EIGHT QUESTIONS worth pondering before the USA Track and Field Championships start next week at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

The answers we get at the post-Olympic year national championship meet will help determine the representatives to the IAAF World Championships, Aug. 15-23 at Berlin.

Here goes:

  • Can 2004 Olympic long jump champion Dwight Phillips approach 29 feet again, as he did two weeks ago at the Prefontaine Classic, when his 28-81/4 effort was the world's longest nonaltitude-aided jump in 18 years? Imagine how cool it would be for Phillips to compete in the same event and in the same Olympic Stadium in Berlin where Jesse Owens told Hitler to take a hike in 1936.

  • Is Colorado senior Jenny Barringer, at just 22, ready to announce herself as the nation's top female middle-distance runner? Barringer is the American record-holder in the 3,000-meter steeplechase but ran 3:59.90 over 1,500 meters at the Prefontaine to become the youngest of just three U.S. women to crack 4 minutes. She set six collegiate records, indoors and outdoors, this season.

  • Can Soquel native Maggie Vessey create another "Oh, my God" moment in Eugene? That was her shocked exclamation after knocking two seconds off her personal best to beat an elite 800-meter field with a time of 2:00.18 at the Pre meet, in which she stunned Beijing Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya.

  • Will sprint star Tyson Gay arrive at Hayward Field with a short memory? Gay ran 19.58 for 200 meters at the Reebok meet in New York three weeks ago but last year in Eugene pulled up lame in the same race at the U.S. trials. That left the United States without a viable threat to Jamaica's Usain Bolt at Beijing.

  • Is the window closing on Alan Webb? Or is he just riding his usual middle-distance see-saw? The American record-holder in the mile failed to make the Olympic team last summer and finished a well-beaten 10th at Pre. Webb, 26, made his name at Eugene in 2001, breaking Jim Ryun's high school mile record, but his best performance in an international championship race was eighth place at the 2007 Worlds.

  • What's gotten into Summer Pierson? Nine years after becoming the No. 2 female discus thrower in Stanford history, the 30-year-old has emerged as a national contender. She threw a personal-best 200-9 at the Reebok meet in New York and was second to Olympic champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton at Pre.

  • Is Carmelita Jeter for real? The 29-year-old Cal State Northridge product, not even among 148 athletes profiled in the USATF media guide, has run the second-fastest 100-meter time in the world this year and beat Jamaican star Kerron Stewart at Pre.

  • Who is the world's best 400-meter man? The answer won't come at Eugene, because Jeremy Wariner, as the defending world champion, has said he plans to use his wild card for entry at Berlin this summer. LaShawn Merritt beat Wariner 4-3 in head-to-head races last year, including victories at the Olympic trials and Olympic final, but the two haven't squared off this season.

    HART OLYMPIAN CLINIC: Ex-Cal star Eddie Hart, who ran the anchor leg on the gold-medal winning 400-meter relay at the 1972 Olympics, will host his annual Track and Field Education Clinic on Saturday, June 27, at Pittsburg High. The clinic, free to kids of all ages, will run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Former Olympians expected to serve as instructors include John Carlos, Kevin Young, Billy Mills, Wyomia Tyus, Mike Powell and Jim Hines.

    The "Olympians and Friends Saving Youth" dinner, beginning at 7 p.m., will be held June 26 at the Fil-American Center, 345 Center Street, Pittsburg. Tickets are $50.

    Information on both the clinic and dinner is available by calling 925-518-8104 or online at www.eddiehartaiof.org.

    Contact Jeff Faraudo at jeffscribe@aol.com.