Without a World Championships or Olympic Games berth on the line, this year’s national championships could see a number of individuals choose to focus on things like making money, letting nagging injuries heal, or simply train through nationals while focusing on meets later in the season. If so we could see several top level athletes choose to skip the national championships with the only real gain being the title of “National Champion”. So it’s not surprising that we’ve already heard that Tyson Gay won’t be competing in Des Moines and names such as Kerron Clement, Sanya Richards and Lashinda Demus are missing from the preliminary start lists.
With that being the case, this year’s meet could be a good time to keep an eye on young emerging talent. Athletes that could be the back bone of the US team heading into the global championship cycle of Daegu ‘11 / London ‘12 / Moscow ‘13. For example the last ”off” season of 2006 was Nick Symmonds’ big breakthrough season before he made the US teams for Osaka, Beijing and Berlin.
Prime candidates would be some of the athletes from the recently completed NCAA Championships that are looking to see how they stack up against their counterparts on the next level. So with that in mind here are some youngsters that I feel bear watching at this week’s meet.
Ryan Whiting – Shot Put
Whiting is coming off a double win in the shot put and discus at the recently completed NCAA Championships. His winning put of 72’ 1” was just shy of the collegiate record and makes him #2 in the world entering the meet. Whiting was very consistent as a collegian throwing the shot over 70 feet in 10 meets during his career. He will take to the field in Iowa against veterans such as reigning World Indoor and Outdoor Champion Christian Cantwell. Whiting could be the next in a long line of top floight shot putters from the US. This meet could give us a glimpse into his future.
Christian Taylor – Long Jump / Triple Jump
Christian Taylor is another collegiate champion who will be taking a shot against the big boys. Taylor won the NCAA triple jump title with a leap of 56’ 1”w and had a legal jump of 55’ 10.25”. He becomes an immediate contender in an event that has been suffering here in the US. With the world’s top jumpers leaping in the 57 to 58 foot range we need someone to step up and be competitive – Taylor could be the guy. He has bests of 56’ 4.5”, 26’ 4.75” and is a 45.34 quarter miler – he has serious talent. Competing for Florida he’s also had relay duty, but here he will be focusing on the jumps so will be interesting to see just how far he may leap. I think he may be able to compete in that 57 foot range by the time the next set of championships comes along.
Johnny Dutch – 400 Hurdles
Dutch heads to Des Moines having pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA championships by defeating 2 time defending champion Jeshua Anderson. His defeat of Anderson came two weeks after improving his PR to 48.12 and becoming the #4 all time collegiate hurdler – giving validation to his recent improvement. He will get his toughest test to date going up against Olympic and World Championship bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson as well as collegiate nemesis Jeshua Anderson who will be looking to avenge his NCAA loss. We are not lacking in this event internationally but it’s been a while since we’ve had some “new blood” enter the fray. We will see how Dutch matches up against the vets.
Queen Harrison – 100 / 400 Hurdles
Queen proved to be a fitting first name for Ms Harrison as she won BOTH hurdle events at the NCAA meet in sizzling fashion with times of 12.67 & 54.55. She stated during interviews in Eugene that she likes both events and is entered in both in Des Moines. Her toughest test may come in the shorter event where international vets Lolo Jones and Damu Cherry lie in wait. In the 400 hurdles she’ll get to go against veteran Sheena Tosta – whom she edged out at the Trials in ‘08. While we’re fairly deep in the short hurdles, it would be nice to see a bit of new blood in the 400 event.
Jordan Hasay – 1500 Meters
In 2008 Hasay competed in this meet as a high schooler and made the final. This year she shows up as a college freshman who took charge in the NCAA championships as the third place finisher after taking charge mid race and nearly pulling off the upset. Watching Hasay for me is less about seeing if she can win, than it is about watching her growth. I have little doubt that she is going to become a middle distance mainstay for the US. It’s not a question of “if” but a matter of “when”. This meet should be one more stepping stone for Hasay.
Ronnie Ash – 110 Hurdles & Jeshua Anderson 400 Hurdles
I put Ash and Anderson together because their stories are the same. Both were heavily favored in their events at the NCAA meet and both suffered upsets. They both bear watching because they have potential to be among out best in their events, and a single loss doesn’t lessen that potential. It will be interesting, however, to see how they respond to their upset losses here in Des Moines. How they compete will give us a glimpse at their character. We already know that both have talent. Now we will get to see how they respond to adversity.
Some combination of these youngsters will be representing us internationally over the next few seasons. This meet will be a chance for us to get to know them.