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USA Junior National Championships

Hayward Field, University of Oregon, Eugene OR
June 25-28, 2009

DyeStat on-site with Dave Devine and John Nepolitan

USATF Junior Men - 9 Burning Questions

By SteveU, DyeStat/ESPN RISE Senior Editor

1. Can Elijah Greer approach the 800 USR?  The last of many chapters in this season’s prep middle distance drama will unfold this weekend when Lake Otsego OR sr Elijah Greer takes to the oval in the 800 – running in the same meet again where he blew the prep track world away last spring with his 1:47.68.  He has not yet improved on that this year and has seen Robby Andrews get the lion’s share of the headlines in that event with the indoor USR, the US#1 at the NJ MOC, then the NON title last weekend. 

Greer, on the other hand, has had somewhat disappointing outings in his two biggest races: the Prefontaine Classic where he ran 1:49.15, and the Portland Track Classic, where he was 4th in the mile in 4:08.08.  Getting that USR of Michael Granville’s (1:46.45) seems like kind of a long shot at this point, but with, say, a win at 1:47-low, Greer could retake the US lead, improve that PR and move up to #3 all-time – and really make his season.  Don’t sleep on Zach Mellon MN or Tommy Brinn MI, either.  Mellon has not broken his 1:48.64 PR (2nd) from last year here, either, but ran a 1:49.49 leg in the NON 1600 SMR last weekend.  Brinn has run 1:49.27.

2. Will Curtis Beach get his third decathlon national record of the year?  It’s hard to imagine the answer to this question will be anything but “yes!”  Curtis Beach has amazed the track world all year long and it’s hard to imagine that won’t continue this weekend.  Is there anything this guy can’t do?  He blew away the high school record (HS implements) at Arcadia in April, then took down a tougher international implements record at Great Southwest, in the midst of a “double decathlon,” which saw him compete three extra events to achieve scores in both the HS and International events in the same competition.

The remaining two records are with junior implements (heavier than HS, lighter than international) with the old (42”) and new (39”) hurdle heights.  The former mark is basically retired, but the newer one – 7264 from Shawn Schmidt in 2006 – is likely to get throttled by a few hundred points, at least.  Beach is #3 all-time on that list, with his 7026 from last year.  But the 2008 Beach and the 2009 Beach are like night and day.  He’ll crush it.  One more thing, as great as Beach is, it’s wise not to sleep on the competition.  The Albuquerque Academy sr is actually 2nd ranked to Gray Horn, the Florida frosh who hit 7490 at NCAAs with the international implements and actually beat Curtis way back in the 2006 USATF JOs.  Unfortunately, outstanding defending champ Sweet Home OR junior Dakotah Keys has scratched.

3. Can Reggie Wyatt get the 400H USR (and beat old rival William Wynne)?  After making his 2009 debut at this distance last weekend with an outstanding 49.78, a second USR for Reggie Wyatt is an exciting prospect this weekend.  In contrast to his best efforts at 300H, where he set the new national mark at the CIF prelims with 35.02, Wyatt looked kind of raw and unpolished, especially at the end when he stutter-stepped.  The thing is, he didn’t look real smooth and he still ran 49.78.  There’s no question he can run 49.38, which is Ken Ferguson’s 2002 USR.  It’s just a matter of how quickly he can get it together.

Almost equally entertaining should be the renewal of Wyatt’s rivalry with William Wynne.  Remember at the 2007 NON when Wynne, then a McEachern GA junior, nipped Wyatt (then a Riverside CA soph), 50.09-50.10, with Wyatt setting a US soph record?  Wynne continued to have Wyatt’s number at USATF Juniors, and then the World Youth Champs.  They didn’t meet last year and now Wynne is a U. of Florida frosh, continuing to mature to a likely pro career … but with a 49.67 PR just a nose ahead of Wyatt.  Should be great.

4. Can Mason Finley repeat his NON throws double?  Mason Finley had a banner weekend in Greensboro, as the Colorado throws star not only defended his discus title (no surprise), but also rose up from US#4 top the three 72-footers ranked ahead of him in the shot (surprise).  Here, just one of the other members of the 2009 prep 70-foot club will be competing – Stephen Saenz TX, who was runner-up to Finley in both events.  Saenz knows he’s not at Finley’s level in the discus, but he was stung by the shot loss after a great series with four 70-footers. 

Seeding here is confusing, with entries for the collegians including 16-lb. shot marks and with few of the athletes having thrown the 13.2-lb./6kg.) ball, but last year’s Alaskan prep 71-footer, Jordan Clarke (now at Arizona State), might stand the best chance of beating Finley or Saenz in the shot – though it was Dan Block IL who actually made the World Junior team in the event last year.  Block, however, struggled terribly in Greensboro.

5. Will this be the meet when Jack Whitt finally gets the PV USR?  After his 17-08.25 triumph at NON last weekend, an competition completed with three misses at an USR height of 18-03.25, Jack Whitt says he has now attempted to surpass Tommy Skipper’s 2003 standard in five different meets.  One of these days, the Norman North OK senior is going to make it – and why not this weekend, where the holder of the record competes in the senior meet?  Actually, Whitt is still hoping to get in that competition; his status is “not qualified” and “pending,” meaning an appeal is up.  He is also declared in Thursday’s junior competition and it’s likely he’ll do both if he can.

6. What will we see from Conor McCullough in the HT?  After absolutely bludgeoning the US weight throw marks at NON and NSIC this March, Conor McCullough has been one quiet big guy on the hammer front.  The competitive slate shows a 256-09 from Mt. SAC in April, scaring the 260-00 USR he set last summer, and a 251-10 three weeks ago.  But with opportunities being light during the spring, June is when the Californian would generally get his season really cranked up anyway.  Is he in shape to blow away that 260-foot throw, or will it be a relatively sedate win in the 250s?  It will be exciting to find out.

7. Can Cameron LaCour gave Wayne Davis II a run for his money in the 110H?  There was no question who was the nation’s top hurdler indoors this past winter, as Southeast Raleigh NC senior Wayne Davis II completed another season of dominating the action over the indoor barriers with both the 55H and 60H marks and an NON title.  But the lingering effects of a late indoor injury carried over to outdoor, meaning modest (for him) times. 

Meanwhile, the Texan LaCour (the NIN runner-up) rocketed to a legal 13.48 (+1.9) that held up until last weekend’s NON – when Davis erupted for 13.33 (-0.2) to move to #5 all-time.  LaCour wasn’t in Greensboro, but both will be in Eugene.  Two under 13.40 in the same race?  Revenge for LaCour?  Or maybe victory for collegians Wynne or Booker Nunley?  Stay tuned.

8. Who will win the Crouser-Shirk JT showdown?  US#2 Justin Shirk PA is in a slump right now, having struggled to get over 200 feet at NON last weekend and losing to Great Southwest champ Devin Bogart TX, whose PR was almost 20 feet less.  If he can get his rhythm back, then it could be a great battle and possible national-record duel with Sam Crouser OR, whose 239-00 throw last week in his home state took over the national lead from Shirk (235-03).  2008 Alabama prep standout Kyle Smith (223-9, Southern Miss) and 220-11 prep Sam Humphries TX will also be in the running, along with Bogert.

9. Who will win Tate-Parros IV?  Each of the first three editions of Tavaris Tate MS vs. Clayton Parros NJ has been memorable.  The closest was the Nike Indoor battle, where Tate won by .01.  The margins between the two, ranked 1-2 in the country, the last couple outings have been .23 and .17, with the Starkville MS senior holding off the Seton Hall prep senior both times.  Can Parros finally pull off the upset?  Neither seemed quite at full speed last week (especially Tate), as if they were holding a little back for this week.  They are ranked 1-2 in the field here, too, with collegian Joey Hughes (last year’s prep #1) the next best contender.  Also watch out for Altoona PA junior Brady Gehret, who normally runs several events and has done a mid-45 4x400 split.