undefeated 100-meter winning streak this year. The performance was also a personal best and the fastest Bromell has run since earning bronze at the 2015 IAAF World Championships. Six years later, Bromell has climbed his way back to the top as a gold-medal contender in Tokyo.

100-meter/110-meter hurdles

Women: Keni Harrison

Two weeks after a sixth-place finish at the 2016 Olympic Track and Field Trials, Keni Harrison bounced back to break the 28-year-old world record, running 12.20 at the London Müller Anniversary Games. This year, a fall on the second hurdle at Drake Relays in April kept her from a fifth straight victory there—but again, she didn’t let it phase her, and went on to win at the Texas Invitational in 12.48, the USATF Golden Games also in 12.48, and Adidas Boost Boston Games in 12.49 in May. And with reigning Olympic silver-medalist Nia Ali not competing, the odds are heavily in Harrison’s favor.

Men: Grant Holloway

As the defending world champion and current world leader, Grant Holloway will be tough to beat in Eugene. In February, the Florida native broke the world record in the 60-meter hurdles by running 7.29 at an indoor meet in Madrid. Since opening his season in January, Holloway has won every single race he’s competed in this year, including a wind-aided season’s best of 13.04 at the Miramar Invitational in April.

200 meters

Women: Gabby Thomas

Gabby Thomas made her first Trials appearance in 2016, when she was still a freshman at Harvard. Her junior year, she became the first Ivy League sprinter in history to claim a national title when she won the 200 meters at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in a record-breaking 22.38. This season, she edged out veteran Allyson Felix at the USATF Golden Games—and while Richardson will also be a force to contend with, Thomas appears poised to dominate at this distance.

Men: Noah Lyles

The 2019 world champion in the 200 meters is in position to notch the top spot at the U.S. Trials—and he’ll also be a contender to win gold in Tokyo in July. On May 9, Lyles ran a 19.90 to win the USATF Golden Games at Mt. SAC, his fastest time so far this year. He’ll also be racing the 100 meters at the Trials, which gives you plenty of opportunities to see some sweet dance moves from the 23-year-old.

400 meters

Women: Allyson Felix

Felix currently ranks sixth on the list of U.S. women entered in the 400. But she’s trending in the right direction with her results in May—a 50.88 in Texas, followed by a 50.66 in Florida two weeks later. Plus, she’s got experience on her side. At 35, she has made four Olympic teams and won nine medals. She may not win the Trials, but she should make her fifth Olympic team.

Men: Michael Norman

Norman finished fifth in the 400 meters at the 2016 Olympic Trials just one week after graduating high school. Five years later, he’s ranked No. 1 in the world with the fastest 400 time in the Olympic cycle. On May 28, the world silver-medalist won the 400 meters at the Doha Diamond League meet, establishing himself as the runner to beat in this event. Additionally impressive—he’s the only person to best Noah Lyles in the 200 in the Olympic cycle and also boasts a 9.86 second PB in the 100.

400-meter hurdles

Women: Dalilah Muhammad

The competition here is stiff, but as the reigning Olympic champion, world champion, and world record holder, Muhammad stands out. Though injury has kept her from racing as much this year, strong comeback showings at the American Track League’s Duval County Challenge and the NACAC New Life Invitational in May suggest that when she toes the line alongside the likes of Sydney McLaughlin and 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer, she’ll be prepared to prevail.

Men: Rai Benjamin

Since winning the NCAA title for USC in 2018, Rai Benjamin has been a mainstay on the international stage for Team USA. Benjamin earned silver while battling a heel bone bruise during the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar. He also contributed to Team USA’s winning performance in the 4x400-meter relay. At this point in the season, Benjamin is the world leader with a season’s best of 47.13 and looks ready to improve on his runner-up finish from two years ago.

800 meters

Women: Ajeé Wilson

For 2016 Olympian Ajeé Wilson, winning bronze at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, was a disappointment—and she started 2020 on a quest to avenge it, breaking her own American indoor record with a 1:58.29 at the Millrose Games on Feb. 8 (she also holds the outdoor record, thanks to a 1:55.61 at the 2017 Monaco Diamond League meeting). Once racing resumed post-pandemic, she won every competition she entered, including a dominant 1:58.93 at The Texas Qualifier on Feb. 27.

