The U.S. Trials for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games take place Friday, April 4 and Saturday, April 5, 2014 at the Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, Florida (near Miami). This meet and the qualification procedure is significantly different than the trials for the IAAF World Youth or World Junior meets. This 2014 Youth Olympic Area Trials Fact Sheet is a guide to understand these events. The Games themselves are Aug. 16-28, 2014 in Nanjing, China.
Rather than competing for spots for a Team USA, American preps are vying for nomination to the 131-member “Team for the Americas.” These U.S. Trials actually include athletes from nine other countries, as well, including Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico. Additional trials for the Americas team will take place for other Caribbean and South American countries later this spring, then the full team will be chosen. According to this USATF press release, “The U.S. Olympic Committee has awarded USATF with 14 Youth Olympic Games athlete nomination slots, allocated specifically to U.S. athletes placing highest in their events. Only one athlete per country earns a place in any single event ...” See the press release and the aforementioned fact sheet for more details.
Friday’s only events were the boys’ and girls’ hammer throws (Friday preview). Previews for Saturday’s events (everything else) are below.
Girls Javelin (4 qualifiers)
This event is significant not only because of the prominence of the NSAF’s Kultan Keihas (“Javelin Gold” in Finnish) Project Javelin athletes – Katelyn Gochenour, Chrissy Glasmann, Tairyn Montgomery, Emma Fitzgerald and Sophia Rivera – but because it’s the most loaded event in the meet in general. Gochenour (Marian, NE soph) and Glasmann (Park City, UT junior) rank US#1 and #2 currently with 167-0 and 160-6, respectively, with the 600kg prep jav. Looked at another way, Gochenour, Montgomery and Fitzgerald ranked #2-3-6 among prep returnees for 2014 in the event.
Montgomery (Redondo Union, CA soph) and Fitzgerald (Thayer Academy, MA soph) haven’t competed in the jav yet this year, but Montgomery beat both Gochenour and Fitzgerald in winning the USATF JOs last summer with her 155-1 PR and Fitzgerald is an outstanding all-around athlete who was the top frosh heptathlete in the nation in 2013 and recently cleared a PR 5-10 high jump. Note that Fitzgerald won the 2013 World Youth Trials, with the lighter 500kg jav contested here, with 167-10 (Glasmann also contested this and was 4th, but the others did not compete there). Rivera (Brentwood, MO soph) is the newest member of Kultan Keihas and while her PR is a modest 124-7, she has recently thrown over 140 in training and had PRs in the shot and discus.
Girls Discus (2 qualifiers) and Shot Put (2 qualifiers)
As was the case in the hammer, Haley Showalter (Valor Christian, CO junior) will be the girl to beat in the discus. With a recent PR of 151-5, she is more than 15 feet up on the field. Note that this is the only youth girls’ implement where the weight is the same as high school (1kg). Javelin contender Sophia Rivera (Brentwood, MO soph) is probably Showalter’s biggest competition with a recent 136-6 best, while Throw 1 Deep’s Kamryn Brinson and Leena Morris –best known in the weight and hammer – are not far behind.
Showalter isn’t in the shot, but Rivera is and she has a new 43-3 PR. Morris has a 44-4 best from the Kentucky Invite indoors that makes her the top entrant. All will be throwing the new lighter 3kg youth shot, which few if any in the field have contested.
Boys Discus (4 qualifiers) and Shot Put (3 qualifiers)
Throw 1 Deep’s Kenneth Brinson, Jr. (Marist, GA junior), Friday’s hammer winner, looks to be the top seed in both the shot and the discus, though in neither case are the fields as strong as the hammer. In fact, in Tyler Merkley (Los Osos, CA junior), and T1D’s Seth (Charles) Whitener (North Paulding, GA junior) and Isaiah Rogers (Campbell, GA soph), you have three entrants who are primarily hammer throwers for whom the shot and/or the discus is a secondary event.
Brinson threw a PR 179-11 with the prep discus last year and recently hit 179-6 this year. With the lighter (1.5kg) youth discus, he threw 189-2 for 3rd in the 2013 WYT. In the discus, also look for Brody Gowing (Klein, TX junior) with a prep discus best of 176-1. In the shot, also a lighter 5kg for youth, Brinson is entered at 56-11.5 and Merkley follows at 55-5.5.
Boys Javelin (1 qualifier)
Unfortunately, there is only one entrant in this event: Aaron Ramirez, a Mountain Pointe, AZ junior who threw 188-2 last year as a soph with the 800g prep implement. As Arizona does not contest the event at the prep level, he has competed in open and USATF competition, and likely has experience throwing the lighter (700g) youth jav.
