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Top 15 moments from U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

Top 15 moments from U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
Posted at 9:22 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 11:38:00-04

Two world records, two world under-20 records, five American records, 22 meet records and four performances elevating athletes to No. 2 all-time in their respective events. That and more transpired June 18-27 at this year's U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

And to top it off, 14 collegians earned 15 podium spots, winning four events. Both the present and future look incredibly strong for U.S. track and field.

As NBC Sports' Tim Layden describes, "the sport once again did what it does best: Replenished itself with youth. There is no track 'system' in America, but greatness nevertheless replaces greatness."

Here's a look at some of the best moments from the historic, latest edition of constructing the world's hardest team to make:

Crouser crushes Barnes' elusive mark

Pushes shot put world record to 23.37m/76-8.25

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Ryan Crouser smashes 31-year-old shot put WR

Reigning Olympic champion Ryan Crouser broke the 31-year-old men's shot put mark on the first day with a fourth attempt of 23.37 meters (76-8.25), taking down one of the longest standing world records on the books.

Randy Barnes, the 1996 Olympic champion, set the previous all-time best of 23.12m (75-10)  in May 1990. He tested positive for drugs shortly after, then again eight years later, resulting in a lifetime ban from competition.

"The sport has changed so much since then," Crouser said after the final. "I am happy that the world record is under the system that we are under. It's awesome that we have 100% clean world record in the shot put now."

SEE MORE: Ryan Crouser breaks Barnes' 31-year-old shot put world record

Felix, as mom, fulfills fifth Games feat

Winningest woman in Olympic track to return final time

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Felix finishes 2nd in 400m for 5th Games berth

Allyson Felix, 35, secured a fifth Olympics appearance on the third day, placing runner-up in the women's 400m final, an event in which she won Olympic silver in 2016.

With 2½-year-old daughter Camryn, or "Cammy," looking on from the stands at Hayward Field, Felix, in lane eight, rocketed from fifth to second in the last 50 meters to earn her fourth podium finish in a U.S. 400m title race.

Afterward, she and Cammy, who just 30 months prior spent weeks together in the NICU, shared a moment on the track surface that will go down in history.

"I just wanted to really show her, no matter what, that you do things with character, integrity and you don't give up," Felix said.

Felix's nine medals are tied with Jamaica's Merlene Ottey for most by a woman in Olympic track and field history. Her six golds, however, are unmatched.

She'll likely have three events in which to add to the totals if included on the women's and mixed 4x400m relays.

SEE MORE: Allyson Felix qualifies for 5th Olympics at 35, 1st as mom

McLaughlin beats Muhammad and her world record

First to go sub-52 in latest chapter of legendary U.S. clash

SEE MORE: 'It's Sydney's time': McLaughlin breaks 400mH world record

In perhaps the most anticipated showdown of the trials, certainly on the track, Sydney McLaughlin defeated Dalilah Muhammad in the women's 400m hurdles final on the last day and broke the reigning Olympic champion's world record in the process running 51.90.

She had bested the 2019 world champion before, most notably less than four months before her title win at a Diamond League meet in Oslo, but never before on as big a stage as the Olympic trials. McLaughlin's time had finally come.

Like Thomas, McLaughlin had been hinting at something big with her performances in previous rounds, clocking the best overall times of each, all while looking impressively relaxed and focused.

"Waking up today, I knew it was going to be a great day. I will cherish this for the rest of my life," she said. "It's an honor. So many amazing women have come before me and will come after me. The glory isn't forever."

SEE MORE: McLaughlin goes sub-52, breaks Muhammad's 400mH world record

Benjamin brings heat, misses WR by .05

Passes Warholm for No. 2 all-time at 400m hurdles

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Benjamin runs No. 2 all-time 400mH, wins final

Rai Benjamin won the men's 400m hurdles final on the ninth day in 46.83, just five-hundredths of a second off fellow American Kevin Young's 29-year-old world record of 46.78 from the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The 2019 world silver medalist's time broke a tie for third on the all-time list with Qatar's Abderrahman Samba and vaulted him past archrival Karsten Warholm of Norway to the No. 2 spot behind Young.

