Half of the top 10 in the boys shot put comes from East County

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Centennial High track coach Greg Letts is taking part in his 43rd invitational, helping build it into one of the premier prep meets on the West Coast.The Centennial Invitational turns 50 years old this weekend with Saturday’s showcase meet attracting some of the best prep track and field talent from across the state.

Eagles head coach Greg Letts has been a part of the meet for the past 43 years, starting out as a volunteer in the long jump pit before taking on head coaching duties in 1980.

“It’s a big undertaking, but our goal is to make it a positive experience for these kids to run in a big meet,” Letts said. “It’s a premier event, a true high school showcase on a high school campus, that allows the best kids from all levels to compete against each other.”

The event is a highlight of the season for former Centennial High distance-running standout Rob Collins, now the coach at San Lorenzo Valley in California.

“I set a lot of personal bests at that meet — the Centennial Invite means a lot to me — it’s something special,” Collins said. “Greg Letts, I love that guy, and it’s a great chance to drop in and see old friends.”

He is bringing one of the meet’s top competitors in Anna Maxwell, who has the nation’s fourth-best time in the 800-meter race this spring.

“We’re a month out from the state meet and it’s a good time to step up and see where you stand,” Collins said.

Other highlights on the girls side, include North Valley twin sisters Karissa and Venessa D’Arpiro, who rank 1-2 in the state this season across the three sprint races.

“You read about some of these kids from the smaller schools, but you never know how good they are until they have a chance to compete on a bigger stage. That’s what we offer,” Letts said.

Barlow High’s Renick Meyer is the No. 1 qualifier in the shot put, while teammate Danelle Woodcock comes in No. 2 in the triple jump. Gresham High’s Leah Russell is seeded third in both hurdles races.

“There have been a lot of outstanding performances by East County athletes over the years,” Letts said. “Every year, you’re waiting to see who’s going to steal the show by the end of the night.”

The boys meet is highlighted by Central Catholic’s John Nizich, who has the nation’s best mark in the javelin (221-10). He will get a challenge from Newberg’s Trevor Danielson who ranks No. 8 in the nation.

The 800 is expected to be the highlight event on the track with David Douglas junior Josh Kellebrew as the top qualifier, while Centennial’s Thomas Morrell III is the No. 5 seed, hitting the qualifying time for the premier heat last weekend.

He won the afternoon race last year.

“It’s a breakout meet for Thomas, and I’m expecting it to be a very fast 800,” Letts said.

Reynolds standout Ahmed Ibrahim is the No. 4 qualifier in the 3,000, while David Douglas junior Shakur Groos comes in at No. 4 in the 300 hurdles.

East County will also be strongly represented in the shot put with four throwers among the top-10 qualifiers, led by Centennial’s Chuckie Bessette with a best mark of 56-feet-2 1/4-inches.

The meet begins with field events and prelim races at 11 a.m., with the premier racing finals set for a 6 p.m. start. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and students.

View a schedule for the meet in our Friday, April 25, print edition.

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