Track and Field State of the Union

By: Callin Naddy

It’s already been three weeks since the USATF Olympic Team Trials concluded. And while the select athlete is preparing to take centerstage in Tokyo starting July 30, that isn’t to say the landscape of US track and field hasn’t changed since the Trials.

In fact, there has been quite a few shockwaves these past weeks.

The Summer of Kate Grace

Cory McGee said it best: It really has been the summer of Kate Grace. Days after recording a disappointing seventh place finish in the women’s 800 final in Eugene, the 2016 Olympian jetted over to Europe for Diamond League races. There, she finished first, third, third, and first across three 800s and a mile. Grace PRed three times to drop down to 1:57.20 and the seventh fastest all-time US woman.

Erratic Men’s 800 Results

The Diamond League 800s also provided intrigue on the men’s side. And not in a good way. 2021 Olympian and 1:43:17 Trials winner Clayton Murphy has raced thrice in Europe. Fellow Olympian Bryce Hoppel has raced twice. Neither has been particularly impressive, with Murphy’s fastest result a 1:44.41 seventh place in Monaco and Hoppel recording a 1:45.45 at Gateshead. In fact, Trials fourth placer Isaiah Harris beat both men in Gateshead with his 1:44.76. This isn’t to say that Tokyo is looking down for Murphy and Hoppel—there is a lot that can happen between now and Tokyo. But US mid-distance fans have to be a bit concerned about the results put on the board during the European circuit.

Bans Alter US Teams

By now, everyone knows about Shelby Houlihan’s infamous Burritogate. One of the Trials’ favorites (along with Elle Purrier St. Pierre), her absence assumingly opened up a spot in the 1500 field, allowing Cory McGee and Heather MacLean to join Purrier St. Pierre in Tokyo.

Not long after Houlihan’s ban, the world was re-introduced to suspensions when Sha’Carri Richardson accepted a month-long ban for a positive in-competition THC test result. The news sparked an outcry against “outdated marijuana laws,” but WADA rules reigned supreme. Jenna Prandini replaces her in the open 100 and Trials 

A third US athlete—Trials winner Brianna Rollins McNeal—is also out of the Olympics. Rollins-McNeal’s five-year ban for “tampering within the results management process” was upheld by CAS early this month. The reigning Olympic champion has maintained that she has never taken performance enhancing drugs and that the reason for her missed test (and subsequent tampering violation) was an abortion (and misremembered date). Gabbi Cunningham advances to the vacated spot.