Focus On The U.S. Women’s 100

Reigning national champ Teahna Daniels led a closely packed field across the line in ’19. (JEFF COHEN)

THROW A DART. That’s our best Olympic Trials advice to anyone seeking to pick the top 3 in the women’s 100. The event is perennially one of the stronger international events for the U.S. — more than 20 World/Olympic medals since ‘92 — but the pandemic has limited competition for many, meaning that some “breakthrough” athletes haven’t had the chance to break through yet, while many reliable veterans haven’t shown their best form in a year or two, leaving us guessing as to their fitness.

There is no reigning American dash queen; no obvious podium topper is acknowledged out of a crowded field of contenders.

One we thing we know is that it should take a sub-11 to make the team, unless a fickle wind hits them in the face. In any case, sub-11 fitness is required.

Currently we have 18 active sub-11 women (make that 18-ish, as it wouldn’t surprise us to see 1 or 2 we think have retired show up at an April meet just to see if a comeback might be worth it). However, since the pandemic hit, only one American, Sha’Carri Richardson, has dipped under 11. And even going back to ‘19, we only have 4. That demonstrates our predicament well.

Until we see that kind of current form in a number of sprinters, we’re as blind as anybody in seeing who might be on that podium in Eugene. Of course, hindsight being what it is, we’re sure that come June, folks will be telling us, “Of course it was always going to be so-and-so. The signs were there all along.”

The Latest Leaders

Based on the last two years, the names at the top of the U.S. Rankings are a different mix than those we saw leading the charge to the Rio Olympics and the London World Championships:

Teahna Daniels: As the reigning national champion —noting that “reigning” means from 2 years ago — Texas alum Daniels gets top billing here. As we publish, she has just turned 24. Her best of 10.99 is from 2019. She ended her indoor season with a slight injury but assures us she is ready to go.

Sha’Carri Richardson: Currently at the top of the heap in terms of demonstrated speed, Richardson just turned 21. Last season she sizzled 10.95/10.79w. Her PR 10.75 comes from her dazzling NCAA win in 2019; only 4 Americans have ever gone faster.

Aleia Hobbs: The LSU alum still trains with coach Dennis Shaver at age 25. Her fastest years (PR 10.85 in ’17) came when she was healthy enough for a good winter buildup. She just had a blazing indoor season (7.10 in the 60) and assures us that she’s healthy again.

TeeTee Terry: The USC star, now 22, broke 11 in both ’18 and ’19; her 10.98 PR came in the ’19 NCAA final. She is fit, finishing 2nd in the recent NCAA 60 in a season in which she ran the three fastest 60s of her life, topped by a 7.09.

Now 27, Dezerea Bryant has a PR of 10.99 from the USATF heats in ’18. In ’19, she missed a spot on the Doha squad by just 0.01. Over the winter she raced in Europe. She is training in Florida with Richardson under coach Dennis Mitchell.

The ’19 NCAA Indoor 200 champ for North Carolina A&T, Kayla White hit her century PR 10.95 in the NCAA final that year, finishing 2nd to Richardson. Since then, she appears to have made a smooth transition to the pro ranks, with an 11.18 last summer (pandemic PR) and a 7.15 PR for 60 this winter.

Jenna Prandini: The Oregon alum is now 28 and her PR of 10.95 dates back to ’15, the year she won the NCAA title. She had sub-11 seasons in ’16 and ’18, so still is a force there — she ranked No. 2 U.S. in ’18. However, her better strength, if the U.S. Rankings mean anything, is in the 200.

A 2-time NCAA 200 champ from USC, 24-year-old Angie Annelus sports a short-dash PR of 11.06, from the ’19 NCAA, the last time she raced the 100. That year she focused on the 200, taking 3rd at USATF and 4th in Doha. She would have every reason to focus again on the longer race, but that may depend on feedback from early-season races.

They’re Not Done Yet

You can call them “veterans too good to ignore,” and even after a fallow season, these women have the know-how to come back. For some, it will be a question of health. For others, the draw of other events may prove too powerful.

Morolake Akinosun: With a best of 10.95 from the ’16 Trials, Akinosun, 26, has achieved much acclaim for her relay running, having contributed to 4×1 golds in both ’16 and ’17. In ’19 she finished 3rd at USATF and made it to the semis in Doha. She trains in Austin under Tonja Buford-Bailey.

