The Weekend’s Best Matchups

There’s a lot going on this weekend, but unlike previous weekends it’s fewer meets and a lot higher caliber. Here are the upcoming matchups I’m looking forward to seeing, in no particular order.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce vs. Carmelita Jeter (60 meters)
British Athletics Grand Prix
Saturday, 3:20 PM local time (10:20 AM ET)
National Indoor Arena, Birmingham ENG

These are two of the best short sprinters of recent years, and neither gives up much by cutting the distance down from 100 to 60 meters. While these two are the headline names–according to the IAAF’s preview, they have won 18 global medals between them in the last five years–the truth is that neither is a strong favorite. This is Pryce’s first-ever indoor race of her entire life, and five other entrants have run faster this year than Jeter’s 7.18 clocking. The fastest entrant is the world leader at 7.00, Murielle Ahoure.

You can watch the meet starting at 8 AM (Eastern time) at Flotrack.org (subscription required).

Peter Matelong vs Everyone (12 km)
KCB Nairobi Cross
Saturday

The KCB Nairobi Cross is the Kenyan team’s selection meet for the World Cross Country Championships, and Matelong won two meets on the Athletics Kenya tour this year. But the heavy hitters are coming to town for this one and so we’ll find out if he’s the real deal. Top competitors include 2010 World Champion Joseph Ebuya, Vincent Chepkok, and Isiah Koech.

Duane Solomon vs Nick Symmonds (600 meters)
The Millrose Games
Saturday, 8:50 PM ET
Armory Track & Field Center, New York NY

Solomon and Symmonds both had good summers last year, and both had massive PRs in the Olympic final where they placed fourth and fifth. Solomon has already run 1:15.70 this winter, the US indoor record, but Symmonds’ PR at this event is actually better (an outdoor 1:14.47 in 2008). In truth, this matchup isn’t likely to be quite what we’re hoping for, as Symmonds’ preparation was hampered by a bout with the flu and he hasn’t had a rustbuster race to work out the kinks. This should still be a very fun race to watch.

You can watch the meet live at ESPN3.com beginning at 7 PM or tape-delayed on ESPN beginning at 8 PM on Sunday night.

Abbey D’Agostino vs Jordan Hasay (Mile)
The Millrose Games
Saturday, 8:40 PM ET
Armory Track & Field Center, New York NY

Don’t misinterpret this as me thinking that these are the two favorites to win the race–I don’t. But I think this is a fascinating matchup in light of next month’s NCAA Championships, where these two will likely do battle in either the mile or 3000 meters. The last time they met, both were barely nudged out by Iowa State’s Betsy Saina at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. I think that for the next three weeks, this will be one of the most talked about races in college track.

Kevin Craddock vs Sergey Shubenkov (60m Hurdles)
British Athletics Grand Prix
Saturday, 2:22 PM local time (9:22 AM ET)
National Indoor Arena, Birmingham ENG

For me to pick a favorite event would be like picking a favorite child…so don’t tell the other events that my favorite is the high hurdles. The top guys have no fear of running against each other, and this race features the two men tied at the top of the world list at 7.50 seconds. In fact, all of the top four in the world will be in this race, with the USA’s Omo Osaghae and Cuba’s Orlando Ortega also making an appearance.

Bernard Lagat vs Cam Levins (2 miles)
The Millrose Games
Saturday, 8:58 PM ET
Armory Track & Field Center, New York NY

The talk is of Lagat going after the American Record in this event, 8:09.72, so that he’ll own all the indoor records from 1500 to 5000 meters. So you could say it’s Lagat vs. the clock. And if it comes down to a kick, Lagat is hard to beat. But I like Levins, as he was otherworldly at the NCAA Championships last June. I’ve underestimated him again and again and been wrong almost every time. At the very least, the Canadian record of 8:23.67 could be broken and by a lot.

Janay DeLoach vs Brittney Reese (long jump)
The Millrose Games
Saturday, 7:15 PM ET
Armory Track & Field Center, New York NY

Reese, aka “The Beast”, has won every major international championship since the 2008 Olympics. DeLoach won bronze in London last year. Reese is a big favorite but can be a bit erratic, so this is far from a done deal.

Penn State vs the clock (4×800 Relay)
The Millrose Games
Saturday, 7:50 PM ET
Armory Track & Field Center, New York NY

I don’t know if Penn State’s foursome is explicitly targeting the world and collegiate indoor records (7:13.94 and 7:17.45, respectively) but they certainly have the manpower to try. The world mark would require an average split of just under 1:48.48. The Nittany Lions bring Cas Loxsom (1:46.98 in 2013), Brandon Kidder (1:48.17), Ricky West (1:48.92) and Za’Von Watkins (1:49.03), whose seasonal bests beat that average.

The Wanamaker Mile
The Millrose Games
Saturday, 9:50 PM ET
Armory Track & Field Center, New York NY

This is one of the classic races in any meet, anywhere. That by itself makes it belong on any list of top matchups. But this one has more than usual going for it. The defending champion, Matthew Centrowitz, is one of the smartest and wiliest racers around, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time. But there is also the single most electrifying runner I’ve seen in at least a decade: Robby Andrews. Andrews had a tough time in 2012, but no lead was safe against him in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. His sixth-to-first drive in the last 80 meters of the 2011 NCAA Championships may be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in person. He looks to be back on track, just missing the 1000 meter American indoor record two weeks ago.

This race is going to be a thriller.

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