The USA Track and Field outdoor national championships will get moving with the first pistol shot Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. The event, which features competition in both senior and junior age groups, continues through Sunday.
Last week, competitors at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center were either feverishly attempting to record some last-second qualifying marks or get in a few last practice jumps before heading off to the sweltering Midwest venue site.
Up, up away
The pole vault pit was treated to some royalty — both of the Olympic gold and high school variety — as competition wrapped up in that event on the OTC grounds on June 13.
Among the competitors heading the men’s list were 2000 Sydney Games gold medalist Nick Hysong and American-record holder Brad Walker.
Hysong, who recorded a personal best 5.9 meters (19-4.25) in Sydney, got into the act in order to fill out the field in the B-flight so that Cole Walsh and Grant Sisserson, two students at Hysong’s private sports performance facility, RISEN Performance in Phoenix, could get in few more quality practice jumps for the upcoming junior nationals.
Walsh and Sisserson dropped in on the Chula Vista site after competing in the 54th annual Golden West Invitational meet the previous weekend in the Bay Area.
Sisserson (Scottsdale Horizon) won the Division I Arizona state championship on May 8 at Mesa Community College by clearing 17-0 while Walsh (Brophy College Prep) finished second at 16-9.
The two young men reversed position at the Golden West Invitational June 9 at Cal-Berkeley; Walsh, who will continue vaulting at the University of Oregon, cleared 16-4 to win the event ahead of runner-up Sisserson, who will attend Cornell University.
Both recent prep graduates topped Hysong in the CV-OTC competition.
“A bit out of shape,” quipped Hysong, who continues to hold the Arizona state high school record at 17-4.75, a mark he set in 1990.
Walsh went out at 16-6.75 (his personal best is 16-9.5) while Sisserson continued on.
Both Walsh and Sisserson declared to compete at this week’s USATF Outdoor Junior Nationals in Iowa. Overall, 17 vaulters were accepted to compete who cleared five meters (16-4.75) or higher.
Seven vaulters cleared 17 feet, led by Daven Murphee of the Texas Pole Vault at 17-8.5.
Sisserson ranked fifth in that group.
“There’s only about six or seven high school vaulters in the country who can clear 17 feet in any one year,” said Sisserson, a member of this year’s exclusive 17-foot club.
“But there’s always room for improvement.”
Jacob Blankenship, the Indoor Freshman Field Athlete of the Year in the Southeastern Conference while at the University of Tennessee and the Ohio high school state record-holder, qualified to compete with the top mark of 18-4.75 but later scratched.
Walker, whose American record set in 2006 reamins 19-9.75, topped the A-flight by clearing 18-10.25. His trademark fluid up-and-over-the-bar motion makes it look effortless.
Sisserson did his best job at emulating Walker in the second flight.
The top-three finishers in each event at the USATF championships qualify for the IAAF world championships Aug. 10-18 in Moscow, providing they have achieved the applicable IAAF A standard by July 20 or two of the three U.S. place-winners have made the A standard and the third has reached the B standard.
The A-standard is 5.7 meters (18-8.25); the B-standard is 5.5 meters (18-0.5).
The qualifying period for this year’s U.S. outdoor championships ended June 16.
Vaulters who meet the A-standard automatically qualified to compete while athletes who met the B-standard were accepted until the field of 16 competitors was filled.
Four athletes qualified by meeting the A-standard, with Walker at the top with a mark of 19-1.75. Eighteen vaulters who met the B-standard applied but only 12 were accepted.
Nick Frawley, a member of the U.S. Air Force, was among those who were hoping to improve on their marks at the June 13 OTC meet. He had met the B-standard exactly at 5.5 meters (18-0.5), but was not among those accepted to compete at this week’s senior outdoor nationals to underscore the depth of this year’s U.S. outdoor field.
Frawley set his best mark of 18-2 last year at the CV-OTC in a bid to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Among those accepted who met the B-standard was La Jolla High School alum Jeff Coover at 5.55 meters (18-2.5). Coover, who won the San Diego Section championship in 2005 with mark of 16-4, was a regular at CV-OTC events last year as athletes took aim at the Olympic Trials.
