With so many great results this past weekend, we wrap-up the weekend and look ahead in our weekly News & Notes section. This week we discuss a freshman shot put sensation not named Nick Vena, the big 1600m race in Minnesota on Saturday, other state action and the Prefontaine Classic, which will feature both Chanelle Price (PA) and Luke Puskedra (UT) this coming weekend.
News & Notes (6/03)
Throwing Big as a Frosh
While New Jersey freshman Nick Vena (Morristown, NJ) has received nearly all of the attention this year in regards to young throwing sensations, another freshman is making some noise on the opposite coast. Oregon freshman Ryan Crouser (Barlow, OR) (pictured left wearing #65, standing next to his cousin Sam Crouser, photo by Kim Spir) took home double gold two weeks back at the Oregon State T&F Championships, throwing personal bests of 60-02 in the shot put and 178-09 in the discus. Despite being over six feet behind Vena in the shot put, he leads the national freshman list in the discus.
This past weekend at the BorderDuel Track Classic in Portland, Oregon, Crouser won the shot put and finished second in the discus. The young phenom threw a new PR in the discus with his winning toss of 179-01, while nearing his state PR with a 59-10 throw.
To explain just how good Crouser is one needs to take a look at the record book. Before Vena came along this year, Kevin Bookout (OK) held the national freshman shot put record of 63-00. In the discus, Derek Randall (TX) holds the national freshman record with a 191-08 throw. Taking both records into account, this leaves Crouser less than three feet off the old shot put mark and less than 13 feet off the current discus record. While he may not achieve either mark this spring, Crouser certainly has left an impression that he's one of the best ever at the freshman level.
Perhaps the most exciting part about Crouser is his continued development. According to numerous published articles, Crouser has grown three inches this year to 6-05. While being so tall, the prep sensation is still fairly lanky looking. His improvements have seen him progress steadily this season, not throwing over 56 feet in the shot put until late April, and only throwing over 170-00 in the discus once before his state-series competitions.
Crouser's future seems bright, especially when looking at his family lineage in the throwing events. According to MileSplit Oregon affiliiate ORRunners.com, his father competed in the throws at the University of Idaho, while two of his uncles competed in the throwing events at the University of Oregon. On top of that his cousin Sam Crouser, who competes for Gresham High School (OR), won the state title this year as a sophomore in the javelin throw. Being surrounded by so much talent and knowledge will certainly help as he strives toward bigger, more impressive goals in the future.
With less than a week to go now until the Minnesota State T&F Championships, senior distance runners Rob Finnerty (Burnsville, MN) and Jordan Carlson (Rosemount, MN) are pushing their talents to the limits. Both Finnerty and Carlson are entered in the 1600m run at state and both should feel prepared to run at a fast pace in the event. The reasoning behind that statement is that the two athletes have matched up each of the prior two weekends in the event, both times each individual dipping under 4:10.
Two weeks ago at the Lake Conference Meet, Finnerty beat Carlson in a mad sprint to the finish, edging the Notre Dame-bound Carlson 4:07.12-4:09.02. This past weekend at the Region 3AA Championships, the Wisconsin-bound Finnerty once again beat Carlson just barely, this time winning 4:06.49-4:08.73. The regional race saw Finnerty and Carlson go out in 61 for the first 400m, coming through the 800m mark in 2:02 and hitting the bell lep at 3:06. Finnerty closed with a furious kick in 60 seconds, while Carlson finished two seconds back.
Price, Puskedra Ready for Pre
It's rare that a high school athlete partakes in one of the professional races at the Prefontaine Classic. It's even more rare that it happens twice in the same year. Well, that's exactly what's happening this year, as middle-distance star Chanelle Price (Easton, PA) and distance star Luke Puskedra (Judge Memorial, UT) are entered in the women's 800m dash and men's two-mile run respectively.
For the past few weeks there's been plenty of speculation surrounding this meet. While the news of Price entering the Prefontaine 800m didn't come as a complete shock, especially since Price is already considered one of the best 800m runners in the country regardless of age, Puskedra's entry is. Both athletes are being set up perfectly to really go after the prep national records. Price has plenty of talent to follow while chasing the 2:00.07 by Kim Gallagher in 1982, while Puskedra has a special pacer helping him as he attempts to break Jeff Nelson's 8:36.3h set back in 1979.
With so much anticipation surrounding these two it will be interesting to see how they respond to the pressure. All eyes will be on the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon Sunday, seeing if Price and Puskedra can indeed make history.
The Week Ahead
While nearly all the state meets are over, this 2008 track and field season is far from done. While over a half dozen state meets are still left to take place, including Ohio, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine, the post-season meets kick-off as well. Leading the way are a quartet of invitationals. The Golden West Invitational is the most historic of all post-season high school competitions, hosting many of the nation's best year in and year out.
Following in the foot steps of the Golden West Invitational is the Golden South Invitational. This year the premier event should be the boys mile, which features middle distance star Joseph Franklin (Godby, FL) taking a crack at the magical four-minute barrier. The Great Southwest Classic should feature some amazing clashes as well, especially the girls hurdle events, which will have more information available once the official start lists are released.
The MileStat.com Elite Track Gala in Virginia hosts numerous top athletes along the east coast and south as well. This third-year event has been a consistent player in producing top level competition for athletes to run their best times of the year and this year should be no different.
As mentioned above, the Prefontaine Classic will cap the weekend when Chanelle Price (Easton, PA) and Luke Puskedra (Judge Memorial, UT) chase after national records in the women's 800m dash and men's two-mile run. Both athletes will take part in incredibly stacked fields, but should have the whole nation cheering them on, especially since this meet will be televised nationally.