Meet The Members Of The U.S. Olympic Women’s Track & Field Team
by Karen Rosen
The women competing for Team USA in track and field at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 have experience and exuberance.
Veterans include Allyson Felix, who made her fifth straight Olympic team, and Brittney Reese and Kara Winger, who each made her fourth. Among the first-time Olympians are Gabby Thomas, Valarie Allman and Athing Mu, who have established themselves as medal contenders.
Sydney McLaughlin set her first world record at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field in the 400-meter hurdles while DeAnna Price improved on her own American record in the hammer. Each qualified for their second Olympic team and will be seeking their first medals.
Jenna Prandini, who made her second team and will compete individually in the 100 and 200, said of the talent in the sprints, “America’s loaded. I think we have an incredible team going to Tokyo. Obviously, there’s some other incredible talent all over the world. Team USA always represents at the Olympics and I think we’ll be ready to go.”
But Team USA is a medal threat in the middle distances and field events as well, with hopes of improving on the 16 medals won in Rio.
“The American women have been incredible across throwing events,” said Allman, who holds the American record in the discus. “I feel special to be part of such a strong group of women.”
In the distance events, Karissa Schweizer is only the fifth American woman to qualify in both the 5,000 and 10,000 for the same Olympic Games.
While the top four finishers in the 100 meters and 400 meters at the Trials are automatically members of the relay pool, Team USA has designated other athletes as well. Additional athletes already on the team could also run on relays.
Here’s a look at the female members of Team USA:
Teahna Daniels competing in the first round of the women's 200-meter dash at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials on June 24, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon.
Oliver placed second at the Trials in the 100 meter. Oliver, whose time was 10.99 seconds, said it was “surreal” to put together a full race. “All I knew is I was running as fast as I can,” she said. Oliver was the 2018 U.S. indoor 60-meter champion and competed at the world indoor championships. The 26-year-old native of Monroe, Georgia, competed for the University of North Carolina before transferring to the University of Kentucky. Oliver has sometimes struggled to stay injury-free after completing her indoor season, but her training regimen has kept her healthy in 2021. She is coached by Dennis Mitchell in Clermont, Florida, and this will be her first Olympic team. Her time of 10.96 in the heats at the trials makes her the fastest American woman competing in the 100. She is also a member of the 4 x 100-meter relay pool.
In 2019, Daniels went from fourth at the NCAA Championships in the 100-meter dash for the University of Texas in early June to surprise U.S. national champion in late July. She placed seventh at the 2019 world championships and won a bronze medal for Team USA on the 4 x 100-meter relay. Daniels, 24, of Orlando, trains in Dallas with the Bailey Bunch led by Tonja Buford-Bailey, a bronze medalist in 1996 in the 400-meter hurdles. Daniels made her first Olympic team by finishing third at the Olympic Trials with a time of 11.03 seconds and has a personal best of 10.99. She was third in the 60-meter dash at the 2018 U.S. indoor championships. Daniels is also a member of the 4 x 100-meter relay pool.
Jenna Prandini - 100 and 200 Meter
After placing third at the Olympic Trials in the 200 in 2016, Prandini, 28, did not advance from the semifinals at the Rio Games, leaving a “sour taste,” she said. Prandini, of Clovis, California, was fourth in the 100 meters at the Olympic Trials, which she called “kind of a bummer place, the worst spot you can be in.” However, she met the Olympic standard with a season best of 11.11 seconds. In the 200, Prandini lowered her personal best three straight times to finish second with a time of 21.89 seconds, which ranks No. 4 in the world for 2021. Prandini won the NCAA long jump in 2014 and the 100 meters in 2015 for the University of Oregon. She won the first of her two U.S. national titles in the 200 in 2015 and went on to win a silver medal on the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 2015 worlds. She is also a member of the 4 x 100-meter relay pool.
Thomas became the second-fastest woman in history when she clocked 21.61 seconds in the Olympic Trials final. Only Florence Griffith Joyner has run faster – and that was 33 years ago. After finishing fifth in the 100, Thomas, of Florence, Massachusetts, dropped her personal best on three consecutive days in the 200, each a world-leading time. At Harvard, where she majored in neurobiology with a secondary in global health and health policy, Thomas won the NCAA indoor title in the 200 in 2018 and was second outdoors. Born in Atlanta, Thomas, 24, trains in Austin, Texas, with the Bailey Bunch while pursuing her masters in public health, specifically epidemiology, at Texas. This Olympic team is her first major national team.
The 22-year-old placed third in the NCAA Championships for Ohio State, and within two weeks was back in the same stadium doing the same at the Olympic Trials. However, after going 22.42 seconds at the NCAAs, the Inkster, Michigan, native ran a personal best of 21.95 in the Trials to make her first Olympic team. She said before the meet her coach told her that she “belonged” on the national stage “and that I need to get myself together just so I can compete with this amazing field of women.” After she crossed the finish line, she dropped to her knees in shock and happiness.
Hayes moved from last in the 2016 Olympic Trials finals to first five years later. Capturing her second U.S. title – her first was in 2017 - Hayes clocked 49.78 seconds to defeat her idol, Allyson Felix, the winner of the 2016 Trials, and rank No. 6 on the 2021 world list. She has the fastest time among eligible Americans to run in the Olympic Games. Hayes, 29, of Hope Mills, North Carolina, won the NCAA Division II title in the 400 from 2013 to 2015, as well as the 200 in 2015, for Livingstone College. Hayes won the bronze medal at the 2016 world indoor championships and is a two-time gold medalist at indoor worlds on the 4 x 400-meter relay. She was a semifinalist at the 2017 worlds. Her son Demetrius will turn 3 in October. “I had to learn how to run all over again,” she said after his birth. She is a member of the 4 x 400-meter relay pool.