Men: Donavan Brazier

As the defending world champion, Donavan Brazier is the clear favorite to win another medal in Tokyo. The American record-holder hasn’t raced as much as some of his competitors this season, but his recent 1:45.09 victory at the Portland Track Festival in May shows he’s rounding into form at the perfect time.

1500 meters

Women: Elle Purrier

Elle Purrier hasn’t had a bad race—at least not when it has mattered—in years. And this spring, she’s been unrivaled. In February, she set an American record in the indoor two mile (9:10.28) and in May, she ran the fastest 1500 in the country this year (3:58.36), in addition to her first sub-2:00 performance in the 800 (1:59.99). It would take a stroke of bad luck, or a really off day, for Purrier not to make the team in the 1500. And she doesn’t have off days.

Men: Matthew Centrowitz

The reigning Olympic champion has made every international championship team since 2011, and his recent 800-meter triple (1:49, 1:50, and 1:53) at the Stumptown Twilight meet in Portland, Oregon, showed impressive fitness heading into multiple rounds of the Olympic Trials. With five national titles on his resume, Centrowitz is considered a lock to make another U.S. Olympic team.

3,000-meter steeplechase

Women: Emma Coburn

Since winning her first of eight national titles in 2011, Emma Coburn has been a dominant force in the women’s steeplechase. In 2016, she earned bronze at the Rio Games. A year later, she went 1-2 with fellow American Courtney Frerichs to win the world championship title in London. In 2019, she medaled again by finishing second at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar. With a 9:08 season opener—13 seconds ahead of the second-fastest American so far this season—Coburn is on track to win her ninth national title and medal again in Tokyo.

Men: Hillary Bor

The men’s steeplechase will look different with the absence of Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager, but the U.S. still has a strong medal contender in Hillary Bor. The 2016 Olympic finalist leads the field with a qualifying time of 8:09 and recently became the third American ever to win a Diamond League steeplechase. On May 23, Bor came out on top despite cold, rainy conditions in Gateshead, United Kingdom, to win in 8:30.

5,000 meters

Women: Karissa Schweizer

In 2019, Karissa Schweizer finished ninth in the 5,000-meter final at the IAAF World World Championships in Doha, Qatar, with a then-personal best of 14:45. In the almost two years since that breakthrough, Schweizer has developed into a serious Olympic medal contender. At a COVID-adjusted meet in July 2020, the Bowerman Track Club runner ran 14:26, which cut 19 seconds off her personal best and dipped below the previous American record.

Men: Paul Chelimo

Since earning a silver medal behind Olympic champion Mo Farah at the Rio Olympics, Paul Chelimo has been a mainstay on the international stage for Team USA. In 2017, he took home bronze in the 5,000 meters at the IAAF World Championships in London. At the following world championships in Doha, Qatar, Chelimo finished seventh overall. His recent runner-up finish (7:41) to world record-holder Joshua Cheptegei at the Golden Spike meet shows he’s in great shape heading into the Trials.

10,000 meters

Women: Emily Sisson

This season, Emily Sisson has been on a roll in the women’s 5,000 meters. In all three races she’s contested on the track, Sisson has clocked times under the 15-minute barrier, including a personal best of 14:53 at the Track Meet in May. On March 20, she set another personal best by winning the Gate River Run 15K in 48:09. After recording two top-10 finishes in the 10,000 meters at the last two IAAF World Championships, Sisson appears ready to make her first Olympic team this year.

Men: Grant Fisher

Grant Fisher may be one of the youngest athletes on our list, but his breakthrough performances this year suggest he’s ready to make his first Olympic team. In February, the Bowerman Track Club runner finished his 10,000-meter debut in 27:11, which put him at No. 5 on the U.S. all-time list. The time is No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 11 in the world so far this season. He also clocked a 5,000-meter personal best of 13:02 in March.

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