2017 Worlds: What To Watch For Day One

2017 IAAF World Championships – Day One (NBC Olympic Channel, NBC Gold)

Men’s Discus Qualification: How many can the USA advance to finals?
The USA will have three competitors in the discus, an event that the Americans have typically struggled to impact. However, Andrew Evans has been having a strong season, throwing a personal best 66.61 while Mason Finley and Rodney Brown both have thrown in the 65s this season. By season’s best rank, Evans is 7th while Finley and Brown are 14th and 15th. The top 12 are guaranteed a spot in the final and anyone who is able to surpass the automatic qualifying mark of 64.50 gets to throw in the finals. Although they have shown potential, only one American qualified for the finals in Rio (Finley). He placed 11th in the final. The US had no finalists during the last edition of the World Championships in Beijing.

Men’s Long Jump Qualification: How healthy is world leader Luvo Manyonga?
The South African long jumper has been out of action since June because of an ankle injury, but prior to that mark he had posted an impressive 8.65 meters this season. Manyonga is looking for revenge against American Jeff Henderson, who defeated him by a centimeter for the gold in Rio. Speaking of Henderson, he is one of three Americans in the event, all of whom are expected to advance to the final. The automatic qualifying performance is 8.05 meters, with the top 12 guaranteed a spot in the final.

Women’s 1500m Heats, Men’s 100 Meter Prelims & Heats: Will any favorites go out?
Typically, these events don’t have much drama. In fact, the worlds’ best 100 meter runners don’t even compete in the 100 meter preliminary round as features many competitors from third world countries without much of a track history. Barring a false start or a fall, all the big names should advance through their respective prelims. The semi finals on Saturday will be the true test. However, it’s usually fun to get a look at which runners are looking sharp and which are looking nervous on the big stage.

The American with arguably the most to be concerned about in these rounds is Sara Vaughn. She should be in the mix to advance to the 1500 semis, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if she slipped through the cracks of the first round, should other runners have a strong day. Jenny Simpson and Kate Grace are expected to advance and will hopefully be finalists in this event. In the 100 meters, we will see Christian Coleman race for the first time after a long post-NCAA lay off. He is one of the biggest question marks in the entire field as he has the potential to win gold or not even make the final.

Women’s Pole Vault Qualification: What’s Next for Emily Grove?
The women’s pole vault should feature two Americans with realistic chances at the gold medal in Sandi Morris and Jenn Suhr, but the third American on the start list should be the name to keep an eye on during qualifying. Emily Grove, who competed at South Dakota this past NCAA season, was just 15th overall at the collegiate championships with a best jump of 4.00 meters. However, at the US championships, she dramatically turned things around with a 4.55 meter clearance. That put her in a tie for 3rd place and a spot in London. In case you are wondering, that means she made it on to the World Team via a jump-off!

Let’s see if Grove has any magic left in her in London. She will have to match her PR of 4.60 meters to get an automatic qualifying mark to the finals. Otherwise, she will need to be in the top 12 overall.

**Men’s 10,000m Final: Mo Farah’s Last Hurrah?**
Running in front of the hometown crowd, GBR’s Mo Farah will look to add to his prolific championship resume. Since 2011, Farah has not lost a global championship at either 5,000 or 10,000. For those of you keeping score at home that gives him 9 straight gold medals in 9 championship events. There’s little reason to doubt that the 34 year old is going to be bested in his pursuit of #10 as Mo has showcased his usual dominant finishing ability in his races in 2017.

The question becomes, what tactics will the others try to defeat him? The general consensus seems to be that you can’t leave it to a kick. However, it will be tough to run the legs out of him. In oppressive weather in Beijing in 2015, the Kenyan trio of Kamworor, Tanui and Karoki set a blistering pace, but they were unable to drop Mo. In fact, Mo’s 10k PR is the fastest in the entire field (26:46 from 2011) and he’s run one of the fastest 10ks in the world in 2017 (27:12 is third behind a pair of Ethiopians: Hadis and Yimer). Quite frankly, there may not be a way for to beat this guy no matter what you do (short of tackling him to the track).

With no Galen Rupp in the event, the USA will be lacking a front running medal contender for the first time in years. We do send an experienced group in Hassan Mead, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir, all of whom have competed in a global championship 10k. However, they have yet to produce any truly fast results in the 25 lappers. Korir is the fastest at 27:29. They’ll be long shots for a medal, but if the pace is conservative for a decent stretch, they could hang around and try and make a bid for the top 5.

The better chance for a recognizable “local” name to contend for the podium is Villanova graduate and Australian Patrick Tiernan. Although he’s only run 27:29, we’ve seen him contend consistently in both international cross country races and diamond league affairs as short as 3,000 meters. I could definitely see Tiernan hanging around in the lead pack until the pack really quickens in the final laps and people start to kick. Maybe he will even surprise with a better result than that.

The sleeper pick worth mentioning is 20 year old Joshua Cheptegei. The Ugandan was 6th at the Olympics in 27:10 (one spot behind Rupp) and he posted a new PR of 12:59 for 5k in Lausanne a month ago.  But Cheptegei’s biggest moment in his professional career came at the World Cross Championships in March. With an explosive fourth 2,000 meter lap of the course, Cheptegei opened up a 12 second advantage over defending champion and world silver medalist in the 10k Geoffrey Kamworor. Unfortunately, he paid the price for his bold move and broke down completely in the final half lap and ended up barely taking 30th.

Some may call that a stupid judge of pace, and that may be true, but it also says that Cheptegei won’t be afraid of Mo when they take the track in London. Maybe he will try a similarly bold move in this 10,000 meter affair and maybe this time he will have enough to hold on through the finish.

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