With just one medal in Tokyo, Felix, who qualified for her fifth straight Olympic team, will become the most decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history and will also tie Carl Lewis for most medals by a Team USA track and field athlete. But why stop there? Felix, 35, currently has nine medals – six gold and three silver. The Los Angeles native was only 18 when she won her first Olympic gold medal in 2004 in the 200 meters. She has won a record 17 medals at worlds, including 12 golds. At her fifth Olympic Trials, Felix was second in the 400 (50.02 seconds) and fourth in the 200, although the overlapping schedule would have made it impossible to run both events in Tokyo. She is a member of the relay pool and could run on the 4 x 400 and 4 x 400 mixed relays. Felix turned pro before college, but graduated from the University of Southern California. Her determined comeback after giving birth to daughter Camryn, 2 1/2, following a difficult delivery has been inspirational and she has also become an advocate for women’s issues. “I am proud of making it to this moment,” Felix said.
Jonathas, 23, of Worcester, Massachusetts, made her first Olympic team by finishing third at the Trials with a time of 50.03 seconds, but this will not be her first time on a major international stage. Jonathas just missed the podium at the 2019 world championships in the 400 meters, placing fourth. However, she did win a gold medal by running a leg on the 4 x 400-meter relay. That capped a tremendous year for Jonathas, who was born in Haiti and moved to the United States at age 11. She was homeless at 15, started running track at 16 and became a U.S. citizen at 17. Jonathas won nine individual NCAA Division III titles for UMass-Boston, then transferred to the University of South Carolina, where she won the NCAA Division I title in 2019 in the 400 meters. She is also a member of the 4 x 400-meter relay pool.
Athing Mu, Raevyn Rogers and Ajee' Wilson pose at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The 2018 Youth Olympics silver medalist in the 800, Mu won the Olympic Trials convincingly to make her first Olympic team. Mu, who turned 19 in early June and includes the pronunciation of her name (uh-thing moe) on her social media, clocked 1:56.07. That was a personal best, a meet record, the fastest time in the world this year and made her the second-fastest American of all time. Mu also lowered her American under-20 record. Mu’s parents emigrated from Sudan before she was born. The Trenton, New Jersey, native did not compete for her high school team, running for her club team instead. As a Texas A&M freshman, Mu won NCAA titles in the 400 and 4 x 400-meter relay before turning pro on the eve of the Trials and has the self-assurance to say she would represent Team USA in “multiple Olympic Games.” She has the fourth-fastest time in the world this year in the 400 (49.57 seconds), which makes her a relay candidate.
Is there any more towering pressure than having your likeness on an actual tower at the Hayward Field track where you will try to make your first Olympic team? Rogers, 25, who won five individual NCAA titles for the University of Oregon as well as the 2017 Bowerman Award, the most prestigious collegiate track and field honor, always seems to rise to the occasion in big meets. She ran a lifetime best of 1:57.66 to finish second at the Trials. Rogers was fifth at the IAAF world junior championships in 2018 and a year later was the surprise silver medalist at the world championships in Doha, The native of Houston, Texas, majored in fine arts and hopes to get her paintings into art galleries and museums. Her family wears “Raevyn’s Nest” T-shirts at meets.
While aiming to win her fourth straight national title, the American record holder surged from the pack to finish third and qualify for her second straight Olympic team with a time of 1:58.39. Wilson, 27, of Neptune, N.J., finished 12th at the Rio Olympics. Although she graduated from Temple University with a degree in kinesiology, Wilson did not compete collegiately. She has been on the international scene for a decade. Wilson was the 2011 world under-20 champ and then made her first senior worlds in 2013, placing fifth in Moscow. She has had a remarkable medal streak on the international stage, winning the silver medal at the 2016 world indoors, the bronze at the 2017 world outdoors, silver again at the 2018 world indoors and another bronze at the 2019 world outdoors.
Elle Purrier St. Pierre
With a personal best of 3:58.03, Purrier St. Pierre set an Olympic Trials record, breaking the mark of 3:58.92 set by Mary Slaney in 1988, despite early jostling that briefly forced her into the infield. She said she realized she “didn’t want to get pushed around,” so she pushed the pace instead. Her time ranks No. 6 on the 2021 world list. Purrier St. Pierre, the 2018 NCAA indoor mile champion for the University of New Hampshire, was 11th in the 5,000 meters at the 2019 world championships after placing third at the U.S. nationals. Known for being raised on a Vermont dairy farm, Purrier St. Pierre, 26, who lives in Berkshire, Vermont, made her first Olympic team after competing at the 2016 Olympic trials in the steeplechase. She said she and training partner Heather MacLean are going to get matching tattoos.
McGee has had a long and rocky road to her first Olympic team. The 29-year-old was eliminated in the heats of the 2012 Olympic Trials and the semifinals of the 2016 Trials. In 2019, McGee was devastated when she was disqualified in the first round at the U.S. nationals for passing on the inside and making contact with another athlete. Finally, McGee had a successful Olympic trials. She advanced through the rounds to run a personal best time of 4:00.67 and make her first national team since 2013, when she was eliminated in the heats at the World Championships. McGee, of Pass Christian, Mississippi, was second at the NCAA meet in the 1,500 for the University of Florida in 2013 and 2014. She previously lived in Greece and was inspired while watching the 2004 Olympic Games. “It wasn’t until 2020 that I felt like I was seeing the potential that I had inside of me,” she said.
Competing in her first Olympic Trials, MacLean, of Peabody, Massachusetts, ran a personal best time of 4:02.09 to snag the final berth on Team USA. It was almost not to be. The University of Massachusetts graduate, who was seventh at U.S. nationals in 2019, found herself one spot shy of the 12-woman final at the Trials following the semifinals. She protested and a video review revealed she had been bumped and tripped twice. MacLean was then granted a spot in the final, where she saw a gap and made her move to make her first Olympic team. “I got beat up in rounds,” she said. “I told myself, ‘No More Mrs. Nice Heather.’” McLean, 25, trains with Purrier St. Pierre and was in Purrier St. Pierre’s wedding. Her mantra is “This is my time.”
