How to Watch the 2021 U.S. Track Trials


In our humble but correct opinion, all races at the Olympic Trials get must-watch status. How could they not be, given the drama inherent in the top-three-are-Olympians format?

But if you’re short on viewing time, some races are more must-watch than others. Below are our picks for what should be among the most exciting finals at this year’s Olympic Trials, which will be held June 18-27 in Eugene, Oregon. The times given for each race are local (Pacific). For information on how to watch these and other Trials events, see our comprehensive Trials guide.

Here’s how to follow along on television or for streaming wherever you are, along with five races you won’t want to miss over the course of the event.

? What to Watch: Sunday, June 20

Lots of sprint finals highlight Day 3. Allyson Felix will try to make her fifth Olympic team in the women’s 400 meters, scheduled for 7:06 p.m. PDT (10:06 p.m. EDT). The men’s 100-meter final ends the evening at 7:52 p.m. PDT.

Distance fans will want to catch the qualifying rounds in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase (6:35 p.m. PDT), featuring Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who went 1-2 at the 2017 World Championships.


What: The 2021 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

When: Races and field events kick off on June 18 and run through June 27.

Where: Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon

How to Watch: If you have a cable subscription, NBC is your home for all Olympic coverage, including the Track and Field Trials. NBC and NBC Sports Network will provide coverage over eight nights, including six in primetime on NBC. The official schedule of events and what can be viewed when can be found here.

If you are a streamer, your best option is probably to sign up for a seven-day free trial to Peacock Premium (NBC’s streaming service). The service costs $4.99 a month after the trials and gives you access to other track and running events like Diamond League meets, major marathons, and this year’s Olympics. For field events, head to NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app for streaming coverage of select field events, the decathlon, and the heptathlon.


Women’s 1500 Meters

First Round: 4:03 p.m., Friday, June 18
Semifinals: 6:40 p.m., Saturday, June 19
Final: 5:05 p.m., Monday, June 21

elle purrier how to watch track trials

Elle Purrier wins the 1500 meters with time of 3:58.56 during the 2021 USATF Golden Games and Distance Open at MT. SAC in Walnut on May 9, 2021.

MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

This was supposed to be an epic showdown between American record-holder Shelby Houlihan and Elle Purrier, the fastest American of the year. But on June 14, Houlihan announced that she has received a four-year ban for failing a doping test, and is ineligible to compete at the Trials. (Though this case continues to confound.)

Still, 1500-meter finals are always must-watch races because of the many ways the roughly four minutes of running can unfold. U.S. 1500-meter Olympic teams have included many relatively obscure runners who took advantage of a too-slow early pace or other tactical miscalculations by the top seeds.

With Houlihan out, the race is now Purrier’s to lose. In addition to her list-leading 3:58 1500, this year she has set PRs at 800 meters (1:59) and 2 miles (9:10, the American indoor record). Purrier can kick well off a fast or slow pace. Most of the other women will take their cues from her.

Defending champion Jenny Simpson has run two 1500s this spring, improving from 4:10 to 4:06 from the first to the second. Don’t discount the well of experience from Simpson, an Olympic and world medalist, who can navigate three rounds at the Trials.

Shannon Osika, second on the yearly U.S. list, is also likely to contend for a spot. Nikki Hiltz hasn’t shown the same form as they did in 2019, when they made the World Championships team. But Hiltz’s sound racing instincts and Olympic qualifier from 2019 could be enough to get her to Tokyo.

Women’s 10,000 Meters

Final: 6:44 p.m., Saturday, June 26

emily sisson marielle hall how to watch track trials

Emily Sisson and Marielle Hall compete in the final of the 10,00 meters during the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships.

Andy LyonsGetty Images

So many women (50!) qualified in this event that USA Track & Field will hold a two-section final. The slower qualifiers will race first, followed immediately by the faster qualifiers. The team will consist of the three fastest finishers who have the Olympic qualifying time of 31:25.

In theory, one or more women from the first heat could make the team. The odds of that happening, however, are low. None of the women in the first heat will start the race with the Olympic standard, so the top finisher or finishers would need to hit that time at the Trials. Also, the women in the second heat will know the times of the top finishers in the first heat. So even if the first heat is surprisingly fast, entrants in the second heat will have a strong incentive to better that pace more or less from the start. Still, stranger things have happened at Olympic Trials.

In the second heat, look for 2019 USATF runner-up Emily Sisson to mix it up with Bowerman Track Club stalwarts such as Elise Cranny and 2016 Olympians Marielle Hall and Emily Infeld. Rachel Schneider, who has a miler’s kick, could also contend if she’s with the leaders over the final two kilometers.

