By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
The track and field action will be hot and heated at Mt. SAC this weekend.
Temperatures are expected to hit the high 80s and could peak in the 90s when the 54th annual Mt. SAC Relays begin today.
And the meet will have plenty of heat, too. It is an Olympic year and more than 800 elite and Olympic development athletes will be competing in the three-day meet, which began Thursday night with a distance carnival.
“The No. 1 problem this year is we have a lot of elite athletes,” said Brian Yokoyama, who pieced together the elite and Olympic development portion of the meet.
Athletes from more than 40 countries will be participating and athletes from six national teams: Canada, Great Britain, Mexico, Nigeria, Australia and Japan, have entered.
“It’s unusual,” Yokoyama said. “All these national teams are sending all of their top athletes. That’s the difference.”
The meet will feature more than 7,000 athletes in 250 events. In addition to the elite competition, it is considered a major high school and university-open meet. There will also be Paralympics races and some age-group events. The meet began Thursday night with races in the 1,500 meters, 3,000 steeplechase and 10,000.
The highlight tonight will be the Puma Mile, with $5,000 at stake for the top three in the men’s and women’s races. But the men must be faster than 4 minutes and the women faster than 4:30. They are the only events that will have a prize fund.
Three world champions, Carmelita Jeter, Brittney Reese and Jason Richardson, and numerous Olympians are scheduled to compete. Saturday will feature the bulk of the elite competition, with the first elite event scheduled to start at 11:45 a.m.
All three earned gold at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea last September. Jeter won the 100 title, Reese the long jump and Richardson the 110 high hurdles.
World Cup medalists Allyson Felix, Ashton Easton, Jillian Camarona-Williams and Walter Dix are also expected to compete.
The plethora of elite athletes has forced meet officials to move some of the athletes into Olympic development races.
“They have been trying to get into faster races,” Yokoyama said of some of the athletes. “I think the reason why there are so many (competitors) is because of our track. It’s fast, it’s a great facility and the competition is fair. Here, everyone is the same. We don’t pay anybody, so everything is equal.
“For a person to break into the world class group, this is the place to come.”
It’s also an Olympic year.
Seven of the women in the 100 hurdles have run faster than 12.75, led by Michelle Perry, who did it recently in a meet at UCLA.
It is also an elite meet for high school competitors.
626-962-8811, ext. 2242