The 25-year-old from Niwot, Colorado, had not run a 5,000 all year until the Trials, and she said the break was an advantage given she knew she had the strength and speed and just had to put it all together. Cranny won the Trials 5,000 with a time of 15:27.81. She ran the last 400 meters in 63.72 seconds, a blistering pace especially given the 94-degree temperature. Her personal best is 14:48.02 from 2020. Cranny was a 12-time All-American for Stanford University where she majored in human biology. She was seventh in the 5,000 and ninth in the 1,500 at the 2019 U.S. nationals. At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Cranny made it only to the semifinals in the 5,000. Five years later, she not only won the 5,000, she was also fourth at the Trials in the 10,000 with a time of 31:35.22. Cranny’s boyfriend, Sean McGorty, was seventh in the men’s steeplechase.
Karissa Schweizer - 5,000 and 10,000 Meter
The 25-year-old from Urbandale, Iowa, is only the fifth American woman to qualify in both the 5,000 and 10,000 for the same Olympic Games. Schweizer is the American record for the indoor 3,000 meters and is a versatile runner from 800 to 10,000 meters. A six-time NCAA champion in cross country and track for the University of Missouri, Schweizer was in the lead in the 5,000 until she was overtaken by Cranny, her training partner, in the final 200 meters. Schweizer held on to place second with a time of 15:28.11. Five days later, she was second in the 10,000 meters (31:16.52). She was a finalist in the 5,000 meters a the 2019 worlds, but this is her first Olympic team. “I think the 5K is really my focus,” she said of the event she calls her favorite, “but I really want to run the 10K.”
The Georgetown graduate is a two-time North American Central American Championships winner - in 2015 at 1,500 meters and in 2018 at 5,000 meters. Schneider placed third in the 5,000 at the Olympic Trials with a time of 15:29.56 to make her first Olympic team. The native of Sanford, Maine, who will turn 30 on July 18, was fourth in the 5,000 at the 2019 nationals, and went on to compete at worlds, although she did not make the final. Mike Smith, the coach at Northern Arizona, is her coach as well as her fiancé and she said he was “acting all goofy and excited” during her race. Schneider, who lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona, was also fifth in the 10,000 at the Trials with a time of 31:42.92.
Keni Harrison in the women's 100-meter hurdles final at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials on June 20, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon.
One of the favorites to make Team USA in the marathon, Sisson was crushed when she had to drop out of the Olympic trials in February 2020 at the 22-mile mark. “That broke my heart,” she said. The 29-year-old regrouped and poured her efforts into the 10,000, saying she is “the fittest I’ve ever been.” With the race moved to morning because of unusually high temperatures, Sisson, a Chesterfield, Missouri, native who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, coolly took the lead after the first mile. She said leading from the front “doesn’t really spook me.” The former Providence College runner maintained her speed while lapping other competitors in the 85-degree heat. She finished with a Trials record of 31:03.82 seconds, eclipsing the mark set by Deena Kastor in 2004. Sisson was ninth in the 10,000 at the 2017 worlds and 10th at worlds in 2019.
The 23-year-old, who grew up in Amery, Wisconsin, and now trains in Boulder, Colorado, finished third with a time of 31:18.55 to make her first Olympic team. She ran shorter distances in college at the University of Wisconsin, where she won the 2019 NCAA indoor title in the 5,000 and was fourth in the NCAA cross country meet in 2018. Monson ran one 10,000 on the track in 2019, one in 2020 and one in 2021 – which was the race that put her on her first Olympic team. Running in brutal heat at Hayward Field despite moving the race to morning, Monson was “wobbly” in the final few laps according to Runner’s World, and collapsed and was sick after the medal ceremoy. She went to the hospital as a precaution, but her coach, three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, said she was OK. “She’s the toughest person, the quietest toughest person you could imagine,” he said. “I think she’s one of the next greats.”
Wearing beanies she had crocheted — including a red, white and blue one for the finish line — Tuliamuk won the Trials with a time of 2:27:23 on Feb. 29, 2020, the last major U.S. track and field event before the pandemic hit. She has won 10 USATF titles from 5K through the marathon. The 32-year-old Kenya native became a U.S. citizen in 2016 after competing for Wichita State University, where she was second in the NCAA 10,000 in 2012 and 2013. When the Olympics were postponed, Tuliamuk and her fiancé, Tim Gannon, seized the moment to start a family and baby Zoe was born in January. Tuliamuk, who has 31 brothers and sisters (her father had four wives) returned to action on July 4, where she was sixth in the Peachtree Road Race after a 23-hour journey from home in Flagstaff, Arizona. Zoe was at the finish line, but she slept through the whole race.
In her first marathon, Seidel ran 2:27:31, finishing in second place by 8 seconds, the closest margin of victory in women’s Olympic trials history. At 25, she was also the youngest American woman to make an Olympic marathon team since 1992. The native of Nashotah, Wisconsin, had qualified for the race based on her half-marathon time. She said she and her coach had a saying “No brain, no pain,” which helped her get through the race. Seidel, who will turn 27 on July 12, won four NCAA titles in a span of seven months for Notre Dame — cross country in 2015, then the 3,000 and 5,000 indoors and the 10,000 outdoors in 2016. Seidel has been open about her struggles with eating disorders and depression. She had stress fractures in college and underwent hip surgery about a year before the marathon trials. Seidel was sixth in the London Marathon in 2020.
In 2012, Kipyego represented her native Kenya at the London Olympic, winning the silver medal in the 10,000 meters to go along with the silver she won a year earlier at the world championships. Kipyego, 35, dominated at Texas Tech University, becoming the first woman to win three straight NCAA cross country titles and the first Kenyan woman to win a crown. She also six other NCAA individual titles from 3,000 meters to 10,000 meters, tying Suzy Favor of Wisconsin, while earning a nursing degree. In 2016, Kipyego was second at the New York City Marathon and became a U.S. citizen in January 2017. After giving birth to her daughter Emma in July 2017, her comeback was derailed by malaria and pneumonia. The Olympic Trials, where she was third with a time of 2:28:52 was only her third marathon. Her post-race indulgence is ice cream.
