The 2017 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships begin today in Sacramento, Calif. From June 22-25, the best runners in the country will be vying for a chance to head to the IAAF World Championships in London later this summer. A top three finish in each event secures an athlete’s place on the world team. But the competition is tough and the weather won’t make it any easier. Thursday’s high temperature in Sacramento is expected to reach 107 degrees and won’t fall below 95 all weekend.
Here are the events and runners you should watch for—and where you can see all the action.
How To Watch
TV coverage will be split between NBC and NBCSN. On Friday, NBCSN will show the meet from 10:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. ET. On Saturday and Sunday, NBC will provide coverage from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET on both days. NBC Sports Gold will provide a continuous stream for online viewers from Thursday through Sunday. However, it is a subscription based service, available for $69.99 for the entire track and field season. Get the meet schedule here, but note that times may change due to the weather.
Gabe Grunewald Will Race 1500 Meters While Fighting Cancer
The most inspiring runner at USA Nationals might be Gabe Grunewald. The 31-year-old runner is currently battling cancer for a 4th time in 8 years. On June 4 she began chemotherapy to treat adenoid cystic carcinoma, a form of cancer in the salivary gland that has spread to her liver. Despite undergoing treatment, Grunewald continued to race towards the meet standard and was accepted into the meet, despite falling just short. USATF Championships fall during a 2-week break in chemo for Grunewald, giving her a bit of added strength. While it is probably a long shot for Grunewald to make the London team, her strength and competitiveness should not be counted out. Watch for her in the first round of the 1500 meters on Thursday at 12:05 a.m. ET. The race includes three Olympians who are expected to make the world team: Shannon Rowbury, Jenny Simpson, and Kate Grace.
Olympic Marathoners Rupp and Flanagan Hit The Track
The top U.S. marathoners are back to race the 10,000 meters on the track. On the men’s side, Galen Rupp is the favorite to win his ninth consecutive national title in the 10K. Rupp has been focusing on longer road events, coming off a 2nd place finish at the Boston Marathon this past April. This could possibly be the last track 10K he runs in the U.S. In the women’s race, Shalane Flanagan continues to make her way back from a fracture in her back. While she has only run one 10K this year, she easily nabbed the World A standard. Challenging Flanagan for a chance to race in London are her training partner Amy Cragg, American 10K record holder Molly Huddle and Olympian Emily Infeld. Both the men’s and women’s 10K’s take place Thursday night/Friday morning (depending on the time zone). Women start at 12:27 a.m. ET and the men start at 1:09 a.m. ET.
Alysia Montaño To Race While Pregnant
Once again, Alysia Montaño is returning to run the 800 meters—and once again, she will run the race pregnant. Back in 2014, Montaño became a viral sensation when she raced at USATF Championships while 8 months pregnant with her daughter Linnea. Montaño’s second child is due in November. As for the rest of the field, 1500-meter Olympian Brenda Martinez is the favorite going into the race. Martinez has stated that this is her last season focusing on the 800, with plans to move up in distance next season. The first round of the 800 meters starts at 8:25 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Murphy Will Attempt 800/1500 Double
Olympian Clayton Murphy has his sights set on winning both the 800 meters and 1500 meters. The last time this was done was 1933. So far he is the clear favorite for the 800. His biggest threat in that race is Donavan Brazier, whose 1:44.43 ranks #3 in the world this year. However, the biggest threat to double gold comes when he faces Olympic gold medalist Matt Centrowitz in the 1500. Centrowitz has only raced three times this season, but his only 1500m was a win over Mo Farah in a fast 3:33. First round of the men’s 800 is Thursday at 8:00 p.m. ET, while the first round of the 1500 is at 11:44 p.m. ET.
Double Amputee To Compete In The 400 Meter
Blake Leeper will race the 400-meter qualifying heats on Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. ET. According to NBC Sports, the USATF could not recall a double amputee previously competing in the Outdoor Championships. Leeper was suspended for 2 years after testing positive for cocaine in 2015. Prior to his suspension, he earned a silver medal in the 400m and a bronze in the 200m at the 2012 London Paralympics.