|Jesse Williams, IAAF World Junior Championships
Eugene – With the IAAF World Junior Championships already attracting healthy crowds all week to Historic Hayward Field, meet organizers are ready to up the ante on Saturday at the championships.
Fans attending the Saturday afternoon session of the IAAF World Junior Championships will get a bonus: a streamlined 80-minute Run Track Town High Performance Meet immediately after the afternoon junior session concludes at 5:30. More than 70 post-collegiate and professional runners will compete for $57,000 in prize money - $3,250 to the event winner and lesser amounts to the top five finishers – in the women’s hammer, men’s high jump, men’s triple jump, men’s and women’s 4 x 800 relays, men’s 1500, women’s 100, and men’s 110 hurdles.
Some of the sport’s biggest names will be among those competing: 2011 world champion Jesse Williams in the high jump; 110 hurdles Olympic champion and world record holder Aries Merritt; and Olympic gold medalist Christian Taylor in the triple jump.
Adding local interest will be former UO standouts like NCAA champions Laura Roesler and Elijah Greer in the 4 x 800 relays, hammer thrower Britney Henry, and distance runners Trevor Dunbar, A.J. Acosta and Jordan McNamara.
|Vin Lananna, IAAF World Junior Championships
The High Performance Meet is another brainchild of Vin Lananna, president of the TrackTown USA organization that is staging the World Junior Championships. Lananna’s vision for the development of track and field in the U.S. extends far beyond Eugene hosting the Olympic Trials and the NCAA championships. On Thursday, he talked to reporters here about a summer professional track circuit that would provide more opportunities for American athletes, who all now head for European meets to compete in the summer.
“The United States needs to host meets in the summer time,” Lananna said. “We go to a meet in Liege, Belgium and I look at the 1500 and I see the same meet and the exact same athletes I could see in Eugene. They’re the exact same people except they’re $2,000 poorer because they had to pay to get over there. They’re exhausted from the trip and no one really knows who they are. So here’s an opportunity to shift that paradigm . . . We have some great, high-caliber athletes competing (here) and it’s what we need to do to promote the sport of track and field.”
Lananna believes that such a series of meets with prize money could be developed on the west coast, with meets in the Bay Area, Eugene, Portland, and, perhaps, Seattle.
A trio of world and Olympic champions gathered on Friday to second both the need for more opportunities to compete in the U.S. and Eugene’s credibility to get the ball rolling.
“It’s always fabulous to compete here,” reigning Olympic gold medalist Christian Taylor said. “We really need to push to get more track and field in the U.S. and especially in Eugene. I think the University of Oregon has done an incredible job with the Prefontaine (Classic) and now with hosting the World Juniors.”
Lananna also discussed Eugene’s upcoming bid to host the IAAF World Championships in 2019. Eugene is competing with Doha and Barcelona to host the event, which has never been held in the U.S. He said the TrackTown USA group is working now to develop a plan that will meet all the requirements of the IAAF for seating capacity, accommodations and financial guarantees. That plan must be completed and submitted by September 25, with a decision to come in November.
In Friday’s action at the championships, both U.S. men’s and women’s teams qualified for Saturday’s finals. The women’s team posted the fastest-time of the day and a world-leading junior mark of 44.03.
Running second leg on the U.S. team was Arianna Washington, the future UO sprinter who placed seventh in the 100 meter finals on Wednesday night. Washington said the tooth problem that limited her to a liquid diet before the 100 meters was much better.
“I feel good,” Washington said. “I’ve had full course meals lately, so it’s all been good. I feel really confident. I know me and my relay team have great chemistry and the stick is always going to get around no matter what. Tomorrow should be really, really good.”
Earlier in the day, Alexa Emfraimson of Camas (WA) High School qualified easily for the 1500 meter final, running 4:16.87 to secure the fourth and last automatic qualifying spot in her heat. Her U.S. teammate Elise Cranny also qualified for Sunday’s 1500 meter final.
Efraimson and Cranny will seek to emulate Mary Cain’s performance in the 3000 meters, in which she broke the long medal drought for the U.S. in distance events by winning gold on Thursday night.
“I’m ready, I’m excited, and feeling fit so it should be a good race,” Efraimson said. “Mary (Cain), Elise (Cranny) and I are raising the bar for high school runners.”
Notes . . . The U.S. led the combined medal count with 13 (eight for women, five for men) at the end of day four of the championships. Kenya was second with a total of eight medals . . . U.S. Junior Champion Kaylin Whitney narrowly avoided a false start disqualification in the 200 meters, getting a yellow caution instead. She managed to shake that off and win the race in 22.82 . . . Late Friday the UO’s Christine Brennan, competing for Canada, placed seventh in the 400 meter final in 54.15. American Kendall Baisden, who competes for Texas, won the race in 51.85 . . . American Trentavis Friday, who attended a 2A high school in North Carolina, won the 200 in a fast, but wind-aided time of 20.04.