By Anthony A. Foster in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Several World and Olympic Games medallists will take centre stage at Saturday’s (23 May) Ponce Grand Prix in Puerto Rico
However, the men’s 400m will draw more worldwide attention, though local fans will have more interest in the men’s 400m hurdles.
Americans LaShawn Merritt, the World Champion and former World and Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner, the Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos, the 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist, and Trinidad & Tobago’s Machel Cedenio, the World Junior Champion and second fastest man this year at 44.36, will ensure the men’s 400m delivers on its expectations.
"I am just looking forward to tomorrow (Ponce Grand Prix) to be able to improve my time from my first race of the year,” said Wariner, whose lone 400m this year is 45.59 in April.
As for Merritt, “I want to go out and put a race together, execute a race and get the win,” he told TrackAlerts.Com.
“The season for me is going a little slow,” he said, while pointing out that he is working with a new coach and they are “working on some things.”
The men’s 400m hurdles will spark local interest because local hero Javier Culson is expected to bring the exciting evening to a close. He will face strong competition from Bahamian Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Jeffery Gibson and USA’s Jeshua Anderson in race 2.
In race 1, Jamaican Roxroy Cato and Trinidad & Tobago’s Emmanuel Myers are the main contenders.
Meanwhile, in the women’s 100m, Marecia Pemberton of St. Kitts Nevis and Laverne Jones of ISV are listed as the only two Caribbean women in a USA-loaded field.
Sholanda Solomon, a member of USA’s 2011 4x100m World Championships winning team, and Octavious Freeman, who helped USA to silver in the 2013 World Champs 4x100m, are the fastest athletes in the field at 10.90 and 10.87 PBs in 2010 and 2013 respectively.
Solomon will return for the women’s 200m, along with American Jessica Young, Lavern Jones. St. Vincent and The Grenadines’ Kineke Alexander and St. Kitts and Nevis’ Virgil Hodge in race 2 will join Solomon
The men’s 100m event will have favourite Keston Bledman of Trinidad & Tobago running out of lane 5. Antoine Adams of St. Kitts and Nevis will run from lane 3, Jamaican Jermaine Brown lane 6 and Adam Harris of Guyana lane 4.
The Americans to watch are Maurice Michtell and Harry Adams.
Jamaican Simoya Campbell chases sub-2:02.00 and World Championships qualifying mark in the women’s 800m. Cuban 2014 World Junior silver medallist with 1:57.74 PB could be what Campbell wants to get under 2:02. American Chanelle Price and Canadian Jessica Smith are also very good competitors.
Campbell, who chases the World Championships qualifying mark of 2:01.11, said “I just need to go out there and be focused” and “just execute a good race.”
World Championships silver medallist Nick Symmonds of United States is the man to beat in the men’s 800m. Also in the field will be 2012 NCAA champion Charles Jock of USA and Rafith Rodriquez, the Columbian winner here in Ponce 2012.
The men’s 110m hurdles will also be hot with Americans Jason Richardson, the 2011 World Champion, Omo Osahae, the 2014 World Indoor Champion and Jeff Porter, Cuban 2012 World Junior champion Yordan O´ Farril and Barbadian Greggwar Swift.
Action will also be in the women’s and men’s 4x100m relay. Antigua, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and St. Kitts and Nevis are the top women’s teams.
On the men’s side, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Colombia are the main teams.
In the field, Bahamian Bianca Stuart and Chantelle Malone of BVI will face off with 2008 Olympic Games champion Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil along with American Whitney Gipson and Lorraine Ugen of Great Britain.
Cuban World Junior Champion Lazaro Martinez will be in the men’s triple jump.