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I’ve been following Track & Field quite closely this year and I must say that team USA is set for a really impressive showing. There have been freakish performances from collegiate athletes, freakish performances from pros, freakish performances from high schoolers. In the men’s field, this level of depth is unprecedented. There are so many different storylines and there have been moments this year where T&F announcers haven’t fully understood the significance of what they’ve witnessed.

I have so much respect for runners and though my commentary may get colorful or a bit too personal at times, I really just want to convey my level of excitement for the trials. We can only send three men for each event, so I’ve done all I can to build my case for each athlete. In some events, the US trials will be–legitimately–more competitive than the Olympic final. The men who make it through will be expected to medal.

View the 2021 Olympic Track Trials Entries here

100M

1. Trayvon Bromell
2. Fred Kerley
3. Noah Lyles

Bromell has dominated so far this season with a shocking return to form. He is likely the all-around best 100m man in the world this year with flawless technique and one perfect performance after another. In the post-Bolt era, 100m fandom is pretty weird. Regardless of who you want to win this race, the US needs a healthy Bromell at the Olympics to help secure 4x100m gold. Nobody is rooting against him.

Marvin Bracey, god bless him, is credited with a 9.85 from Miramar. My belief is that there was something wrong with the clock, track, or wind reading at this event. This performance makes no sense to me and so I doubt he’ll even make the final at the trials and a 4th-5th place Gatlin would be more likely to make the relay team than most.

Kerley flipped the script this season and nobody knows what to make of it. He went from a world-class 400m runner to a world-class 100m runner. 9.91 is not a joke. He scratched the 400m a few days ago. I’ve been watching Kerley run for years. Even when he was in the NCAA, it always struck me how painful his 400m training must be seeing as he’s huge (over 200lb) with striking muscle definition.

Kerley’s plan makes sense considering the NCAA results from this past weekend. There are no collegiate runners who have a shot at making the 100m team. In fact, the field is thin behind Bromell. If you make it to the Olympics and run 9.8[5-9] for 2nd or 3rd, you’re going to make more money in endorsements than if you fail to place or even make it to the Olympic final in the 400m and run the 3rd leg for the 4x400m to gold (which would be highly likely for Kerley). There are three NCAA studs with a real shot at making the 400m team and the trials are going to be a bloodbath.

The third spot is up for debate. How is Gatlin still running this fast? Lyles has been slightly disappointing this year, but he’d have to be my third pick. Micah Williams has the best start I’ve ever seen which can definitely destabilize and distract runners near him but it’s not clear how he can get into the 9.9s. I really like Cravon Gillespie or Gatlin for the relay team.

200m

1. Laird (LSU)
2. Lyles
3. Norman

The depth here is unbelievable. The United States has a shot at sweeping the Olympic podium in the 200m. You really just have Nigeria’s Oduduru and a restored Andre De Grasse in the conversation at this point. If the US sent a team of 5 to the Olympics, you’d end up with 5 men in the final barring catastrophe. We’ve got pros, high schoolers, NCAA studs, and a huge question mark next to a man named Joseph Fahnbulleh. It’s likely we’ll see fresh world leads come out of the heats or finals of this event. This final will be more competitive than the Olympic final, likely the most competitive 200m race of all time.

For the demigods down at LSU, it has been unclear how much of an advantage it is to basically train like a pro while in college while having to worry about little else. Case in point, Sha’Carri kicked ass in 2019 but then didn’t do so well at the trials. I don’t think it was a matter of burning out, but rather that LSU hasn’t optimized sending people to major meets over the summer. Makes sense, but LSU has some men now gunning for spots on the Olympic team, and everyone is wondering how they’ll hold up.

The main question is, were the weather-based concerns surrounding Laird valid? They wouldn’t stop talking about the weather in Eugene last weekend. People were unimpressed by his 200m second-place finish, but most don’t realize that this came shortly after an excellent 100m performance and 4x100m win. If Laird can run 19.8-lows as effortlessly as he did earlier this season, he upsets Lyles and takes Olympic gold. He walks through the trials and makes the team.

Noah Lyles hype cooled a bit this year. Laird and Knighton both showcased the ideal lightweight/high cadence 200m prototype. In comparison, Lyles can look a bit chunky and hasn’t moved as well since he dipped into the 19 mids. On the other side of the spectrum, you have “freight train” Fahnbulleh who may have the fastest top-end speed (9.47 rolling 100m) in the world right now. It is rumored he is considering competing for Liberia in these Olympics. (Note: a previous version of this article listed Fahnbulleh as being 23 years old–that has been corrected. I believe he was born in September 2001)

If I’m Fahnbulleh, I throw caution to the wind this summer and compete in the 100m/200m for Liberia. It’s not worth depriving another US phenom of a spot when you need 150m of runway before you’re even in the camera frame. Work on your start and stay healthy and you’re an Olympic medalist.

