Bydgoszcz, Poland -- On the eve of the 12th edition of the World Junior Championship the United States team is ready for Tuesday’s opening day at Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak Stadium. Among the American squad are three Aggies – Jessica Beard, Bryan Miller and Vashti Thomas.
A record number of nations will be competing in these Championships at a stadium bearing the name of one of the best Polish post-war distance runners. Krzyzkowiak was a world record holder as well as an Olympic and European Champion. Nearly 2,000 athletes, representing more than 150 countries, will compete during the weeklong meet, held from July 8-13.
Beard and Miller recently completed their freshman season with Texas A&M while Thomas is entering her freshman season with the Aggies in August. Beard and Thomas begin action on the first day of the World Junior Championships while Miller awaits relay duty on the 4 x 400 later in the week.
In the 400 meters, where Beard is a three-time U.S. Junior champion, a season best of 51.09 from her Big 12 victory ranks second on the 2008 world junior list. Topping the field at 50.89 is Sade Abugan of Nigeria.
Thomas is entered in two events, the 100 hurdles and triple jump. She competes in the jumping event on the first day of competition and hurdles on Thursday.
While the World Junior meet often serves as a stepping stone to the elite level of the sport and future World and Olympic medalists on the senior level, the crop of junior athletes competing now often are already knocking on the door for senior level events.
Five members of the U.S. Junior team recently competed at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. A pair of finalists emerged from that group in Johnny Dutch and Jordan Hasay. Other athletes who achieved the Olympic Trials standard opted to only compete at the U.S. Junior Championships in a bid for the World Junior team.
Dutch, who finished his freshman season at South Carolina, placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdle final. His time of 48.52 ranks second on the all-time World and American junior list as he trails only a 48.02 established by Danny Harris in 1984.
Hasay, who will enter her senior year of high school at Mission in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in August, broke the American high school record in the 1,500 meters during the semifinals of the Olympic Trials with a sterling mark of 4:14.50. In the finals Hasay finished 10th in 4:17.36.
Other individuals who made the journey to Eugene and then completed their trek to Poland included Jeshua Anderson (Washington State) in the 400 hurdles, Eric Kynard (Toledo, Ohio) in the high jump and Ryann Krais (Eagleville, Pennsylvania), a heptathlete who qualified for the 400 hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
The U.S. squad, headed by men’s coach John Moon of Seton Hall University and women’s coach Patrick Shane of Brigham Young University, enters the World Championships with 35 athletes ranked among the top 10 in 24 events on the current world junior list for the 2008 season. The breakdown includes 21 men and 14 women amid 12 events for each gender.
Entering this meet as a World leader or top seed on the U.S. junior team include: Terrell Wilks (10.19 – 100 top seed); O’Neal Wilder (45.54 – 400 WJL); and Johnny Dutch (48.52 – 400H WJL) on the men’s side. The women’s team features Jeneba Tarmoh (11.21 – 100 top seed); Tiffany Townsend (22.75 – 200 top seed); Takecia Jameson (56.60 – 400H WJL); and Anatasia Jelmini (56.06 – Discus WJL).
Currently the United States holds or shares nine world junior records, which includes all four relay events contested at the World Junior Championships.
Tuesday’s first day of competition includes a pair of finals in the men’s shot put and women’s 5,000 meters. Wednesday’s events include finals for the men’s 100, long jump, discus and 10,000 meters, as well as the women’s 100 and hammer throw.
The first day of competition will conclude with an opening ceremony following the women’s 5,000-meter final. Walter Henning, a three-time U.S. junior hammer champion and American junior record holder in the event, will represent the American team in the opening ceremony.