What Pac-12 stories to watch at the 2017 IAAF World Championships
What to watch? In short: Everything. However, if you’re looking for some current or former Pac-12 athletes who could make a splash at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, that’s where this list comes in.
Dozens from the Conference of Champions will toe the line, take the ring, hit the runway, etc. for a jam-packed eight days of the best track & field competition in the world. Here are our picks of who to keep an eye on:
The women’s 400m at the IAAF World Championships is notorious for having a dramatic finish, and this year doesn’t look to be any different. Three women on Team USA have Pac-12 ties: Phyllis Francis is an Oregon alum, Allyson Felix attended USC, and Kendall Ellis is a current Trojan. Felix, a 13-time World Championship medalist, holds this year’s world-leading mark (49.65 seconds), but only a total of four women this year have run sub-50.00. Francis is one of them, clocking a 49.95 at this year’s U.S. Championships. As for Ellis? She’s the fifth fastest woman in the world right now, running 50.00 also at the U.S. Championships. You can basically alternate between chanting “U-S-A” and “BACK-THE-PAC” for this one and be good. They take their first lap on Sunday, August 6 at 3:55 a.m. PT/4:55 a.m. MT.
Women’s 400-meter hurdles
If one lap wasn’t enough for you, why not add some barriers? The reigning Olympic gold medalist and USC alum Dalilah Muhammad is the fastest woman in the world this year in this event and has a very good chance of adding another medal to her collection. Also repping the U S of A in this event is Stanford alum and 2013 NCAA champion Kori Carter, who’s the third fastest in the world this year in this event. Side note about that U.S. Championships race that qualified these women for Worlds: Six women ran sub-54.00 seconds, and it was the first time in history that three women went sub-53.00. Muhammad’s 52.64 is less than two-tenths of a second off the current American record (52.47). Want another Pac-12 student-athlete, but in a different kit? We got you: Arizona’s Sage Watson, who is competing for her home country of Canada and was the 2017 NCAA champion in this event. Catch the first round on Monday, August 7 at 11:30 a.m. PT/12:30 p.m. MT.
Arguably one of the best stories to come out of the U.S. Championships was that of Sara Vaughn. The Colorado alum and mother of three told the media following her race that she thought of her two-year-old, who often has trouble sharing and frequently exclaims “my turn!” From the race, Vaughn said: “I saw someone in front of me that had something I wanted. And I was just like, ‘It’s my turn.’” Joining her on the starting line is fellow Buff and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson. Though Simpson’s season best of 4 minutes, 2.57 seconds doesn’t put her close to the top five women this year, Simpson has proven that she performs best in a championship setting, medaling at both the 2011 and 2013 World Championships. The first round runs Friday, August 4 at 11:35 a.m. PT/12:35 p.m. MT.
— Sara Ensrud Vaughn (@MomVaughn) June 26, 2017
Women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase
While we’re talking Buffs, let’s talk about Emma Coburn, shall we? If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch the American record holder race, now’s your chance. Coburn became the first American woman to medal in the steeplechase in the Olympics (ever) at the 2016 Olympic Games. This season, Coburn’s been creeping close to her own national-record of 9 minutes, 7.63 seconds, clocking a 9:07.96 this year. Who knows, a championship setting could be just what she needs to lower that mark. Her first round goes off Wednesday, August 9 at 11:05 a.m. PT/12:05 p.m. MT.
Women’s hammer throw
#BackThePac goes international for the women’s hammer throw. Duck alum Jillian Weir is set to represent Canada in the event, while Arizona State’s Maggie Ewen made the U.S. team. Ewen, the NCAA record holder, has been going off on the hammer this year, bettering her marks nearly every time she steps in the ring. She’s currently sitting as the eighth-best woman in the world this year, but at the rate she’s throwing don’t be surprised if another big mark puts her higher on that list. Throws begin on Saturday, August 5 at 2:35 a.m. PT/3:35 a.m. MT.
"If you want to go to the Olympics, you go to Oregon."
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) August 11, 2016
Men’s 110-meter hurdles
“If you want to go to the Olympics, you go to Oregon.” Devon Allen said that at a 2016 Olympics press conference, and guess what? He and another Duck are at another world championship event. Allen, who sits as the sixth-fastest man in the world at this event this year, is joined by Canadian Duck Johnathan Cabral, who also competed at the 2016 Olympic Games. Neither are completely out of podium talks, as they placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in Rio this year. A Trojan is also stepping in the blocks alongside the Ducks. USC alum Aleec Harris clocked a time of 13.18 seconds this season, putting him at No. 11 in the world so far this year. Heats begin Sunday, August 6 at 5:15 a.m. PT/6:15 a.m. MT.
Would it be an elite-level, international 1500m final without some Pac-12 alums? That’s a specific question, but the answer is no (usually). Cal alum David Torrence will represent Peru in London, while a Duck duo of Matthew Centrowitz and Johnny Gregorek will toe the line in U.S. kits. Keep an eye on Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in the 1500m since 1908. While his season hasn’t gone entirely to plan, Centrowitz shines brightest on the big stage. Fun fact: He has never finished lower than eighth in the seven major 1500m finals he has contested indoors and outdoors. The first round of these three and three-quarter laps goes off Thursday, August 10 at 12:25 p.m. PT/1:25 p.m. MT.
Can’t get enough Pac-12 track and field athletes? Don’t worry, there are plenty more chances for you to #BackThePac. Other notable Pac-12 athletes to keep your eye on: Duck duo Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington try for the first sub-11.00 seconds of their careers in the 100-meter, NCAA champ and USC alum Bryshon Nellum in the 400-meter, UCLA's Dawn Harper-Nelson and USC's Nia Ali take on a deep 100-meter hurdles field, Arizona State’s Shelby Houlihan could break 15 minutes in the 5,000-meter, and Oregon’s Eric Jenkins is going to have some spicy competition in the same event on the men’s side.
In the infield, keep an eye on a pair of Stanford Cardinal as current student-athlete and two-time Pac-12 champ Valarie Allman will compete in the discus and alumna Katerina Stefanidi will look to claim the pole vault after winning gold for her native Greece at last summer's Rio Olympics.
There are a whole lot more current and former Pac-12 student-athletes competing, and one blog post can’t do them justice, so we strongly suggest tuning into the IAAF World Championships or following your favorite Pac-12 track and field accounts on Twitter for updates. As always, #BackThePac.