Since 1968, teams from the New York metropolitan area have made the transition from the relay portion of the outdoor track season to the championship season by coming together at White Plains High School for the Glenn D Loucks Memorial Track and Field Games. Before the first gun sounds on Thursday for the three day event, records have already been set.
The 2012 edition of The Loucks Games, according to meet director Fred Singleton, "is the largest in meet history, bringing together over 2,900 athletes from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and -- from across the northern border -- athletes from Winnipeg and Manitoba, Canada. A total of 164 women's teams and 173 men's teams will be part of the record 337 teams from 221 schools that will take part."
Eight big highlights for the weekend
1. Ed Cheserek and St. Bene's in action
Action kicks off Thursday with the East Coast Challenge distance medley relays, which should see defending champions (and recent Penn Relays champs) St. Benedict's Prep (NJ) and their star Edward Cheserek leading the way. Cheserek has done it all in 2011-12: Undefeated in cross country including winning the Foot Locker National title, setting a new national record indoors for 5000 meters, and at the New Balance Nationals Indoor anchoring St Benedict's to two relay wins and also adding the 2-mile title and a runner up finish in mile.
Cheserek is also entered in the 3200, 1600 and 4 x 400, and it will remain to be seen where he will step back onto the track. Taking to the starting line against St. Benedict's in the DMR will be indoor 4 x 1 Mile national champions and national record holders Chariho (RI). If Cheserek returns for the 3200 on Friday, he will have NBNI 5,000 champion Dan Lennon (Peru, NY) and New York indoor 3,200 champion Kris Moran (North Babylon, NY) to contend with. The schedule for Cheserek would be the DMR on Thursday, the 3200 on Friday and the 1600 and 4 x 400 relay Saturday – all very possible.
2. Impressive 200-400 threats: Glass and Baird
Another national champion from New Jersey who will be tough to beat in whatever event he runs is Najee Glass (St Peter's Prep, NJ). Glass, currently #6 on the national 400 outdoor list, indoors won the NBNI title over 400 and beat current outdoor national leader (45.18) Aldrich Bailey twice. There is little doubt that Glass, with a best of 46.07 indoors, can go sub-46 as long as the weather cooperates. Indoor 500 and 600 national record holder Strymar Livingston (Columbus, NY) could be the biggest threat to Glass in the 400, if he runs the one lap event instead of the 800 where he is second seed.
Glass is also entered in the 200 and should be the class of that field as well, if he doubles. Kadecia Baird (Medgar Evers, NY) will look to pull off the same 200 – 400 double, but only sits as the #3 seed in the 400 behind the Connecticut duo of Precious Holmes (Hillhouse) and Sydnee Over (Windsor).
3. Mary Cain tries to continue hot streak
The Bronxville (NY) sophomore already has the national lead in the 1,500 and has set a new national class record and also US#1 in the mile by winning the Penn Relays. This time, Cain will look to take over the national 800 lead, where she currently stands at #2 -- just 0.62 seconds behind the 2:05.28 national leader run by Ajee Wilson (Neptune, NJ). There will be good competition, too, as she will have US #4 Alexis Panisse (Cardozo, NY) -- who has clocked 2:07.89 this spring -- to contend with.
4. Watkins hopes to add to trophy count
At the 2011 Loucks Games, Zavon Watkins (Liverpool, NY) took the winner's trophy in the 800 on Friday and then came back to silence those who doubted his talent as a miler Saturday, taking that title as well. Watkins will be back to try and duplicate that double again in 2012, and if he does, he will become the meet record holder for the most trophies won by a male athlete -- breaking the record of five by Rodriques Pfister (Ballou, DC).
Juanita Broaddus (William Penn, Pa) has the overall meet record with eight trophy wins. Standing in the way of Watkins in the 800 will be two in-state rivals: Strymar Livingston (Columbus, NY) and Robert Rhodes (Boys & Girls, NY). Livingston is also seeded 2nd in the 400. For Watkins the schedule is the 800 on Friday and the 1600 on Saturday.
5. Lots of options for North Shore distance machine
What events will North Shore (NY) distance stars Samantha Nadel and Brianna Nerud run over the three days? North Shore was the runner up at the recent Penn Relays and sits #2 on the current US list in the DMR and, as a result, is the top seed in Thursday's DMR. The school also sits as the top seed in Saturday's 4 x 800 with another US#2 mark.
Nadel was the nation's hottest miler during the indoor season, winning the US Open and Millrose titles, before having her season cut short with an injury. Now back healthy, she will look to re-establish herself as one of the best in the USA, is entered in the 3200 and 1600. Meahwhile, Nerud is entered in the 2000 steeple, where she is the national leader, plus the 3200, 800 and 1600. The 3200 and 800 are on Friday, while the 1600 and steeple are on Saturday, so it is yet to be seen just what combination of events she will attempt.
6. Sprint relay powers in the mix
Saturday relay action could be hot and see times of national significance as sprint powers Columbia (NJ), Mount Vernon (NY), Garden City (NY) and Medgar Evers (NY) will battle in the 4 x 400. On the boys side, the 4 x 800 could see Boys and Girls (NY), NBNI champs and indoor national leaders trying to bounce back from a disappointing Penn Relays, but they will have to contend with indoor #4 Kellenberg (NY) which placed third in the national title race just two seconds off the winners. Boys and Girls is also top seed in the 4 x 400, where they will face always strong Newburgh (NY) and maybe Edward Cheserek on the St Benedict's team returning to the track one more time.
7. One for the hosts
The triple jump could give the host school a win as New York indoor champion Thomas Johnson looks to add to his list of accomplishments, which includes a fourth place finish at the indoor nationals, by winning his first Loucks Games title.
8. All in the (throwing) family
AJ Wolf (Hackley, NY) comes into the weekend with the top seed in the discus and third seed in the shot put. Old time fans of the sport might recall his father, Augie Wolf, who threw the shot for Princeton and went onto represent the USA at the 1984 Olympics where he placed fourth.