This year's inaugural USA Track & Field's 2008 Visa Championship Series meet brought out runners that typically do not compete indoors, such as Allen Johnson. This was the first team-scored meet in series history. Athletes from 12 nations created a global team, which took on a team of American athletes. Both squads included former Olympians.
The meet, held at Fresno State's Save Mart Center in California, is the brainchild of Fresno State track coach Bob Fraley and is held in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. It is the second running of the meet, which last year was held on the wooden track used at the L.A. Invitational. The meet was cancelled for 2007.
The meet did have its’ share of highlights.
Carmelita Jeter, a preseason selection of Prerace Jitters “6 Runners You Oughta Know By Season’s End,”
narrowly edged out hometown favorite and 2005 Visa Indoor champion Angela Daigle-Bowen in the women's 55m dash, crossing the line in 6.84 to Daigle-Bowen's 6.85. A win is a win, no matter how slim the margin.
One false start and one call back was not enough to throw off the game of hurdler, Allen Johnson. The permanent fixture on the track scene easily won the 55 meter hurdles in 7.21 over 2001 NCAA Indoor Champion Aubrey Herring who finished in 7.27.
Two lap U.S. outdoor champ, Khadevis Robinson, proved he is in top shape to start the season and took the lead with one and one half laps to go and never looked back, winning the 600 yards, in 1: 09.97. Jamaican Olympian, Michael Blackwood narrowly edged out Bernard Jackson for second place running 1:10.58 and 1:10.61 respectively.
The world's top shot putter, Reese Hoffa, put on a show heaving 21.06 meters or 69 feet, 1.25 inches to defeat Dan Taylor's second place throw of 19.99 meters or 65 feet, 7 inches.
Team USA ran men's and women's 4x400 meter relay, winning both events.
Visa Athlete of the Week went to veteran high jumper Amy Acuff. The three-time Olympian jumped 1.95 meters or 6 feet, 4.75 inches after three near misses at the Indoor American record.
"I wanted to put the bar up for Fred Arnold, and for this track to have a record," Acuff said of the longtime track and field patron who donated $1 million for the Fresno track. "It's a really world-class facility. My goal for the season is to be steady and consistent and not jump myself to death."
The Reebok Boston Indoor meet is the next stop on Visa Championship Series and can be seen on ESPN 2 at 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EST. Check your local listing.
By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist