Friday afternoon's Tom Gage Classic at Dornblaser Field has some things going for it, but there are a few things it is not.
It's not in Bozeman, for instance. Usually it is.
It's not a classic track meet, in the classic sense. Many of the top athletes from the three Big Sky Conference schools entered - Montana, Montana State and Eastern Washington - will pass it up to get ready for next week's outdoor track championships in Pocatello, Idaho.
And it's not going to be a showcase for Tom Gage. A world-class thrower in the master's division, Gage typically made the trek from Billings to the meet bearing his name when it was in Bozeman. Gage is living in Virginia and won't be around this year.
What it is, if pre-meet entries are accurate, is a venue for possibly the fastest female and male sprinters to ever grace a Missoula track.
Atia Weekes and Francis Obikwelu, sprinting for John Cannon's Calgary International Track Club, are set to run 100 meters and 200 meters.
Weekes, 21, set the Dornblaser track record in the women's 200 meters as a 17-year-old in 1997. She ran the 100 in 11.40 seconds in last year's Canadian Olympic trials. The Dornblaser mark is 11.70. Weekes, who grew up in Calgary, may have run faster at a similar last-chance meet here last year, but a breakdown in the electronic timing system prompted conversion to hand-held time of 11.74.
Obikwelu ran in the 2000 Olympics for his native Nigeria, though he moved from his home land to Portugal in 1994. Three times last year he ran a 100 in 10 seconds or faster, with a best of 9.97 at an international meet in Switzerland in May. The 6-foot-5, 159-pound Obikwelu, one of the tallest world-class sprinters, was a bronze medalist in the 1999 World Championships.
Cannon was the sprint coach for the Canadian Olympic team last year.
Athletes from the three Big Sky schools and the Calgary club will be joined Spokane Community College, Lewis-Clark State and Lethbridge Chinook Track Club. Montana State is sending more than 60 athletes to Missoula.
"It's a last-chance type of meet that we've been having at Montana State for a number of years," UM coach Tom Raunig said. "We inherited it this year just due to them hosting our dual last week and their track's not in real good shape."
Among the local highlights:
Suzanne Krings, redshirting this spring at UM, will pole vault for the first time in competition since the NCAA indoor championships. Krings set the Big Sky record last May and attempted to secure a qualifying vault for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Long-time rival Shannon Agee of MSU is one of three Bobcat women entered who've been over at least 12 feet.
Montana's Renee Dunn, who set the school long jump record last year but is also redshirting, is expected to compete.
UM's Heather Anderson, who dropped out of a 10,000-meter race at Stanford last week, will run the first half or so of the 5,000 on Friday. It's a workout designed to get her ready for another all-out assault on the NCAA 10,000 qualifying time at the Big Sky championships. Anderson was off the pace needed to qualify at Stanford.
As with all Montana seniors, it'll be Anderson's last collegiate meet in Missoula. The list of seniors also includes Jamie Slyder of Broadview, school record-holder in women's shot put; half-miler Kyle Wies of Polson, and Brad Treat of Kalispell, who's entered in the 1,500.
Action starts at 3 p.m. The first race, women's steeplechase, is at 3:15. The women's 100 is at 5:10, followed by the men's race. The 200 meters begin at 6:10. The meet should end at about 7:30.