27-year-old former Duck Jasmine Todd hasn’t raced yet in ’21, and in the last few years has put her primary emphasis on the long jump (USATF runner-up in ’19). Still, she’s got a 10.92 PR on the shelf from finishing 3rd at USATF in ’15.

Most of the veterans who followed English Gardner across the line in the last OT are still very much in play. (ERROL ANDERSON/THE SPORTING IMAGE)

English Gardner: A 2-time NCAA winner and Olympic finalist, the 28-year-old Gardner’s credentials are sterling, topped by a 10.74 PR set in winning the OT last time around. In ’19 she finished runner-up in the USATF 100 but pulled up injured in her Doha semi. When the pandemic hit a year ago, she posted, “See y’all when the smoke clears. I’ll be ready.”

Hannah Cunliffe: The 25-year-old adidas sprinter lost much of ’18 & ’19 to injury and is still working to get back to the form that saw her win the NCAA 60 in ’17. Having put down a solid indoor season, she says, “What I’ve learned the most these past few years is patience. It’s all coming together at the right time.”

The World Junior Record setter at 10.98 back in ’15, Candace Hill has gone through some rough seasons between then and now, never running any faster, but showed signs of regaining her form this winter and is still just 22. Now training on the West Coast with Caryl Smith Gilbert, she hit a PR 7.16 in the 60 in February.

Tianna Bartoletta: The reigning Olympic gold medalist in the long jump has also been a great sprinter, with a 10.78 PR from ’16 and a 4th in the 100 and a leg on the WR-setting 4×1 from London ’12. Now 35 and training hard for a long jump repeat, the question will be how much emphasis she puts on sprinting. She last broke 11.40 in ’17.

Just 86 days younger than Bartoletta, Allyson Felix needs to be mentioned. Her PR of 10.89 brought her 5th in the London Olympics. At 35 she has given every indication that she has left the short sprint behind. But 5 of her WC/OG gold medals have come in the 4×1, so maybe she’ll keep her toes in the event? She ran a rare indoor 60 this winter, so there’s that.

The fastest woman in the world in ’17 hasn’t broken 11 since. In ’19, Tori Bowie had a bye into the WC 200 but did not show for the second round. The next week she placed 4th in the long jump.

Up & Comers

Really, this is a mish-mash of young pros who are continuing to show improvement along with young threats to the podium:

Former LSU Tiger Kortnei Johnson is now 23, with a PR of 11.09 from ‘17. She also trains in Florida with the Mitchell group but didn’t compete in the indoor season.

Javianne Oliver: the Kentucky alum, now 26, delivered a scorching undefeated season indoors in Europe, topped by a 7.08, a low-altitude PR. Her outdoor best is 11.10 from 2018. She is coached by Texas head Edrick Floréal.

The NCAA 100 champion in ’17 for LSU, Mikiah Brisco trains with Hobbs and is in good form with a 7.14 indoors this winter. She’s showed no sign that she will return to the hurdles, where she has a best of 12.85 and won a World Youth bronze in ’13.

After taking 2nd in the USATF 100 in 2018 with her PR 10.96, Ashley Henderson didn’t make the finals the next year. The San Diego State alum, 25, is training in Austin with Buford-Bailey.

Shania Collins: The Tennessee alum, now 24, set her best of 10.98 in the NCAA semis. The next year she won the USATF 60 in a PR 7.16, but did not make the USATF 100 final outdoors.

Tamari Davis, who turned pro early, is still only 18. She has been training with coach Gary Evans, mentor of 400 world champ Steven Gardiner among others. It appears she had a good winter, hitting a PR 7.18 in the indoor season and opening up outdoors with a 22.64 for 200.

Many of our questions will be answered by June, and on the evening of the 18th when the gun goes off at Hayward Field for the first round, we’ll finally see the results of the many months and years of hard work that these sprinters have invested.

From this March vantage point the only certainty is that the names of the athletes who make the 100 team won’t be certain until a little after 7:51 p.m. on June 19th.

Richardson thinks it will be a barnburner, explaining, “With this indoor season going on, you see the amazing times that are being hit and all the great things that are going on. I feel like the pandemic was an opportunity for everyone to level up. So I’m excited for the outdoor season to come.”

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