After the heartbreak of finishing sixth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, Harrison broke the world record two weeks later, clocking 12.20 seconds in a meet in London. However, she watched from home as Team USA swept the podium at the Rio Olympics. This time, Harrison, 28, would not be denied, winning with a season-best time of 12.47 seconds, which ranks No. 3 on the world list, for her fifth outdoor national title. “I tried not to put too much pressure on myself,” said Harrison, who is still looking to “fine tune” some things. The Clayton, North Carolina, native competed for Clemson University and the University of Kentucky, winning NCAA indoor and outdoor titles in 2015 for the Wildcats. She was also runner-up twice in the 400 hurdles. While competing for Team USA, Harrison had to wait for her breakthrough. She was disqualified in the semifinals at the 2015 worlds and got fourth at the 2017 worlds. Harrison finally made the world podium with gold in the 60 hurdles in 2018 and silver in the 100 hurdles in 2019.
The 31-year-old earned her first Olympic team in her third Olympic Trials while wearing earrings shaped like bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. Her husband Kyle, who won a gold medal in Rio on the 4 x 400-meter relay, and other athletes had nicknamed Clemons “Doritos” because of her broad shoulders and small waist. “I want to bring a medal home, too,” she said. Clemons clocked 12.53 seconds in the final — “doing the dive of my life” after running a lifetime best of 12.51 in her semifinal. The 11-time All-American and 2012 NCAA champion for Ohio State University graduated with a degree in criminology. She was fifth at the 2012 Trials and fourth in her semifinal at the Trials in 2016. After placing third at the 2017 nationals, the Waldorf, Maryland, native finished fifth at the 2017 worlds in London. Clemons took the silver at the 2018 world indoors in the 60 hurdles, then was second in the 100 hurdles at the 2018 nationals and eighth in 2019.
After finishing fourth at the Trials, Cunningham, 23, was in limbo waiting to see if Brianna McNeal, the reigning Olympic champion, would be eligible to compete in Tokyo. When McNeal lost her appeal, Cunningham advanced to take her spot. Cunningham’s time in the final was a personal best of 12.53 seconds, which was the same official time for Christina Clemons. Taken to thousandths of a second, however, Cunningham missed the podium by .005. “It’s bittersweet,” she said of the finish at the time, “but I gave it my all.” In the end, Cunningham made her first Olympic team after all. The Charlotte native was a two-time All-American for N.C. State and the 2020 national indoor champion in the 60-meter hurdles.
On the last night of the Olympic Trials, McLaughlin, 21, posted a stunning time of 51.90 seconds to make her second straight Olympic team, taking .26 off the previous world record. McLaughlin, of Dunellen, New Jersey, surged ahead at the ninth hurdle to beat Dalilah Muhammad, who had set the two previous world records with McLaughlin on her heels. “Great competition always pushes you,” McLaughlin said. She qualified for her first Olympic team when she was just 16, reaching the semifinals in Rio where she was the youngest Team USA track Olympian to compete since the 1970s. As a University of Kentucky freshman, McLaughlin was the NCAA 400-meter champion indoors and won the 400-meter hurdles outdoors before turning pro. She won the 2019 world silver medal in the 400 hurdles and also won a gold on the 4 x 400-meter relay, which makes her a candidate for relays in Tokyo. McLaughlin began working with coach Bob Kersee last year.
The reigning world and Olympic champion saw her world record fall to McLaughlin at the Trials, but was happy to make her second straight Olympic team after a rocky start to her season. Muhammad had to recover from injuries and a bout with Covid-19 earlier this year before running a time of 55.01 in her 2021 opener. She dropped that time to 52.42 seconds at the Trials, which is the fourth-fastest time in the world this year. Muhammad, whose winning time in Rio five years ago was 53.13, said she was thankful “those setbacks are behind me.” The 31-year-old from Queens, New York, was a 2007 world youth champion and competed for the University of Southern California, where she was a four-time All-American. Muhammad really hit her stride after college, winning four U.S. national titles. She won silver medals at the 2013 and 2017 world championships before securing the gold at the 2019 worlds. She also won a gold medal on the 4 x 400 meter relay in 2019, which makes her a candidate for Olympic relays.
Fresh off her impressive double at the NCAA Championships, in which she won the 100-meter hurdles and the 400-meter hurdles — defending her title in that event— the University of Southern California senior was fifth in the 100-meter hurdles final at the Trials. Running on the outside in Lane 9 in the 400 hurdles final, Cockrell was ecstatic after posting a personal best of 53.70 meters to make her first Olympic team. Cockrell, 23, of Charlotte, North Carolina, did not reach the final in the 2016 Trials and “bawled my eyes out,” she said. She promised her grandfather, who died soon after, that she would be back. Cockrell took time away from track and field during the pandemic, which helped her regain her passion and love for the sport.
Emma Coburn, Courtney Frerichs and Val Constien pose at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The former American record holder from Crested Butte, Colorado, shattered her own Olympic Trials record with a time of 9:09.41 - more than 8 seconds faster than her winning time in 2016 - to make her third straight Olympic team. In 2012, Coburn was the youngest Team USA runner at the London Games at age 21, finishing eighth. Coburn followed her 2016 Olympic bronze medal with a stunning victory at the 2017 world championships, with Courtney Frerichs second for the first 1-2 Team USA finish in history. Coburn earned the silver at the 2019 worlds. Now 30, Coburn is a nine-time national champ and has made every major national team since 2011 with the exception of 2013. She ran 9:08.22 in May to rank No. 5 on the 2021 world list. Coburn is a three-time NCAA champion for the University of Colorado, twice in the steeplechase and once in the indoor mile. At the Trials, Coburn revealed that her mother has been battling cancer and it meant “everything” for her to be there with her. She said of her rivalry with Courtney Frerichs that they “genuinely like each other. She wants to beat me and I want to beat her.”