Sara Hall, who won the NYRR Mini 10K road race in 31:33 on June 12, is a potential wild card. It would be wrong to ignore the second-fastest marathoner in U.S. history, especially given her excellent kick. Still, Hall has competed in every Trials since 2004 and has yet to make an Olympic team.

Molly Huddle, the defending champion and U.S. record-holder in the event, scratched from the Trials on June 14. Huddle has been battling low-grade injuries for more than a year, and her times in races this spring, such as an 11th-place, 33:07 at the Mini 10K, were far off her standard.

Women’s 400-Meter Hurdles

First Round: 3:35 p.m., Friday, June 25
Semifinals: 6:19 p.m., Saturday, June 26
Final: 4:20 p.m., June 27

how to watch track trials

Dalilah Muhammad beats out Sydney McLaughlin in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Christian PetersenGetty Images

One of the great rivalries in U.S. track is that between Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin in this most difficult event. Muhammad, age 31, is the reigning Olympic and world champion and the world record-holder. McLaughlin, age 21, is the rising star who finished just .07 seconds behind when Muhammad won the 2019 world title in a world record 52.16.

Of the two, McLaughlin has had a much better pre-Trials season. On June 6, in her first 400-meter hurdles race since 2019 Worlds, she won easily in a U.S.-leading 52.83. McLaughlin spent much of the spring running 100-meter hurdle races and is one of the fastest Americans of the year in that event. Her speed and technique are as strong as ever.

Muhammad is coming back from a hamstring injury. She has run two 400-meter hurdle races this spring. Her time in the second one, 54.50, puts her third on the U.S. yearly list.

Experience counts in such a technical event. A key ability in championships is running the qualifying rounds slowly enough to save energy but fast enough to avoid a mishap. (Intermediate hurdlers tend to take the same number of steps between hurdles, so going too slow can mess up their accustomed rhythm.) Despite Muhammad’s apparent vulnerability, McLaughlin will need to be at the top of her game to unseat her older rival.

Women’s 800 Meters

First Round: 7 p.m., Thursday, June 24
Semifinals: 3:02 p.m., Friday, June 25
Final: 4:52 p.m., Sunday, June 27

how to watch track trials athing mu

Athing Mu at the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Jamie SchwaberowGetty Images

The U.S. depth in this event is incredible—14 women have broken 2:00, the benchmark for a world-class performance, this year. Yet most eyes will be on two entrants, Athing Mu, who just finished her freshman year at Texas A&M, and another former high school phenom, American record-holder Ajeé Wilson.

Mu, who heads the U.S. annual list at 1:57.73, appears to have the upper hand. There’s no doubting her speed at the moment, as she broke the NCAA 400-meter record twice this spring. Wilson’s ran 1:58.93 back in February, but didn’t break 2:00 in three races in May and June. She did, however, win those races. Will Mu start to feel her long college campaign by the time the final is run on June 27? Is Wilson still sharpening and timing her peak perfectly?

And what about all those other sub-2:00 women? Will Sabrina Southerland, second fastest American this year, or Kate Grace, the 2016 Trials winner, slip past Mu or Wilson (or both) in the final straightaway? The final in this event might be the most must-watch of any race at the Trials.

Men’s 1500 Meters

First Round: 6:04 p.m., Thursday, June 24
Semifinals: 4:05 p.m., Friday, June 25
Final: 5:10 p.m., Sunday, June 27

how to watch olympic trials craig engels

Craig Engels competes in the 1500 at the 2021 USATF Golden Games and Distance Open at MT. SAC in Walnut on May 9, 2021.

MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Look at the list of yearly performances in this event, and you might notice an oddity: A high schooler (Hobbs Kessler, 3:34.36) has run faster than the reigning Olympic champion (Matthew Centrowitz, 3:35.26). That factoid only adds to what’s always an unpredictable event in championship races.

Centrowitz appears to be rounding into form at the right time. He’s a superb tactician who is unlikely to misjudge what he needs to do to get through the rounds and finish in the top three in the final. The 2019 national champion, Craig Engels, is the fastest American of the year (3:33.64) and an obvious choice to make the team. A handful of younger challengers, such as NCAA champion Cole Hocker, won’t be afraid to take on the veterans. But many of them need to run the Olympic standard of 3:35.0 at the Trials; they can’t let the final become a sit-and-kick affair.

Despite breaking the national high school record, Kessler has continued to compete in high school races just to get in tactical practice. He’s said to have superb acceleration, which is key to covering moves and navigating a large group of men sprinting over the last half lap. Jim Ryun and Marty Liquori made the Olympic 1500-meter team before turning 20. Why not Kessler?

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