Breaking Down Distance/Throws At The 2020 AAU West Coast JOs



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Schedule: The track stream begins at 11:30 EST on Saturday

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A tremendous amount of youth track and field talented is headed our way this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, as Milesplit is set to stream the 2020 AAU West Coast Junior Olympic Games from Saturday through Sunday. 

Much like the AAU Junior Olympic Games, which is scheduled for August in Florida, the West Coast Championship will feature some of the country's best young talent in events ranging from the sprints and distance all the way to the jumps and throws. 

Starting today, we're bringing you previews of top events and athletes headed our way. We're focusing, in particular, on 17-18 age group athletes who have either graduated or have eligibility left for their high school careers. 

See below for specific analysis on key events. 

* Chase Gordon's CIF 800m semi-final in 2019

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Event: Boys 17-18 800m

Key Athletes: AJ Green (Eastview, MN), Chase Gordon (Jesuit, CA), Terry Robinson (Lansing, KS)

Breakdown: An incredible 800m battle is on our hands between three well-versed talents from three different states. Defending 800m champs from the 2019 season in Minnesota and Kansas, Green and Robinson, will vie for a fast time against Gordon, a runner-up as a junior at the California CIF Championships. All three have produced some impressive performances, though Green ran the fastest as a junior, posting a best of 1:49.83. Gordon has run a PR of 1:51.74.

Green is headed off to Kansas while Gordon is set for Southern California. But Robinson shouldn't be overlooked, as he gave Green everything he can handle at the Leander Spartans Invitational in June, going 1:52.66. Green has posted two efforts of 1:52.06 and 1:52.62. The future Jayhawk, however, is looking to break the 1:50 threshold in this race ...and a testy race against Gordon and Robinson should give the trio all the competition they desire. 

* Taylor James' career-record 2:05.83 in 2019

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Event: Girls 17-18 800m

Key Athletes: Taylor James (Niwot, CO) -- scratch, Kate Jendrezak (Eastside Catholic, WA), Tatum Zinkin (Clovis North, CA), Taliah Wickett (Fresno Central, CA), Maddie Denny (Armijo, CA)

Breakdown: On the other side of the coin is the girls' 800m race, which will feature two girls who have broken 2:10 and 2:06, respectively. James, who ran 2:05.83 a year ago in Nashville, is the favorite to run a fast time and potentially win. But Jendrezak, who is coming off a personal best time of 54.48 in the 400m in June, shouldn't be far behind. The UCLA recruit has run a career best of 2:09.71 and is the defending Washington state champion from 2019. 

James' only official races of the 2020 season came in March, while Jendrezak dusted off the rust in June at the Desert Dream Last Hurrah Invitational in Arizona. Zinkin, Wickett and Denny, meanwhile, could be impressive in their own right, with each looking to break 2:15.

Event: Girls 17-18 1,500m

Key Athletes: Taylor James (Niwot, CO) -- scratch, Cadence Lapp (Loveland, CO)

Breakdown: The objective for James here, really, will be to throw down an equally impressive -- and consistent -- effort requisite of her talent. There's no question James is a beast in the 800m. But what might be an even bigger statement is a national-level effort in the 1,500m. The long-striding talent from Colorado has run a personal record of 4:59.35 in the 1,600m, which converts down to a 4:38.81. The top 10 girls in the 1,500m in 2019, however, were right under 4:32. Lapp, meanwhile, is right on the cusp of breaking 5 minutes for the distance. 

Event: Girls 17-18 3,000m

Key Athletes: Evie Cohen (San Francisco St. Ignatius College Prep, CA)

Breakdown: Cohen will be racing for a fast time on her own in the 3,000m, though she certainly has the talent to run in the 10:40-vicinity. The rising senior from San Francisco has pocketed personal record marks of 5:17.60 in the 1,600m and 11:08.50 in the 3,200m. She qualified for the California CIF State Cross Country Championships in November and finished ninth in Division 3, running 18:11.30 for 5K. 

