<
>

2012 Brooks PR Preview

Tyler Smith of Alberta, 1:49.46 800 champ at Simplot, tries to do it again Sunday in one of the Brooks PR Invite's best fields. John Dye/ESPNHS

A lineup in the boys 800 meters that is shaping up to be the best in North America this winter, plus a bevy of other elite national fields, is on tap Sunday in Seattle at the second Brooks PR Invitational.

The meet, held on the University of Washington's oversized 307-meter track (Dempsey Indoor), has attracted a star-studded collection of prep stars from across the country (plus a few from Canada) for a spectator-friendly two-hour window featuring 12 races (six each for boys and girls).

And while a few big names are missing (recent 55 dash USR-setter Marvin Bracy from Florida elected to stay home, citing an injury; 4-time Simplot Games 60H champ Trinity Wilson is running at the U.S. Indoor Championships), meet organizers managed to keep the quality high by adding enough Washington high school athletes into the mix to build a local buzz around the meet.

The 800 meters for boys includes four athletes who have gone sub-1:50, leading off with last week's Simplot winner Tyler Smith from Canada. He will be joined on the starting line by Cameron Thornton, Zavon Watkins and Nick Hartle.

Smith (Leduc, Alberta) ran 1:49.46 last weekend in Pocatello, Idaho, running away from New Yorker Strymar Livingston and winning by two seconds. Thornton, from Whitefield (Smyrna, Ga.), ran 1:49.64 as a junior and will be making his 2012 debut. Watkins, of Liverpool, N.Y., won competitive miles at the New Balance Games, U.S. Open and Millrose Games, but hasn't run an 800 since Dec. 28. He clocked 1:49.70 last spring. And Hartle, of Centennial (Las Vegas, Nev.), has a PR of 1:49.91. He opened at Great Southwest Indoor on Feb. 11 with an 800/mile rust-buster.

Adding intrigue to the field is junior Tretez Kinnaird from Butler Traditional (Louisville, Ky.), who was the fastest freshman (2010) and sophomore (2011) in the country the past two years. Both Thornton and Kinnaird competed for Team USA at last summer's World Youth Champs.

Harvard-Westlake (Los Angeles) tandem Cami Chapus and Amy Weissenbach are both entered – and running in events designed to test their speed. Chapus, the Adidas Golden Mile champ, is entered in the 800. Weissenbach, the California state champion and record holder in the 800, is in the 400.

The meet could also turn into a showcase for Washington's top talent. Brooks saved on some airfare by inviting some of the locals, but Amy-Eloise Neale, Hannah Cunliffe, Tatum Taylor, Anthony Armstrong, Andrew Gardner and Katie Knight all bring elite credentials to their races.

Here is a closer look at each event:

60 meters

Boys: Bracy was a headliner who will be missed but his cousin, Levonte Whitfield of Jones (Orlando, Fla.), has a 10.31 best in the 100. Taylor of O'Dea (Seattle) owns a US#1 6.79 in the 60, while Cameron Burrell of Ridge Point (Houston, Texas) is US#2 and Leshon Collins of Glasgow (Newark, Del.) is US#3. Khalfani Muhammad, a junior from Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) is the top returning outdoor sprinter from California.

Girls: Jennifer Madu of Plano East (Dallas), Myasia Jacobs of Paramus Catholic (Paterson, N.J.) and Shayla Sanders of Boyd Anderson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) lead a great field. Madu is the current US#1 in the 60 (7.40), while in the 55, Sanders (6.85) and Jacobs (6.87) are US#1-2. Madu and Jacobs won gold and silver in the World Youth 100 last summer, but Sanders has a slightly faster PR. Challenging that trio are Ohio state champ Destinee Gause of Reynoldsburg, North Carolina champ Gabrielle Gray of High Point Central, Simplot Games 60 winner Marybeth Sant of Valor Christian (Parker, Colo.), and Cunliffe.

60 hurdles

Boys: This field has the US#1 and #2 in the event with Donovan Robertson of Berea, Ohio and Jordan Moore of Martin Luther King (Lithonia, Ga.), who ran 7.78 and 7.80 in different meets last Saturday. But when you consider what Robertson, Moore and indoor neophytes Jonathan Jones of Carrollton, Ga. (USATF JO 110H champ in 13.69) and Randy Bermea of Harligen, Texas (legal 13.79) did last spring, it's even better; you collectively have the Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6 returners back from that event.

Girls: Sophomore Dior Hall of George Washington (Denver) stumbled in the finals in her showdown with Trinity Wilson last week, but the US#2 60H (8.30) gets another shot at a big-meet title if she can beat defending champ and Kell (Kennesaw, Ga.) star Kendell Williams (8.44 last year). With only one event on her plate, Williams, a heptathlete, should be rested and ready. Hall was 3rd here last year in 8.55, but has improved.

400 meters

Boys: Aldrich Bailey of Timberview (Arlington, Texas) and Najee Glass of St. Peter's (Woodbridge, N.J.) are the biggest names in the field. Bailey is ranked US#1 in the 200 and 400 (47.05) and Glass is US#2 in the 500. Both competed for Team USA in the World Youth Champs last summer, winning gold in the medley relay. Bailey, Glass and Richard Gary of Duncanville, Texas are the Nos. 3-4-5 returners outdoors from 2011, all with PRs in the 46s. Michael Newton of Sprayberry (Marietta, Ga.) was 2nd here last year and is currently US#2 at 47.58.