Despite a shocking tumble in her first race at the Olympic Trials, Frerichs, the American record holder, recovered to win her heat. In the final, she was second with a time of 9:11.79 to make her second straight Olympic team and rank No. 8 on the 2021 world list. Frerichs placed 11th at the 2016 Olympics as a “naïve college kid stepping onto the international stage.” The 28-year-old from Nixa, Missouri, was the NCAA champion in 2016 for the University of New Mexico after being the runner-up a year earlier for the Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos. Frerichs has been the runner-up to Coburn five times at nationals or Trials, and also at worlds in London in 2017. However, she took possession of Coburn’s American record when she ran 9:00.85 in 2018. “I think we’re ready to show something in Tokyo,” Frerichs said.
The 25-year-old from Vail, Colorado, did not run any 3,000-meter steeplechase races in 2020 and then opened this season by winning a race with a lackluster time of 10:07.90. Seven weeks later, Constien had dropped her personal best to 9:25:53, which was nearly 20 seconds faster than she ran in college at the University of Colorado where she was the 2019 Pac-12 champion. At the Trials, Constien was in fourth place when Leah Falland, who was in third, had a devastating fall. “Unfortunately, Leah fell down at some point and I knew that was my shot,” said Constien, who lowered her lifetime best to 9:18.34 while earning a spot on her first Olympic team. Constien competed for Team USA at the world cross country championships in 2015 in the under-20 race.
The native of Las Vegas, Nevada, leaped 1.96 meters (6 feet, 5 inches) to become the first female high jumper whose name is not Chaunte (Lowe, nee Howard) to win at the U.S. Olympic Trials since 2004. Cunningham, who won a world title – the indoor high jump in 2016 – before winning a national crown, qualified for her second Olympic team with four first-attempt clearances. After Cunningham’s fourth straight national title was assured, she had three misses at 2.02 (6-7 ½), a height she cleared in May that is still No. 2 in the world. “I am really hoping to peak at the Olympics,” said Cunningham, who is coached by her father, former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, and won the Trials on Father’s Day. The 23-year-old, who is also passionate about fashion and photography, tied for 13th in Rio as an 18-year-old and promised to go into Tokyo “feeling more comfortable and confident.” She won the 2018 world indoors silver and the 2019 world outdoors bronze and jumped 2.0 meters indoors this season.
As one of only two athletes in the 12-woman final with the Olympic qualifying standard — and one of only three in the whole competition — McCoy knew her chances of making the team were good. She finished fourth with a jump of 1.93 meters (6-4), which was the same height jumped by Inika McPherson and Nicole Greene, who placed second and third based on fewer misses. However, neither had the Olympic qualifying standard of 1.96 (6-5), which McCoy cleared in May and which cleared her way onto Team USA. She was fourth in the 2014 world junior championships and tied for eighth in the 2016 Olympic Trials. McCoy, who will turn 25 on Aug. 1, is from Fontana, California, where she also starred in basketball in high school, and competed for Chaffey College, a junior college. After missing the 2018 and 2019 seasons, she returned to action in 2020 in the pentathlon.
Although she did not make the final at the Olympic Trials, Butts-Townsend qualified for Team USA based on her world ranking. The 31-year-old native of Alexandria, Virginia, is now Tokyo-bound along with her husband Roderick Townsend, who qualified for his second U.S. Paralympic team. He won gold medals in the high jump and the long jump in 2016. In 2019, they both qualified to compete in their respective world championships where Butts-Townsend placed eighth in Doha, garnering points which helped her make the Olympic team. Butts-Townsend was also a long jumper in college for East Carolina University where she was a seven-time All-American who placed second indoors in 2013 and outdoors in 2014. She posted her first top ten finish at U.S. nationals in 2011 and her best finishes are third in the 2019 outdoor meet and third in the 2020 indoor nationals.
After a bout with Covid-19 in December that left her with lingering “brain fog,” Nageotte suffered the indignity of arriving at an airport baggage claim earlier this season to find all of her poles broken. Now she is thriving on new poles and heading to her first Olympic Games. Already the world leader going into the Trials, Nageotte easily cleared 4.60 meters (15-1) and 4.70 meters (15-5) on her first attempts to secure her first national title. She also made 4.80 meters (15-9) on her initial try. But Nageotte needed two vaults to clear 4.95 meters (16-2 ¾), a new world-leading mark and Trials record. Fifth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, the 30-year-old from Olmstead Falls, Ohio, was a two-time NCAA Division II champion for Ashland University. She was second at the 2018 and 2019 U.S. nationals, and went on become the 2019 Pan American Games silver medalist and place seventh at the 2019 worlds.
After the disappointing distinction of placing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, this time LeLeux Romero cracked the top three to earn her first Olympic berth. She cleared 4.70 (15-5) on her third attempt, which was a lifetime best outdoors, although she had also achieved the same height indoors in February 2020. Leleux Romero, 28, was an All-American for the University of Georgia and for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. The native of New Iberia, Louisiana, won the Pan American under-20 title in 2011. She was 13th at the 2012 Olympic Trials. “I felt like I finally manifested my destiny and that I’m ready to represent the U.S.,” said Leleux Romero, whose father is her main coach. Her hometown hosted a parade for Leleux Romero on July 2.
The reigning Olympic silver medalist cleared only 4.60 (15-1), but secured the third Olympic spot based on fewer misses. Morris, who will turn 29 on July 8, was second at the 2016 Olympic Trials before going on to win the silver medal in Rio. She competed for the University of North Carolina and the University of Arkansas, winning the 2015 indoor NCAA title. Morris was fourth in her first world championships in 2015 before making the podium with silver medals in 2017 and 2019. She is the 2018 world indoor champion and was runner-up in 2016. During the pandemic, she and her father built a pole vault pit in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, so she could continue training. Morris cleared 4.84 meters (15-10 ½) in May in Doha and still ranks No. 4 on the world list. “Today the universe let me make the team,” she said, “I’m capable of better. Today just didn’t show it.”
