Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Questions that hopefully will be answered in Eugene...

As we head down Interstate 5 to Eugene for the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships that begin Thursday, here is a list of things that I will be interested to see in the four days of competition.  Note this all has to do with the senior competition; the junior nationals will also be contested in Eugene, and as always we will do a recap at the end of each day.

—IS JEREMY TAIWO ALL THE WAY BACK?  Two years ago, University of Washington alum Jeremy Taiwo (left/photo by Paul Merca) suffered a knee injury in the long jump at the world championships in Moscow that was severe enough to remove him from competition in 2014.

This year, Taiwo won the USA indoor heptathlon title, and scored a personal best 8303 points at the prestigious Götzis decathlon.

In Eugene, Taiwo, the current American leader in the event, will have to face the likes of former world champion Trey Hardee and Curtis Beach to get one of the three spots to Beijing (Ashton Eaton, the defending world champion, has an automatic spot).  As long at Taiwo places in the top three, he’s good to go for Beijing.

—WHO FROM THE BROOKS BEASTS STEPS UP?  At a press conference the day before the the Brooks PR High School Invitational, Nick Symmonds stated to the assembled media that “Aspiring to make USAs is not enough,  It’s all about making teams.”

Of the athletes from the Seattle based Brooks Beasts that are entered at this week’s national championships, I’m of the opinion that based on the marks from the last two years, Cas Loxsom is probably the runner from that group that has the best shot to earn a spot on the plane to Beijing, with Symmonds, Garrett Heath, and Katie Mackey the next three with strong shots.

Is Nick Symmonds back to the form that earned him a medal two years ago in Moscow? How strong will Mackey and Heath be in the 5000, particularly if it comes down to a tactical race and, in the case of Heath, a sub-4 minute final mile with a final 400 under 56 seconds?

—IS ALEXA EFRAIMSON READY FOR THE BIG TIME?  It’s one thing to have the IAAF qualifying mark in hand, as Efraimson (left/photo by Paul Merca) does. But can the Camas resident and first-year pro string together a strong semi-final race, and be ready to counter any moves that the likes of a Shannon Rowbury, Jenny Simpson, Treniere Moser, or even fellow teen sensation Mary Cain throw at her assuming she makes the final?

—HOW WILL THE COLLEGIANS FARE?  Among those with Washington ties who competed at Hayward Field two weeks ago at the NCAAs that are returning for the USA championships include Tacoma’s Marcus Chambers of Oregon in the 400; Washington State’s Jesse Jorgensen in the 800; Washington’s Curtis Clauson in the javelin; the Huskies’ Gianna Woodruff (400H) and Kristina Owsinski (PV); and Pasco’s Marisa Howard of Boise State in the steeplechase.  The collegians have had a long season, while for the pros, this is early-to-mid season.

--HAS FATHER TIME CAUGHT UP WITH BERNARD LAGAT?  Fortunately, the 40 year old Washington State alum only has to run a final in the men's 5000 Sunday morning, and has the IAAF world championships standard.  Lagat, who has been a mainstay on USA national teams since becoming a citizen in 2007 (remember that he won world titles at 1500 and 5000 in 2007), remains one of the most tactically sound racers on the planet, and what speed he may have lost over time he makes up in tactical knowledge.  You would think that the young guns like Galen Rupp, Ben True, and Ryan Hill, along with Garrett Heath and Riley Masters of the Brooks Beasts, would find a way to get rid of Lagat early, but if he's within striking distance with a mile or less to go, look out!

The next four days of competition will hopefully answer these questions.

See you in Eugene!

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