Typically Nationals is one of the two hottest meets of the year behind only the World Championships or Olympics. This is an "off season" however, that once every four years non championship season. So the full complement of elites looking to make a global team is a bit lighter than usual. My biggest disappointment in this regards is the Men’s 100 which is missing Justin Gatlin and the new kid on the block Trayvon Bromell, as neither of the year’s two fastest Americans is entered in the competition. I think that could have been the match up of the meet.
That said however, I think there are several match ups worth keeping an eye on with several athletes that could be in the hunt for the World Championships squad next year. Among those I will be watching the following very closely.
This could be a very crowded field with the likes of English Gardner, Barbara Pierre, Octavious Freeman and multiple global medalist and # 2 all time Carmelita Jeter. But the true "joker" in this year’s deck is Tori Bowie who has simply proven to be a winner this year. Her running style is very reminiscent of Pam Marshall. With sprint wins in Rome, New York and Eugene, Bowie is the hottest female sprinter on the planet right now. A win here would solidify her as a serious contender moving forward. Well I say she’s the joker in the deck, everyone will also have to watch out for 200 ace Allyson Felix who is competing here to hone her speed. Felix is always a decent start away from upsetting any field she is in!
Who is going to lead the US into the next set of wars against the Jamaican’s in the upcoming trifecta of global championships? That’s a good question, and we get a nice compliment of both old and new talent here in Sacramento. The old talent, Walter Dix and Wallace Spearmon between them have represented the US in every major championship since 2005. The new, Isaiah Young, Curtis Mitchell and newly crowned NCAA champion Dedric Dukes a trio of young sub20 performers. Dukes is the hottest coming in and looked exceptional in Eugene. Dix seems to always find a way to get to a podium in this event. Spearmon, ah if he would just run a turn. Look for action a plenty when the finalists hit the straight in this event. If we see 19.7 or better we could be in the medal hunt next year. Barely below or not reaching sub 20 and we’re still looking for the next 200 star.
This is one of my favorite women’s events, and we have several women capable of medaling on the world stage. Brenda Martinez and Alysia Montano have done so and Ajee Wilson is ready IMHO. Phoebe Wright looked ready a couple of seasons ago, and Laura Roesler screams potential. Should all make the final, a fast first lap by Montano (guaranteed) will set up a sizzling final lap by the others and a possible look at next year’s team for Beijing. This race should be exciting!
WR holder Aries Merritt is not entered but just about every other American of note is, including former global Champions David Oliver and Jason Richardson, global medalist Ryan Wilson and NCAA sensation Devon Allen. Throw in Ronnie Ash, Jeff Porter, Omo Osaghae and youngster Alex Harris and this is as world class a field as you can get. The question for me is, can Allen continue his dramatic improvement? His technique is not at refined as his elders who are used to racing at this level. Typically at these speeds it’s technique that wins out. But this college freshman doesn’t seem to understand that he’s not supposed to be doing what he doing. That makes him dangerous.
Men’s Triple Jump
Christian Taylor and Will Claye are the best in America and possibly the world. When they compete, the competition is always exciting. These teammates went at it in college and have continued on the global stage. The fans in Sacramento are in for a treat as both athletes tend to heat up during competitions. Taylor has spent time on the track early this season running the 400 and using a shorter approach in his jumping. Focusing here on the jumps so I’m anticipating something very good at Nationals. That said, Claye seems to feed off of the competition. This could be a very hot event.
Specifically I’m looking at three women – Mary Cain, Jenny Simpson, and Morgan Uceny. A few years ago Uceny seemed to have this race figured out and twice looked to have World and Olympic titles in her grasp (2011/2012) when twice she fell to the track due to accidents in traffic. She’s not been the same athlete since the Olympic spill. Running past Uceny in 2011 was teammate Simpson who claimed the World title then came back in 2013 to take silver. Simpson is still hot setting a PR 3:58.28 at Pre to become the #3 American ever. Then there is the effervescent Cain, clearly the future of the sport after making the World final last year as a high school phenom. All three will have something to prove. Uceny, that she can once again be number one. Simpson, She Is America’s best. Cain, the future is now. Should make for a very exciting final.
Women’s Long Jump
Another event with an exciting trio of competitors. Brittany Reese has had a strangle hold on the event here in the US, and has 24 foot potential in my opinion. Heading into the competition however she is the #2 jumper in distance behind Tianna Bartoletta – a jumper turned sprinter that was a finalist in the 100 in London. Ironically this year there is another jumper turned sprinter that is having much success in the sprints – Tori Bowie. While she is a bit behind the other two in the long jump at the moment, her increase in speed makes her dangerous in this event. My gut tells me that this is going to be a very exciting competition. Especially if Bartoletta or Bowie can hit something big early and put pressure on Reese.
So there ya have it. Those are the most anticipated events for me. There are a lot of young new faces across the board which should make for a somewhat unpredictable meet. So there should be plenty of excitement to spread around. It’s also exciting to have Nationals back in Sacramento. Partly because I live here in the area, but more so because the meet is moving around a bit – and that is great for the sport to give it more exposure. It’s going to be an exciting rest of the week!