Michael Norman is really consistent. If he hasn’t scratched to focus on the 400m, I would never bet against him. Kerley obviously has the top-end speed and his season’s performance doesn’t reflect his potential. He can go 19.9 and that’s probably what it’ll take to grab the third spot.

The rest of the college studs are probably a bit over-raced at this point. Could I see Boling, Lance Lang, or Micaiah Harris grabbing a spot? Yeah. I realize that pro Kenny Bednarek deserves some respect here, but I’m not convinced that his performances weren’t a bit fluky. We’ll see what this dominant curve runner brings to the trials, perhaps he will be rewarded with a relay spot.

400m

1. Michael Norman
2. Randolph Ross (NC A&T)
3. Noah Williams (LSU)

Fred Kerley, arguably one of the most intimidating runners in modern Track and Field, is scared of this event. He ran the #8 performance of all time and never really seemed to attempt a body transformation to get closer to a Mike Norman weight class. He still has a ton of potential in the event, and I think a well-coached Kerley would be a world record threat. However, this field is so deep that I’m sure it contributed to Kerley focusing on the 100m/200m.

Everyone is talking about Randolph Ross. The last 50m of his NCAA championship race was a masterclass in mature 400m running. It wasn’t a fluke or a sudden shot of adrenaline, either. So incredibly steady and even. He has been running dominant 400m relay legs for months, really in a class of his own. What surprised people the most is that he ran 43.85 absolutely crushing the other 3 guys from the NCAA who were in contention. It’s not unusual for the top college guys to be among the best in the world, but you’ve got SIX (!) under 45 seconds.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Norman qualifies. I’ll even say he qualifies as the top performance. He ran a little slow this year, but he wasn’t even tired when he finished. Immediately upon finishing he knew he had run one segment of the track a little slower than he was supposed to. He’s a professional and you can expect a higher degree of precision and consistency.

There’s a 100% chance that Randolph Ross makes this final and is an easy selection for the relay squad. For him, teammate Trevor Stewart, LSU’s Noah Williams, Texas A&M’s Bryce Deadmon, and Georgia’s Godwin, it’s highly likely that they beat up on whatever pros show up to the preliminary rounds. Making the team is different. It’s going to come down to what they do between 150m and 250m and then between 350m and the finish. Godwin is an absolute maniac, going out in 20-high before tying up with 30m to go in every race. If Godwin adjusts his strategy and stops doing that, he can probably take another .2-.3 off his time this season. The rest don’t have as much obvious room for improvement, and it’ll be a dogfight to the end. I pick a fresh Noah Williams as the 3rd selection.

800m

1. Bryce Hoppel
2. Isaiah Jewett
3. Donovan Brazier

Track fans haven’t been particularly keen on Donovan Brazier’s performances this year. I think that’s ridiculous!!!! Donovan Brazier is incredibly fast. How many times has he run during the outdoor season? Everyone wanted him to run one second faster and hit a 1:44 low. Okay, I get it. Now, what about when he comes to the trials and runs 1:44 low to make the team and then blasts a PR at the Olympics for a medal?

All the monsters sitting on the top of the world rankings are scared of Brazier. They’re also scared of Bryce Hoppel, who has had an enviable early professional career in one of the most difficult men’s events. He’s had a solid progression but it’s extremely likely that it will take a furious kick to make the US team, and then a PR to win a medal in Tokyo. Thankfully, Hoppel is always good for a genius tactical race and a fast kick.

I watched Jewett’s run last weekend and the man is just a winner. Think about how many past US phenoms lost out on Olympic spots because they were scared to front run. This kid isn’t scared to front run. Why the hell not? Nothing to lose for him, and I expect him to run confidently and upset some pros who are still shaking the rust off.

1500m

1. Centro
2. Hocker (Oregon)
3. Brazier

The United States has surprising depth in this event and the roster features some cunning tacticians. Pros are in good form, Centro looks sharp, Donovan Brazier is dabbling, a high school senior named Hobbs Kessler ran a 3:34, and you’ve got 5 or 6 excellent NCAA guys. You also have incredible depth in other countries, such as Australia, to say nothing of the hoards of other “random” runners who grind out the Diamond League year after year.