In the women’s pole vault, the A-standard qualifying height for this year’s U.S. outdoor championships stood at 4.45 meters (14-7.25) while the B-standard was 4.25 meters (13-11.25).
Nine women competed at the June 13 CV-OTC event. Of that group, April Steiner Bennett and Katy Viuf were accepted to compete at this week’s senior outdoor nationals with qualifying marks of 4.5 meters (14-9).
Bennett finished second to Ireland’s Tori Peña at the OTC meet on misses, with both women clearing 4.5 meters.
Peña competed in the 2012 London Games.
Jarred Rome, the throws coach at San Diego Mesa College and a longtime CV-OTC resident athlete, was among those who were accepted to compete in this week’s men’s discus throw. He enters this week’s competition with the No. 2 mark of 63.59 meters (208-7.5).
His personal best throw is 68.76 meters (225-7), set Aug. 7, 2011, in Chula Vista.
Going the distance
Twelve competitors qualified to compete in this week’s 20K race walk in Des Moines, among them former CV-OTC resident athlete Tim Seaman and three of his students.
Seaman, the cross country coach at Cuyamaca College will compete alongside Nick Christie, Alejandro Chavez and Michael Nemeth, all of whom Seaman coaches.
“It’s wonderful that I get to compete alongside three of my students in the race,” said Seaman, who remains a South County resident.
Up for grabs is a ticket to the world championships in Russia.
The A-standard is 1:24:30 while the B-standard is 1:26:00.
Seaman’s entry time is 1:25:58 — a tick under the B-standard.
Chavez has walked 1:29:00 while Christie has walked 1:29:47.
Christie is an alumnus of both Grossmont High School and Cuyamaca College. He now attends Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis and is coming off a star-studded season in which he captured the indoor NAIA national championship in the 3,000-meter race walk, setting a record of 11:59.73 in the process.
Chavez, the 2012 national champion, finished in second behind Christie at the NAIA nationals with a time of 12:00.57.
Chavez won the 2013 outdoor NAIA 5K race walk title in May while Christie finished third.
Both earned double All-American honors for the 2012-13 school term.
Christie competed at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene, finishing third. Both Chavez and Christie are expected to be in the mix for the Olympic Trials for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Update: field events
Cole Walsh finished third in the junior nationals boys pole vault by clearing 5.0 meters or 16-4.75. Grant Sisserson failed to clear his opening height of 4.85 meters or 15-11. Sisserson was one of seven vaulters (out of 18) who failed to clear their opening height on June 20, the opening day of field event competition.
Brad Walker won the seinor men's pole vault competition on Friday by clearing 5.65 meters (18-6.5). La Jolla's Jeff Coover finished fourth at 5.6 meter (18-4.5). Six of the 16 entrants failed to clear the opening height of 5.35 meters (17-6.5).
In the women's pole vault finals on Sunday, Katherine Viuf placed fourth at 4.40 meters (14-5.25) while April Bennett was eighth at 4.3 meters (14-1.25). Becky Holliday, a CV-OTC regular, finished third at 4.55 meters (14-11). Jennifer Suhr took first place by clearing 4.7 meters (15-5).
Olympian Jarred Rome placed sixth in the men's discus throw competition on Friday with a mark of 59.91 meters (196-6).Nike's Lance Brooks won the competition with a mark of 62.29 meters (204-4).
Tim Seaman, a longtime CV-OTC fixture, finished first in Sunday's 20K men's race walk final with a time of 1 hour, 30 minutes, 13.06 seconds. Olympian John Nunn (U.S. Army) finished second in 1:31:01.64. Nunn won the 2010 outdoor nationals title while Seaman was second, also in Des Moines.
Seaman competed alongside three of his students in Sunday's race. Missouri Baptists's Alejandro Chavez placed fifth in 1:37:00.25 while NIck Christie and Michael Nemeth both did not finish the race.
Cuyamaca College's Ryan Maize finished 16th out of 19 competitors in the junior men's 3,000-meter steeplechase. Maize, who finished fifth at the California Community College state championships in May, timed 10:09.27.