LILLE, FRANCE – A squad of 41 youth athletes headlined by Arman Hall and Amy Weissenbach look to start their careers as elite athletes on an international level and to defend Team USA’s winning streak at the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships July 6-10 in Lille, France.
This year’s event is the seventh in the history of the biennial competition. 1,375 athletes from 173 countries ages 15-17 (born in 1994-1995) will gather to compete in the most elite youth meet in the world. The meet serves as an introduction to elite international competition for many athletes who will continue on to compete as the future stars of the sport. Team USA has won the medal tally at every edition of the event since 2001.
Armon Hall of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. enters the meet as the fastest youth athlete in the world this year in both the 200m and 400m. In the 200m, Hall ran an early season mark of 20.82 in March that no other athlete in the world has been able to touch this year, and later in the season, he posted a 46.22 win at the Florida state championships to top the 400m list. Hall will compete in the 400m at the youth championships, along with Najee Glass of Jersey City, N.J. who ran 46.67 at the trials.
Amy Weissenbach ran a stunning time of 2:02.04 in the 800m to set a personal best and a current world-leading youth mark. Weissenbach is a favorite in the race, but she will face stiff competition from Jessica Judd of Great Britain who has the next four best performances on the world list. Ajee Wilson of Neptune, N.J. is the other U.S. entrant in the 800m and currently sits at sixth on the world list with a season best of 2:05.25.
Other girls to watch on the track include Myasia Jacobs (Paterson, N.J.) and Jennifer Madu (Murphy, Texas) in the 100m. Jacobs enters with a season best of 11.47 and Madu is not far behind in 11.63. In the 200m, Bealoved Brown of Desoto, Texas ran a recent P.R. of 23.94 into a stiff wind to win the U.S. trials. Kyra Jefferson of Detroit, Mich. is the other U.S. entrant in the 200m. Jefferson competed at the USA Junior Championships running her season’s best of 23.53 and securing the third fastest time on the current world list.
Seasoned youth athlete Robin Reynolds of Miami, Fla. leads the U.S. charge in the 400m. Reynolds is the reigning World Youth Olympics champion in the 400m and has run 52.84 this year. Also in the 400m, is Kendall Baisden of Franklin, Mich. Who ran a season best at the U.S. trials in 52.97.
For the distance events, Hannah Meier of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. And Camille Chapus of Pacific Palisades, Calif. both enter the 1,500m as state champions. Meier won the U.S. trials in 4:24.92, followed closely by Chapus in 4:25.61. In the steeplechase, Madeline Meyers of Seattle, Wash. set both a U.S. youth record and a national high school record with her time of 6:33.01 in the U.S. trials. She will be joined by Brianna Nerud of Glen Head, N.Y. who has run 6:38.27 this year.
The U.S. girls are extremely competitive in the hurdles. On the straight, Trinity Wilson of Oakland, Calif. and Kendell Williams of Marietta, Ga. have the number two and three spots on the world list. Wilson won the 100m hurdle trials in 13.42, with Williams second in 13.52. Wilson will have a full agenda at the World Championships, as she is also entered in the heptathlon with a U.S. Youth record of 5,225 points. In the 400m hurdles, the U.S. once again has the number two and three spots on the world list. Marietta, Ga. natives Nnenya Hailey and Amber Bryant-Brock ran 1-2 in the U.S. trials finishing in 58.69 and 58.87, respectively.
The throws are headlined by Haley Crouser of Gresham, Ore. who sits at number three on the world list in the javelin. Crouser won the U.S. trials in 51.07m/167-7. A strong duo of Texans Shelbi Vaughn of Mansfield and Chamaya Turner of Garden Ridge represent Team USA in the discus. Vaughn has the number two spot on the world list with a season best of 53.28m/174-10, and Turner won the U.S. trials in 49.40m/162-1. Turner will double in the shot put, with a season best of 14.16m/46-5.5. Tori Owers of Athens, Ga. has seen tremendous improvement in her throws this year. Owers is consistently throwing eight to nine feet farther this year than she has in the past. With a best mark of 15.41m/50-6.75, Owers sits at number five on the world list.
In the jumps, Carla Forbes of Mattapan, Mass. sailed to a season best by nearly eight inches at the U.S. trials to win in 12.83m/42-1.5. The second U.S. entry in the triple jump is Madu (also entered in the 100m) who has cleared 41-3 this year. Sydney White of Kernersville, N.C. will represent the U.S. in the pole vault after winning the trials in 3.84m/12-7.5.
In the boy’s sprints, Ronald Darby of Oxon Hill, Md. leads the charge in the 100m sitting at number four on the world list with his season best of 10.41. The 200m stands out as one of the events with the greatest depth of U.S. talent, with Americans holding five of the top ten spots on the world list. Aldrich Bailey of Arlington, Texas ran a personal best time of 21.09 to win the U.S. trials and secure his spot on the team. Darby holds the fifth spot on the world list in 21.05, and looks to double with his entry in the 100m.
In the hurdles, Todd Gurley of Tarboro, N.C. will run the 110m hurdles, while Jonathan Russell of Ashburn, Va. is entered in the 400m hurdles. Gurley ran to the tenth spot on the world list with his time of 13.88 at the U.S. trials. Russell won the 400m hurdle trials in 52.48 to earn the fifth spot on the world list.
The boy’s distance squad features Tre’Tez Kinnaird of Louisville, Ky. who ran a season best of 1:50.56 at the U.S. trials to claim the tenth spot on the world list and Cameron Thornton of Atlanta, Ga. who finished second at the trials in 1:50.99. Jacob Burcham of Barboursville, W.V. will face stiff competition from the traditional African powerhouses; however, he is up to the challenge. He boasts a mile best of 4:07 and 800 speed with a P.R. of 1:53. Tyler Sorensen of San Diego, Calif. is entered in the 10,000m race walk and brings with him a wealth of international experience. Sorensen already collected gold this year with his win at the Pan-American Junior Race Walk Championships in 42:54.
In the field events, Justin Fondren is only one of three youth athletes in the world who have cleared seven feet this year. Fondren’s PR is 2.19m/7-2.25, and he is a consistent jumper with three of the top ten jumps in the world this year. Pole vaulter Joacob Blankenship of Bukeyelake, Ohio also sits at number two on the world list with a best of 5.20m/17-0.75. In the long jump, Cameron Burrell of Missouri City, Texas enters with a win at the U.S. trials in 7.37m/24-2.25. Jaelen Spencer of Hesperia, Calif. will represent the U.S. in the triple jump after winning the trials in a wind-aided mark of 15.35m/50-4.5.
Just as the U.S. is rich with shot put talent in the elite ranks of the sport, the youth team also features some of the best throwers in the world. Tyler Schultz of Custer, S.D. and Braheme Days of Bridgeton, N.J. will look to get the U.S. on the shot podium. Schultz has the third best throw in the world at 20.08m/65-10.50, and Days has the fifth in 19.84m/65-1.25. In the Discus, Ethan Cochran of Costa Mesa, Calif. won the trials in 58.16m/190-10 to secure his spot on the team. In the hammer throw, Rudy Winkler of Sand Lake, N.Y. sits at number nine on the world list and boasts a best of 74.19m/243-5.
Both the girls’ and boys’ teams will run the medley relay which consists of 100, 200, 300 and 400m legs. The line-ups have yet to be announced; however, with the depth of U.S. talent in the sprints, the U.S. should be in medal contention in both events.
For more information on the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships, visit: http://www.iaaf.org/wyc11/index.html.