"It hurts a little bit to know that it was right there and I couldn't grab it, but it's just more fuel for the fire. It'll come when it comes," Benjamin said. "My main goal wasn't to go break a world record, I just wanted to make the team."

SEE MORE: Trials: Holloway, Benjamin nearly break WRs, Thomas ascends

*Richardson wins 100m, rapidly becomes star

Clocks wind-aided 10.64 in semis, 10.86 in final

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Richardson runs wind-aided 10.64 in 100m semis

*Editor's note: Richardson's drug test from the day of the final was positive for THC, a banned chemical found in marijuana; she was retroactively disqualified, removing her from the 100m team, and suspended for one month

Sha'Carri Richardson, 21, triumphed in the women's 100m final on the second day and became an overnight sensation, amassing nearly 1 million Instagram followers since before the trials began.

Earlier in the semifinals she pointed to the clock as she finished in 10.64 — had the wind (2.6 m/s) been legal, she would've become the joint-third fastest woman of all time behind Florence Griffith-Joyner and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

After winning the final, Richardson went straight up into the stands to see her family and embrace her grandmother. She also shared that she had recently lost her biological mother.

"I'm highly grateful for [my family and my coach]," she said. "My family is my everything, my everything till the day I'm done."

SEE MORE: Sha'Carri Richardson dominates Trials 100m for Olympic berth

Holloway hotfoots semi, just .01 off WR

No. 2 all-time at 110m hurdles behind Merritt's 12.80

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Holloway runs 12.81 110mH semi, No. 2 all-time

Reigning world champion Grant Holloway didn't wait for his final to make noise running a blistering 12.81 in the semifinals of the men's 110m hurdles, just a hundredth of a second off fellow American Aries Merritt's 2012 world record of 12.80.

The time trimmed 0.17 seconds from his previous personal best and sprung him from 19th all the way to second among the fastest high-hurdlers in history. He went on to win the final less than two hours later in 12.96.

Holloway's primary focus next month isn't necessarily the world record: "If I don't say I wanna win a gold medal, I don't think I should be going to Tokyo."

SEE MORE: Trials: Holloway, Benjamin nearly break WRs, Thomas ascends

Thomas climbs No. 55 to No. 2 all-time

Three 200m PRs in three rounds, now first after Flo-Jo

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Thomas wins 200m final in 21.61; Felix gets 5th

Gabby Thomas defeated 2012 Olympic champion Allyson Felix and six others in the women's 200m final on the ninth day to make her first Olympic team. But it was her time that was perhaps more breathtaking.

She had shown signs in the earlier rounds, clocking 21.98 and 21.94 personal-bests, and then in the final dropped the hammer, posting a 21.61 to record the third-best 200m ever run by a woman behind two from Florence Griffith-Joyner.

Before the trials, the Harvard grad was ranked 55th all-time in the event. She's now No. 2 all-time and the favorite to win Olympic gold in Tokyo.

"I can’t believe it. I feel empowered. If I can do it, anyone can go out there and do it," she said. "Felix was my biggest inspiration … To be on the team with her makes me want to cry."

SEE MORE: Trials: Holloway, Benjamin nearly break WRs, Thomas ascends

Bromell continues comeback in 100m

Former phenom renewed, positioned to replace Bolt on podium

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Trayvon Bromell wins 100m, qualifies for Tokyo

Trayvon Bromell won the men's 100m final on day three, progressing an incredible rebound journey perfectly fit for the Olympics.

Five years ago at the 2016 Rio Games, less than a month after turning 21, he placed eighth in the 100m and was wheelchaired off the track after the 4x100m relay. He then virtually disappeared, undergoing surgeries and battling injury through 2019.

But he has returned even stronger and is now likely to enter the Olympics ranked No. 1, with a season-best 9.77 that could've beat Usain Bolt in the 2016 Games final and in every other leading up to 2008.

“Understanding that internally I’m not as strong, and understanding that I need people and I need my faith to be able to do what y’all saw today," he said. "We’re human, we break down easily. We’re not as strong as we think we are, and that’s one thing I had to realize."

