The World Athletics Championships — known as the world track and field championships in America — get underway Thursday in Eugene, Oregon, marking the first time the meet will be held in the U.S. The competition will be spread out over 10 days, concluding on July 24.

The meet, which started in 1983, has never been held in the U.S., presumably because the sport is so much more popular in the rest of the world. It should be no surprise that the meet will make its U.S. debut in Eugene, aka “Tracktown USA,” which already has hosted the NCAA championships and U.S. championships this summer.

The timing couldn’t be better. The U.S. will field one of its most formidable teams, especially in the women’s competition.

Utah will be represented by one athlete at the world track championships — Courtney Wayment, who ended her collegiate career at BYU by winning the NCAA championships last month. Two weeks later she placed second in the U.S. championships to make the U.S. team.

BYU’s Courtney Wayment makes record run in the rain to claim sensational NCAA championship
BYU’s Courtney Wayment earns spot on the U.S. world championship team

Both of those races were held on the same University of Oregon track, site of the world championships.

This marks Wayment’s first international race, and she’ll face stiff competition from two Americans — Olympic silver medalist and American record holder Courtney Frerichs and world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn — plus the usual contingent of Africans, who represent the seven fastest times in the world this year. Frerichs, whom Wayment defeated at the U.S. championships, has been hampered by low iron and celiacs disease and has not run well this year.

The heats of the women’s steeplechase will be held Saturday. The finals will take place July 20.

The steeplechase has been a strong event for Utahns over the years. Weber State’s Lindsey Anderson and BYU’s Josh McAdams represented the U.S. in the steeplechase in the 2008 Olympic Games. BYU’s Henry Marsh qualified for four Olympic teams and numerous world championship teams and set a couple of American records.

Women to watch

• Athing Mu, who was born in the U.S. after her parents emigrated from South Sudan, won the 800-meter run in last year’s Olympics at the age of 19 and set an American record. The U.S. is loaded in this event, with world medalists Ajee Wilson and Raevyn Rogers in the field.

• Sydney McLaughlin, the Olympic 400 hurdle champion, has set three world records in 12 months and she’s only 22 years old. Like Mu, she is a generational talent.

• Emma Coburn, the 10-time U.S. steeplechase champion, is a former world champion and Olympic bronze medalist who seems to have returned to form after a baffling 14th-place finish in the Tokyo Games. Courtney Frerichs, the Olympic silver medalist and American record holder, is also in the field but hasn’t run well this year.

• Abbey Steiner ended her collegiate career by setting a collegiate record in the 200-meter dash at the NCAA championships, then topped it by running even faster (21.77) to win the U.S. championships.

• Valarie Allman, a sleek 6-foot, 155-pound discus thrower, is the 2021 Olympic champion who produced the farthest throw in about three decades last season.

• Anna Hall, just 21, won the heptathlon in both the NCAA and U.S. championships and in the former also placed second in the 400 hurdles. She clocked 2:03.11 in the 800 in the U.S. championships — the fourth fastest ever in a heptathlon competition. She is the next big thing in this event (she has the second best score in the world this year).

• Pole vaulters Katie Nageotte and Sandi Morris have won Olympic gold and silver medals, respectively.

• Keni Harrison is the world record holder in the 100 hurdles and the Olympic silver medalist.

Men to watch

• Erriyon Knighton is a precocious 18-year-old who has broken every age-group record set by the great Usain Bolt at 200 meters. The fourth-place finisher in last year’s Olympics at 17, he became the fourth fastest ever in the 200 this year by clocking a time of 19.49. He was upset by countryman and Olympic bronze medalist Noah Lyles in the U.S. national meet, albeit barely. That gives the U.S. two strong entries.

• Fred Kerley will represent the U.S. in both the 100 and 200. He is one of only three men ever to break 10 seconds in the 100, 20 seconds in the 200 and 44 seconds in the 400. He has the fastest time in the world this year at 100 meters (9.76), just ahead of countryman Trayvon Bromell at 9.81.

• Rai Benjamin was part of an epic 400 hurdle race in last summer’s Olympic Games in which the first three athletes broke a 26-year-old world record. Benjamin finished a close second behind Norway’s Karsten Warholm and just ahead of Brazil’s Alison dos Santos. Warholm has been sidelined by a hamstring injury this spring but will compete anyway; Dos Santos has the world’s fastest time. It promises to be another epic race.

• Americans Michael Norman and Champion Allison are the only sprinters in the world this year to break 44 seconds in the 400-meter dash, with times of 43.56 and 43.70.

• Grant Fisher has the fastest time in the world this year in the 10,000-meter run, with a time of 26:33.84, an American record and seventh fastest time ever. No American has ever medaled in the 10,000 in the world championships.

Athletes compete during the decathlon high jump at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. The world track and field championships will be contested at the same venue this month, marking the first time the event has been staged on U.S. soil. | Charlie Riedel, Associated Press