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US indoor championships kick off in Portland

PORTLAND — A star-studded 3,000-meter field highlights the U.S. indoor championships, with Olympians Galen Rupp, Lopez Lomong on Evan Jager set to compete today as the two-day meet kicks off at the Oregon Convention Center.

The event sets the stage for next week's world indoor championships, which also will be held here.

Rupp is a Portland native who has already qualified to compete at the Rio Games this summer after winning the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles last month. The former University of Oregon star is the American record holder in the indoor 3,000 with a time of 7 minutes, 30.16 seconds.

Despite the quick turnaround between the two races, Rupp has insisted that he wants to compete for a championship in his hometown. If he is among the top two finishers today, he'll earn a berth in the field for the worlds.

But he'll face some heady competition among the field of 16 — including four Olympians.

That list includes Lomong, a two-time Olympian who trains with the Oregon-based Bowerman Track Club, and Jager, who competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Games. Also with the Bowerman Track Club, Jager holds the American record in the steeplechase with a time of 8:00.45.

He finished fourth in the 3,000 at the Millrose Games last month and is running in the event as an effort to work on his race strategy.

Ryan Hill, a former standout at North Carolina, is coming off a victory in the 3,000 at the Millrose Games where he finished in 7:38.82 to beat Hassan Mead — who also is in the field today. Hill won the two-mile race at the U.S. indoor championships last year.

The sentimental favorite is 41-year-old Bernard Lagat, who is retiring this year but hopes to make his fifth Olympic team. Lagat won the 3,000 in the world championships in 2004, 2010 and 2012. This will be his first race of the season.

Today's events also include the finals in the men's pole vault, long jump and high jump, as well as the women's 3,000.

Two-time Olympian Shannon Rowbury is among 17 on the start list for the 3K. She is also expected to run on Saturday in the 1,500, the event she ran in Beijing and London.

"I'm excited I've been placing consistently well at the world level and each race is a new chance to perform and do well," she said on Thursday. "I feel good about it."

Rowbury has been outspoken about doping in the sport, and has expressed anger and exasperation after it was revealed that two more women in the 1,500 at the London Games had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. A total of six women who ran the event have tested positive.

For now, however, Rowbury is going to focus on herself and performing well in the upcoming races to earn a spot at worlds.

"I have a race tomorrow and I'll hopefully make the world team and be racing here again in two weeks. I still, God willing, have a shot at an Olympic medal that I can have the right way," she said.

Ashton Eaton, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, is expected to take part in the 60 and the long jump. The Oregon native and standout for the Oregon Ducks holds the world records for both the outdoor decathlon and indoor heptathlon.

But there are a number of high-profile U.S. athletes that are skipping the indoor national and world championships, including sprinters Allyson Felix and LaShawn Merritt, as well as middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds. Because it is an Olympic year, many athletes prefer to pace their training and focus on the outdoor season and making the Olympic team.

"Because of the way the schedule is set up, with the (Olympic) trials in July instead of June, I thought it was smart to run indoors this year, get the races in and get my rhythm," said sprinter Mike Rodgers, who will run in the 60. He won the event at the 2008 U.S. indoors.

In this photo taken Monday, workers put the finishing touches on the track at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. The track will host the U.S. indoor track and field championships starting today, and the IAAF world indoor championships the following week. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS