Many of the world's fastest sprinters will be on the Left Coast this weekend as the U.S. takes on the world at the historic Penn Relays. America's Tyson Gay will be chasing the mercurial Ursain Bolt while U.S. sprinters Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross will go head-to-head once again in one of track's better rivalries.
Across the country on the West Coast, some of the world's top distance runners will converge at Stanford's Cobb Track and Angell Field for the annual Payton Jordan Invitational on Sunday.
The meet is one of the most competitive in the U.S. for distance runners who have set numerous records from the 3,000-meter steeplechase to 10,000 meters over the year. Last season, Chris Solinsky broke the American record in the 10,000 meters.
The meet will begin at noon with the field events, while the running events begin at 3:45 p.m. The evening distance carnival, beginning with the first 1,500 race at 5:20 p.m., highlights the meet and is where records seemingly to go down every year. Sunday marks the first day of the Olympic qualifying season, where marks can be used toward the 2012 London Games.
In addition to Solinsky's record run, in which he became the first non-African to run under 27 minutes in the 10K, several other major records have been set at the Payton Jordan Invitational. In 2001, Meb Keflezighi broke the American record in the 10,000 meters. A year later Deena Drossin accomplished the same feat on the women's side. In 2008, Shalane Flannagan lowered the women's 10K record and then, in 2009, Stanford's Chris Derrick set an American Junior Record for the 5,000 meters.
This year's meet should be no different as each of the distance events have some of the top college and professional athletes in the nation. Among the highlights will be Flanagan in the women's 10,000 and Solinsky in the men's 10K.
The men's 10K features Robert Cheseret of the U.S. Army. He's the current world leader at 28:29.69. Solinsky comes in as the nation's No. 2 runner in the 5,000 (13:10.22). The men's 3,000 steeplechase has U.S. leader Derek Scott (8:31.52) and John Ricardi, who ranks No. 3 at 8:44.88. Stanford's Derrick will be in the 5K field, where he ran 13:36.87 indoors this season. Cardinal teammate Elliott Heath ranks No. 13 in the U.S. with his 13:34.54 indoor best.
The women's 3,000 steeplechase has former Stanford All-American Sara (Bei) Hall, the current world leader at 9:50.68. Stanford grad Lindsay Allen, ranked No. 5 in the U.S. at 10:07.16 and No. 14 in the world, is also in the field. The women's 5K has Christin Wurth-Thomas, who ranks No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world with her 15:21.75 season best. And in the women's 10K, Molly Huddle of the U.S. brings the speed of her world-leading 5K time (15:10.63) to the field. Sally Kipyego, the current world leader in the 1,500 at 4:06.23, is also in the 10K field.
Among the Stanford competitors, the top section of the 5,000 meters should be one to watch with Derrick, Heath and Jake Riley each scheduled to compete. Derrick and Riley were All-Americans in the event last year, while Heath has been arguably the hottest collegiate distance runner of 2011, winning the NCAA title in the indoor 3K in March.
On the women's side, Kathy Kroeger is expected to make her 2011 debut in the second section of the 5,000 meters. Kate Niehaus and Stephanie Marcy are also entered in the same heat.
The annual Payton Jordan Invitational Youth Clinic also will be held Sunday at Stanford's Cobb Track and Angell Field for boys and girls under 14 years of age. The clinic will be led by Stanford's track and field coaches while Joy Upshaw of the Jackrabbits Track Club will direct the event.
The clinic will offer tips and techniques on jumps, throws, sprints/hurdles and distance-racing strategy. Signup time is 9:45 a.m. with the clinic starting at 10 a.m. and finishing by 11:15 a.m. The Payton Jordan Invitational will begin at noon with field events.