Naeem K. Turner-Bandele, a 13 year old Zionsville West Middle School honor student was among the 2,000 or so youth runners that participated in the 45th Annual Phoenix Invitational. The Phoenix Invitational is one of the largest and best youth track meets in the country. This year the meet hosted nearly 100 teams and scores of unattached athletes participating from around the county including athletes from outside of the U.S. like the Bahamas.
In this highly anticipated and competitive meet with nearly 5,000 spectators, Naeem Turner-Bandele showed that he has both the physical and mental capabilities of the top youth athletes from around the country. In Naeem’s first outdoor track meet of the season, he competed in three events: 200 Meter Dash Youth Boys, 400 Meter Dash Youth Boys, and 800 Meter Run Youth Boys. He finished no lower than the top 1/3rd in any of his three events. His best finish of the meet was in the 800 m where Naeem placed 6th out of 69 runners with a time of 2:18.60. Despite suffering a severely strained ankle while running in the 200 m preliminaries only an hour earlier which required taping by a local EMT, Naeem ran a gutsy determined race and exceeded his 800 seed position of 11th.
History has shown that the Phoenix Invitational is a preview of the nation’s best youth runners. If Naeem’s early season performance against the nation’s best youth runners most of whom have all the climate advantages and early season meet experience is any indication of the outcome of his 2009 outdoor track season, you can expect him to run some fast times and represent his school, city, and home state admirably as he prepares for the USA Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the USA Track & Field National Junior Olympic Outdoor Track & Field Championships, West Coast Junior Olympic Games, AAU Club Championships and the AAU Junior Olympic Games.