SEE MORE: Bromell wins 100m; Harrison finds redemption, trip to Tokyo

Lyles hushes doubters, Knighton wows

World champ wins strong, trailed by high-schooler

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Noah Lyles wins 200m, makes 1st Olympic team

After missing the team in the 100m, the weaker of his two sprints, uncertainty brewed over whether Noah Lyles would make the Olympics. But he vanquished speculation in the men's 200m final on the last day, running a world-lead 19.74.

Third-place finisher and qualifier Erriyon Knighton, 17, twice beat the reigning world champion in the early rounds, clocking a 19.88 semifinal to break Usain Bolt's world under-20 record. He would improve it in the final to 19.84.

"Really going through the hard parts [of this year] is what makes this moment so great," Lyles said after the race. "You can imagine what everyday is gonna be like when you cross the line. Nothing that I could imagine it was gonna be like was like today. It wasn’t the joy or excitement that got to me it was a peace and serenity. I feel like I'm changing and I'm OK with that."

SEE MORE: Lyles wins Trials 200m, makes 1st Games; Knighton, 17, joins

Price destroys own American best for No. 2 all-time

Joins Wlodarczyk as only women to throw over 80 meters

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Price breaks own U.S. hammer record, qualifies

Reigning world champion DeAnna Price won the women's hammer on the ninth day by twice surpassing her American record in the final on a third attempt of 79.98m (262-5) and fifth of 80.31m (263-6). All of her throws but one, a foul, would've won the title.

The latter was an improvement of more than 5.5 feet, or 1.71 meters, making her only the second woman to ever exceed the 80-meter mark along with current world record-holder and two-time reigning Olympic champion Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland.

"Me throwing over 80 meters, this is pretty crazy. Being in that territory is a true honor," Price said after the final. " Me smiling was me being nervous and excited. My family has lost so many, passed away due to COVID-19. My grandpa was right here to watch me throw. I have such a fantastic family. I can smile in the ring and know it's not just me, it's us."

SEE MORE: DeAnna Price breaks multiple records in hammer throw final

Winkler breaks 25-year-old U.S. hammer record

Previous record-holder Deal was there to witness it

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Rudy Winkler breaks hammer American record

Rudy Winkler won the men's hammer final on the third day by breaking Lance Deal's American record from 1996 with an 82.71m (271-4) second attempt. And he did it in the new Hayward Field sector designed Deal, who was there to see it all.

Winkler threw over 80 meters on every attempt, all six of which would've won the meet. Exiting the meet having cut three-quarters off his distance from world-lead Pawel Fajdek of Poland, Winkler is a U.S. threat to win a medal, last achieved by Deal in 1996.

"If you saw my practices leading up to this, this meet wouldn't surprise you," Winkler said. "My mindset going into this was to stay focused and don't overdo it. I was more prepared for this than I have been for anything in my life."

Harrison accomplishes quest for Games spot

Makes team after disappointing finish at 2016 trials

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Keni Harrison finally gets 100mH Olympic berth

World record-holder Keni Harrison at long last made her first Olympic team on the third day by winning the women's 100m hurdles final, a race in which she fell short five years ago before breaking the world record just weeks later in 12.20.

The 2019 world silver medalist had to watch from home in 2016 as the U.S. women swept the podium. She's been a gold-medal favorite for Tokyo ever since.

"I’m so happy to come out here, do what I know I can do, and put the past behind me," she said. "I trained really hard … I'm just glad I was ready for the moment."

SEE MORE: Bromell wins 100m; Harrison finds redemption, trip to Tokyo

Brazier beaten in shocking 800m final defeat

Reigning world champion to miss Games

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Murphy first, Brazier last in 800m final upset

In undoubtedly the biggest upset of the trials, 2019 world gold medalist Donavan Brazier unfamiliarly disintegrated in the final half-lap of the men's 800m final on the fourth day, finishing last.

The American record-holder was poised to potentially bring home the first U.S. gold medal in the event in nearly a half-century, dating back to Dave Wottle at the 1972 Munich Games.

Clayton Murphy won the final in a world-lead 1:43.17 and brings with him to Tokyo experience — he'll look to improve on his bronze-medal finish from the 2016 Rio Games.

