Percy Knox Invitational kicks off prep track and field season
By Evan BarnesSentinel Sports Editor
Track season may have quietly started with the High School Relays at the USC Trojan Invitational last weekend but it begins in earnest with the Percy Knox Invitational on Saturday at College of the Canyons.
Fast becoming one of the elite prep track meets in the state, the Invitational offers the first local glimpse of some the top sprinters, distance runners in the City and Southern Section as well as others around California.
"There are 350 invitationals in the state and we are in the top 5 of elite meets. Our popularity is growing," said Timothy Wells, chairman of the Percy Knox Foundation.
Last year's event was the first glimpse of the season-long rivalry between Gardena Serra and Long Beach Poly in the 4 x 400 meter relay. It also featured nearly a dozen top marks in the state or nation.
"If the wind is right, we should have some fast times this year," Wells said
Wells and meet director Chewuakii "Choo Choo" Knighten-Buggs, a two-time state champion in the 400-meter dash while at Locke High School in the mid-1980's, confirmed that at least 40 schools will participate in Saturday's event.
Headliners will be Crenshaw, Dorsey, Washington Prep, Santee, Birmingham, Taft and Carson. Also attending will be Rancho Verde, several schools from Bakersfield and Concord De La Salle.
It will be the first time seeing the No. 1 and 2 sprinters in the City - DeAnthony Thomas (Crenshaw) and Tevin Carter (Santee) - face off in the 100 meters. Thomas beat Carter by .01 of a second in the City finals.
They'll be joined by one of Oregon's fastest sprinters, Matt Anthony of Ontario High School.
Crenshaw's boys won the 4 x 100 meter relay at the Trojan Invitational while Dorsey won the 4 x 400 relay. They'll expect to see fierce competition from De La Salle, who'll be no strangers to Crenshaw after their meeting in the Open Division state football championship.
In addition, the event will see several former Olympians come out to support the student athletes as well as interact with the crowd. Wells said that 1968 Olympic bronze medalist John Carlos, UCLA women's track and field coach Jeanette Bolden, and four-time Olympian Johnny Gray are among the confirmed.
"We feel that we want to bring Olympians back to celebrity status while supporting our future Olympians," Wells said.
He added that the event allowed for 80% of the City schools to enter for free. It's one of the only events before the City Section preliminaries where a majority of schools can participate at one venue.
A free concert will be given before the invitational meet and this year will feature R&B legends Sister Sledge, Johnny Gill, Johnny Kemp and the Originals.
The charitable nature of the event, one of only three track meets in the state that has a city as a partner (Santa Clarita), extends to the competitors as trophies are presented at every heat.
Wells and Knighten-Buggs are already looking forward to expanding the meet's profile in 2011 when they have several schools from Jamaica attending.
The meet starts at 9 a.m. with an open competition, followed by the concert at 3 p.m. and the Invitational at 5 p.m.