With four world titles, an Olympic gold medal from 2012 and a silver medal from 2016 already on her resume, Reese, 34, won her fourth straight Olympic Trials. “This will be my last Olympic trials and Olympics,” she said after her victory. “It’s bittersweet.” The eight-time U.S. champion took the lead on her first jump of the final and her best jump was her fourth, 7.13 meters (23-4 ¾), which ranks No. 3 on the world list. The Gulfport, Mississippi, native ran and played basketball for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, then went on to the University of Mississippi, where she was NCAA outdoor champion in 2007 and 2008. Reese made her first world championships team in 2007, placing eighth. In 2009, she won her first world gold, followed by titles in 2011, 2013 and 2017. Reese, known as “Da LJ Beast,” also won world indoor titles in 2010, 2012 and 2016 and the silver in 2018.
Hard to miss with her white cowboy hat, long hair and emotional celebrations, the NCAA champion from the University of Texas made her first Olympic team with a leap of 7.04 meters (23-1 ¼) while her boyfriend, Paralympian Hunter Woodhall, cheered from the stands. The two are social media sensations. Davis, 22, of Agoura Hills, California, did not make the final at the 2016 Olympic Trials where she aid she was starstruck competing against Brittney Reese. A year later, Davis won the long jump and was second in the 100 hurdles at the Pan American under-20 championships. After transferring from the University of Georgia to Texas, Davis, who had struggled with depression, blossomed. She won NCAA indoor and outdoor long jump titles in 2021 and became the collegiate indoor and outdoor record-holder and her mark of 7.14 meters from March is No 2 on the world list.
The Hartselle, Alabama, native needed a personal best of 6.96 meters (22-10) on her fifth jump to move from sixth place into the third spot and make her first Olympic team. She also needed a little help from Brittney Reese, who told her to “just run and jump.” “So that’s what I did,” she said. Burks, 26, has been on the world scene since 2014, when she was fifth at the world under-20 world championships. She finished eighth in the 2015 Pan American Games. At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Burks placed ninth. She went on to finish fourth at the 2018 world indoor championships and was second at the 2018 nationals, which was a year with no major championships. She had an injury earlier this year that kept her out for two months. Competing for the University of Alabama, Burks won the NCAA outdoor title in the long jump in 2015.
Tori Franklin competes at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
The American record holder has been showing enormous promise in an event in which no American woman has reached the Olympic podium. Orji was fourth at the Rio Olympics, missing a medal by 3 centimeters, and said she is “going to expect more from myself” in Tokyo. Orji, 25, of Mount Olive, New Jersey, won her second straight Olympic Trials and fifth straight national title with a meet record of 14.52 meters (47-7 ¾). She regained her American record in April, jumping 14.92 meters. (48-11 ½). Orji won medals in the long jump and triple jump at the 2013 world youth championships. In 2019, she won the silver in the long jump at the Pan American Games and was seventh at worlds in the triple jump. Orji won four straight NCAA outdoor triple jump titles and three straight indoor triple jump crowns for the University of Georgia. She also won the NCAA long jump in 2018. She married former runner Kisean Smith last August.
The former American record holder outdoors and current record holder indoors, Franklin, 28, qualified for her first Olympic team. Her best attempt was her sixth, a leap of 14.36 meters (47 1-1/2). “This is just the beginning,” said Franklin, of Evanston, Illinois, who had jumped no better than 13.96 earlier this year. She was ninth at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Franklin then placed second at nationals in 2017, 2018 and 2019. After not reaching the finals at the 2017 worlds, in 2019 Franklin finished ninth. She is a three-time national indoor champion in 2017, 2018 and 2020 and was eighth at the 2018 indoor worlds. At Michigan State, Franklin triple jumped and ran the 400 meters, 4 x 100, 4 x 400 and distance medley relays. She set the outdoor American record in 2018 by jumping 14.84 meters at a meet in France and in 2019 jumped 14.57 meters for the indoor American record.
Coming off her NCAA performance in which she was second in the triple jump and third in the long jump the University of Georgia sophomore leaped 14.15 meters (46-5 ¼) to make her first Olympic team. Moore, 20, of Grand Prairie, Texas, was short of her personal best of 14.39 meters, which she achieved in May, but knew she had a solid chance to make the team given she was one of only three athletes who had met the Olympic standard. Moore, is a protégé of Keturah Orji, who also went to Georgia. Moore was third at the Pan American under-20 championships in 2017. She was the SEC indoor champion in 2020 before the pandemic ended the season prior to the NCAA meet. She has revealed that she struggled with depression in high school and college and therapy has helped her.
The native of Boynton Beach, Florida, set a personal best of 20.12 meters (66-0 ¼) to win the shot put and set an Olympic Trials record, eclipsing the mark of 19.59 (64-3 ¼) set by Michelle Carter in 2016 en route to her Olympic gold medal in Rio. Ramsey, who will turn 30 on July 26, became only the fourth U.S. woman to throw more than 20 meters and is now No. 2 on the 2012 world list. She was pushed by Raven Saunders, her former training partner, and said “OK, Raven, you want to compete? Let’s go.” In her senior year at Western Kentucky University, Ramsey was the first athlete from the school to qualify for the NCAA outdoor championships in at least three individual events. She was first-team All-American in the shot put, second-team in the hammer throw and honorable mention in the discus. She is now coached by four-time Olympian Connie Price-Smith.
