Morton Games Preview: Top American Talents Will Be Hungry To Run Fast
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Men's 800m: Rio 1500m finalist Charlie Grice will mix it up against 800m Olympian Charles Jock
2:02 PM ET (7:02 PM GMT)
Charles Jock was one of the biggest surprises of the Olympic Trials last year, as he defied all odds to place third in the final and make the U.S. team at 800m. He's struggled to approach his 2016 times since then, and he'll be looking for a big season-best time at Morton to notch a win here. One of his biggest competitors may be Charlie Grice of Britain, a member of the legendary Olympic 1500m final last year who has also proven himself at the shorter distances, holding a 1:45.53 PR from last year. Grice is coming off a 3:36.29 fifth-place showing at the London Diamond League, and he'll be hoping for a much faster race than his 1:49 rust-buster earlier this year. Two other American talents who are in a position to challenge are Jesse Garn and Brandon Kidder, who ran a good 800m leadoff leg at the World Relays last April, helping Team USA to a 4x800m gold medal. Garn has been on a tear this year and is coming off of a 1:45.04 800m PR in the fast TrackTown NY final last week.
Women's 800m: The hometown favorite, the defending champ, and the U.S. upstarts all have a shot
2:18 PM ET (7:18 PM GMT)
Britain's Alex Bell set her PR of 2:00.52 in winning the Morton 800m last year, and coming off her second-best time ever with a 2:00.62 at the London DL on Sunday, she'll have a chance at pulling the title defense. But standing in her way is Irish hometown favorite Ciara Mageean, whose PR of 2:00.79 also comes from placing second in that very same Morton 800m final last year. Two upstart Americans in Ce'Aira Brown and Cecilia Barowski will also be looking to stick their noses in the fight, as both have set their PRs of 2:00.84 and 2:00.90 this year. Of the two C.B.s, Brown is coming off a better finish in the New York TrackTown 800m final, but Barowski is looking to display the form she showed this winter through early May, when she ran a fantastic 2:01.52 indoor mark at Millrose. You can count on Barowski, a Princeton alumni and fan of board games, to always take a measured and strategic approach to her races, which led her to beat Jenny Simpson to the line to PR at Oxy this year. But perhaps the two international competitors with the best chance to win are the Brit Adelle Tracey and New Zealand's Angie Petty. Though they technically hold the two fastest PRs in the field, Tracey set hers of 2:00.04 in a mixed race with male pacers last year, and Petty's PR of 1:59.04 dates back to 2015 at the World University Games. That being said, Petty has a number of sub-2:00 clockings to her name including a 1:59.89 from winning the 2015 edition of this race, and her season best of 2:00.44 came just ahead of Barowski at Oxy this year. And not to be discounted, Tracey beat both Petty and Barowski in that very race, splitting her season best (which is also tops in this field) of 2:00.35.
Men's 400m Hurdles: Curtis Beach will try to shine with a new focus
2:36 PM ET (7:36 PM GMT)
Curtis Beach spent his collegiate days as a successful multi-event athlete, perhaps most known for setting the heptathlon world best with his 2:23.63 1000m mark in 2012. But this February, Beach announced that he would be putting his primary focus on the 400m hurdles this year, and it seems to have worked out well for him so far having set a 49.83 PR in that event this June. Beach still isn't afraid to step up to other events, and his endurance is by far tops in this field as he's also coming off a 1:47.36 PR in the TrackTown NY 800m final this year. But there are several other sub-50 400H performers in the field, headlined by Mike Cochrane, who is the New Zealand national-record holder from his 49.58 mark at 2015 Worlds but hasn't broken done better yet this year than his 50.57 world lead way back in February. His countryman Cameron French (who was the previous national-record holder with his 49.72 earlier in 2015) is hot off a 49.84 SB in Brussels on Sunday, and he's got to like his odds at possibly taking a shot at reclaiming that record at Morton. The only other sub-50 man in the field is Chile's Alfredo Sepúlveda, who has only run one race outside of Chile this year since early April, making his domestic 50.39 SB all the more impressive.
