The USATF Junior Championships are almost here.
Spanning three days in Bloomington, Indiana, high school and collegiate athletes under the age of 20 will compete for a chance to qualify for the U20 Championships in Finland this July. The first day of action begins on Friday and goes through Sunday, with multiple rounds of races and events.
The top two finishers in each event will earn an automatic berth to the World U20 Championships. Check out U20 qualifying standards here.
In the meantime, check out our picks and analysis of the sprints and distance events.
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Analysis: Barring a catastrophic start or injury, American Heritage's Anthony Schwartz seems in line for a U20s berth in the men's 100. He's been the most consistent high school sprinter in the country in 2018, and he may be the most consistent prep sprinter of all-time.
Beyond Schwartz, however, is a little less predictable. Ohio State's Harrison was third at Big Ten's (10.28, +1.2) and has four wind-legal times under 10.4. Hinds CC's Meyers has two wind-legal 10.31 outings and went 10.12 in the 100m finals at the NJCAA Outdoor Championships - where he finished fourth!
Analysis: The high schoolers may find it tough to compete with the experience of first-year collegiate freshmen over the rounds. Terry enters as the clear favorite, having run a wind-legal 10.99 for USC this spring. But from there, it's anyone's race to take. Clark, Reed, Williams, Kirland or Lampkin all could have shots to qualify here.
In The Hunt: Anthony Schwartz, Eric Harrison, Jared Hayes
Analysis: Meyers had a fantastic 2018, setting an indoor JUCO national record and then following with a national title outdoors in 20.02 (+2.7). Shinnick might be more proficient at 400m, though he's trying his hand at this distance. He ran 20.58 (+1.0) earlier this spring. Again, keep your eye on Schwartz, Harrison and Troy University's Jared Hayes, who's gone 20.59 (+1.5).
MileSplit's Picks: Tamara Clark, Twanisha Terry
Analysis: Yet again, the women's sprint field is dominated by collegiate freshman. Denver East (CO) junior Arria Minor has a shot, though she'll need to run her best - and maybe even faster than her wind-legal 22.89 (+1.9) to get an automatic berth.
Analysis: This mark the return of Georgia prep Brian Herron. He's been training near Atlanta for much of the season and split 46.07 last year at the USATF Junior Championships - he was eventually a part of that legendary USA team at Pan Am Juniors. This March, he ran 46.31 at New Balance Nationals Indoor, but he'll be facing athletes with plenty of tuning. That will include Baylor freshman Howard Fields, who was third at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships in 45.66. High school competition like Herron's teammate Ramey and Trey Johnson will also be in the mix.
Analysis: Oregon's Anderson featured in the Ducks 4x400 team for the NCAA Championship and Mason went 51.53 to win the ACC Championship in May. Those two may be the favorites, though high school graduate Britton Wilson, who ran unattached this spring, is looking to connect for a big time. And we can't forget about Minor, who went 51.92 at the state championships in Colorado.
Analysis: Will Tia Jones strike gold again here? She broke the high school national record as a freshman in 2016 in this very same meet, posting a time of 12.84 (+1.2). If she has been waiting for the competition, she's surely going to get it. Girls like Davis and Brissett have gone under 13 seconds and present the Georgia prep's biggest roadblock to a U20 qualifier. And you have to watch out for Hicks, who won a CIF title a few weeks back in 13.35 (+1.3).
MileSplit's Picks: Joseph Anderson, Cameron Murray
In The Hunt: Cory Poole, Tre'Brien Gilbert
Analysis: Georgia prep and Tennessee signee Cameron Murray has a chance to earn an automatic bid here. But his biggest competition will be college freshman like Anderson and Poole, and Arkansas recruit Gilbert. Poole finished fourth at the SEC Championships in 13.68 (+0.9) and Anderson was third at the Pac-12 Championships in 13.96 (+3.5). Murray's top time as a senior was 13.82 (+1.2).
MileSplit's Picks: Cory Poole, Charles Brockman
In The Hunt: Emmanuel Waller, Miles Green
Analysis: It's Poole's race to lose. He was third at the SEC Championships in a PR of 50.09, but qualified out of the East Prelims and was third at nationals in 50.68. Brockman ran at the Florida Relays, but hasn't been in tip-top shape all season. So that means if a prep like Waller or Green have a few good races, they could steal a spot.
In The Hunt: Vanessa Watson
Analysis: Woodward was fourth as a freshman at the SEC Championships in 57.77, while Russell was perhaps the top long hurdler in the country for high schoolers in 2018. Russell qualified for the Pan American Junior Championships last year in the same event and went 57.55 in the event in Peru. She only ran the distance once in 2018, however, and won the high school race at the Penn Relays in 58.49.
MileSplit's Picks: Josh Hoey, Rey Rivera
In The Hunt: Chris Conrad, Devan Kirk
Analysis: National record watch here? Maybe, maybe not. But there's a good chance Hoey will need to run faster than 1:48 to grab an automatic qualifier here. He'll have really good opposition, with Rivera, Conrad and Kirk all a year wiser on the college circuit. Kirk was sixth at Pac-12s, Conrad was fifth at SECs and Rivera PR'ed in 1:48.04 in Virginia in April.
Analysis: This could be the most exciting race on the docket. Collier is coming off a US No. 5 all-time effort of 2:00.85. Watson earned her first NCAA title in Oregon, but she didn't run faster than 2:02.65 this season. She PR'ed last July at the Gala dei Castelli in 2:00.65. And let's not forget about McIntosh, who had a fantastic freshman season at Clemson and ran 2:03.73 to finish sixth at NCAAs.
Analysis: Teare ran 3:43 in May and Nuguse went 3:42.44 in the prelims of the ACC Championships - where he later finished third. True will be in the mix here as well, but the real question will be Hengst. Will he run close to his 3:45.59 from Mt. SAC, or is he closer to 3:50? If Hengst runs what he's capable of, he could grab an automatic qualifier here.
Analysis: If Collier runs this race, her converted mile time from Adidas checks out to about 4:17.93, while McArthur posted a 4:19.99 at the East Prelims. Hunter is closer to 4:20 and Reale has gone as fast as 4:30 this season.
Analysis: Maybe this is a reach, but can Culbreath make a run at the 3K title at USA Juniors? She's got immense speed and the requisite record in 2018. Sure, she would have to eclipse some very talented collegiate freshman or national studs like Gaughan or O'Keeffe. But call it a hunch. Culbreath for the win here.
In The Hunt: Soren Knudsen
Analysis: Teare finished 6th at Pac-12s and went a best of 13:46.46. This would be Bosley's first try at the 5K on the track, though he's coming off a 4:08.82 mile and a double at the Wisconsin state championships, where he split 4:10.39 for 1600m and 8:59.49 for 3200m.
In The Hunt: Marlee Starliper
MileSplit's Picks: Will Merritt, Hociel Landa
In The Hunt: Trevor Foley