Unlike some other events, the US does not “specialize” in the 1500m on the global scene. Only a few Americans are in the top 50, and mostly toward the back of the pack. There is no way to predict how these men will fare between the first round and the Olympic final. Mainly, we want to bet on whoever can close with the craziest last 400m.

The problem with relying on conventional 1500m championship knowledge is that, in a year loaded with talent, the top dogs might prefer to attempt 3:29-3:31 in the final. At that pace, some Americans might try to hang, but most will find themselves outclassed. For the record, a 3:29.7 1500m is a 3:46.5 full mile. So the Americans might hang back especially over the first 400m hoping for a tactical race just to find themselves 2.5 seconds away from Timothy Cheriyuot by 800m.

I’m going to go with an unconventional pick here because this final is going to be brutal. Some big names are going to get sent home before the US finals. I think Centro, the defending Olympic champion, is the right guy for the job. There will be a target on his back but there’s a pretty good chance someone intentionally trips him at the Olympics and he’ll coast into the Olympic final. Hocker can close faster than Centro but we’re not sure if he has the wheels to keep up with professionals. For third, why not Brazier? He can probably outkick anybody and has more extremely fast 800m experience than nearly anyone he’ll face.

5000m

1. Grant Fischer
2. Cooper Teare
3. Eric Jenkins

Grant Fischer commits to the double and runs a dominant 5k. Cooper Teare runs a PR and pulls off a magnificent second-place finish. I like Eric Jenkins. I think he beats out a tired Klecker and a tired Kincaid for the 3rd spot.

This is an event where I’d have more faith in the American contingent than the 10k. As Justyn Knight (Canadian) recently proved, sometimes all it takes is being in the right race at the right time. If the 12:50 range earns a medal, meh. If the 13:05 range wins it, an American can take gold. Anything slower than that will more strongly favor Americans who historically have a faster “last gear.”

10000m

1. Woody Kincaid
2. Grant Fischer
3. Joe Klecker

This final will be the first that any of the men’s distance runners compete in. Everyone will be fresh. This is Grant Fischer’s year, but I think he’ll fade knowing he has a spot and wanting to attempt to pull off the 5k/10k double. Klecker will PR to make the team while Ben True and others will go home devastated.

What happens at the Olympics? East Africans will dominate. The Kenyan trials are occurring this week, so we’ll probably see 4-5 ridiculous sub 27 performances as we saw with the Ethiopians last week. We need three Americans with sub-27 potential who have the heart to hang on to the ridiculous pace and try to kick for bronze. It can happen.

110m Hurdles

1. Grant Holloway
2. No strong opinion
3. No opinion whatsoever

Watching this final at NCAAs, the race was a complete mess. The hurdles were getting clipped and knocked over very aggressively. Grant Holloway is an easy pick here and he’ll likely bring home an Olympic medal. I also like McConico.


400m Hurdles

1. Rai Benjamin
2. Squirrel (LSU)
3. Trevor Bassitt

Does any man from the United States have a shot at beating a full-strength Karsten Warholm? Not really. This will be a contest for silver and bronze.

Rai Benjamin is very consistent and he’s the only man in the world who deserves to be in the same conversation as Warholm. In second place we have SQUIRREL, BABY!!! Sean Burrell is a ridiculous, almost comical performer under pressure. A 20.X 200m runner since he was like 16 years old, LSU moved him to the 400m hurdles this season presumably since they’re too deep in the flat 400m. He had run shorter hurdle races in high school, but his progression this year suggests he is a generational talent. He improved with each and every race before taking the NCAA title with a world #4 performance.

The crazy thing about this is that if Squirrel can somehow continue on his trajectory of improvement, he actually will take down Warholm and win Olympic gold. If he makes the Olympic final, oh my god. The #3 spot is a toss-up here, but I’ve watched Bassitt race and liked his whole attitude.

My Picks for the 2021 Men’s Olympic Track Trials
  • DMV Bay

    How could Fahnbulleh be 23 years old if he graduated high school (Hopkins HS) in 2019??? Are you telling me he was 21 when he graduated HS in 2019??? Come on.

    • Careless research on my end. For some reason, there are a bunch of those spammy celebrity sites that list him as being 23. Didn’t really make sense to me either. I now believe his birthday is in September 2001, making him 19.5, a totally normal age. Correcting the article now.

      • DMV Bay

        Much respect in you validating your research and letting me know what happened. Yeah, Fanbulleh has indeed entered the history books as a handful of teens who has actually run the 200m under 20 seconds.

