A Classic On The Track Brings Nation's Best
Feb. 7, 2013
SEATTLE - The biggest weekend of the Dempsey Indoor season is at hand, as Friday and Saturday brings some of the top athletes in the NCAA and the world of track and field to Seattle for the annual Husky Classic. Considered the premiere indoor meet for distance running, the fields for the Classic are a who's-who of NCAA title contenders from 800-meters up to 5,000-meters. As usual, the intrigue does not stop there, as the sprints and relays, jumps and throws also feature the most competitive fields of the Dempsey regular season.
The Husky Classic begins Friday evening at 4:00 p.m. and will feature some of the best 5,000-meter races in the NCAA this year starting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday picks up again right at 8:00 a.m. and continues all day. The fastest heats on the track are grouped together into Invitational Sections, which begin at 3:05 p.m. and continue through the end of the meet at around 6:00 p.m.
Sunday is another packed day of competition as well, as the UW Indoor Open takes place from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with fields comprised mostly of smaller colleges and high school entrants though several Huskies will be in action Sunday as well.
To reach the NCAA Indoor Championships next month in Fayetteville, Ark., many distance runners view a trip to the Husky Classic as a necessity, looking to run their season-best times in the Dempsey that will qualify them for the national meet. That prompts schools across the country to send anywhere from a couple select individual up to full squads to this weekend's meet.
Among the more than 1,300 athletes entered this weekend include representatives from over half of the teams ranked in the USTFCCCA Top-10. On the men's side, No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 4 Oregon, No. 5 Arizona State, No. 8 Minnesota, and No. 10 Arizona will have athletes in action. Looking at the women's top-10, No. 1 Kansas, No. 4 Arkansas, No. 5 Oregon, No. 7 Florida, Washington at No. 8, and No. 10 Georgia will be mixing it up.
The depth of the meet is impressive, with several other major programs heading to Seattle such as Air Force, BYU, Duke, Florida State, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, Villanova, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin. Washington State will send its biggest contingent yet this season, as will Stanford, California, UCLA, Colorado, Oregon State and Utah.
For perspective on the strength of the fields in the distance events, one just has to look at the top finishers at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last fall. Seven of the top-10 individuals from that meet will be competing in either the 3,000m or 5,000m this weekend. Six of the top-20 women's finishers from NCAA XC will also be in attendance.
Several Olympians will be in action on the track, including Evan Jager, Lopez Lomong, Geena Gall, Jemma Simpson, Donn Cabral, Keshia Baker, and Diego Estrada. One of the highlights of the field events will be a chance to watch U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Brittney Reese in the women's long jump. In London, she jumped 23-4 ½ to take home the gold for Team USA.
There will be plenty to watch in purple and gold this weekend. In the sprints, Maurice McNeal opens up at his signature distance in the top invite heat of the 400-meter dash, and in the corresponding heat on the women's side, Jordan Carlson will try to out-do her school record once again, running in the same heat as Keshia Baker, who ran on the U.S. Olympic 4x400m relay team in the prelim heats in London last year. Carlson broke a meet record previously held by Baker two weeks ago. Kayla Stueckle and Gianna Woodruff will also get a chance at some PRs in the open 400m before helping the Dawgs in the 4x400m relay to close the day. Pac-12 Champion James Alaka will run the 60-meter dash for the first time this season, and freshmen Chris Williams and Daje Pugh will lead the Husky hurdlers. Williams came close to breaking the eight-second mark two weeks back, and will have Dempsey facility co-record-holders Johnathan Cabral and Ronald Brookins to compete with.
Washington as usual will have several runners at the center of the distance bonanza. Friday night, All-American and NCAA runner-up Megan Goethals will run the 5,000-meters for the first time this indoor season. Lindsay Flanagan will join Goethals in that top 5k heat. In the men's 5k, sophomore Aaron Nelson steps up to the distance for the first time on the track.
Senior Christine Babcock is in the top invitational flight of the women's mile run, with Justine Johnson and Maddie Meyers in the second invitational section. Liberty Miller makes her indoor debut in the 3,000-meters, while Baylee Mires runs the open 800m for the first time this winter.
On the men's side, freshman Hap Emmons and junior Gareth Gilna will be in one of the top men's mile flights, competing against Nike's Charles Jock, the NCAA 800m champ last year and Olympic Trials finalist. Brad Whitley will make a go of 800-meters. The 3k will be a thrilling battle, with senior Joey Bywater and sophomore Tyler King both in the first invitational section, and Aaron Beattie opening up in an earlier flight as well.
Looking to the field events, vaulters J.J. Juilfs, Jax Thoirs, and Chris Williams have another shot to reach new heights, as will A.J. Maricich in the high jump. Women's vaulters Georgia Reynolds and Kristina Owsinski will have Logan Miller competing with them for the first time this year, though she will be unattached, as she comes back from a foot issue. In his second Dempsey appearance, Kasen Williams will focus on the triple jump this week.
The young group of Husky throwers produced several personal-bests two weeks ago and can gauge their progress again this weekend. Bev Coleman had a top-10 mark in the weight throw and will look to surpass the 50-foot mark. She'll also be in the shot put along with Alyx Toeaina, while Danny Shelton and Jack Scheideman aim for PRs in the men's shot.