7 Things To Watch On Easter Weekend

USC stars Michael Norman & Rai Benjamin clashed in last year’s Mt. SAC 400, each setting a PR. Now pros, they’ll be going head-to-head again. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

WITH A LATE START to the season for many of America’s best pros, every weekend now brings a few more out of the woodwork to test their conditioning. Even though we’re still 3 (!) months away from the USATF Championships, it’s only 2 weeks until the first Diamond League meeting in Doha.
The action will heat up this Easter weekend and here are 7 events that track aficionados should be watching closely.

Mt. SAC Relays Men’s 400

They had us at Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, who went 1-2 last year, each scoring a PR. Norman ended up as the fastest in the world with his 43.61, while Benjamin was No. 2 on the hurdle list with his 47.02. Together the training partners represent two of our most exciting young talents as we approach the World Championships and Olympics in the next two seasons. Throw in Paul Dedewo, the late-blooming City College of New York alum who ran his PR 44.43 at the London DL last summer. Then add Houston star Kahmari Montgomery, the NCAA Indoor runner-up who ran 44.58 to win the USATF meet last summer. And Mar’yea Harris, who was 4th in the NCAA last year and has a best of 44.94. And so on. As early-season 400s go, this one could be eye-opening as they chase the yearly world lead of 44.53 set by Quincy Hall of South Carolina last weekend.

Clay Invitational 5000s

Another battle looms between New Mexico’s Weini Kelati and Boise State’s Allie Ostrander. At the NCAA Indoor, Kelati topped her rival twice, taking 2nd in the 5000 to Ostrander’s 8th, then edging her the next day in the 3000 as they finished 3rd and 4th. In cross country, Kelati was the NCAA runner-up while Ostrander, who has won two NCAA steeple crowns, finished 6th. The men’s 5000 could be just as compelling, with a list of top collegians that includes BYU’s Clayton Young, Colorado’s Joe Klecker, and Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop and Alfred Chelanga.

Mt. SAC Women’s 100 Hurdles

The first big matchup of the ’19 outdoor season features World Record holder Keni Harrison facing the woman who had previously held the AR, Brianna McNeal. For each, it will be the first time this year over the barriers, indoors or out. Sharika Nelvis will join them in her first outdoor hurdles after winning the USATF Indoor. Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn will try to improve her luck after losing on the photo at the Texas Relays to Pedrya Seymour, both in 13.10w.

Cardinal Classic Women’s 5000

This weekend’s event at Stanford doesn’t have nearly as much pro talent coming in as some of the other meets there, but the largely collegiate affair should produce some solid performances. While Grant Fisher will headline the men’s race after going short at the Big Meet 2 weeks ago (1:51.86 PR & 3:46.36), the women’s long race could be interesting. Racing will be Stanford’s Fiona O’Keeffe (PR 15:34.44) and Washington’s Isobel Batt-Doyle (15:40.43). Oft-injured Erin Finn has been granted a 6th outdoor season by the NCAA, and will be testing herself in her first race since last year’s Big 10 win at 10,000. Finn, who soon will be entering med school, has a PR of 15:23.16 indoors. She won’t be looking to demolish the field; rather, her goal will be to help some of her teammates to Regional qualifying marks.

Mt. SAC Women’s Long Jump

Lorraine Ugen is the headliner. The Briton led the world list last year with her 23-1¾ (7.05) and has World Ranked for four straight years. She’ll be up against USATF champ Sha’Keela Saunders, as well as Tara Davis, the USATF Junior champ who is redshirting the season after transferring to Texas from Georgia. Also in the field is triple jump AR holder Tori Franklin, who told us over the winter to look for her in the long jump: “My run has gotten so much better. I’m kinda fast now.”

Mt. SAC 4 x 400s

It’s relay season, so expect some fun stick action. The women’s 4 x 400 will feature a team called the Hayes All-Stars, after coach Joanna Hayes. Jasmine Blocker (51.46 PR) and Jaide Stepter (50.63) will be joined by Kendall Ellis (49.99, last year’s NCAA runner-up while at USC) and Sydney McLaughlin. Last weekend McLaughlin opened up her outdoor campaign with a sub-50 on a men’s relay at UCLA. On the guys side, four gentleman representing HSI will stick together, Benjamin and Norman being joined by Rickey Morgan and Michael Cherry.

Mt. SAC Women’s Hammer

Brooke Andersen has started her season in fine shape, with a 243-4 (74.18) winner at the Texas Relays, just an inch short of her PR. The Northern Arizona alum, who finished 3rd at Des Moines last year, will be facing Janeah Stewart (4th at USATF) and Jeneva Stevens (6th at USATF), along with Alyssa Wilson. The UCLA soph was 4th in the NCAA in this event, and also won the World Junior silver. Last weekend she twirled a PR of 231-8 (70.63) to crack the all-time collegiate top 10.

What Else Is Happening?

Speed will be on display at LSU’s Alumni Gold meet, where athletes with somewhere north of 2 dozen NCAA titles should be on display. JuVaughn Harrison could highlight the jumps after his 26-9¾ (8.17) PR last weekend at Miami. Kyle Clemons, who won Rio gold on the 4×4, will run a lap at the Kansas Relays. The NTC Spring Invite in Clermont should turn out some nice sprint times. Payton Otterdahl will be throwing the discus only at the Beach Invitational—can he PR for a fourth straight time? Major meets at Auburn, Duke, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Rice are just some of the other datelines that could produce great stories this weekend.