In what shapes up to be the largest track and field meet ever held in Carson City, more than 1,000 age group athletes will test their abilities today and Sunday during the Pacific Association Track and Field Qualifier at Carson High School.
Athletes 18 years old and under from Northern California and Nevada will compete both days at Carson's Jim Frank Track and Field Complex. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. this morning - the keynote speaker will be Carson City Mayor Ray Masayko - and the first race will be the boys 5,000-meters at 9 a.m.
This marks the first time the Pacific Association meet has been held in Carson City. Meet director Dave Marson of the Silver State Striders said Carson doesn't plan on it being the last, either.
"We'd like to have this up here every couple of years or so," said Marson, who is also sponsoring the meet through New Life Bakery and Clif Bars. "We're trying to make it a professional venue for the kids and show that we want to be a player in the years to come. I think we'll be able to do that; we have a fine facility to host it and we have the community behind us."
How serious is this meet?
Just consider that a front-line staff of officials has been assembled, five of whom will be working at the U.S. Olympic Trials next month in Sacramento. Richard Cabral, clerk of the course this weekend, will serve in the same capacity at the Olympic Trials. Charles DesJardins, an IAAF Veterans Committee member who lives in Carson City, will be the meet announcer.
Also of interest, the finish line will be covered by four different automatic timing cameras. The coverage will be critical, since the top eight finishers in each age group event will qualify to compete at the Region 14 Championships on July 1-2 in Fresno, Calif.
Top finishers at the region meet will in turn qualify for the Junior Olympic nationals, to be held July 25-29 in Buffalo, N.Y.
A handful of hometown Silver State Striders will be looking to advance, according to Marson. Among them are distance runner Cassia Roth, who just completed her 8th grade year at Eagle Valley Middle School; middle distance runner Ali Marson, a Bethlehem Lutheran School 7th grader; and high jumper Nicole Scott, a Carson Middle School student.
Roth will be on the track shortly after 9 a.m. today for what shapes up as a quality youth girls (12-13 age division) 3,000-meter run. Roth has run 11 minutes, 20 seconds for the 7-lap distance, but will face a stern test against three standouts from Sacramento's Buffalo Chips: Erin Wachter, Katie Briscoe and Rachel Ritchey. Wachter was a 16th-place finisher at the Junior Olympic cross country nationals back in December.
Another Buffalo Chip standout, Caitlin Chock, has clocked a best of 4:54 for 1,500 meters (which equates to about 5:14 for one mile).
Ali Marson, with a best time of 2:25 for 800 meters, also hopes to run with the leaders in the youth girls two-lap race this afternoon. Colleen Sheehan, Kali Williams, Roth and Marson of the Striders have all run 2:38 or better and have set a goal to qualify for the Junior Olympic nationals in the youth girls 4x800 relay.
Another Silver State Strider to watch is Mark Davis from Yerington, who won the youth boys 400 meters in a blistering time of 54.0 at the 3M meet held last month at Logan High School in Union City, Calif.
One of the featured athletes today will be Chris Chappell, Nevada's two-time 4A high school pole vault champion with a season best clearance of 16 feet. Chappell, who graduated from Douglas High School Friday, has announced he will go on to compete for the University of Arizona.
Marson looks at the Junior Olympic meet as a way to promote the sport in Northern Nevada.
"We're trying to bring track and field back to Nevada, and hopefully this is a start," he said. "We want to build our youth programs and we're hoping the exposure of a meet like this will give us a recruiting tool to get kids to come out and give it a try."