The Charleston, South Carolina, native made her second Olympic team and hopes to improve on her fifth-place finish in Rio. Known as “The Hulk,” Saunders, wearing a face mask of her favorite superhero, threw a personal best of 19.96 meters (65-6) on her third attempt to lift herself out of fifth place and eventually place second. “For me, it’s that killer mentality,” said Saunders. It reminded me why I’m here and to constantly keep pushing.” Saunders, 25, was a world junior silver medalist and won NCAA outdoor titles for Southern Illinois and the University of Mississippi, plus an indoor crown for the Salukis. After becoming one of the few U.S. track and field athletes to earn a 2016 Olympic berth, Saunders won the 2017 national title and was 10th at the 2017 worlds. Tormented by depression and anxiety, she thought about ending her life and has since become an advocate for mental health awareness. Saunders is No. 3 on the 2021 world list.
So new to the elite world scene that World Athletics does not have her photo or her date of birth, the Ohio State senior has had an astounding year. The NCAA indoor and outdoor champion returned to Hayward Field for the Trials, where she threw 18.95 meters (62-2 ¼) on her first try - 3 cm shy of her winning throw at the NCAA meet two weeks earlier. That mark held up for third place and her first Olympic berth. “Going into my last throw, I was shaking, I was fumbling the ball,” Aquilla said. In winning the Big Ten crown in May, the native of Rocky River, Ohio, threw a personal best of 19.12 62-8 ¾), showing massive improvement from 2019 when her outdoor best was 16.59 (54-5 ¼) to place 12th at the NCAA meet. Aquilla threw a personal best indoors of 18.12 to win the 2021 NCAA indoor title. She is coached by Ashley Kovacs, whose husband Joe is a two-time Olympian and two-time world champ and also gives Aquilla advice.
The 26-year-old American record holder set an Olympic Trials record of 70.01 meters (229-2) in qualifying, which was the No. 2 throw in the world this year and the second-best ever by an American. Allman set the the American record of 70.15 meters/230-2) last August, which was one of the few bright spots in Team USA track and field during the pandemic. At the Trials, Allman recorded the third-best throw by an American (69.92/229-5) and also had the five longest throws of the final to win her third straight U.S. title. Allman, a native of Newark, Delaware, was third at the NCAA championships for Stanford University in 2016 before placing sixth at the 2016 Olympic Trials. She was 14th at worlds in 2017 and seventh in 2019 and said she has gone from viewing more established throwers “as my idols to trying to view them as my competition.”
In seventh place going into her fourth throw, Dincoff pulled herself up into fourth. However, the 27-year-old knew that wasn’t enough, and she threw 60.21 (197-6) on her fifth throw to move into third place and earn her first Olympic berth. “It was terrifying,” Dincoff said of her competition. “I wasn’t clicking.” The Waterloo, Indiana, native was also a shot putter at Auburn, placing 14th at the NCAA meet in 2014. She placed ninth in the shot and 20th in the discus at the NCAAs in 2015, and then was 20th in the shot and 11th in the discus at the 2016 NCAA meet. By 2017, she was a discus specialist and placed fourth at the U.S. nationals. Dincoff threw a personal best of 64.41 in May to become one of only three U.S. throwers in the Trials final to meet the Olympic qualifying standard of 63.50. Dincoff said she has “tried everything from bartending to waitressing to retail” to make ends meet while training and now lives in New Mexico.
Finishing fourth at the Olympic Trials, Card qualified for her second Olympic team based on her world ranking. Card, 28, threw 59.37 meters (194-9) to earn the third Team USA spot after Micaela Hazlewood, who was second, had a lower world ranking and did not reach the Olympic qualifying standard. The native of Carlinville, Illinois, was 20th in the 2012 Trials in the shot put and third in 2016 in the discus. Card competed in Rio, where she did not advance past the qualifying round. At the University of Wisconsin, Card was the 2016 NCAA champion in the discus and placed second in the discus and shot put in 2015. She earned her master’s degree in 2019 and opened a marriage and family therapy business in Madison. At the Pan American Games, Card was seventh in 2015 and eighth in 2019. She was the runner-up at the 2019 U.S. nationals and competed at worlds.
Kara Winger celebrates at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
So nervous that she “couldn’t feel my legs through it,” the American record holder made her second Olympic team and set a Olympic Trials record of 63.50 meters (208-4) on her fifth attempt. The Geneva, Nebraska, native also won the Trials in 2016, but did not make the final in Rio and said she knows “exactly what I’d do differently.” Malone, 27, competed for the University of Nebraska before transferring to Texas A&M. In 2016, she became the first female javelin thrower to win an NCAA title (with a collegiate record as a bonus) and the Olympic Trials in the same season. In 2017, Malone was sidelined by heel and back injuries for nearly two years. She returned in 2019, placing fifth at U.S. nationals. On May 29, her American-record throw of 66.82 meters (219-3) surpassed Kara Winger’s 11-year-old mark and is No. 3 on the 2021 world list.
Making her fourth Olympic team, Winger, 35, who trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, placed second with a throw of 61.47 meters (201-8). The former Purdue University athlete secured her Tokyo berth on her first attempt. This was only her second competition of the season and came just 10 months after surgery for a torn ACL. “The complication of my knee injury makes this really, really sweet,” she said. Winger, a native of Vancouver, Washington, represented Team USA at the Olympics in 2008, placing 41st, and improved to 31st in 2012 while competing on an ACL she tore at the Olympic Trials. Four years later, she was 13th in Rio, missing the final by just one spot. Winger won the 2019 Pan American Games with her best throw since 2015. She placed fifth at the 2019 world championships, but was slowed by another ACL tear in 2020.
Although she placed fourth at the Olympic Trials with a throw of 57.49 meters (188-7), Ince qualified for her first Olympic team based on world ranking. She won the U.S. national title in 2019 and earned the bronze medal at the Pan American Games before competing at the world championships, where she did not reach the final. In 2011, she tried the heptathlon, scoring 4,713 points. The native of Gonzales, Texas, began her collegiate career at Rice University as a pole vaulter, winning the C-USA championship in 2010 and 2011 both indoors and outdoors. She switched to the javelin her junior year. Ince said if someone had told her during her freshman year at Rice that “my first Olympic team wouldn’t be until I was 32, in an event I didn’t even do yet and after a global pandemic, I would have laughed at you.”