  • DMV Bay

    Also, you may want to consider Isiah Young for the 100 m. He has soundly beaten Lyles in the 100m a couple of times this year and has run quite often and quite well. Lyles hasn’t shown he can regain the form he had recently but hey, you never know. The Trials may bring out the best in people.

  • Day one has concluded. I don’t want to edit the above post and have people think that I changed my picks to better fit results, so I’ll just provide little updates in the comments until I post a full recap.

    In the men’s 10k, I picked the 1-2-3 finishers correctly and inferred that Ben True would get 4th. A friend texted me asking why I didn’t even talk about Rupp, and the answer is that when I wrote this I didn’t know Rupp was in the race.

    The 10k was a logical showdown. The way that Fisher (there’s not a ‘c’ in his name?) and Kincaid looked with 1200m to go, I was confident that my finishing scenario would be realized. Replaying the last 100m, Grant used a lot more gas than he had to, but also Kincaid kicked more dominantly than I expected. Klecker had a clean race, tough break for Ben True and Mantz.

    In the 400m 1st round, NC A&T duo advanced easily. It was disrespectful for me to not even consider Michael Cherry. Godwin stole the show for me. He still ran like a madman but he ran blind and nearly equalled his personal best. I’m going to stick with my NCAA bias, very good chance that two guys advance.

  • Day two has ended. SCR is going to be the main story with the wild revelation in the post-race interview that her biological mother died just prior to the trials. Her obnoxiousness and pure anger was off the charts after all three of her races, but she delivered and now maybe we can “point” to an emotional trigger. Good job SCR, see you in Tokyo.

    800m: Jewett is such a stud. He front ran again today and posted another intimidating time. Jonah Koech will be regretting his extremely aggressive (in other words, amateurish) waterfall cut-in for a long time, as he’s just missed the final. Brannon Kidder is a guy who I didn’t have much intel on, excellent racing sir! Michael Rhoads will fly home devastated but he has a lot to be proud of, solid performances all season and a great frame for running the half mile. I wonder if he has the option to go pro or if he’s required to serve his two years as an enlisted officer or whatever immediately? Looking forward to seeing what’s next for him.

    400m: Cherry, way too strong almost equalling his PR, big oversight on my part. Norman chills. Both NC A&T guys to the final, are you kidding me? And my boy Godwin, over Noah Williams, I did not predict that. Now that he’s in the final, I guess the only option is to go out in 20.9 and see what happens. Godwin is moving mountains out there, seasoned runners are altering their races because his first 200m is so strong and it throws people off.

    W1500m: Really entertaining, I just have no idea what they accomplished by having a first round. Kind of sucks that the three runners who just got cut were the BYU girls and the full-time lawyer. BYU’s female talent development is just phenomenal and getting Anna Camp or Whittni Orton into the final would have been a feather in the cap.

    100m: Kerley… might have his 200m spot locked down with that impressive speed. Gatlin is just baffling at this point and my respect for him is growing. Micah Williams impressed the announcers but didn’t impress me, as he’s still at 10.00 no wind guy. That’s not going to be fast enough. Jaylen Slade, I feel so bad for him. He was on pace to advance before taking one of the most absurd spills I’ve ever seen in the sprints. Actually to the point that I’d want to analyze the hell out of that lane and see if there was anything that obstructed him, even a little pebble. As predicted, no college guys aside from Micah advanced, thank you for your service.

  • Day three has ended.

    100m team, you’ve got to be kidding me. Kerley dominates and doesn’t use his platform to talk about god. With this type of consistency and top-end speed he’s going to scare the shit out of the field in the 200m and will walk into the final. No pressure now. Gatlin: too good to be true, I did not notice that he was grasping his hammy after the semi-final. Hope he’s okay. Awful start for Lyles, now a ton of pressure on him in the 200m. No chance of getting a relay spot, chance he goes home devastated. Baker, not a guy I picked. Congratulations.

    Micah Williams showed his stuff, 9.91 for the PB. Not enough to make the team but exceeded my expectations.

    400m: This was an incredible race. Randolph Ross showed he was the real deal and it looks like there’s a shot that his teammate Trevor Stewart gets picked for the relay squad, having come in 4th place. Are you kidding me? Godwin tied up something awful, nothing to be ashamed of, he exceeded everyone’s expectations. Norman looked pretty good but, man, the fixation on his mom being Japanese is annoying. Meanwhile they’re calling Randolph Ross “Randall” half the time. Huh? Give Norman credit but the story here was Randolph Ross. Michael Cherry looks smooth as hell. Easy 4x400m gold from these guys.

