2016 USATF Indoors: Olympic Year Building Blocks? by David Hunter

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Wilson_Ajee-Armory15.jpgAjee' Wilson, photo by PhotoRun.net

We asked David Hunter, one of our long term writers, and a fine track meet announcer, to cover the USATF presser earlier this afternoon. His fine update on the status of several of our top athletes is a must read! Watch for David's daily columns on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend!

March 10th, 2016

This weekend, the finest United States track & field athletes will assemble in Portland, Oregon to do battle: to determine who can run the fastest, throw the farthest, and jump the highest as each pursues a national indoor championship crown. And while the competition promises to be fierce - with the top performers also earning berths for the biannual World Indoor Championships to be held the following weekend in this premier northwestern city - a good number of America's elite have elected to bypass this national championship gathering - and the World Indoor Championships - choosing instead to continue uninterrupted preparation for August's Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

At Thursday's pre-meet press conference, several top U.S. athletes who have chosen to compete in this weekend's championship meet explained why this national competition is important to them and why this meet and the World Championships to follow play an important role in their build-up to July's Olympic Trials and Rio's Summer Games. Here's what they said:

Shannon Rowbury, 2009 world championship 1500m bronze medalist and defending indoor champion in both the 1500m and the 3000m who will be defending both distance titles this weekend. "I live and train in this area. I live in Beaverton and train on the Nike campus. So Portland has become home for me - at least for the time being. To me, it just made total sense to incorporate the U.S. nationals and then hopefully the World's into my training program. With the Nike Oregon Project, we have to two peaks within the year and I have found that to be really useful for my development. I didn't always do that in the past. But I've had great success thus far. So it was just a no-brainer for me."

Trayvon Bromell, newly-minted professional, 2015 World Championship 100m bronze medalist who will be competing in the 60 meters: "It's an important race. But I look it as just another race for the outdoor season that will get me ready for the outdoor season. And that's the ultimate goal - to try to make the real team. I've been coming off of college and I didn't want to just cut off my indoor season like that. Because coming off of college, you're running every weekend. So I kind of wanted to get my legs moving and get the ball rolling."

Jenna Prandini, former Oregon athlete, 2015 world championship silver medalist, 2015 NCAA 100m champion, 2015 USATF outdoor 200m champion, 2015 Bowerman Award winner who will race the 60 meters this weekend: "For me, it made sense. I live in Eugene so coming here is just an easy drive. It fits in well with my training. And I'd just like to get in and get some races in. And like Trayvon, I raced a lot indoors last year for my college team. And I want to keep things a little bit similar and make sure what I am doing in practice is transitioning well into my races."

Marquis Dendy, multiple time NCAA champion in both the long jump and the triple jump, 2015 Bowerman Award winner who will compete in the long jump [only] this weekend: "I didn't want my environment to change too much. But I will say that I definitely will not double indoor again - it's a lot on my knees. So I just picked the long jump. But I definitely didn't want my indoor-to-outdoor environment to change. I had a really great year last year - both indoor and outdoor. So I just wanted to keep that moving forward."

Ajeé Wilson, who will compete for her 3rd indoor 800m indoor title here this weekend: "Personally, after not doing well in 2014 at the World Indoor Champs, I definitely wanted to try again this year."

Mike Rodgers, a two-time USATF indoor 60m champion and former indoor 60m silver medalist who will compete in the 60 meters this weekend: "With how the schedule is set up with the Trials in July this year instead of June, I thought it was smart to run indoors this year, get the races in, get my rhythm, because a lot of the Diamond League meets are in June. And that's the time when a lot of athletes in the U.S. stay put and train. So it would be better to get the races in right now instead of later."

There is no single approach to capture that coveted Olympic medal. One athlete's pathway to success is another's detour of distraction. Only later in this Olympic year - maybe at the Trials or perhaps not until the Games themselves - will we learn which of these track & field performers made the choice that was right for them.

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