The reigning world champion from Carbondale, Illinois, Price started the season by breaking her own American record. She then overcame health issues, including a bad reaction to the Covid-19 vaccine, to set two American and two meet records at the Olympic Trials, win her third straight national title and make her second Olympic team. With a toss of 80.31 meters (263-6) on her fifth attempt, Price, who turned 28 in June, became the second woman to throw over 80 meters. “Me, throwing over 80 meters, this is pretty crazy,” she said. All five of Price’s legal throws in the Olympic Trials final would have won the competition. Price, 28, finished eighth in 2016 in Rio, was ninth at the 2017 worlds, and then claimed the world title in 2019. Price, who won back-to-back NCAA titles for Southern Illinois, is coached by her husband, J.C. Lambert. She said she was supposed to be a softball player before she was introduced to the hammer throw. Price is also a world-class hugger.
With a throw of 77.72 meters (255-0), on her second attempt, Andersen yelled “Get out there!” and wound up securing her Olympic berth. Three of her final four attempts were fouls, but no one could surpass her as Andersen placed second for her highest finish at the U.S. nationals. Andersen, who will turn 26 in August, was 13th at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Placing third at the 2018 and 2019 U.S. nationals, she won the silver medal at the Pan American Games, but did not advance to the finals at worlds while dealing with the recurrence of an injury. Andersen was a two-time NCAA runner-up for Northern Arizona University in the hammer and also competed in the weight throw, where her best finish was 10th. The Vista, California, native threw a personal best of 78.18 (256-6) earlier this season.
The 2019 Pan American Games champion made her second Olympic team with a throw of 73.50 (241-2). That came on her first attempt in the final and held up for third place despite fouls on her last three throws. “I fought through it and I’m happy I did,” she said. The activist athlete from St. Louis, Missouri, was second at the 2016 Trials but did not qualify for the final in Rio. She said she now has “a bigger purpose, a bigger mission, a bigger voice and I’m standing up for bigger issues.” Berry has competed twice at the world championships - in 2017, when she did not advance to the final, and 2019, when she made the final but did not produce a legal throw. Berry, who turned 32 on June 29, was an All-American for Southern Illinois, where she was also a shot putter and competed in the weight throw. Berry won the national title in the hammer throw in 2017 and is a three-time U.S. indoor champion in the weight throw. She has a teenaged son, Derrick.
Despite withering heat that soared past 100 during the two-day event, Kunz amassed 6,703 points to move to No. 5 on the all-time U.S. list and No. 1 on the 2021 world list. Kunz, who ran track and played soccer at Texas A&M, did not have the Olympic standard coming into the Trials, but added 550 points to her personal best to surpass that number. Kunz, 28, of Golden, Colorado, compiled 4,042 points on the first day. She ended up with personal bests in the 100 hurdles (wind-aided), high jump, long jump and 200 and had season bests in the javelin and 800. Her shot put was nearly 5 feet better than anyone else and a Trials record. Kunz, who was eighth at the 2016 Trials, was second at the 2019 Pan American Games and 13th at worlds. She was fifth after the first day in Doha, an experience that she said, “opened my eyes that I can hang with the big dogs.”
The seven-time NCAA champion for the University of Georgia scored a personal best of 6,683 points to take second and earn her second Olympic berth. Williams, who turned 26 on June 14, was third at the 2016 trials and placed 17th in Rio. Five years later, she won the Trials long jump and was second in the javelin and high jump. “I think I can do everything just a little better,” she said. The Marietta, Georgia, native won her first national title in 2017 and was 12th at worlds. In 2019, Williams placed second at nationals and fifth at the world championships. She won the 100-meter hurdles at the 2014 world under-20 championships after placing third in the under-18 worlds in 2012. Williams won four straight NCAA titles in the pentathlon, the five-event indoor equivalent of the heptathlon, and three heptathlon crowns for the Bulldogs. Her brother Devon is a decathlete.
The two-time defending national champion and fourth-place finisher at the 2019 world championships, Bougard was third with 6,667 points – 16 points out of second place - to make her first Olympic team. The Memphis, Tennessee, native placed seventh at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Bougard won the high jump and equalled her personal best in the javelin. She has competed at worlds four straight times, placing 24th in 2013, dropping out in 2015 and then placing 18th in 2017, before missing the podium two years ago by 90 points. Bougard, who will turn 28 on July 26, won the 2012 national junior title and was 13th at worlds. She was the 2013 NCAA indoor champion and was an All-American for Mississippi State. Her personal best is 6,725 points from 2018. She trains with Annie Kunz and said she’s her best friend.
20K Race Walk
Winning her first U.S. title with a time of 1:35:13, Stevens, of Vacaville, California, defeated eight-time U.S. outdoor champion and defending Trials champ Maria Michta-Coffee by more than 4 minutes. Stevens, 38, was the 2020 indoor champion in the 3,000-meter walk. In 2016, Stevens was 11th in the 20K race walk with a time of 1:52:08. She was a soccer player before becoming a runner. Stevens competed for San Jose State on the cross country team in 2003, retired from the sport in 2004 and returned five years ago. She did not meet the Olympic standard of 1:31:00, but qualified for the Olympic Games based on her world ranking. Stevens has been a dancer since she was 2 years old and said it was the closest she could get to gymnastics. “I still do it to get the lactic acid out of my legs,” she said.
English Gardner, Aleia Hobbs in the 4 x 100; Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney, Lynna Irby in the 4 x 400; Taylor Manson, Shae Anderson (alternate) in the 4 x 400 mixed.
Karen Rosen has covered every Summer and Winter Olympic Games since 1992 for newspapers, magazines and websites. Based in Atlanta, she has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.