Boys 100 (7 qualifiers), 200 (9 qualifiers) and 400 (7 qualifiers)
Like a lot of events here, the boys’ 100 and 200 are light on quantity (5 U.S. entrants each), but high on quality. Three of the nation’s top underclassmen – Noah Lyles, Amir Rasul and Edward Davis – are here and they should be fiercely competitive to grab the U.S. berths and battle the internationalists. The events merit being previewed together since Rasul and Davis are contesting both the 100 and 200 (though they can only make the team in one).
Of course the 200 is the later event Saturday, but the storyline is so compelling that it gets first billing here. Few who were in Greensboro last July for USATF JOs will forget the national JO record (15-16 age group) and frosh class HSR 21.09 200 (+0.0w) by Rasul (Miami Columbus, soph) on the penultimate day, breaking Obea Moore’s 18-year-old mark by .01. Interestingly, he left the track nearly as fast, making interviews all but impossible. He also ran his 10.71 PR in that meet, getting 2nd. Earlier in the spring, he had won the state 4A 100 and was 2nd in the 200. So far this spring, he has run US#3 21.22 and 10.72.
Not long before Rasul’s JO heroics, Noah Lyles (TC Williams, VA soph) was enjoying his excellent summer vacation at the World Youth Champs, where he won relay gold and made the 200 semis with a legal PR 21.28, capping a stunning 9th-grade year himself that included a 4th in the NBNO 200. He continued to build his sprinting resume indoors, taking 3rd in the NBNI 200 with a US#5 and soph class HSR 21.50 and also clocked a US#4 33.90 for 300 and 6.40 for 55. He is running just the 200 Saturday.
Also with a great chance to take either sprint is Edward Davis, a junior from the Edna Karr Magnet, LA sprint powerhouse. His stock has taken a big jump recently with his 10.53 (+1.1w) PR for a close 2nd at the Sugar Bowl meet, where he also won the 200 in a PR 21.59. At NBNI, he missed the final, but hit a solid 21.75 for 9th in the prelims. Also a threat in the 200 is another local standout, Andrew James (Westminster Academy, FL junior), who has a new 21.61 best outdoors this spring.
James could be a bigger factor in the 400, where there are – unfortunately – just two U.S. entrants. They’re both pretty good, however. James has a new 48.13 best following a soph year where he hit 48.22 and won the 1A state meet. He was also 7th in the WY Trials. Then there’s amazing youngster Jamal Walton, with the Miami Garden Xpress TC. He ran 47.65 last July as an 8th-grader at AAU Club Nationals and has hit 47.73 (and 21.52w) in 2014 so far. Walton has represented the Cayman Islands in international competition and beaten collegians in open meets.
Girls 100 (8 qualifiers), 200 (5 qualifiers) and 400 (8 qualifiers)
The strongest and deepest girls’ sprint event, as far as U.S. entrants, is the 400 – with Anna Jefferson and Brittny Ellis leading group of six. Jefferson (Oak Park, MI soph) has been a Motor City Track Club standout since her prodigal emergence in early middle school, but this winter she has raised her game, topped off by an anchor of the winning 4x400 at NBNI (3:46.31). She was 4th in the 400 there (after qualifying 2nd with a 54.61) and had a PR 54.30 on the oversized oval at Kentucky. That followed a summer where she was 2nd in both the AAU and USATF JOs (15-16s).
Jefferson’s runner-up finish at AAUs happened to come at the hand of Ellis (Warren Twp, IL junior), who ripped a 54.06 in that race. That’s 2nd only to her 54.00 career best in taking 3rd in the World Youth Trials last June. This winter, however, she hasn’t returned to that level in limited racing, so whether she can match strides with Jefferson or beat her is up in the air.
Two others who could be right there in the 1-lapper are Erin Ford and Maiya Dendy. Ford (Royal Palm Beach, FL junior) ran her 54.76 PR in taking 2nd at Golden South last year, then was 7th at NBNO in 55.05. Just this week, she showed she is rounding into form with a 55.21. Dendy (Padua, DE junior) is coming off an indoor season that saw her divide time between the short and long dashes and was unable to quite beat her 2013 PRs. But outdoors last spring, she hit 54.37 in winning the Delaware Meet of Champs and at 55.09 was right behind Ford at NBNO.
Dendy, Ellis and Ford are also entered in the 200, where the Dendy has a 24.05 lifetime best and Ellis 24.19 (both from 2013). But based on current form, the U.S. girls to beat might be surprising freshman Janie O’Connor (Zachary, LA) or Brandee’ Johnson (Nansemond River, VA soph). After a winter where she ran 7.05 at 55, 7.55 at 60 and 57.03 at 400 in state (all flat track; no 200s offered in Louisiana), she exploded to an eye-popping US#6 24.04 (+1.5w).outdoor win at the Sugar Bowl two weeks ago. Johnson’s strong winter included a 5th-place finish at NBNI (24.51 after a 24.49 prelim), as well as a 4A state title at 300 (US#9 39.06 on flat track). She also finished 2nd to Dendy’s 4th at USATF JOs (15-16s) last July.
