If accepted entries lists and tweets mean anything, then this year’s Florida Relays should be the meet for seasonal outdoor debuts.
A fixture on the US track and field scene for 72 years, the Florida Relays has traditionally drawn strong sprint and hurdle fields and this year is no different. Last year there was an appearance from Tyson Gay in the open 400 meters – and Gay burned the track for a 44.86 PR. This year Gay has tweeted that he hopes to run a leg on the 4x4 – something he has stated he would like to do in international competition for the US.
In open events the comeback of Justin Gatlin should see its first outing of the 2011 season as Gatlin is entered in the 100 meters. Beginning his racing in mid summer of last season, Gatlin ended ‘10 with a best of 10.09. He will have to do better to have a shot at making the US team for Daegu.
Since last summer however, Gatlin has joined the Orlando based training group of veteran coach Brooks Johnson. Johnson has had a long and distinguished career which has included World and Olympic posts as well as coaching some outstanding athletes – from one of my all time favorites Steve Williams in the ‘70s to last year’s US Athlete of the year David Oliver. The move should assist Gatlin in his pursuit of a ticket to South Korea.
Also in the 100 is Gatlin’s training mate Xavier Carter. Carter a 10.00/19.63 (#4 all time in the 200) performer in his own right is on a comeback of sorts of his own as he had injury hampered seasons in ‘08 & ‘09. Joining them will be Florida’s own Jeff Demps – two time collegiate 60 champion and defending 100 meter champion who will be making his own outdoor debut This event could produce some fireworks.
As should the men’s 110 hurdles with David Oliver scheduled to take the blocks. Last year’s undefeated season saw Oliver run under 13.00 on five different occasions – headed by an American Record of 12.89. While I’m not expecting a sub 13 here, he did run 13.24 in April of last year and he should get sufficient competition from Dwight Thomas (JAM) and Joel Brown (US) – also in the Brooks Johnson stable.
The long hurdles should also provide some entertainment as last year’s breakthrough hurdler Johnny Dutch will be in attendance. Dutch was the world’s second fastest hurdler last year at 47.63 and ranked #6 on the season – ahead of this year’s early season sensation L.J. Van Zyl (#9). Florida will give us our first glimpse of Dutch in 2011.
Florida will also give us a match up of top female quarter milers – in the deuce – as Natasha Hastings and Francena McCorory go head to head. Tianna Madison will be in the long jump as will Florida triple jumpers Christian Taylor & Will Claye – who happened to be the US’s two best triple jumpers during the indoor season.
Not a bad lineup of performers and that’s in just a handful of events. But if you can get Oliver, Gay and Gatlin in April you’ve got yourself one hot meet. If it were a classic movie I’d be chanting “Oliver, Gatlin and Gay, Oh My.”