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18th Nike Outdoor Nationals
June 19-21, 2008 - North Carolina A&T University, Greensboro NC

Derrick's Dispatches | an insider lends insight

Chris Derrick
of Neuqua Valley HS in Naperville, Illinois, has been one of the top distance runners in the nation this year. His senior cross country campaign, which included an Illinois state title, the individual and team titles at Nike Team Nationals and a runner-up finish at Foot Locker Nationals, was capped by being named Gatorade National XC Runner of the Year. His spring was highlighted by a breathtaking solo 13:55.96 5k at the Arcadia Invitational, before the season was cut short by a diagnosis of mononucleosis just days before his state meet.

Chris joins us as a special contributor to our 2008 Nike Outdoor Nationals coverage.

Thursday - Friday - Saturday

Shot put respect, 400 envy, distance props and CJ Brown's national title

Chris interviews CJ Brown's teammate on Friday

Watching Nike Outdoor Nationals Saturday evening, I was truly grateful for the opportunity to travel to this meet and see it in person.

I got to watch a national record, meet King Carl (Lewis) and Larry Rawson, and enjoy a slew of close finishes and all-time performances with people who really love and appreciate track and field. Great athletes were constantly coming onto the track or infield from 6pm onward, and I didn’t know whether I should be watching, interviewing, or congratulating.

Even the rain couldn’t deter the great performances being laid down on the track. In fact the races got better after the rain.

A few observations:

  • Anthony Manfrin is going to be real good in a couple of years. Heck, he’s real good now. The 4:19 miler from Illinois took it to the freshman miler field. He led wire-to-wire to set a new meet record of 4:23 and looked strong while doing it. He’s got big goals and the tools to achieve them.
  • The shot put is sweet. I went over to watch the first two rounds of throws of the marquee throwing event of the weekend before the start of the 800’s, and gained a new appreciation for the sport. The smallish shot put area was crowded with fans on all sides of the ring and their anticipation was palpable, their silence betraying an intense interest in every toss. As I watched the star-studded field I felt like this had been what I was waiting for the whole weekend, despite the fact that I had just gone over on a whim. I was almost annoyed by the presence of a pair of incredibly close (and no doubt exciting) 4x100’s because the fervent announcing disturbed my focus.
  • Jillian Smith is a winner. BIG, Millrose, NIN Mile, NON 800, and a mass of other races in between, the New Jersey junior is stronger than just about anyone she’s faced in the later stages of a race and particularly the last lap. She’s got the tools to win in a variety of situations.
  • The 800 is one of the most exciting races. In each final, the favorite pounced on the field at 400m and appeared to have the victory in hand, only to have the grueling long sprint to the line almost eat them up. The variety of strategies that can work in the 800 and the propensity for a fast pace to throw a large piano on the back of an early leader in the final straight make the homestretch of an 800 an unpredictable and thrilling event.
  • Rob Finnerty and Luke Puskedra were a little frustrated after their 2 miles Friday night and they came back to redeem themselves by going 1-2 in the mile. Jordan Carlson (who I accidentally called Jacob the whole weekend) and Raul Arcos each acquitted themselves well in a stacked field to finish 3-4. Pat McGregor placed in the top 5 out of the slow heat, and was so excited after finding out, he had to go puke his guts out in the garbage can.
  • Warwick girls pwn. Double relay gold, National record, enough said.
  • Colby Lowe’s teammates get a national title. We joked with Foot Locker finalist CJ Brown in an earlier interview that he will forever be known as Colby’s teammate but hey, at least Colby got him that national championship in the DMR as a consolation prize ;). The key for Southlake Carroll, though, was their 800 leg. The 1:55 they threw down there lifted the 10:02 team from the Texas Relays into the top 5 all-time in 9:56. Even more impressive: they haven’t had a formal practice in a month and a half. Colby and CJ were doing base work for next year and their 400 guy was playing football.
  • I wish I were fast enough to run the 4x400. It’s such a sweet event.

Thanks for reading this far, and check out some of the interviews that we did this weekend. The CJ Brown and Luke Puskedra ones are especially good.

Derrick Out.

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