By LOGAN WILBER
The 17th annual Armory Track Invitational is ready and set to go this Friday and Saturday at The New Balance Track & Field Center. Elite indoor runners are gathering from 50 colleges nationwide, 10 Canadian colleges, with additional teams from France, Jamaica, numerous high schools and professional running clubs, organizers announced on Thursday.
Armory foundation President & CEO, Norbert Sander remarked on the talented field year after year, but said he would like to see a greater city-wide presence. Columbia University is the only collegiate program from New York City participating in the event this year. Sander hopes for participation from his alma mater Fordham University, as well as CUNY schools in coming years.
While the ATI may be short on local participants, it is by no means short on big time talent. Olympians Lalonde Gordon (2012 Bronze Medalist – 400m, Trinidad & Tobago), Sage Watson (2016, Canada) and Robby Andrews (2016, USA) will be racing this weekend. Andrews and his teammates from Main Street Elite will be chasing the indoor world record in the Men’s 4x800m race. “We’re going to run our best” Robby casually said. “If a record falls, that’s great.” Drew Hunter, who recently signed with Adidas will be competing in the 3000m. Hunter holds the high school indoor record for the indoor mile (3.57.81).
Jamaica is returning to the ATI and will have their men’s team racing in the four runners in 200 meter international relay, Saturday at 2:50 p.m. Armory Director of Track and Field, Bassett Thompson, says the relay is his favorite indoor event. Anytime sprinters can run on what is widely considered the “fastest indoor track, it’s exciting.” Thompson exclaimed.
A native of Jamaica, Thompson moved to New York when he was 15, loves sprint races, and explained most Jamaican runners “didn’t know events over 800 meters existed.” Last year the Jamaican men took gold in the 4×200 and the coaching staff says their team feels comfortable in New York, which in some way is an “extended state of Jamaica”, with its large Caribbean and Jamaican population.
The Arizona team is still adjusting to the cold weather. “It was 75 degrees, yesterday” Sage Waston said. Despite the cold, and participating in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, competing in The Armory Track Invitational is important to Watson. “This event brings athletes of all levels together” she explained, “to experience this with my team… being in New York City itself, it’s special.” Sage, who competed in the 400m Hurdles in Rio this past summer will be racing in the Women’s 500m on Saturday.
Race events are scheduled Friday from noon – 9 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Event coverage will be televised on NBC Sports, Saturday, February 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. Tickets to The Armory Track Invitational are still available for both days. General admission can be purchased at the door – adults $20, teens $10 and children under 3 feet, 6 inches tall for free. Reserved seating can be purchased at amorytrack.com and Eventbrite.
Photo by LoganWilber. 2016 Olympian Sage Watson, third from the left, and her Arizona teammates showing Wildcat pride.