Friday, May 29, 2009

Reebok Grand Prix - Preview

With one of the US's top meets on tap for tomorrow, I thought I would take an event by event look at the Reebok Grand Prix.

Women's Long Jump - We get a rare shot of Carollina Kluft (SWE) here in the US. Kluft is arguably one of the best female athletes in the sport as a former Olympic and reigning World Champion in the Heptathlon. The long jump is her best event, but she should have all she can handle from Grace Upshaw and Tianna Madison. Don't be surprised if Kluft's visit to the states is a successful one.

Women's Pole Vault - Jenn Stuczynski has only one peer - Yelena Isinayeva - and she won't be in New York. So this should be Stuczynski opening high, then taking some shots at 16ft. If the wind is right she could improve upon her AR of 16' 1.75" (4.92m).

Men's 400 - LaShawn Merritt has been running fast and easy so far this season at both the 200 and 400. Kerron Clement and Chris Brown are always tough competitors. But it is upstart Tabarie Henry (ISV) that sits at #4 on the yearly list at 44.77 - ahead of everyone in this race except Merritt. Until someone shows different, Merritt is the class of this field. The real race should be for second, and we will see if the emerging Henry is truly ready to run with the Big Dogs.

Women's 200 - A fairly balanced field with no dominant force in it. Add the fact that we haven't had a really top level race this year, and nearly anyone in this race could emerge with the win. Best bet is that the race should be waged between vets Lauryn Williams (US) and Shalonda Solomon (US) and youngsters Simone Facey (JAM) and Bianca Knight (US). My head says Williams will win, but my gut say Knight.

Women's 100 - Should be one of the highlight races of the meet. In this corner, from the United States we have Carmelita Jeter who has dominated every 100 race she's been in this year. Her mid race surges have been deadly. In the other corner from Jamaica we have Veronica Campbell Brown. A smooth turnover machine who just seems to know how to touch that line ahead of everyone else. Jeter's #2 on the world list at 10.96. Campbell Brown ran a windy 10.82 just last week. They are the class of the best field put together so far this year, with Allyson Felix (US), Lauryn Williams (US), Torri Edwards (US), Muna Lee (US) and Marshevet Hooker (US) all sub 11 sprinters. Edwards has the potential to steal the race at the start, but my money is on the pair of Jeter and Campbell Brown to duke it out in a nail biter.

Women's 5000 - Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) is in the race - so everyone else is running for second as no one else is in her class. It will provide an opportunity for the group behind her to try and run with her and PR - someone like Kim Smith (NZL), Carrie Tollefson (US) or Jen Rhines (US). But the real question here is how fast will Dibaba run.

Men's 200 - Tyson Gay (US) makes his seasonal debut in the sprints with this race. We know he is fit, as previous runs in the 400 of 46.34 and 45.57 attest. The question on the table is how much speed work has he put in - since he has bye's in both sprints to worlds he's been able to work longer on speed endurance. He'll be tested here by a deep field that includes sub 20 sprinters Wallace Spearmon (US), Xavier Carter (US) and Rodney Martin (US). Throw in quarter milers Jeremy Wariner (US) and Lionel Larry (US) and Gay will have to run fairly fast to win this race. If we see his patented blitzkrieg turn the season's first sub 20 could happen in New York.

Men's 100 - Two hot races back to back. A sizzling deuce should get the crowd ready for a deep and potentially fast 100 meters. There will be two heats and the breakdown of each one has not been identified as yet. But both should be burners. Most eyes, however, will be on which ever heat Asafa Powell (JAM) is in. Powell is the former WR holder, and does his best work in this type of meet. He has been injured most of the early season, however, so how well he will run in a mystery. If healthy we will see something well under 10.00 which would eclipse the current yearly lead of 9.99 by Daniel Bailey (ANT) - who is here and will be competing. Of course he will want to prove that he is a contender in the event after running Usain Bolt to the wire earlier in the season and running his world leader last week. And there are others that will want to prove that they are more than just added names in this field. Darvis Patton (US) and Travis Padgett (US) have shown the best early season form. But Nesta Carter (JAM), Michael Frater (JAM) and Mike Rogers (US) should also make things interesting. Look for Powell to run close to 9.90, however.

Men's 110H - Terrence Trammell should be the class of a very solid field. Antwon Hicks (US), David Payne (US) and Eric Mitchum (US) all faster times on the season, but Trammell does his best work when the competition heats up - and it should be hot on Saturday. Look for Trammell to surge mid race and run close to David Oliver's world leading 13.09.

Men's 800 - A "pick em" race right now with David Krummenacker (US) Jonathon Johnson (US) and Khadevis Robinson (US) all looking like they were ready to become America's best at this distance at some point - but all not quite getting there. Without Nick Symmonds in the race, here's a chance for someone to step up and get noticed. At his best I would put my on Krummenacker, but you never know just how he is going to perform. Then again the same goes for Robinson and Johnson. Which is why this race will be interesting. I'll be flipping a coin a few times before this race starts to make my pick.

Women's 800 - Kenia Sinclair (JAM) has shown real good form so far this season and should be the one to push the pace. She'll be challenged by Alysia Johnson (US) and Hazel Clark (US). Johnson will push the pace, but Sinclair is strong and this battle within the race should determine the winner. Right now that should be Sinclair.

On paper this should be one hot and exciting meet. And with it being televised on NBC (1:30 PST) this is must see TV for any track fan.

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