USATF Olympic Trials: Road to Paris 2024 starts with 8 days of events at Hayward Field

Hayward Field will once again be the center of the track and field world when the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials take place in Eugene from June 21-30.
Hayward Field will once again be the center of the track and field world when the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials take place in Eugene from June 21-30.

The road to the Paris Summer Games for America’s best runners, jumpers and throwers will go through Eugene, as the U.S Olympic Track & Field Trials return to Hayward Field this week for the fifth straight time and eighth overall.

There will be eight days of competition spread across 10 days beginning Friday and ending June 30, with many of the best athletes in the world fighting for the right to be inside the Stade de France in northern Paris when the track and field portion of the Summer Games begins Aug. 2.

Though the finalized heat sheets are days away from being released, the Olympic Trials are expected to include five individual gold medalists from the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and seven individual gold medalists from the 2023 World Athletics Championships.

The meet begins Friday with a four-event morning session starting with the decathlon 100 meters at 10 a.m.

The first field event is the women’s hammer qualifying rounds at 11 a.m.

The first track event is the men’s 400 qualifying rounds at 3:20 p.m. to start the 14-event evening session that ends with the men’s 10,000 final at 7:27 p.m.

Here are several of the many intriguing storylines heading into the meet.

The pathway to Paris

The formula for making the U.S. Olympic team can be both straightforward and oddly convoluted.

The top-three finishers in each event can stake their claim to a spot in the Summer Games as long as they've met the Olympic qualifying standard established by World Athletics.

The window for meeting those standards ends on June 30, preventing an athlete who qualifies at the Olympic Trials from chasing the standard through July.

If a top-three finisher at the Olympic Trials doesn’t have the Olympic standard, they can still qualify for Paris based upon their world ranking.

World Athletics has created a “Road to Paris 2024” tracker to help fans stay updated on the qualification process for each athlete.

Sha’Carri Richardson a main attraction

The 24-year-old world champion sprinter is as fast as she is popular with the fans, and starting Friday she’ll attempt to make her second Olympic team.

The first came three years ago at Hayward Field when Richardson won the 100 at the Olympic Trials, though she didn’t make the trip to Tokyo due to a drug suspension for marijuana use.

Sha'Carri Richardson wins the women’s 100 meters during the Prefontaine Classic May 25 at Hayward Field in Eugene.
Sha'Carri Richardson wins the women’s 100 meters during the Prefontaine Classic May 25 at Hayward Field in Eugene.

But Richardson has been on a tear the past two seasons and capped a tremendous 2023 with a U.S. title in the 100 followed by her win in Budapest in 10.65 seconds — tied for fifth-fastest all-time. She won bronze in the 200 and gold in the 4x100 relay.

So far this season, Richardson has run one 100, a victory at the Pre Classic on May 25 in 10.83.

Noah Lyles’ first steps toward making Olympic history

Never shy of setting big goals, the sprinter has openly discussed his desire to make history by becoming the first athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympics.

His Paris agenda is the 100, 200, 4x100 and 4x400.

He’ll get his chance to qualify in the two individual races in Eugene.

Noah Lyles celebrates with fans after placing second in the men's 100 meters during the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in Eugene in September 2023.
Noah Lyles celebrates with fans after placing second in the men's 100 meters during the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in Eugene in September 2023.

Lyles is the reigning world champion in both events and was also on the gold medal 4x100 team in Budapest last summer.

In Tokyo in 2021 — his first Olympics — he was third in the 200.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone + Hayward Field = magical moments

The greatest women’s 400 hurdler of all time has always been at her greatest competing in Eugene.

During the Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in 2016, a 16-year-old McLaughlin-Levrone became the youngest to make a U.S. Olympic team in 36 years when she finished third.

Two years later while a freshman at Kentucky, she broke the world junior record in the 400 with her NCAA championship win in 50.36.

She reset her own 400 hurdles world record at 51.41 during the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships and then returned a month later for the World Athletics Championships and ran 50.68.

In May, McLaughlin-Levrone — the reigning world and Olympic champion — ran her first 400 hurdles race since 2022 and recorded a then-world-leading 52.70. She’s also the world leader in the 400 (48.75) this season but has stated she will focus solely on the 400 hurdles for Paris.

Matthew Centrowitz's last stand

Former Oregon star Matthew Centrowitz, 34, has publicly stated that this will be his final season.

Can he make one last Olympic team to cap what’s been an extraordinary career?

Matthew Centrowitz (USA) defeats Taoufik Makhloufi (ALG) and Nick Willis (NZL) to win the 1,500 meters in 3:50.00 during the 2016 Rio Olympics at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in August 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Matthew Centrowitz (USA) defeats Taoufik Makhloufi (ALG) and Nick Willis (NZL) to win the 1,500 meters in 3:50.00 during the 2016 Rio Olympics at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in August 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Between 2011 and 2021, Centrowitz made all eight U.S. teams in the 1,500, with the high point coming in 2016 during the Rio Summer Games when became the first U.S. 1,500 Olympic champion in 108 years.

He’s also medaled at two world championships, winning bronze in 2011 and silver in 2013.

He ran 3:35.16 at a meet in May.

What's the status of Athing Mu?

Mu hasn’t competed since winning the Diamond League title in the 800 last September during the Pre Classic at Hayward Field. Her time of 1:54.97 that day bettered her American record.

But Mu hasn’t been seen on the track since. She was entered in the May 25 Pre Classic but withdrew due to a sore left hamstring, her coach Bobby Kersee told Runner’s World magazine.

If healthy, the reigning Olympic champion who won gold in Tokyo when she was just 19, is the clear favorite to win.

Can the kid compete with the elite?

Teenage sensations have always added a thrilling component to the Olympic Trials, from Laura Roesler and Jordan Hasay in 2008, to McLaughlin-Levrone in 2016, to Erriyon Knighton in 2021, just to name a few.

This year, keep an eye on rising quarter-miler Quincy Wilson, a 16-year-old sophomore from Maryland who is expected to compete in the men’s 400.

Wilson is ranked 13th in the U.S. with an outdoor PR of 45.19. In March he won the New Balance Indoor Nationals in 45.76 to set the national high school record. It was also a time that would’ve placed him fourth at the 2024 World Athletics Indoor Championships.

Oregon’s Jaida Ross celebrates a win in the women’s shot put on day two of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships June 6 at Hayward Field in Eugene.
Oregon’s Jaida Ross celebrates a win in the women’s shot put on day two of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships June 6 at Hayward Field in Eugene.

Will Oregonians own the shot put ring?

Ryan Crouser and Jaida Ross were raised hours north and south of Eugene, respectively.

Both have made Hayward Field their home, however.

Crouser, 31, born and raised in Boring and a Barlow High alum, is the reigning two-time Olympic champion and a two-time world-record setter in the men’s shot. He set the world record for the first time at Hayward Field during the 2021 Olympic Trials when he threw 76 feet, 8¼ inches. He broke that mark in May 2023 when he threw 77-3¾.

His success at Hayward is legendary, having won four USATF titles and the 2022 world championships crown in the venue.

Ross, the Oregon senior and North Medford High alum, is early in her career but also in the midst of the greatest college season of all time.

The recently crowned NCAA outdoor champion set or tied the women’s collegiate record three times this spring. The last came on May 23 during the NCAA prelims when she threw 65-7¾ (20.01 meters) to become the first collegiate woman to record a 20-meter throw. She is ranked No. 2 in the U.S. this season and No. 5 in the world.

Follow Chris Hansen on X @chansen_RG or email at chansen@registerguard.com.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: US Track and Field Olympic Trials bring action to Eugene

Advertisement