Girls: Defending champ Courtney Okolo of Newman Smith (Carrollton, Texas) comes in with the fastest outdoor PR, 53.03, but Ariah Graham of Wakefield (Raleigh, N.C.) bears watching. She is US#1 this winter in the 500 and has anchored her school's relay to US#1 times in the 4x200 and 4x400. Felicia Brown of Martin Luther King (Lithonia, Ga.) ran US#1 53.88 last week. Connecticut standouts Sydnee Over (Windsor) and Precious Holmes (Hillhouse) bring their rivalry west. And Weissenbach enters the fray with 2:02.04 800 speed (with a sub-54 relay carry). Canadian Sage Watson, who won at Simplot Games last week in 53.92, is also a contender.

800 meters

Girls: All 10 girls in the field have run faster than 2:11, but Savannah Camacho of Templeton (Paso Robles, Calif.) has the best outdoor PR, 2:07.62. Simpot Games winner Jenna Westaway, from Canada, is coming into the meet with momentum. And Reagan Anderson from the Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) is one of the top juniors in the country. Chapus, who is headed to Stanford with her teammate, Weissenbach, is seeded at 2:08.5.

Mile

Boys: On the face of it, West Virginian Jacob Burcham (Cabell-Midland) and Ohioan Brandon Kidder (Lancaster) would appear to be the class of the field. Burcham has run 4:07.66 for the mile outdoors, but his even better 3:46.55 1500 last summer was a national soph record. Kidder won the Midwest Distance Gala mile last June in 4:06.73. But if you really want current form, look at Rhode Island's (Chariho) Mike Marsella – who was 2nd at both Millrose and the NB Games. Four Texans in the race that are all sub-4:10 runners could also be factors – Craig Nowak (Cypress Woods), Cale Wallace (Cypress Ranch), Trevor Gilley (Southlake Carroll) and Justin Brinkley (Kingwood). In addition, Californians Luis Gutierrez (Rancho Cucamonga), who ran 4:06.51 1600 last spring, and Fresno's C.J. Albertson (Buchanan), who grabbed the early lead in the Foot Locker cross country finals, bear watching as well.

Girls: 2011 Brooks PR mile runner-up Amy Eloise-Neale of Snohomish (Glacier Peak) and Maddie Meyers of Seattle (Northwest School) could give the home crowd a victory, but either of them will have to overcome a diverse field that includes Kelsey Margey of Locust Valley, N.Y. (Friends Academy). Neale was also the Arcadia mile champ last spring and has a 4:43.67 PR. Meyers' (4:41.93) and Margey's (4:43.91) have outstanding bests that date to 2010. From Michigan come twins Hannah and Haley Meier (Grosse Pointe South), who are US#1 (4:47.59) and #2 (4:50.85) at 1600, with Hannah having the experience in 2011 of winning New Balance Indoor Nationals, taking 2nd in New Balance Outdoor Nationals, and making the World Youth 1500 final. Also watch for Californian Nikki Hiltz (Aptos), with a 1600 best of 4:43.43.

2-Mile

Boys: Aside from Edward Cheserek and Futsum Zeinasellassie, almost all of the big distance names are gathered here for a race that could re-write the season's top-10 list. Darren Fahy of Carlsbad, Calif. (La Costa Canyon), Tony Smoragiewicz of Rapid City, S.D. (Central), Anthony Armstrong of Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin), Jake Leingang of Bismarck, N.D., Andrew Gardner of Spokane (Mead), Thomas Graham of Cary, N.C. (Cary Academy), Daniel Vertiz of San Antonio (Ronald Reagan) are part of a deep, talented field that rates a toss-up – with very few having pushed the envelope at all this winter. Armstrong's US#1 8:33.00 3k is the best current indoor mark among the group. Fahy was 7th two weeks ago at the USATF Jr. XC meet.

Graham (3rd), Gardner (8th), Smoragiewicz (9th) and Fahy (10th) all ran here last winter. Then all ran in the 8:55-9:05 range for 3200 last spring, then placed high in national XC finals last fall. We'll certainly find out who's in shape. Also watch for Pfafftown N.C. (also Ronald Reagan) standout Craig Engels, who won the New Balance Boston Indoor Mile (just ahead of Graham), to be a possible spoiler.

Girls: Wesley Frazier of Raleigh, N.C. (Ravenscroft) used a victory here last year to kick-off a breakthrough 2011 and she may be looking for a similar push after a tough cross country season. Molly Seidel, the Foot Locker champ from Hartland, Wis., is listed on the mile and two-mile lists, but is likely to do only this race. Save for NXN champ Sarah Baxter, most of last fall's biggest guns are here: Haley Pierce of Wilmington, Del. (Tatnall School) was 2nd at NXN, Erin Finn of West Bloomfield, Mich. was 2nd at Foot Locker, and Katie Knight of Spokane (North Central) was 3rd at NXN. All are capable of pulling out a victory.

Seidel, Finn and Knight were all part of the U.S. junior team that competed in the Great Edinburgh Cross Country event in Scotland in January. Finn was 3rd in this race last year behind Frazier, while Pierce was 5th. Pierce, the NB Boston Indoor mile champ, has been the busiest this winter of the top contenders.