Friday will mark the first round of the women's 1500m at the USATF Outdoor Championships, an event that will determine the fate of the longtime rivalry between Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury.
One of the reasons why the women's 1500m is one of the most exciting events to watch in the United States is because of this on-going rivalry between 2011 World Champion Simpson and World bronze medalist Rowbury. The two middle-distance runners are both threats at numerous distances from the 800m up to the 5K, and can contend on an international stage in high pressure situations. Not only can they contend, but Simpson and Rowbury are the United States' best shots at winning a medal in the event at the World Championships in August. And they have proven time and time again that they have the guts and the race intelligence to make it happen.
The iconic photo from last summer's Diamond League competition was a dive at the finish line in Zurich between Simpson and Rowbury to claim the meeting win.
Simpson ultimately claimed the victory by just .001, but Rowbury seems to have been eyeing a rematch on the national stage ever since. After claiming the win in the mile and the two-mile at the USATF Indoor Championships last March, Rowbury expressed that she would be ready for Simpson come outdoors.
Since the indoor season, Rowbury has been competing at meets with a fair amount of doubles, including her most recent performances at the Portland Track Festival where she ran 4:07 in the 1500m and returned 13 minutes later to run 2:00 in the 800m. She holds a season's best of 4:02 in the 1500m from her fourth-place finish at the Pre Classic.
Simpson hasn't raced as frequently as Rowbury, but has made every competition count starting with a 2:00 800m season opener at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic in May. She returned to the track at the Pre Classic where she ran 4:00 for a dominating win and powerful kick
to the finish over Mercy Cherono, Sifan Hassan and Rowbury. She later claimed another dominating win in similar kicking style at the Rome Diamond League meeting, running 3:59 and a season's best over then-world leader Sifan Hassan and Dawit Seyaum. Simpson is currently ranked No. 1 in the world with her 3:59 performance in Rome.
The rivalry between Simpson and Rowbury will live on this weekend with the pair's second match-up of the season at Hayward Field, and many other notable performers will anticipate joining the showdown for a World Championships spot.
World Indoor Championship finalist Sarah Brown enters the field after running a season's best of 4:03 for sixth-place at the Pre Classic. The mark was a two-second personal best for Brown who also set a personal best in the 800m two weeks later with a 2:01 in Victoria, Canada.
18-year-old Alexa Efraimson will take a stab at making her first ever masters World Championship team this weekend after clocking a personal best and American junior record of 4:03 at the Pre Classic. She is also riding a high from a significant personal best in the 800m at the Portland Twilight meet where she ran 2:01. The mark was run just three days after finishing first in her heat of the 800m at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic.
World Championships qualifier Gabe Grunewald enters the field with a season's best of 4:04, which she ran at the Bislett Games in Oslo on June 11. Grunewald also had a standout performance in the 5K at the Stanford Invitational in April with a personal best of 15:19.
Rowbury's Nike Oregon Project teammate Treniere Moser was also part of the blazing fast Pre Classic 1500m, which is where she clocked her season's best of 4:04. More recently, Moser ran a season's best of 2:00 in the 800m at the adidas Grand Prix June 13.
Road mile queen Heather Kampf will also look to make a statement on the track after earning a personal best of 4:04 at the Rome Diamond League meeting June 4.
World Championship finalist Morgan Uceny enters the meet with a 4:09 season's best from the Birmingham Grand Prix and a 2:05 800m which she clocked at the Drake Relays.
The Nike Oregon Project trio will be rounded out by 19-year-old Mary Cain
who recently moved from Portland, Ore. back home to Bronxville, New York but remains part of the group. She has been battling "growing pains" this season
and has not posted marks close to her personal bests, but most recently ran a world junior lead in the 1,000m at the adidas Grand Prix with a personal best of 2:38.57.
Tune in to watch the first round of the women's 1500m will go down Friday at 5:55 p.m. PT at Hayward Field.