The AAU National Club Championships began in earnest on Sunday and continue through the week, with athletes in individual events competing on the track and in the field starting Tuesday at ESPN's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.
As a precursor to the AAU Junior Olympic Games, the AAU National Club Championships lean on the team component of the sport and name a champion following the week-long event.
Below, we've named nine athletes in various age group categories with chances to shine at the Club Championships. Check out how they will fare through the week.
Aasia Laurencin, Oak Park, MI
Events: 200m, 100mH
Breakdown: This year marks a step-up for the 17-year-old Laurencin, both from a time and age standpoint. A year ago, she won an AAU Junior Olympic title in the 100mH in the 15-16 age group category. And this season, she's a year older, a year wiser and a year stronger. She's coming off a major PR of 13.43 in the 100mHs at the AAU Region 12 Qualifier in June and will head to clubs in top form. She finished third at New Balance Nationals Outdoor and second at Michigan's LP Division I state championships.
Ashton Allen, Bullis School, MD
Events: 200m, 400m, 4x400m
Breakdown: Allen's year has been electric. From the indoor campaign, where he went 33.62 in the 300m and 46.99 in the 400m -- both efforts No. 2 times nationally -- to times of 20.76 in the 200m and 47.43 in the 400m outdoors, US No. 14 and No. 43 marks, it's been an ever-improving year. The i5Elite athlete placed second at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in the 200m and will follow here with efforts in his two favorite distances. The goal for Allen, at this point of his career, will be to break 46 seconds -- whether at clubs or the AAU Junior Olympics. Don't be surprised when he hits 45 on the clock.
Damira Allen, Chester Cheetahs, PA
Events: 800m, 1500m, 3000m
Breakdown: Allen is a young talent with a convincing future ahead of her. She's incredibly versatile, with efforts from 400 to 3,000 meters, and will look to improve on her 2:21.27 in the 800m and 4:55.42 in the 1,500m. This will mark Allen's first attempt at the 3,000 meter distance.
Daishon Spann, Cocoa, FL
Events: 400mH, LJ, heptathlon
Breakdown: At this point, Spann can't even count the amount of club championships she owns over her long-tenured career. She's got 16 of them. But don't look now, as the Each One Teach One Track Club athlete is (E.O.T.O.) out for more on the track and will look to establish herself yet again in three events -- the heptathlon being her strongest event. Spann's history in the heptathlon, with a PR of 4,578 points, will place her as the field's favorite.
Juliah Bolden, Wichita Track Club, KS
Events: 100m, 200m
Breakdown: One of the young sprint talents in the AAU circuit, Bolden will be sure to impress yet again. She will be coming off career PRs in both the 100m and 200m, having secured efforts of 13.10 and 27.17 seconds at the AAU Region 16 Qualifier in late June. If we use last year as evidence, Bolden brings some legit star power. She's the defending Club and AAU Junior Olympic 100m champion and was second in the 200m at clubs in 2018. She's already a six-time gold medalist at the AAU Junior Olympics.
Kharisma Watkins, Miami Gardens Xpress, FL
Events: 100m, 200m, triathlon
Breakdown: Watkins, an athlete based out of Fort Myers, Florida, was a young athlete to watch in 2018. At the AAU Junior Olympic Games, she won age group titles in the 100m, 200m and 400m. But she was second at Clubs in both the 100m and 200m. A year later, Watkins will tackle her favorite events again, though will add the triathlon to the mix, too.
Blaise Atkinson, Charlotte Heat Track Club, NC
Division: 15-16 year-olds
Events: 110mH, 400mH
Breakdown: Fresh off his first year in high school, at North Mecklenberg High School, Atkinson will look to bring improvement over to the AAU circuit in the short and long hurdles. A key goal for Atkinson will be to break 15 seconds in the 110s, while he'll try to cut time off his best of 57.19 in the 400s. A year ago he was second in the 110s at the AAU Club Championships.
Cha'iel Johnson, Miami Gardens Xpress, FL
Events: 400m, 800m, 1500m
Breakdown: This wouldn't be a true list without the inclusion of Johnson, who continues to dazzle us every year with new and inspiring runs. Thus far in 2019, she's secured PRs in every single one of her events, going 25.40 in the 200m, 54.77 in the 400m and 2:08.96 in the 800m. And as Johnson gets older, her talent is getting more evident in the distance events, where she has the ability to compete with athletes many years her junior. But securing records is a tall order. She would have to run 2:02.43 to grab an age-group best in the 800m this year.
Mekhi Gammons, Miami Gardens Xpress, FL
Events: 200m, 400m, 4x400m
Breakdown: As one star turns the page, another one starts to shine. That should be the story of Gammons, who takes over MGX's role as the group's top 400m runner -- as long-time athlete Tyrese Cooper is off to the University of Oregon. Gammons seems to be headed in that role, with 2019 PRs in the 100m (11.56), 200m (21.88), 400m (48.77) and 800m (2:00.80). But whereas Cooper was a short sprint sensation, Gammons is developing with more mid-distance potential beyond 200m and 400m. Watch out for Gammons to show us something different in 2019.