The 100 is the thinnest race, with just three U.S. entrants. O’Connor has a new PR there, too, with her 11.80 in 4th at the Sugar Bowl. Dendy is also entered in that race, with 2013 bests of 11.87w and 12.10, and Jaela Gay (Bishop McNamara, MD junior) has a 12.16 best.
Boys 800 (1 qualifier), 1500 (2 qualifiers) and 3000 (1 qualifier)
The U.S. entries in these events are extremely thin, with just four athletes entered in the three events combined. Qualifying opportunities, however, are equally limited (see above). Remember that the top finishers here go into a pool with those from the other two “Americas” trials meets (Caribbean and South American), further increasing the difficulty of making it. However, one of the entries – Grant Fisher – may be the best prep distance runner in the country and a few others are pretty good, too.
In Fisher (Grand Blanc, MI junior), it seems you could hardly have a better Americas candidate for Olympic stardom. He’s entered in the 1,500, where last summer he caught the attention of the prep distance running world with his unlooked-for 7th in the World Youth Final. He’s done nothing since to diminish his status, going unbeaten in cross-country – capped off by a Foot Locker Finals title – then finishing off a relatively low-key indoor season with a 4:09 mile win at NBNI. Fisher didn’t have the winter’s best mile time, but he beat the season’s best in New York with his stellar 56.8, 1:59 finish. Who knows how far his talent will take him?
The sole 800 entrant for the U.S., while not quite (yet) Fisher, is a considerable talent, too. Myles Marshall won the Texas 5A state title last year as a Kingwood soph, running 1:51.32. He didn’t fair quite at the Youth Trials or NBNO a month later (still in the 1:52s), but a great 10th-grade year (also including a 48.44 400) was hardly diminished. His 2014 campaign so far includes a 1:54.00 best in winning the Victor Lopez meet. Also watch for Philip Rocha in the 1,500. The Arcadia, CA soph ran 4:17.99 for 1,600 as a frosh in 2013 (pretty good most years when you don’t have two class record-setters running 4:09 each) and has improved with a 4:15.41 mile so far in 2014.
Girls 800 (3 qualifiers), 1500 (2 qualifiers), 3000 (1 qualifier) and 2k steeplechase (2 qualifiers)
The entry numbers are very light for the U.S., but there are some quality athletes across the board. As was the case for boys, there is just one American in the girls’ 800, but in Mikaela Smith (Clovis North, CA junior) it’s an outstanding talent. Smith was a stunning California state champion last spring in the 2-lapper, hitting 2:08.39, then was 3rd in the WYT with another PR at 2:08.26 – trailing only stars Raevyn Rogers and Ersula Farrow, who went on to shine in Donetsk. Smith has great speed and range, and while she has raced lightly so far this year, she’ll be tough for any of the other countries’ entrants to beat.
Malia Ellington (Davidson, NC junior) is running the 1,500 and 3k, coming off a fine indoor season that concluded with PRs at NBNI in both the 800 (2:11.93, to win Emerging Elite) and the mile (4:50.58, 7th in championship). Two weeks later, she ran 10:30.07 for a 3,200 PR outdoors in taking 2nd in the fast Raleigh Relays race. Ellington has a 3k PR from the Penn Relays last year, 9:53.09, that she’d love to lower significantly.
In the 3,000, Ellington will be joined by Valeria Wierenga (Grandville, MI soph), a rising star who had a big PR 10:36.90 2M for 9th at NBNI. In the 1,500, it’ll be Paige Duca (Sacred Heart, NY junior) competing with Ellington. Duca had bests of 4:37.57 for 1,500 and 5:00.12 for the mile indoors. She’s also the only U.S. entrant in the 2k ST, where she won the WYT last year at 7:07.18 and had a PR 7:01.23 previously in taking 8th in the loaded NY state meet.
Girls 100H (8 qualifiers) and 400H (6 qualifiers)
There are just four combined entrants for the U.S. in these events, but again, some significant talent. Doubling up the two races will be no less than super soph Brittley Humphrey (Hoover, AL), whose brother Marlon was a World Youth silver medalist last year. Brittley could be on her way to the same type of achievements, with her recent 8.43 60H PR for 6th at NBNI (won in national record time by Dior Hall) a fair testament. She had 100H bests of 14.31 and 14.06w last year, the latter netting 2nd in the AAU JOs. Note that the 100H uses 30” barriers at the youth level instead of 33” like high school. Humphrey also has a 43.52 300H best.
