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Championship Week!

Nike Outdoor Nationals - June 19-21 - Greensboro NC

USATF Juniors - June 20-22 - Columbus OH

SteveU's Top Ten Storylines for Championship Week

By Steve Underwood
1. “The Best 2-Mile Ever” … Again – It’s one of the most heralded races every year, and it’s hard to imagine topping last year – but it could happen. German Fernandez CA should be fresh and eager to give the HSR a run, with reliable 8:40-50 standouts Luke Puskedra UT and Colby Lowe TX to push him. Now Rob Finnerty MN has stamped himself as a major contender with his 4:01.09 mile last weekend, giving an already-hyped event another huge shot of adrenaline. A forecast of moderate weather (not freakishly cool like last year, but not super hot) for Friday should help these guys chase history.
2. Which meet are you going to do? – With a late New York State meet this year, and an Olympic Trials just two weeks later, there wasn’t much room for NON and USATF Junior Nationals to be scheduled on separate weekends. So, for the first time since 2001, both meets are on the same weekend, with a 2-day overlap. In this story, Jim Spier of the NSSF cites doubles that conceivably can be attempted between the two meets, but the bottom line is that about half of the top-five level athletes are choosing NON, and about half USATF. More later in the week on who is definitely doubling.
3. See You in Eugene – Some of the sport’s very biggest prep stars are passing on Nike Outdoor AND USATF Juniors, to focus solely on the Olympic Trials the following week. Eugene has been the focus of 800 megastar Chanelle Price PA all year, for example, but 2:03 talent Laura Roesler ND is also running the Trials only. Same with Jeff Demps FL, who has run 10.19 (3rd at Pre) and 10.03w the past two weeks, and Christine Babcock, whose 4:16.42 1500 HSR Sunday night is likely a good enough ‘B’ Standard time to get her a ticket to Eugene.
4. See You in Eugene AND Columbus – Several athletes who have qualified for the Olympic Trials, most of whom do not have a realistic shot at making the Olympic team, are also competing in the USATF Juniors. They include distance runner Jordan Hasay CA, high jumpers Shanay Briscoe TX and Victoria Lucas TX, sprinter Marcus Rowland SC, high jumper Erik Kynard OH, vaulter Rachel Laurent LA, multis/400H Ryann Krais (in 400H), long jumper William Claye, discus thrower Anna Jelmini, and javelin thrower Hannah Carson. Carson is signed up for NON as well, which would be a difficult, but doable double. These athletes have met the Olympic Trials 'B' standard, which means they may or may not actually get to compete in the Trials.
5. Krais/Coward II – Two of the country’s most talented female prep tracksters will again find themselves in a meet where their paths will intersect in arguably their second-best events. Ryann Krais PA will be the favorite in the Heptathlon where her PR (albeit wind-aided) is 145 points points up on U. of Kentucky’s Danielle Sampley, while Jackie Coward TN will be tabbed to take the 100H title over a tough field that will include Vashti Thomas CA. But in the 400H, where they were 2nd and 3rd last year, they will have to get past Miami freshman Takecia Jameson, who is down to 56.60. In any case, after the Great Southwest Classic, where Krais won and Coward fell after a very fast start, how the two fare against each other will be fascinating.
6. Best Prep Shot Put Field Ever? One of the best boys fields at NON will definitely be the boys shot put, an event of great depth this year. US#1 Jordan Clarke of Alaska is not entered, but the other six over 66 feet this year are in the field and there are nine over 64 feet total. The makeup of the field bodes well for years to come, too, with six of those 9 being underclassmen, including super frosh Nick Vena NJ.
7. Jumpers Summit at USATF – If we are measuring the quality of an event in this meet by prep dominance and a showdown between top athletes who haven’t been competing against each other, then the men’s long jump may qualify as the best. The event brings together US#1 Ryan Butts CA (24-10.50), 2007 NON and 2008 NIN champ Marquise Goodwin TX (26-01.50w), NSIC champ Christian Taylor GA (25-06.75 indoors), and Great Southwest champ Bryce Lamb AZ (25-09.50w). Fresno State’s Gary Lee has the best chance to break up the prep party.
8. Boys 800 Wars – One of the events where it will be most interesting to compare the prep results between NON and USATF Jrs. is the 800, where the talent is close to being split. NON does have an edge, though, with US#1 Joe Franklin FL (1:48.97), US#4 Jason Walton NJ (1:50.14), US #6 Mac Fleet CA 1:50.40, and #7 Harun Abda MN 1:50.70. USATF Jrs. counters with #2 Blake Shaw TX (1:49.41), #3 Zach Mellon MN 1:49.69 #5 Elijah Greer OR 1:50.31, and Dylan Ferris NC (1:50.81; 1:49.27 in 2007). Of course, the field is much deeper in terms of top preps at NON, while the top dogs at USATF Jrs. will have several sub-1:50 collegians to contend with, including 1:47.47 surprise Donte Holmes of Delaware State.
9. Intriguing, but Diminishing 400H Drama – All year long, one of the best men’s events for Junior Nationals figured to be the 400H. The top three graduated preps at 300H/400H (Jeshua Anderson, Robert Griffin, Johnny Dutch) would still be eligible, while current preps William Wynne GA (World Youth champ) and Reggie Wyatt CA (now #1 at 300H and 400H) would be there to challenge them. The collegiate freshmen upped the ante during conference weekend when they all PR’d under 50 seconds, including a stunning 48.68 by Dutch. But things have changed quickly. Dutch missed NCAA regionals and nationals with injury, and is a question mark for juniors, while Griffin is only entered at the Trials. On the prep side, Wyatt has opted for the flat 400. That could leave Anderson and Wynne to battle it out as the sub-50 survivors.
10. Top-End Power vs. Incredible Depth – In some events, the absolute cream of the crop will be at USATF Juniors, but the vast depth will be at NON. Take the girls 1500/mile and 3000/2M. The queens of California – new 1500 HSR-setter Christine Babcock and 9:52 3200 stars Jordan Hasay and Laurynne Chetelat – with either be Columbus, Eugene, or both. US#1 for the full mile, Stephanie Morgan OH, is also going for the Junior team. Yet Nike Outdoor will still bring a dazzling field to the line in the deuce that will likely include the past two Foot Locker Champions (Ashley Brasovan, if she doubles back from 5k, and Kathy Kroeger), seven other Foot Locker Finalists, last year’s NON 2M and 1M runner-ups, the 2008 NIN 2M champ, and a total of 13 runners at 10:33 or better. Wow.

NON Index - USATF Juniors Index