The Making of Team U.S.A. Track and Field

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Hundreds of track and field athletes have descended on Eugene, Ore., for the U.S. Olympic trials, which started Friday.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for participating athletes. Finishing in the top three — provided you have hit the time standard — means you get to call yourself an Olympian for the rest of your life. One misstep or miscalculation and you’re out, regardless of previous rankings or results.

Kevin Draper of The New York Times is on the ground now in Eugene. “At 10 days long, the trials, to borrow a running cliché, are a marathon, not a sprint,” he told me. “The fans certainly seem to agree. Around 9,000 tickets are available for each day, but on Friday attendance was maybe half that.”

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These trials will be marked by the heat, he says. On Friday the temperature was in the high 70s, and it will only get hotter over the coming days. The conditions will surely play into who qualifies and who is sent home, Draper said. “If you can figure out which athletes, particularly the distance runners, can best manage the heat, you might just have figured out the Olympic team.”

Here’s whom to watch and how to watch:

  • Sha’Carri Richardson. In April, Richardson ran the sixth-fastest women’s 100 in history. On Saturday, she qualified for the Tokyo Games, winning the 100 with a time of 10.86. Her confidence matches her speed.

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  • Elle Purrier St. Pierre. In February 2020, Purrier St. Pierre ran the indoor mile in 4 minutes 16.85 seconds, breaking a national record that had stood for nearly 38 years. Last month, she ran the 1,500 meters in 3:58:36, one of the fastest times in the world this year. Plus, The Times’s Scott Cacciola learned that the runner counts Cabot Cheese among her sponsors.

  • Donavan Brazier. The 800-meter runner best illustrates the do-or-die nature of the trials. In June 2016, Brazier won the N.C.A.A. 800 title in 1:43.55. It was the second-fastest time run in the world that year. A few weeks later, he failed to qualify for the Rio Games. He’s looking to revise that story line this year.

  • Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin. One of the best matchups of the trials may be in the 400-meter hurdles as Muhammad, 31, and McLaughlin, 21, fight for dominance. Muhammad is the reigning Olympic champion and broke her own world record when racing McLaughlin in October 2019.

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  • Hobbs Kessler. In May, the 18-year-old ran 1,500 meters in 3:34.36, hitting the men’s Olympic standard, qualifying for the trials and shattering the national high school record.

  • Sara Hall. Never count out Hall. After failing to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the marathon, she is trying to make it in the 10,000 meters. Since she had to drop out of the marathon trials last year just a few miles from the finish, Hall has placed second in the 2020 London Marathon in a time of 2:22:01, her personal best. She won the Marathon Project two months later with a time of 2:20:32. She will be running against a stacked field in the 10,000.

  • Noah Lyles. Lyles is hoping to qualify in both the 100 and 200 meters. He sits comfortably in the 200-meter lineup as the world champion. But he’s contending with Trayvon Bromell and Justin Gatlin in the 100-meter field.

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  • Athing Mu. There are few athletes who have had a freshman season as successful as the 19-year-old Mu’s. Days before the Olympic trials, the New Jersey native, who runs for Texas A&M, set two collegiate records. She broke her own record in the 400 meters with a winning 49.57 and anchored her 4×400 relay team to a record 3:22.34.

  • Allyson Felix. The nine-time Olympic medalist is aiming to compete in her fifth and final Summer Games. Felix, 35, first went to the Games at age 18, and she has become one of sport’s most respected figures. She is entered in both the 200 and the 400.

  • Shelby Houlihan. The middle-distance runner is not, in fact, competing for a spot on the Olympic team, but her story has dominated recent headlines. The relationships among World Athletics, the World Anti-Doping Agency, U.S.A. Track & Field and major players and athletes in the sport have come into stark focus ahead of the trials.

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NBC and NBCSN will provide live daily coverage of the meet. The trials will conclude on June 27. Here’s the full schedule.

For every runner who achieves his or her Olympic dream, there will be many more who miss it by a fraction of a second.

In 2012, the professional runner Julia Lucas lined up at the trials with the goal of making the U.S. Olympic team in the 5,000 meters. She made her move early and held the lead, only to miss an Olympic berth by one one-hundredth of a second. One one-hundredth of a second in a distance event, no less. Lucas discussed that day, and how it has and has not defined her, in this episode of the Ali on the Run Show. Listen to the full episode here.

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Running organizations have long tried (and failed) to gain permission to hold another road marathon in New York City.

Steve Lastoe, the founder of New York City Runs, didn’t give up hope. The Brooklyn Marathon, which was first run in 2011 and required more than eight laps around Prospect Park, is now moving to the streets.

“This was a matter of us working with the city all these years, and them getting to know us and trust us enough to be able to do something like this,” Lastoe said.

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The Brooklyn Marathon will take place on April 24 and wind from north to south in Brooklyn, finishing in Prospect Park, Matthew Futterman writes.

If you have started spending more time exploring trails in your area, start to familiarize yourself with how to avoid ticks.

To start, when running or hiking in the woods, stay in the center of the trail. Ticks are most active between April and September, and they like grassy, brushy and wooded areas. Here’s how to protect yourself.

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