World Juniors 400m champ sprints to Junior Olympics
Melvin Jackson II
USA Track & Field
EUGENE, Ore. - The reigning World Junior 400m gold medalist, LaShawn Merritt, is among the best of more 5,500 athletes set to compete at the 38th USA Track & Field National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships July 27 - August 1 on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.
The third leg of USA Track & Field's Verizon Youth Series, the six-day meet at historic Hayward Field will showcase 5,657 youth athletes from across the country in the largest youth athlete developmental program in the world. The number of entrants is the largest track & field event ever held at Hayward Field, bettering the previous record of 4,951 entrants at the 1989 World Veterans' Championships. This year's competition will also serve as one of the selection meets for the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships in Marrakech, Morocco.
In addition to winning the 400m world title earlier this month, East Carolina University-bound Merritt anchored the world junior record setting and gold medal-winning 4x100m relay squad (38.66) at the world Junior Championships in Grossetto, Italy, and he ran second leg on the winning 4x400m Team USA relay (3:01.09) as well. The 18-year-old native of Portsmouth, Va., will look to continue his win streak on American soil after receiving Verizon Male Athlete of the Meet honors at the 2004 USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships in College Station, Texas, for winning the 200m and 400m titles.
World Juniors 110m hurdles bronze medalist Kevin Craddock (San Pablo, Calif.), along with other Team USA members from World Juniors, Michaela Wallerstedt (Omaha, Neb.) in the shot put and Norris Frederick (Seattle, Wash.) in the high jump should be athletes to watch as well.
In addition to Junior Olympics, t he Verizon Youth Series includes the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the USA Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Competition age divisions are: Bantam (10 and under), Midget (11-12), Youth (13-14), Intermediate (15-16) and Young Men/Women (17-18).
For more information on the 2004 USA Track & Field Junior Olympic Championships, all USATF Youth programs and the Verizon Youth Series, visit the USATF website at www.usatf.org.