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On the Rise: Young Athletes Bound for First Olympic Trials


Every Olympic season, the world’s No. 1 track and field team comes to form as the best American athletes set their sights on achieving their Olympic dreams of hearing the “Star Spangled Banner” play with the raising of American flags and the awarding of Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals.

Similarly, every Olympic season also begins with the opening phase of those dreams, as many young athletes approach their first Olympic Trials experience, and are destined to qualify for their first Olympic Games.

From July 1-10, the United States Olympic team will arrange its Olympic lineup during the 2016 U.S Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, hosted at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

The Olympic Trials, a 10-day gathering of hundreds of athletes and thousands of fans, presents a chance for both veteran Olympians and Olympic hopefuls to qualify for the prestigious Olympic Games.

Here are some potential Olympians performing in their first Olympic Trials:

Top High School Sprinter Enters Olympic Trials

One month removed from his high school graduation at Vista Murrieta High School, Michael Norman (Murrieta, California) will compete for a spot to represent Team USA in Rio. Norman, a highly decorated sprinter, has gained attention as the top boys high school track and field athlete in the country.

At 18 years old, Norman currently holds the ninth fastest U.S. 200-meter time this year with a blazing 20.23 on May 27. Norman succeeded his personal record when he won the 2016 California State Championship in both the 200m and the 400m, all while leading Vista Murrieta High to the California State championship.

In addition to his success in the 200m, Norman is tied for the fastest 400m time in NFHS history with a lifetime best of 45.19 set at the CIF California State meet in 2015. Norman will compete in the men’s 200 and 400m at the Trials, and will compete against former Olympians Tony McQuay and Arman Hall.

The first round of the men’s 400m is scheduled for Friday, July 1 at 5:15 p.m. The first round of the men’s 200m is schedule for Thursday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Jarrion Lawson in Contention for Long Jump, 200 Meters

Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson positioned himself in elite company at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, garnering national titles in the men’s 100 and 200m, and the long jump to become the only individual to accomplish such a feat since Jesse Owens in 1935 and 1936.

Lawson’s accomplishment distinguished himself amongst the collegiate elites, but now he is poised to make an impression at Olympic Trials.

Lawson entered the NCAA Championships with some of the best marks in his respective events, being ranked among the top long jumpers in the United States this year with a personal record of 26 feet, 9.75 inches. Additionally, Lawson’s 200 meter personal record of 20.17 is among the fastest times recorded this year. Lawson’s athletic achievements placed him on the NCAA’s Bowerman semi-finalist list, a prestigious award honoring the nation’s top male and female athlete.

Lawson’s recent marks at the NCAA Championships places him within the top marks in the men’s long jump, and men’s 200 meter heading into Olympic Trials. The Olympic Trials men’s long jump final is scheduled for Sunday, July 3 at 4:15 p.m., and the first round of men’s 200 meters is set to begin on Thursday, July 7 at 5:30 p.m

Courtney Okolo Chases Her Olympic Dream

University of Texas senior Courtney Okolo endured great success during her collegiate career, breaking NCAA records on numerous occasions, and setting the second fastest women’s 400m time in the world this year. Okolo was also recognized as the Track and Field Honda Award Winner, for being best of the best collegiate athletic in the sport.

Okolo set her newest 400m personal record of 49.71 at Louisiana State Alumni Gold meet earlier this year on her way to claiming an NCAA outdoor championship. Okolo won the event with a time of 50.36, and has a plausible opportunity to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at 22 years old.

Approaching Olympic Trials, Okolo’s mark of 49.71 is the fastest of the entries in the 400 meter, and is the 12th fastest in U.S. history. Approaching Olympic Trials, Okolo has a chance to set the field for the 400m in Rio.

The women’s 400m final is slated for Sunday, June 3 at 4:38 p.m.

Keturah Orji Jumps for Olympic Glory

University of Georgia sophomore Keturah Orji was among the standout performers at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, where she won the women’s triple jump title for the third consecutive title, besting her own school and collegiate records set earlier in 2016.

Orji’s fifth jump of 14.52m/47-8 inches at the NCAA Championships was enough to clinch the American triple jump record previously held by Tiombe Hurd. Orji’s list of accolades includes three NCAA championships, and a fourth place finish at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, among others.

Now, at 20 years old and just concluding her sophomore season, Orji is among the Olympic hopefuls that will compete at her first Olympic Trials.

Orji’s mark of 47 feet, 8 inches currently places her at the top of the triple jump field, competing against Christina Epps, Andrea Geubelle, Simone Charley and more. The qualifying round for women’s triple jump is scheduled to begin on Monday, July 4 at 4:15 p.m.

Olympic Hopeful Jake Blankenship Back in the Spotlight

University of Tennessee senior Jake Blankenship is a pole vaulter that has already had experience on the world stage, and he believes he belongs at the Olympics.

Following his junior year, Blankenship competed in the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, and traveled to Beijing, China to participate in the IAAF World Championships. In his experiences on Team USA, Blankenship earned a bronze medal in pole vault at the Pan American Games, and has gained unparallelled experience.

Blankenship hopes to make another United States team this summer for the Rio Olympics.

Blankenship’s collegiate career is highlighted by conquering first place at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championship and a second place finish at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championship. Blankenship set his personal record height of 5.8 meters in 2015, and holds the third best vault in the United States this year, behind only Sam Kendricks and Mike Arnold, both of whom are entered in the Olympic Trials.

Men’s pole vault Olympic Trials are scheduled to begin on Monday, July 4 at 3:30 p.m.

Quanera Hayes Flies Under the Radar

Quanera Hayes, a graduate of Division II Livingstone College, has made a name for herself with three DII National Championships in the 400m, and the second fastest mark in the event in 2016. Now, Hayes is traveling to her first Olympic Trials.

One-year later after graduation, Hayes found her recognition after participating in the 2016 USA Indoor Championship on March 12. Competing against some of the best American sprinters, Hayes outlasted Olympian Natasha Hastings at the finish of the 400m, winning the event with a time of 51.09. Hayes later set her personal record in the 400m with a time of 49.91, and further established herself as a potential qualifier for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

But first, Hayes will have to place within the top three at Olympic Trials Finals which take place on Sunday, June 3 at 4:38 p.m. Hayes is currently registered with a time of 49.91, behind only Okolo.

Courtney Frerichs Among Olympic Trials Steeplechase Elites

University of New Mexico graduate student Courtney Frerichs sprung onto the national spotlight with her performance during the women’s 3000m steeplechase during the NCAA Outdoor Championships, winning her first individual NCAA title, and setting a new women’s NCAA steeplechase record.

Frerichs’s record-setting time of 9:24.41 surpasses the previous women’s steeplechase record set by Jenny Simpson in 2009.

With her NCAA record, Friechs’ ranks 13th in the world in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, and is positioned within the top 3 Americans heading into Olympic Trials. The only two athletes ahead of Frerichs are American record holder Emma Coburn (9:10.76) and Leah O’Connor (9:18.85).

The women’s Olympic Trials 3000m steeplechase is scheduled for Thursday, July 7 at 7:48 p.m.

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