Event: Boys 17-18 1,500m-3,000m

Key AthletesAlex Mainvielle (West Torrance, CA), Pacific Coast, 3:59.18, 8:42.18

Breakdown: The Californian has an opportunity to strike gold in the 3,000m, which is the stronger of his two races this weekend. With personal bests of 3:59.38 in the 1,500m and 8:42.18, the rising senior from West Torrance is in a league of his own in his division, very clearly ahead of anyone in the field. 

That will make his aims a little bit harder -- especially out in the dry heat of Nevada -- but the California athlete could make a statement with lowering of his personal best marks. No athlete in 2020 has yet run under 4 minutes for 1,500m outdoors, while only three boys have broken 9 minutes officially in the 3,000m. 

Event: Boys 17-18 Shot Put

Key Athletes: Mason Hickel (Desert Vista, AZ), Cooper Mack (Watertown, SD), Ridge Estes (Bucklin, KS), Eric Hurtt (Frankfort Adena, OH)

Breakdown: 60-feet is the magical number for this group this weekend. Hickel is just shy of the mark, owning a PR of 59-9. And Mack isn't far behind, with a personal best of 58-0. Then there will be Estes (53-5) and Hurtt (52-0), with both looking to hang giant throws of their own. Critical in this group's aims will be perfection in the circle, that joyful moment when everything clicks before release. 

Hickel is the latest in Arizona talent that has excelled in the throws, following the likes of Tyson Jones, Turner Washington and Zachary Landa. If he can join the 60-foot club, he would join a very rare group of all-time Arizona talent over that distance. 

Event: Girls 17-18 Shot Put

Key Athletes: Chrystal Herpin (Pearland Speed, TX), Maci Irons (Monahans, TX)

Breakdown: Only two girls went over 50 feet in the shot put nationally in 2019 -- Herpin's mark of 47 feet, 5 inches gave her the 19th best throw of that season.

So far, just one girl -- a much-improved Maria Deaviz, has reached that mark in 2020, going 52-1.25. But Herpin, a rising senior, should set her sights on a very reasonable PR. The Texan currently owns a US No. 6 mark of 47-0.25 from February. But only three girls in the country have thrown farther than 48-3.5. 

Inside the circle, Herpin has the talent. The only question will be whether she can find the winning formula. Irons, meanwhile, might be her closest competition. Another Texan, the rising senior at Monahans has thrown 40-9. But her hopes are attaching to a huge PR this weekend. 

Event: Boys 17-18 Discus

Key Athletes: Cooper Mack, (Watertown, SD), Michael Jitjaeng (Big Sandy, TX), Ridge Estes (Bucklin, KS)

Breakdown: Mack, a rising senior in South Dakota, scored a personal record discus at the Desert Dream Last Hurrah Invitational in June, hitting a mark of 169 feet. That represented a 14-foot improvement from the previous season. But there's a chance Mack could given himself an even bigger paycheck this weekend.

Faced up against Jitjaeng, who has thrown 166-3.5 -- accomplished more recently in Leander -- will force the duo to battle toe-to-toe in a test of each other's best efforts. And then there's Estes. While he doesn't have an official mark near either of those two athlete's ballparks, his seed mark of 165-feet -- which he may have accomplished in an unofficial efforts -- puts him right in contention. More talent in the circle, along with a fair amount of adrenaline, could heed immense throws from these three. 

Event: Girls 17-18 Discus

Key Athletes: Chrystal Herpin (Pearland Dawson, TX)


Breakdown: Herpin is undoubtedly the girls thrower to watch at the West Coast meet. But while she sports official personal bests just below her seed marks, there's good reason to think Herpin could explode at JOs. She's officially thrown over 150-feet on three occasions in 2020, which makes her 160-5 seed more approachable than unrealistic. And that will be a very attainable goal for Herpin, who is a rising senior in Texas. A throw over 160 would make Herpin the national leader for the abbreviated 2020 season and would put her in elite company -- that mark is typically the barometer for elite girls discus throwers annually. 

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