An Olympics Preview With Mercer Track Head Coach
The United States is the most prolific medal winning nation in the history of the Olympics, earning a total of 2,523 medals at the Summer Olympics. Team USA is expected to continue their success in the rescheduled 2020 Olympic games beginning on Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan.
Track and field events take up a large proportion of medals earned at the Olympics, and because many American athletes are expected to win their event, Terry Yeast, the head coach of the Mercer County Titans Track And Field Team, got to see many future Olympic gold medalists at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, last month. Yeast, who’s has coached the Mercer team to four state championships over the past five years, is filling us in on the most exciting athletes representing the USA in track and field.
Noah Lyles is currently the fastest 200 meter sprinter in the world, running the fastest time in 2021 with a 19.74 second finish at the trials. Lyles, a Virginia native, finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics but is the favorite to win the gold in 2021.
Michael Norman is one to watch in the 400 meter event, according to Yeast.
“He has had a great season and is peaking at the right time. It will be tough but he has a great chance,” said Yeast of the California native who holds the world record in the indoor 400 M dash, finishing in 44.52 seconds.
The 110 and 400 M hurdle events are set to be two of the most competitive races at the Olympics, and the USA’s Grant Holloway has run the fastest time (12.81 seconds) of any athlete in 2021. Yeast added that the men’s 400 M hurdle will be one of the best events at the Tokyo Olympics and the United State’s Rai Benjamin is peaking at the perfect time to compete for a gold medal.
Yeast officiated the long and triple jumpers at the trials in Eugene and says triple jumper Will Claye is a top contender, but “we have three great jumpers and any one of them could win,” according to Yeast. Donald Scott and Chris Benard join Claye in the triple jump event while JuVaughn Harrison looks to lead the USA in both the long jump and high jump.
Yeast was front and center when big man Ryan Crouser broke the shot put world record in Eugene, throwing the shot a spectacular 76 feet and 8.25 inches.
Yeast says the U.S. has an amazing talent pool in the 400 M, and expects the 4×400 M men’s relay team to dominate at the Tokyo Olympics.
The women’s team is also loaded with talent as Yeast expects Gabby Thomas will land a spot on the podium in the 200 M dash. “The Jamaicans will challenge her but she will be tough to beat. She is peaking at the right time,” said Yeast.
Nineteen year old Athing Mu set a trial record in June, finishing the 800 M run in 1:56.07. “This young lady is amazing. She will be tough to beat. She has the 400 speed and endurance to take the gold,” said Yeast.
Emma Coburn is expected to push for a gold medal in the 3000 M steeplechase after running a 9:09.41 at the trials. Coburn placed fifth in 2012 and earned a bronze in 2016.
Dalilah Muhammad won the 400 M hurdles for team USA in 2016, but former University of Kentucky track superstar Sydney McLaughlin passed Muhammad at the trials last month, breaking the world record and solidifying herself as the favorite to take the gold in Tokyo. This could be a race the Americans sweep, according to Yeast. Another former UK Wildcat, Keni Harrison, failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics before breaking the world record in the 100 meter hurdles less than a month later. Now after qualifying last month, the former Wildcats are the favorites to win gold in both hurdles races.
Brittney Reese is competing in her fourth Olympics this year. Reese won gold in the women’s long jump in 2012, and earned a silver in 2016. Now at 34, Reese is competing for her final time at the Olympics and is one to watch according to Yeast.
“This will be another fun event to watch the Americans dominate,” said Yeast of the women’s triple jump event. Keturah Orji, Tori Franklin and Jasmine Moore will each be representing the U.S. in the triple jump. Yeast also believes high jumper Vashti Cunningham has a great chance at grabbing the gold.
Katie Nageotte is the number one ranked pole vaulter in the world heading into the Tokyo Olympics and is expected to place first.
In the same way as the men’s team, Yeast expects the USA women’s 4×400 M relay team will dominate the competition.
“The Americans have a great team and have a great chance to rack up several medals! Let’s go USA!”