A lot of action on tap this weekend as the season begins to hit stride with several interesting match ups and possibly the top in season high school invitational of the year scheduled all over the country.
In Eugene we get two of the country’s top collegiate programs as Oregon and Texas A&M will both be competing in the Pepsi Team Invitational. Oregon will take to the track with men and women’s programs that are both very strong in the distance events and multis. Texas A&M will counter on both sides with strong sprints and relays. This should be a mini preview of the NCAA Championships as both squads are among the nations best.
Oregon will be lead by multi event performers Ashton Easton and Brianne Theisen and middle and long distance runners Andrew Wheating, Jordan Hassay, Michael Coe, and pole vaulter Mellissa Gergel. A&M will be lead by sprinters Curtis Mitchell, Gabby Mayo, Porsha Lucas, Gerald Phiri, and Jessica Beard and their relay strength. As much as the competition will be a test of strength of the two programs, it will also be a test of philosophy – sprint power vs distance power. The interesting anomaly on the women’s side will be the fact that Oregon has put together a national level 4x4 relay – which could be interesting if the meet is close at the end.
The Florida State Seminoles are another top 10 program playing host this weekend as they put on the Seminole Invitational in Tallahassee. While FSU should provide some top level results, the main attraction will be the seasonal debut of Olympic double bronze medalist (100/200) Walter Dix. Dix, a former Seminole standout, will open his season here in the 200 meters. Dix was injured last year at our Nationals and didn’t make the World Championships team. A young man that has almost always performed at his best in the big meets, he missed the super hot sprints in Berlin – perhaps missing a chance to improve his PR’s of 9.91 & 19.69. Dix should be an important weapon in our sprint arsenal heading into the championship meets of 2011, 2012, and 2013, so hopefully the outcome this weekend is that Dix is healthy and ready to move forward. Would be nice to see something in the 20.30 range or better from him at this stage of the season.
Another young sprinter that I have hopes for will also open up this weekend as National JC sprint champion Ryan Bailey opens his season in Texas at the UTEP Invitational. In an email exchange with his coach John Parks yesterday he indicated that Bailey has been doing well in workouts and quite possibly could double in the 100/200 in this meet. Whether he runs one or both sprints, this meet should give a good indication of Bailey’s fitness as he should face Churandy Martina (AOH), fourth place finisher in the Beijing Olympics in the 100 meters. Martina has bests of 9.93/20.11 and will be a good first opponent for Bailey. Bailey is a tall sprinter (a la Usain Bolt) with a strong build. He’s young and still learning how to sprint – yet has run 10.05 / 20.45. I believe he could be a part of the future of our sprint corps. This weekends performance should give us a glimpse.
Speaking of youth, the Arcadia Invitational will take place out here in Southern California this weekend. One of the nations premier high school invites, it has maintained that status while running in the middle of the season as opposed to most that run after the end of the competitive season. None the less Arcadia has produced some 24 national records over the years and is a good preview of the many of the state’s top athletes. There should be many national leaders come Saturday night!
These meets are the tip of a big weekend of action with the Sea Ray Relays in Tennessee, JJK/Johnson Invite in Westwood, and Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, all meets that provide solid results each year. There should be a lot to talk about before the weekend is over.