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Ten Americans to Watch This Outdoor Track and Field Season

Published by
Scott Bush   on Mar 12 2013, 10:35 PM

As the indoor track and field season wrapped up this past weekend at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, it’s time to shift focus to the outdoor season.

We’ve listed out ten American track and field athletes to watch this season, each having a storyline worth following. Some are coming back from injury, some are rising stars and some had phenomenal Olympic performances that track and field fans are hopeful they can build upon.

1. Tyson Gay – According to an AP article in late February, Gay is training healthy and eyeing a huge 2013 outdoor campaign. Performing at less than 100% the past few seasons, fans have been anticipating a fully healthy Gay and the hype around his return should start to build as the outdoor season gets underway.

While Gay will ease back in to competition, hope that he’ll start to challenge his 9.69 100m American record sooner rather than later is already being discussed. While American sprint stars Justin Gatlin and Ryan Bailey certainly have the talent to break up the dominating Jamaican sprint duo of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, Gay is the sprinter most fans want to see challenge the supremacy of the Jamaican training partners.

2. Aries Merritt – After a 2012 season which saw the former University of Tennessee star not only win Olympic gold, but set the 110m hurdle world record, the new Nike athlete seems poised for even greater performances in 2013. Last summer in Brussels, Merritt broke the world record in 12.80, shocking himself and fans across the track and field world.

With an increase in confidence and new sponsor support, Merritt will have plenty of opportunities to push his record to new heights, while receiving high-level competition from American counterparts Jason Richardson, David Oliver and Jeff Porter, along with China’s Xiang Liu and Dayron Robles.

3. Galen Rupp – Silver is good, gold is great. At least that seems to be the motto for Rupp this season. Running one of the strongest indoor campaigns in U.S. history, which saw the Portland-based standout run an American indoor 3,000m record of 7:30.16 in Stockholm and a 3:50.92 mile effort at the Terrier Classic, Rupp is running faster than ever.

With a couple more months of hard training ahead of him before he hits the track for his outdoor season, Rupp seems poised to not only challenge his American 10k record of 26:48.00 from 2011 and Bernard Lagat’s American 5k record of 12:53.60, but also challenge for World Championship gold in at least the 10k. This is the year for Rupp to prove he’s the best runner in the world and so far he’s off to a great start.

4. Georganne Moline – Few athletes had a more impressive 2012 track season than Moline. The University of Arizona standout finished a disappointing eighth in the 400m hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, only to bounce back and place second at the Olympic Trials, qualifying for the London Olympics.

Moline not only made the 400m hurdle finals in London, but placed fifth in a new personal best of 53.92. All of this in her junior year in college! Moline lowered her 400m personal best this indoor season with a 52.09 fifth place effort at the NCAA Indoor T&F Championships and seems poised to run through the competition in her primary event this outdoor season, proving that 2012 was no fluke.

5. Jenn Suhr – After nearly three years of injuries and illness, Suhr is healthy and proving once again why she can be considered the top vaulter in the world. At the London Olympics, Suhr took home the gold, establishing herself already as an athlete to watch in 2013.

The New York-native then set the track and field world on fire with her indoor world record performance at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships, where she broke rival Yelena Isinbayeva’s record of 16-5.25 with a mark of 16-5.5. With soaring confidence and a healthy body, Suhr seems ready to challenge Isinbayeva’s outdoor world record of 16-7.25. She might not reach it this year, but don’t be surprised if she takes home another gold at the World Championships in Moscow.

6. Abbey D’Agostino – Last summer at the Olympic Trials, D’Agostino placed a nail-biting fourth in the 5,000m final, narrowly missing an Olympic berth in what was arguably the best race of the Trials. Such a performance took D’Agostino to a whole new level of performance, and while her training was on track to bring home a NCAA cross country title this past fall, an injury kept her from accomplishing that goal.

Fast forward to the 2013 indoor season. It’s rare for a NCAA athlete to win both the 5,000m and 3,000m events, but that’s just what D’Agostino did at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, winning both races by 6+ seconds and proving her superiority at the collegiate level. While she’ll certainly be challenged in the 5k and 10k events during the outdoor collegiate season, her toughest test will undoubtedly come at the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where she can test herself against the best American pros.

7. Ashton Eaton – Good as gold. That seemed to be Eaton’s tagline in 2012. After setting a world record of 9039 points in the decathlon at the Olympic Trials, Eaton came back strong to win the Olympics in dominating form. One of the most marketable athletes in the sport, Eaton looks to take another jump forward and push his world record even further. Could a 9100 or 9150 point total be in store for the Eugene-based athlete?

Eaton will face plenty of competition this spring and summer, mostly from U.S. teammate Trey Hardee. Hardee placed second behind Eaton at the Olympics and you can bet he’s eyeing to unseat Eaton as the greatest athlete in the world. For now though, Eaton is king.

8. Lopez Lomong – Getting overshadowed a bit during the indoor season by fellow American Galen Rupp, Lomong had one of the strongest indoor campaigns by an American distance runner ever. First and foremost, Lomong broke the American indoor 5,000m record with his 13:07.00.

Two weeks earlier, Lomong ran the second fastest U.S. time of the indoor season with his 3:51.21 win at the Millrose Games, beating Olympic 1,500m fourth place finisher Matt Centrowitz. To top it off, Lomong won a 800m race at the University of Washington earlier in the season with a 1:46.53 effort. Those three performances, along with a rededication to his training, is setting Lomong on a path for what could be a very memorable 2013 season.

9. Dawn Harper – After a runner-up finish in London, where she ran a new personal best of 12.37 in the 100m hurdles, Harper is looking to challenge for World Championship gold in Moscow. Since winning the Olympic gold in 2008, Harper has shown time and again that she’s the top women’s hurdler in the U.S.

On top of winning gold in 2013, Harper has to be dreaming of taking down Gail Devers’ American record of 12.33 from 2000. Will she do it? She’ll have plenty of competition to push her to the mark, but only time will tell. The storyline offers quite the intrigue though.

10.  Emma Coburn & Evan Jager – There hasn’t been so much excitement surrounding the steeplechase from an American perspective since…well, forever. Coburn and Jager are two of the brightest stars in U.S. distance running and both seem poised to challenge for bigger and better things in the steeplechase this spring and summer.

Jager had a very strong 2013 indoor campaign, running 13:33 for 5,000m, 8:14  for two miles and 3:56 for the mile. Meanwhile, despite racing a whole three times indoors, Coburn won the NCAA mile crown in 4:29.91, showing that she’s evolving into a multi-event standout. Jager broke the American record in the steeplechase last summer, running 8:06.81, then following that up with a fifth place finish at the Olympic Games. Another season of slight improvement puts Jager right in the heart of medal contention.

Meanwhile, Coburn should be eyeing training partner Jenny Simpson’s American steeplechase record. Coburn’s PR of 9:23.54 is still 11 seconds off Simpson’s 9:12.50 record, but Coburn is showing she’s ready for a huge season ahead. 

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Who are the top Americans to look out for on the track this outdoor season? Scott Bush takes a look!
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