Men's 5000m: It's anybody's game in this deep American and Australian field
2:54 PM ET (7:54 PM GMT)
This field is rife with 13:30 talents and fast milers, including six Americans, who could all have a chance to win on their best days. The Aussie Collis Birmingham holds the best PR in the field by far, but that 13:09 mark dates back to the 2012 London Diamond League. This year he'll have to do well to even impress the Australian selectors to give himself a chance at another spot on their Worlds team. He's shown impressive strength with a 28:25 road 10K this May, but his only track race this year, a 29:05 10K at Ostrava, was far off his best. Being untested in the track 5K this year, he'll be hoping for some help from his countrymen Stewart McSweyn and Jack Rayner. You may remember Rayner as the pacer for 16-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen's 3:56 mile in Oslo earlier this year, and Rayner holds an impressive 3:58.7 PB of his own from February of this year. Aside from Birmingham, there are three other sub-13:30 men in the field--Irish hometown hope Mark Christie and Americans Brian Shrader and Reid Buchanan. Though he'll no doubt be pulled by the crowd, Christie has a 13:28 PB that dates to 2011, and he hasn't broken 13:55 since 2012. On the other hand, Shrader's 13:29 PB is fresh from last year, and though his 14:07 at Stanford was less than he was hoping for, he's done well in underdistance this year, running an 8:32 3K steeple PB and placing 11th in the heat of Sacramento at the U.S. championships. Buchanan will have consistency on his side as all three of his 5K performances this year have been solid sub-13:36 efforts, but he's failed to break 4:00 in the mile or 9:00 in the steeplechase this year. The man with the best mile speed in this field is probably Portugal's Hélio Gomes, who has a nice 3:37.5 1500m PB as well as a 13:35 clocking (which is also his PB) in Spain last month. Two other Americans with an outside shot to win are Andrew Colley and Joe Stilin, who are coming off of 17th- and 12th-place finishes in the 10K and 5K, respectively, at USAs this year.
Men's 400m: Olympic silver medalist seeks to resurrect his career
3:22 PM ET (8:22 PM GMT)
Manteo Mitchell was on fire in 2012, having placed fifth at the U.S. Olympic Trials and being a member of the London Olympic runner-up 4x400m team, along with winning world indoor gold at the same event earlier in the year. But since then, he's had trouble keeping up his times and just barely missed out on qualifying for the 2016 Olympic trials last year. Mitchell is looking to put fears to rest with a win on Wednesday, but it won't be easy with hometown Irish favorite Brian Gregan on the start line. Gregan is the only one of the entrants to have already gone under the 45.50 World standard this year with his 45.48 win in Switzerland earlier this month.
Women's 1500m: Alexa Efraimson has a shot to finally break her 4:03 PB if the race goes right
3:46 PM ET (8:46 PM GMT)
This is one of the signature events of the meet, and with 2:01 800m American Kenyetta Iyevbele on the pacing duties, it'll be set up perfectly for a fast time. The No. 1 entrant by PB in the field is the U.S.'s Alexa Efraimson, who has been labeled the second coming of Mary Cain by many as she famously broke Cain's 1500m high school and American junior record in 2015 by splitting 4:03.39 at the Pre Classic. However, Efraimson is no longer a junior, and she hasn't broken 4:06 since that year. She still has reasons to be confident, though, as she's coming off a 2:00.95 PB in the 800 this season and consecutive 4:06 clockings in her last two 1500s.
The next-best American in the field this year is 2015 U.S. 5000m champ Nicole Tully, who has also struggled to return to that form but is looking to turn things around in Dublin. Dana Mecke holds some of the best 800m speed in the field with her 2:00.76 PR, but she's had trouble translating that speed to the longer 1500m distance with a PR of just 4:11.92 so far. Two Brits hoping to challenge are Melissa Courtney and Charlene Thomas, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, at the British national champs last week, though Thomas holds the better PR of 4:03.74.
Morton Mile: Kyle Merber will go for one of his first major wins against a loaded field of his compatriots
4 PM ET (9 PM GMT)
The final and most storied event of the Morton Games looks to certainly live up to its name, with 16 world-class athletes and a U.S. field practically overflowing with national finalists. The man with the best PR in the field is Kyle Merber, founder of the Long Island Mile, who ran 3:52.22--just behind Ed Cheserek's collegiate record indoors this year. Merber does his best in fast, paced races in which he can sit and kick, and with 3:56 miler Blake Haney as a pacer, this setup could play right into Merber's hands. Pat Casey also holds a 3:52 personal best from the 2014 Morton Mile. However, his season best 1500m is just 3:38, and he was last in the New York TrackTown 1500m final.
Behind them, there are a slew of 3:54-3:56 runners who could snag a win on their best day, including Americans Robert Domanic, Riley Masters, Peter Callahan, Graham Crawford, and Drew Crawford as well as Mexico's Daniel Herrera. Domanic holds the "best of the rest" PR with his 3:54 this year, but he's only broken the four-minute barrier twice in his life and has yet to claim a major win to his name. Masters may have just finished next to last in the London DL 3K, but he finished second at the U.S. road mile national championships this year and boasts a 3:37 season's best 1500 at Oxy. He's one of a few in this field posting 3:37 season bests this year, among Princeton alum Callahan, Sam Prakel, and Australia's Sam McEntee. Colby Alexander ran a crazy 3:34.88 at the first TrackTown meet in Eugene, OR, last year, and though he hasn't bettered that this year, his 3:36.10 SB from the NY final is impressive nonetheless. Hunter is finishing up his first year as a professional straight out of high school, and it's been fairly successful by his own standards, making the U.S. 1500m final and running a 3:56.80 mile PB. As a developing athlete he'd do well to better that in the Morton Mile, even if it doesn't end up as a win.
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