Sunday marks the renewal of the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, the nation's premier track and field meet for long-distance runners.
Places mean little and times mean everything on this night. Annually, the Payton Jordan is the premier early season domestic meet used to establish World Championship or Olympic qualifying marks, and, for collegians, to secure spots in the NCAA Regionals.
How competitive are these races? Last year, 22 of the 40 fastest times by American men were run at the Payton Jordan. No other meet, not even the Olympic trials, could match that. In the men's 5,000, four of the seven top American times and 13 of the top 50 came in the same meet.
For the women, of the top 50 American times in each event, 11 in the 10,000, nine in the 5,000, eight in the steeplechase, and six in the 1,500 all were run at the 2012 Payton Jordan.
This year, with a collection of elite American and international professional runners, as well as many of the best collegians, the 18th annual meet promises to be a fast one.
The meet also features decathlon world recordholder Ashton Eaton, the 2012 Olympic champion, who will compete in the pole vault and discus.
Field events begin at noon (women's pole vault and hammer) at Cobb Track & Angell Field with running events starting at 3:47 p.m. Races continue through 11:30 p.m.
The ticket booth outside the entrance to the track stadium opens at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Highlights include the Kim McDonald Memorial 10,000-meter races, which begin with the women's at 9:08 p.m. Those are preceded by another highlight, the fast sections of the 5,000, beginning at 8:31 p.m.
Here's a summary of the top distance races:
Women's 800, 4:56 p.m.: Typically, the fascination with this meet grows as the races get longer, but that doesn't mean there isn't some intrigue in the short races, even from the local angle. Stanford senior Justine Fedronic (school record 2:03.54), in the final home meet of her collegiate career, and freshman teammate Amy Weissenbach (national high school federation record 2:02.04) are ready to run fast, with Weissenbach seeking her first victory over her teammate in three tries at this distance. Fedronic's Stanford mark could fall.
Men's 800, 5:14 p.m.: Brandon Johnson is fresh off a third-place finish at the Mt. SAC Relays in 1:46.36, the eighth-fastest time in the world this year. Johnson was a first-team All-American in the intermediate hurdles at UCLA, and still a relative newcomer as a full-time half-miler.
Women's 3,000 steeplechase, 6:48 p.m.: Emma Coburn (PR of 9:23.54) runs her first outdoor race for Colorado since she won the 2011 NCAA title in this event. Coburn took last season off to prepare for the Olympics, reaching the final in London and finishing eighth. Coburn was the Olympic trials champion and faces Payton Jordan meet recordholder Lindsey Anderson (9:35.30 in 2009). Sara (Bei) Hall '05 (9:39.48 PR), the former Stanford star, also could be in the hunt for a 9:43.00 World Championships `A' standard time.
Men's 3,000 steeplechase, 7:15 p.m.: Florida's Mark Parrish is the collegiate leader and No. 2 American this year with an 8:42.38 at the Florida Relays. Donnie Cowart was fourth in the 2012 Olympic trials (season best 8:26.21) and is aiming to represent the U.S. at worlds, where the `A' standard is 8:26.00. The U.S. Army's Augustus Maiyo, winner of the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon, is another contender.
Men's 1,500, 7:46 p.m.: Stanford indoor mile recordholder Michael Atchoo (3:57.14) and teammate Tyler Stutzman, a first-team indoor All-America, take on former teammate Chris Derrick, the reigning U.S. cross-country champion, and Ryan Hill, making his first appearance for North Carolina State since finishing second in the NCAA indoor mile in March (3:55.25). Also, Olympic trials finalist Craig Miller and former Stanford star Elliott Heath, the 2011 NCAA indoor 3,000 champ, are in the field.
Women's 5,000, 8:31 p.m.: Seven who ranked among the 2012 Track and Field News U.S. Top 10s in various events are in the field, including four 2012 U.S. Olympians. Amy Hastings was the Olympic trials winner in the 10,000, Julie Culley won the trials in the 5,000 with Kim Conley earning the final Olympic spot in dramatic fashion with a wild kick to edge Julia Lucas, who also will be in this race. The field also includes Olympic steeplechaser Shalaya Kipp, the 2012 NCAA champ at Colorado, and Stanford senior Kathy Kroeger, a a three-time first-team outdoor All-America at this distance and the reigning Pac-12 cross country champ.
Men's 5,000, 8:50 p.m.: A year ago, Lopez Lomong set a meet record of 13:11.63 and reached an Olympic `A' standard in this event despite miscounting his laps and forging through the final lap after he came to a complete stop. Lomong is not in the field, but his record, as well as the world `A' standard of 13:15.00, could be challenged in what could be the meet's marquee event. Among the contenders are Olympic sixth-place steeplechase finisher Evan Jager and American 10,000 record-holder Chris Solinsky, who achieved his 26:59.60 at the 2010 Payton Jordan meet. Canadian Olympian Cam Levins, then of Southern Utah, and UNC Greensboro's Paul Chelimo, were the top two finishers at last year's NCAA outdoor championships in this event. Other big names are Sam Chelanga, a two-time NCAA cross-country champion at Liberty; former Stanford star Garrett Heath, who is coming off a victory at the U.S. Road Mile Championship Tuesday in Iowa; Salinas native Diego Estrada of Northern Arizona, who is an NCAA contender and a Mexican Olympian; and Alan Webb, who is the U.S. record-holder in the mile (3:46.91).
Women's Kim McDonald Memorial 10,000, 9:08 p.m.: U.S. Olympian Lisa Uhl and Alisha Williams were top-five finishers at last year's Olympic trials. Oregon's Jordan Hasay is on the start list in this event. She is the collegiate leader after running 32:46.68 on this track at the Stanford Inviational on March 29. And two-time Olympic marathoner Kim Smith set a New Zealand national record (30:35.54) while running the second-fastest time in meet history in a dramatic duel with winner Shalane Flanagan in 2008.
Men's Kim McDonald Memorial 10,000, 9:45 p.m.: Aaron Braun (fifth, 27:41.54), Ryan Vail, and Bobby Mack all finished among the top nine at the U.S. Olympic trials, all under 28 minutes. Andrew Bumbalough, fourth in the Olympic trials 5,000, also will chase the world `A' standard of 27:40.00. Japanese runners Yuki Sato and Suguru Osako will renew their rivalry after Sato outsprinted Osako to win the 2012 national championship and earn Japan's lone Olympic berth. Each will be aiming for the Japanese record of 27:35.09 set by Toshinari Takaoka at this meet in 2001.