The USA Track and Field Junior National Championships is bound to be one of the best meets of the spring season.
If the weather holds up in Miramar, Florida, times should explode on the track at Ansin Sports Complex as U20 athletes look to produce their best efforts of the season and qualify for the Pan-American Junior Championships in Costa Rica in July.
While most every event will be chalk full of great competition and superb storylines, we picked seven events that could take your breath away.
7. A Men's Battle In The 110mH
Why: Marshall, the nation's top hurdler at the high school height of 39-inches, owns the best wind-legal time of 13.50 seconds. And that was no fluke. He's gone wind-legal efforts of 13.60, 13.61 and 13.61 -- not to mention wind-aided times of 13.31 and 13.56. But at the international level, he'll need to adjust for a 42-inch hurdle. Edwards, meanwhile, made an NCAA final with the Ducks and was the best freshman hurdler in the country -- he did so while coming back from injury following his senior year of high school. Edwards may have some room to grow if he wants to win an NCAA title, but his wind-legal 13.49 (+2.0) at 42-inches puts him in the discussion as one of the best in this event and he will need to be beaten first, at least if anyone else wants to book a trip to the Pan-American Championships. This should be a great battle.
6. The Super Competitive Women's 400m Hurdles
Why: Russell has a bone pick. The former Bullis School hurdler was the first athlete out last year, missing a qualifier to the IAAF U20 Championships by three-hundredths of a second. But she's gotten faster (57.34) in 2019 and reached the NCAA Championships in 2019 for the Wildcats. Is she the favorite in the event, though? Wilson is fresh off a performance of 56.77 seconds at the 400 meter distance at New Balance Nationals Outdoor and looks primed to make a play for another national title. Russell should also watch out for Watson, Townsend and Phillips, who all have the ability to race under 58 seconds.
5. The Absolutely Loaded Women's 400m
Field: Kayla Davis (Run U Xpress, NC), Athing Mu (Trenton Central, NJ), Bailey Lear (Southern California), Alexis Holmes (Penn State), Paris Peoples (Arkansas), Ziyah Holman (Georgetown Day, DC), Kennedy Simon (Texas), Meghan Hunter (Provo, UT), Kimberly Harris (Buford, GA), Ramiah Elliott(Indiana Storm, IN), Lily Williams (Grandview, CO)
Why: Four-hundred meter stars across five separate signing classes will collide in one of the most talented events to field entries at USA Juniors. And there's no debating that. No athlete is slower at this distance than 53.79 seconds. There's a strong likelihood that it will be a battle to even get out of the first round. Three athletes have PRs under 52 seconds, while three high-level collegiate runners (Holmes, Lear, Peoples) will lean on NCAA experience to aid their performances in the rounds. Davis, the young freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina, is coming off an all-time performance of 51.17 second at New Balance Nationals and will be tough to beat. Harris, a junior from Buford, won an indoor national title at the distance, while Elliott, a fast riser from Indiana, is a sleeper to get through the rounds.
4. Anna Hall In The Heptathlon
Field: Anna Hall (Valor Christian, CO)
Why: If nothing else, this will be Hall's first foray into the heptathlon this spring. In the winter, the future Georgia Bulldog broke the high school national record in the pentathlon. Last year around this time, she also broke the high school national record in the heptathlon with 5,798 points. Ample rest from the multis in 2019 may give Hall an extra boost here, and there's room to think she could produce another historic outing. She's faster in the 200m, 800m and 100mH than ever before, and better in the shot put, though she'll need to meet her career standards in the long jump, javelin and high jump if there's a chance for her to hit that pantheon again.
3. Matthew Boling's Big Matchup In The 100m
Field: Matthew Boling (Houston Strake Jesuit, TX), Brendon Stewart (Southern California), Marcellus Moore (Plainfield North, IL), Kennedy Lightner (North Little Rock, AR), Jabriel Smith, Edward Sumler(Houston)
Why: Boling got a little bit of a scare at Great Southwest when he was step-for-step with Taylor Banks through 50 meters at The Great Southwest Classic. But the Strake Jesuit sprinter pulled away when Banks had to exit with an injury. Here, he'll face an even stiffer test. While no one in the field is approaching his foray into the 10.10s, he'll face collegiate athletes who will be mindful of his star power -- Boling will have to look past that and focus to come through yet again. As he's proven with wind-legal efforts of 10.13, 10.15 and 10.22 -- along with wind-aided efforts of 9.98, 10.11 and 10.20 -- he's surely capable. More impressively, he'll likely double up in the long jump -- and if he hits another 25-footer, that will be his seventh 25-plus mark of the season.
9.98 (+4.2) 😭 Matt Boling posts the fastest all conditions 100m in HS history!pic.twitter.com/dJODbUnfYR— FloTrack (@FloTrack) April 27, 2019
2. Justin Robinson's Encore In The 400m
Field: Justin Robinson (Hazelwood West, MO), Willington Wright (Middle Tenn.), Matthew Moorer(Baylor), Alex Collier (Orange Park, FL), Trey Johnson (Southern Miss.), Lakyron Mays (OK. State), Omar Austin (Northwest Mo. St.)
Why: Honestly, this is Robinson's race to win. While we should expect Robinson's last effort to come back to earth after a 44.84 at Great Southwest, the Missouri High School junior continues to be in a class of his own ... if he wants to be. Robinson still has yet to split an open 400 meter time in the 45s. Here, he'll have a good opportunity to do that in the rounds and in the final with a spot on USA Junior's Pan-American team on the line.
1. Athing Mu Versus Roisin Willis In The 800m
Field: Athing Mu (Trenton Central, NJ), Roisin Willis (Stevens Point, WI), Alyssa Brewer (Southern California), Victoria Vanriele (Governor Livingston, NJ), Dominique Mustin (North Canyon, AZ), Morgan Foster (Chandler, AZ), Nyjari McNeil (San Diego St.), Marlena Preigh (RISE, CO), Brynne Sumner (Woodstock, GA)
Why: There's a built-in storyline for this one. As Mu was attempting to break 2-minutes in the 800m indoors at New Balance Nationals Outdoor, it was Willis who eventually caught the Trenton Central Track Club star down in the final moments and claimed the title instead ...as a freshman. Things remain compelling after Mu went 2:01.38 at the Music City Distance Carnival -- versus professionals -- and Willis clocked 2:04.86 to win Brooks PR. Mu still has yet to prove she's unbeatable in a more tactical race featuring high school runners, but this will be a good window into the question. Brewer, fresh off her first season with the Trojans, ran 2:04.93 in March, while Vanriele is quietly looming with her 2:05.15 from Brooks PR as well. Expect this race to be tactical on Saturday and Sunday.