In the 100H, Humphrey will be joined by Kimani Rushing (Hallendale, FL soph) and Rhesa Foster. With her fresh 13.81 (+0.9w) from just two days ago at the Florida Relays, Rushing has to be considered the 100H favorite. She’s not doubling, but her 42.80 300H best attests to her range. Foster, who comes from the same Clovis North, CA school as 800 fave Mikaela Smith, is a triple threat jumper and sprinter with a 14.41 best. In the 400H, Brandee’ Johnson – also a 200 contender – joins Humphrey. Johnson didn’t hurdle last year, but is down to 44.19 300H and 1:03.81 400H this year after starting with the 55H indoors.
Boys 110H (6 qualifiers) and 400H (6 qualifiers)
The 400H is one of the deeper events for boys, with five quality U.S. entrants, while the 110H has three. Leading the former is Rai Benjamin (Mt. Vernon, NY junior), coming off a stellar indoor season where he was 2nd in the NBNI 400 – 47.56 after a US#3 47.31 PR at Eastern States – and had a US#3 33.84 300 to win NY state on a flat track. He represented Antigua in the WY Champs last summer and was 5th in his semi with a 52.36 best over the Youth 33” barriers. He also ran 53.13 over the prep 36” barriers in taking another NY state crown.
Handicapping the rest of the 400H entrants is a challenge, considering experience and injuries, but the next guy to watch might be Amere Lattin (Fort Bend Marshall, TX junior), who has a fresh 37.69 300H PR from a few weeks back. Chad Zallow (JFK-Warren, OH junior) ran 36.87 for 300H and 54.48 for 400H (36”) last year, then an early US#1 7.84 at 60H in January, only to struggle with injury the rest of indoors. Two others who could be in the 54s or better are Tyson Wright (Paxon School, FL junior) with 39.66 300H/54.64 400H bests, and Robert Dunning (Kennesaw Mtn., GA junior) with 38.85/54.79 PRs.
Lattin, Zallow and Dunning are all in the 110H, as well. Zallow has run a legal 14.18 from 2013, but again is the big question mark. Lattin’s more of a likely threat with a recent 14.24 PR and is also remembered for his 14.25 USATF JO (15-16s) title last July.
Girls Triple Jump (2 qualifiers)
With a pair of the NSAF’s Project Triple Jump athletes entered, plus a few more of the nation’s best youngsters, this is a pretty good 5-girl field. From the Project, there’s Chinne Okoronkwo (Mountlake Terrace, WA soph) and Felicienne Axel (Columbus, TX junior). Okoronkwo steadily improved this winter, eventually taking 5th at NBNI with a US#5 40-3.25. Axel, meanwhile, has 2013 bests of 40-11.25nwi and 40-1.5w and is looking to break beyond the high 38s so far in 2014.
Meanwhile, there’s also Asa Garcia (Texas City, TX junior) and Kimani Rushing (Hallendale, FL soph). Garcia won the USATF JOs (15-16) last year at 39-10 and had a few 40 footers that were NWI or windy. Indoors, she went 39-10 for 8th at NBNI, but last weekend she exploded to a new career standard of 42-3.25w (+3.2) in winning the Texas Relays. She has some other 40+ jumps that are NWI, suggesting she’s become consistent over 40 now. Rushing, also a major 100H threat, has had three major meets over 40 this spring – all NWI but suggesting she’s there, too.
Girls Long Jump (5 qualifiers)
Rhesa Foster (Clovis North, CA soph) is a bigger threat in the LJ than the previously mentioned 100H. She’s consistently in the high 19s, placing 3rd at state with 19-8.5 and with a legal PR of 19-10.5 from the Southern Section Masters. She was also the AAU JO (15-16) champ last summer. The next top contender is Taylor DeLoach (St. Vincent’s Acad., GA soph), who has gone 19-3 last year (nwi) and 18-11.75 indoors this year.
Boys Triple Jump (4 qualifiers) and Long Jump (3 qualifiers)
No U.S. entries
Girls High Jump (2 qualifiers)
Interestingly, this event is one of the deepest of the meet, with seven U.S. entries, including two at 5-10. Logan Boss (Suwannee, FL senior) went 5-8 last year, then improved to 5-10 in an invite two weeks ago. Similarly, Janae Moffit (Oak Hill, IN junior) was also a 5-8 leaper last year and is now at 5-10 – thanks to an indoor victory three weeks ago.
Girls Pole Vault (2 qualifiers)
Olivia Gruver (Franklin, MD junior) is by far the top entrant, a fast-rising talent who improved from 12-6 to 13-0 mid-winter, than took another step up with a 13-4.5 PR to take 3rd at NBNI.
Boys Pole Vault (3 qualifiers) and High Jump (4 qualifiers)
The PV has a great talent in Texas star Paulo Benevides (El Paso Franklin, junior). He was one of the surprising near-medalists at last summer’s WY Champs, taking 4th at 16-4.75 after an under-the-radar previous best of 16-6. He recently joined the 17-foot club outdoors with a 17-0.75 at UTEP, then took 3rd in the Texas Relays at 16-8.75.