SEE MORE: Donavan Brazier upset in Trials 800m final, misses Olympics

Mu makes 800m title look easy at age 19

Prodigy heads to Tokyo the gold-medal favorite

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Athing Mu demolishes 800m field in meet record

In a women's 800m field brimming with talent, the freshman collegian won it all. Texas A&M's Athing Mu made her professional debut at the trials and won the final on the last day in a world-lead 1:56.07, breaking the 25-year-old meet record.

Mu defeated and is joined on the Tokyo team by 2019 world silver medalist Raevyn Rogers, whose collegiate absolute 800m record she broke earlier this year, and American record-holder Ajee Wilson, a two-time world bronze medalist.

"I wouldn't call myself dominant yet. This is my first year coming out here running to my potential," Mu said after the final. "My confidence takes a lot from it. In 2019, I wasn't confident, but I was good enough. Just not confident. Gaining confidence has contributed to my dominance thus far in the 800."

SEE MORE: Athing Mu: 3 things to know about the 19-year-old track star

Cooper attains 5K standard in solo effort

Says it's a top-five moment as runner, didn't see it coming

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Abbey Cooper gets 5000m standard all by herself

Abbey Cooper, née D'Agostino, dropped the field and chased down an Olympic standard during the prelims of the women's 5000m on the first day, leading for about three-quarters of the race and dipping underneath the mark by more than two seconds.

The 2016 Olympian won a Fair Play award during the 5000m heats at the Rio Games. After tripping over a fallen Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand with less than 2000 meters to go, Cooper helped Hamblin get back up. Though Cooper was injured, both finished.

Unfortunately, at this year's trials, Cooper finished fourth in the final, one spot out of making her second team. She needed to run the standard, and because the weather forecast looked bad for the final, a decision was made to go after it in the first round.

"That was everything I had," she said after the final. "I don’t regret whatever I did Friday. I needed to do it."

Bonus: Epic racing, finishes in men's 1500m, 10K, 5K

Hocker, Kincaid, Chelimo put on tactical clinics

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Cole Hocker out-kicks Centrowitz in 1500m final

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Woody Kincaid wins 10K, qualifies for Tokyo

SEE MORE: U.S. Trials: Paul Chelimo wins 5K, qualifies for 2nd Games

SEE MORE: Paul Chelimo wins Olympic Trials 5000m in sprint-finish

More Incredible Moments

Valarie Allman: Broke meet record from 2000 with 70.01m in qualifying then recorded 69.92m in final to win women's discus; world No. 2 on season after trials and has three of the top seven marks this year

Katie Nageotte: Defeated 2016 Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris and moved up to joint-No. 4 all-time absolute in women's pole vault with 4.95m personal best in final, breaking the 2008 meet record

Brittney Reese: Made her fourth Olympic team at age 34 by winning the women's long jump final in 7.13m over collegiate phenom Tara Davis; Reese is the Olympic champ from 2012, also won silver in Rio

Michael Norman: Secured first Games berth with season-best 44.07 in men's 400m final, making him the world No. 2 this season behind third-place qualifier and 2021 NCAA champion Randolph Ross

JuVaughn Harrison: Won both the men's long jump and high jump finals on the same day; a collegian, will be first U.S. man to attempt that Olympic double since Jim Thorpe at 1912 Stockholm Games

Chris Nilsen: Bested two-time reigning world champion Sam Kendricks with 5.90m to win men's pole vault final; nine days later on June 30 he improved his season-best to 5.92m in Bydgoszcz, Poland

Elle Purrier St. Pierre: Took down Mary Slaney's 33-year-old meet record in the women's 1500m final with a personal-best 3:58.03 after nearly getting knocked off the track at the start of the race

Emma Coburn: Captured third straight trials victory to make third Games, breaking own meet record in the women's steeplechase final in 9:09.41; American record-holder Courtney Frerichs was second

SEE MORE: Emma Coburn makes 3rd Olympic team, tops own trials record

Jessica Ramsey: Topped Michelle Carter's meet record along with second-place finisher Raven Saunders to win the women's shot put final in 20.12m; duo left trials ranked world No. 2, 3 this season

Emily Sisson: Obliterated the field in oppressively high temperatures to win the women's 10,000m final in a meet-record 31:03.82; 16 months prior, among top seeds, didn't finish at marathon trials

SEE MORE: Broken after Atlanta, Emily Sisson gets Olympic berth in 10K

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