Ryan Clark and Noah Lyles traded wins in the 60m and 200m at New Balance Nationals Indoor. Both will travel to the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in Cuba.
It's fitting that when the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation hosts its Caribbean Scholastic Invitational (CSI) in Havana, Cuba for the first time, this coming June 12-13, it will do so with perhaps its most exciting competitive squad yet -- spanning the eight previous editions of CSI. Twenty-eight student-athletes were selected for Team NSAF over several weeks this spring and, with the roster finalized, they are getting ready for the trip of a lifetime -- even as they are at different points in their competitive seasons and coming together from all over the nation.
Eleven of the athletes (see below) have already won NBN indoor or outdoor individual titles, and two others have been on championship relays. Twenty-two are current U.S. #1 in one or more events, or have been so -- indoors or outdoors -- in the past. Five have actually represented Team USA already, in either World Youth, World Junior and Youth Olympic competitions, and have won five medals between them.
Team NSAF's 28 student-athletes will include four seniors, 22 juniors and two sophomores, and they represent 15 states.
"This team may be our strongest ever ... at least since the first one (2006)," said Jim Spier, Director of the NSAF. "That one had Bianca Knight, Johnny Dutch and Jessica Beard, among others. Having U.S. leaders and national champions, like these kids, should have a definite impact and make for a very strong team."
The CSI has always been about providing first-time international competition opportunities for rising stars that are strong prospects to make Team USA Youth or Junior national squads in the coming years. Typically, the squad is made up of all juniors and sophomores, and none usually have any previous international experience. Having this many athletes on the team that have already won NBN titles is not the norm, either. But this obviously a special year and the competition will be tougher. So it makes sense to choose a team that has some established stars and internationalists to go with those who are still trying to reach that level.
The athletes will gather in Miami on June 9, and then travel to Havana from there on June 10. After a day of training and some cultural opportunities, the meet will be held June 12-13, with return to the states on June 14. Already, the team is working on some pre-trip "homework" to familiarize themselves with USA-Cuba history, the significance of this event and more.
"I'm not aware of any non-USATF group that has taken a group this large to Cuba for a track and field event -- ever," said Mr. Spier. "The last "official" team was for the 1997 Pan Am Juniors."
Some of these athletes have already completed their state meet seasons; others have a few weeks to go. Below are the 14 boys and 14 girls who will represent Team NSAF, with school, class, events and biographical highlights.