April 28, 2012
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - This year's Payton Jordan Invitational, loaded with some of the finest distance runners - from the college and professional ranks - both nationally and abroad, is being billed the fastest on American soil this year.
That's quite a claim when you consider that Olympic years usually bring the crème to the top, which is exactly why Florida State's elite women and men will toe the starting line Sunday evening in near-perfect conditions at Stanford University.
"This is one of those track meets that has so much talent and excitement in almost every event," said FSU women's distance and cross country coach Karen Harvey. "What a wonderful opportunity for the ladies to witness and be in races where others are chasing Olympic qualifying times."
Despite the incredible depth in the field of the 1500-meter run, Florida State veterans Amanda Winslow, Hannah Brooks, Violah Lagat and Jessica Parry have distinguished themselves among the nation's elite collegians. Winslow, who boasts the third-fastest time (4:13.75) in NCAA Division I, will have a chance to test herself against the best in section 2 of the 1500. The field includes Arkansas' Kristen Gillespie, currently No. 2 in Division I, ACC champion Morgane Gay of Virginia, Canadian Olympic hopeful Julia Howard Kawamoto and California high school sensation Camille Chapus, among others.
Brooks, Lagat and Parry will line up in section 3 of the 1500, facing a stout field that is heavy on collegians but also includes several professionals with an eye on Olympic qualifying standards. Brooks, an All-American in the 1500 in 2011 and the indoor mile this year, has run a season-best 4:21.44. Lagat, who ranks among the top 15 nationally at 800 meters, boasts a season-best of 4:20.94, while Parry has run 4:23.05.
"We brought Jess, Violah, Amanda and Hannah to compete against the best collegiately and test themselves against the pros as well," Harvey said. "Their confidence is high and their fitness where we would like it going into this meet."
The Florida State men will also be well-represented. Senior David Forrester will make his outdoor season debut in section 3 of the 1500, which is heavily populated by collegians. Forrester, a cross country All-American this past fall, has been on the shelf with a calf strain to this point, but has sailed through his last three track workouts.
Seminole teammates Michael Fout and Breandan O Neill will look to hook up in section 2 of the 5000 meters in another highly-anticipated race. O Neill won the ACC championship last week at 10,000 meters, while Fout was the 5000 runner-up in Charlottesville, where he also finished third in the 10,000.
As an added bonus, Harvey will get a chance to catch up with a pair of her former pupils.
A nine-time All-American in cross country and track for the Seminoles, Kuijken is competing in the 1500 meters for just the second time this year and just the third time since 2010. The 2009 NCAA 1500 champion hopes to establish an Olympic A-standard time as she sets her sights on a trip to the London Olympics, representing The Netherlands.
Barbara Parker, who aspires to a spot on host Great Britain's Olympic team, will race in section 1 of the 5000 meters. She was a three-time All-American for the Seminoles.
Another former Seminole and Great Britain Olympic hopeful, Luke Gunn, has a spot in section 1 of the 3000-meter steeplechase. Gunn was a two-time All-American at FSU in the steeplechase and is Great Britain's three-time national champion in the event.
You can follow Sunday's action via Twitter @ FSU_Track, or live on the internet via Flotrack at http://www.flotrack.org/article/12171-2012-Payton-Jordan-Invitational-LIVE-Streaming-Video-Internet-Web-Link-Info.
Check back for a complete recap of the meet at Seminoles.com following the conclusion of the races.
Payton Jordan Race Schedule