Preview — The First Big Outdoor Weekend Of The Year

The middle pair on LSU’s NCAA-winning 4×1 last year, Kortnei Johnson & Rachel Misher will be back in action at the Texas Relays. (BILL LEUNG)

INTERNATIONAL EYES are on Denmark this weekend, with a World XC Championship setup in Aarhus that has attracted more excitement (beer, Vikings) than any in recent years, on a course that Shalane Flanagan calls the toughest she’s ever seen. But on the domestic front, don’t forget to watch for some hot track action on this side of the pond. It’s going to come at you fast and furious this weekend.

Texas Relays

LSU will be among the collegiate powerhouses in attendance, and the Bengal speed corps will be focusing on the relays. Only hurdler Damion Thomas and sprinter Kortnei Johnson will compete in the invitational events. Johnson will face off against Jasmine Camacho-Quinn and Gabby Thomas in the 100. It will be a big weekend for Camacho-Quinn, who’s also entered in the 100H and the 200 (against Kori Carter, among others). The men’s 100 will feature Divine Oduduru, while the 800 will have NCAA Indoor champ Bryce Hoppel.

The relays should be fun, with the pro Team USA foursomes promising some interesting lineups. The 4×1 will bring together Keni Harrison, Jenna Prandini, Kori Carter & Destinee Brown as USA Blue. They’ll be facing USA Red (Javianne Oliver, Ashley Henderson, Gabby Thomas & Tori Bowie) and USA Stars (Brittney Reese, Queen Harrison, Kylie-Lee Price & Jasmine Todd).

The men’s 4×1 will feature a loaded Houston quartet taking on a couple of USA pick-up teams, one anchored by Cougar alum Cameron Burrell. The Cougs are also putting together a frightening 4×2: Nicholas Alexander, Kahmari Montgomery, Mario Burke and Obi Ogbokwe.

In the 4×4, USA Red brings together Ashley Spencer, Morolake Akinosun, Kendall Baisden and Courtney Okolo, while USA White is set to be Jaide Steptor, Shamier Little, Jessica Beard and world champ Phyllis Francis.

On the field, we’ll see the Arkansas vaulters take on a solid bunch that includes Virginia Tech’s Rachel Baxter, while Jenn Suhr will compete in the elite competition. For the first time in several years the men’s vault won’t have Mondo, but it will have a great field that includes Zach Bradford of Kansas, KC Lightfoot of Baylor, Matt Ludwig of Akron, Chris Nilsen of South Dakota and Jacob Wooten of A&M. Indoors, Payton Otterdahl of North Dakota State raised the Collegiate Record in the shot. After PRing in the discus and hammer in his outdoor debut he’s ready to pick up the shot for the first time under open skies. What will he do?

As always, one of the big highlights in Austin will be the preps. Last year super jumper Jasmine Moore opened up her outdoor season with a 20-7/44-1 double. We know that this season one of her prime goals is the HSR 44-11¾ that Brittany Daniels set 15 years ago.

In addition, parking could be one of the most competitive events at Mike Myers Stadium, as track attendees will be sharing a parking lot with this weekend’s NCAA Swimming Champs!

Florida Relays

Yes, Grant Holloway is going to open up in the 110H on Friday, but the cognoscenti are perhaps more interested in what comes 4½ hours later, when he lines up in the 200. The Gator junior hasn’t run a half-lapper outdoors since high school, where he had a best of 21.32, but in January he busted one indoors, winning at Clemson in a promising 20.69. There might be more there, if 6.50 speed for the 60 and 43.88 strength on a relay mean anything. On Saturday, we’ll see Holloway on the Gator 4×1 and 4×4.

Overall the collegiate strength in Gainesville should be good, with the host men coming off a victory at the NCAA Indoor three weeks ago. Altogether, 8 more teams that are ranked in the top 25 will be competing on the men’s side, with 8 ranked teams on the women’s side as well. Among the pros, we’re expecting to see Marquis Dendy and T.J. Holmes, among others.

Stanford Invitational

As always at Angell Field, watch for the distance results, especially in this year when America’s top runners are more than a little concerned about hitting tougher World and Olympic qualifying standards. The 10,000 will feature Olympians Kim Conley and Molly Huddle, along with college star Alicia Monson of Wisconsin.

Boise State’s Allie Ostrander and New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat are entered in both the 5000 and 10,000. Wisconsin star Morgan McDonald will be in the 5000. Other distance powerhouses, including Arkansas, Oregon and Washington, will be there.

Raleigh Relays

The well-attended meet at NC State doesn’t draw many pros, but with so many solid college programs in attendance we are likely to see solid performances across the board. Most notably in the distances, where so many snow belt runners will finally be able to strip down and show what they’ve been working on all winter.