AZUSA, Calif. -- Friday was a day for the record books, as meet records, stadium records, and national-qualifying marks were posted under perfect weather conditions for the 5th Annual Bryan Clay Invitational at Azusa Pacific University, which had first-time meet sponsorship by Asics, Oakley, Chick-Fil-A, and the Bryan Clay Foundation.
“Normally, I would be competing, so the experience this year was very different for me,” said Clay, a 2002 graduate of Azusa Pacific who won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in the decathlon and was inducted into the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame this year. “Being able to contribute to this with more than just my name, knowing that I had a small role in making this happen was hugely gratifying. The people to praise in this situation are Mike Barnett, Kevin Reid, Preston Grey, and their supporting staff. They all did an amazing job, and my role was very small. It was those guys who put forth the effort and got things going, and I just have to thank them.”
In all, four meet records were broken, including a pair of stadium records, and at least 24 qualifying performances for athletes to compete in their nation’s outdoor championship competitions were achieved in Friday’s meet. Seven U.S. qualifiers were posted, along with 17 who Canadian athletes who achieved Canada’s qualifying standards.
“The best part about today was that people ran fast,” Clay said. “That’s what the athletes want to do, and that’s exactly what happened. We had good results all-around, and hopefully people will see these results and see the meet that we put on. Hopefully people will see the attention we have to excellence, and they will want to be a part of it without having to deal with the chaos of being in some of the other big meets out there.”
The top performances included one of Azusa Pacific’s own, as sophomore sprinter Remontay McClain blazed to a 20.54 time in the 200 meters, claiming a U.S. Outdoor Championships automatic qualification with the fourth-fastest time by a collegiate sprinter this season. That 200 meter race also produced three national-qualifying times for Canadian sprinters Sam Effah (20.86), Michael LeBlanc (21.17), and Jarid Vaughan (21.41), while Kansas State’s Carlos Rodriguez finished second with a time of 20.79.
The men’s 1500-meter race produced three U.S. provisional qualifiers, led by the event winner Alex Hatz, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin. Hatz registered a time of 3:43.33, which would rank in the top-10 among NCAA Division I performances entering the weekend, and he was joined in meeting the U.S. provisional qualifying standard by a Northern Arizona University duo of Brian Shrader (3:44.25) and Nathan Weitz (3:44.74). The runner-up was University of New Mexico junior Luke Caldwell, a native of England who registered 3:44.19.
Other U.S. provisional qualifiers came from three other events. In the men’s 110-meter hurdles, Colorado State University junior Trevor Brown clocked a 13.81 to win his event, while Iowa State University sophomore Christina Hillman threw 54-feet, 10-inches in the shot put. In the men’s triple jump, former Fresno Pacific University athlete and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials participant Ethan DeJongh registered 53-feet, 1-inch to win his event.
Over 1,500 athletes competed, making 2013 the largest-ever field in the meet’s five-year history, and that final number included over 100 last-minute entries when another large southern California meet earlier in the week was suddenly cancelled, leaving hundreds of athletes who had traveled from throughout the country without a place to compete. Azusa Pacific director of track & field Mike Barnett chose to take the late additions and include them into an already-competitive field that became the biggest in the event’s five-year history.
“What most people don’t know is that we stayed up late last night trying to figure out how we could let in over 100 more athletes,” Barnett said. “I don’t think there are many meets in the country that would do that, but it shows that our program cares about track & field. We wanted to honor the coaches who traveled forever and got cut out of certain meets, and we did everything we could to take them. I’m very impressed with our coaching staff for what they provided to make this meet run smoothly, and we couldn’t have asked for a better administration to come alongside and support us.”
That 1,500-athlete field produced four meet-records: Canadian sprinter Sam Effah tied the 100-meter meet record set last year by Mickey Grimes with a time of 10.17, while another meet record went to by McClain in the 200 (20.54). Oklahoma State University senior Jacqueline Campos ran a 10:35.03 in the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase, breaking both the meet record and the stadium record of 10:37.10 set by Barbara Parker in 2004. In the women’s 400-meter hurdles, a meet- and stadium-record performance was delivered by Sarah Wells, the defending Canadian national champion and 2012 Olympic semifinalist, with a time of 56.35, bettering the previous stadium-record of 56.57 set in 1994 by Catherine Pomales.
Because of the first-time involvement of sponsors for the Bryan Clay Invitational, prizes were given to all event winners, with each receiving a backpack provided by Asics, as well as a new pair of Oakley sunglasses. Chick-Fil-A provided meet concessions, and the Bryan Clay Foundation donated official staff shirts.
“I’ve always wanted to host a meet like this, but if we’re going to do it, we need to do it well and have a certain standard of excellence,” Clay said. “I think people enjoyed it, and I think we’ll do an even better job next year. Now we go back and figure out how we make this meet better. This is an extension of me and my name, but it’s also an extension of Azusa Pacific University, and I look at it as a partnership with between us all. You hear about these big, iconic meets, and what I want is to see our meet rival those. With over 1,500 athletes today, we stayed on-time, had great weather and race conditions, and we had prizes for the winners. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
There were 17 performances by Canadian athletes that met their nation’s 2013 outdoor championship qualifying standards. Sprinters Effah and LeBlanc beat the standard in both the 100-meter and 200-meter events, and four of those qualifiers came in Wells’ stadium-record 400-meter hurdles race. Also participating in that same heat was a member of Liberia’s 2012 Olympic team, Kou Luogon, who finished second to Wells with a time of 57.08.
“People are going to talk about this meet,” Barnett said. “I think this is only the beginning of what Bryan wants from this meet in the future. I think everything fell together perfectly for us to set up the future to be even better.”
Friday’s meet wrapped up a busy week for Azusa Pacific, which also hosted the Mt. SAC Relays and California Invitational sections of the nation’s largest invitational combined events meet on Wednesday and Thursday, an event which produced another class of record-setting performances. Several Azusa Pacific athletes were also selected to participate in the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays, which conclude on Saturday, April 20.