    W3000m Steeple: Really impressive race from Courtney Wayment. The other Courtney had an awful fall and still powered home to win her heat. Mahala Norris is such an unexpectedly beastly runner. They should be doing studies on her. Her launch off the last water jump was unbelievable, legitimately looked like a gymnast.

    W400m: Decent race, there is so much Allyson Felix hype that when she fell behind in the race the announcers were struggling to call the race.

  • Day 4: Isaiah Jewett singlehandedly destroys defending champ Brazier in the 800m. Jewett gapped the field from the gun, going through 400m in 50.6. Brazier got nervous at 350m and tried to surge into Jewett’s slipstream, not realizing just how absurd the pace was.

    The frontrunners make an honest effort between 400 and 500m to reel Jewett in. Jewett decides to throw in another surge as he comes off that turn. His pace through 600m is just off the world record pace. Clayton Murphy moves confidently with 250m to go, pummels Hoppel, and passes a surprisingly-not-dead Jewett to win the race. Murphy silences the haters. Jewett makes the NBC commentators look like idiots. Brazier… DFL. I only had him 3rd because I suspected something was up this year but wow.

  • Day 7: Squirrel fell in the 400mh. He looked set to rock the last 100m of the race. Not a big deal since we have the World Championships next summer but I was really pulling for him. Bassitt did advance on time, Rai Benjamin looked okay.

    M5000m heats: no surprises. Really happy that both Mantz and Clinger advanced. Noticed a boxed-in Mantz clearly uttering a “let me out I’m going to push it” early in the race. Plenty of college kids advanced including Nico Young and Cooper Teare. Garrett Heath in heat 1 had a surprising sprint finish for a 35-year-old which ended up not being particularly relevant since Herrera advanced on time anyway.

    200mw heats: SCR and TT Terry scratched. The Allyson Felix favoritism is just absurd at this point. The story here was Jessica Prandini who shut down and started glancing around the last 30 meters yet set a PR while winning her heat. Cambria Sturgess also looked great and was unfairly criticized by the announcers for running too fast. If you have the legs, go for a better lane draw.

    W3000ms: Courtney Wayment, wow, great season. Does 4th place earn her an alternate spot? I don’t know how it works but this underscores Diljeet Taylor’s insanely successful season as a BYU coach. Turning the most talented kids in the state of Utah into national-class and world-class athletes. Meanwhile, Coburn apparently had a masterful strategy which involved hesitating at the gun and bee-lining for the back of the pack. Still dominated with a ridiculous last mile. Second place, I forget her name, used her platform to dedicate her race to a doper, lol. Leah Falland had a heartbreaking fall. There were a lot of blown races yesterday but I really felt that fall, our sport can be really cruel.

    W800m heats: It was nice to see Angel Piccirillo (same graduating class as me in PA) still running. Obviously something went wrong for her in the heat. Athing Mu is dominant and I’m so happy that she got an interview, so well-spoken and a great ambassador of the sport.

  • Day 8:

    w200m: Prandini and Gabby Thomas look incredible. I agree with the announcers for once, tomorrow is a race for third.

    m200m: Erriyon Knighton dominated. Appears to be for real, for real. Both Lyles brothers looked pretty good. Kerley, my man, awful start but ridiculous finish, only made it on time. Booker looked really nice with that PB, Boling was laboring but made the cut, Laird looked like Laird. Jaylen Slade had a bad day, things didn’t go well for him in the trials.

    w400mH: Dalilah and Sydney both dominated. Cockrell looked okay, likely holding back. Looks like we’re set to go 1-2 at the Olympics. Do we see a WR in the finals of the trials?

    1500m semis: I don’t think Hobbs Kessler has anything to be ashamed of. Just got dropped in a tactical race, he would have had to run a 50 or 51 to be a factor, which I’d imagine he came close to, but not quite. My Centro-Hocker pick looks like it’s going to hold up. Realizing the Brazier prediction for 3rd was brazen. Also, Eric Holt has the most annoying form that I think I’ve ever seen.

    M3000ms: I forgot to make picks. Good for Ferlic, McGorty didn’t seem confident today.

    M400mH semis: Bassitt does advance on time, Rai Benjamin makes it look early. I wish Squirrel got to keep racing on some type of technicality.

    W800m semis: Sage Hurta with a devastating fall. There’s a shot that she can protest that and advance, if she’s not hurt. Athing Mu is now the clear Olympic favorite, hopefully a random doper doesn’t creep up. The US has a really nice sub 2 crew in the semis, I want to see someone drop a bomb in the finals.