A set of seven invitational track events – spotlighting boys’ and girls’ short sprinters, hurdlers, long sprinters and girls’ milers – will highlight the NCRunners Elite Invitational at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C. Saturday.
Most of the entries in these invitational events and other open events is from talent-rich North Carolina, with the brightest example being World Youth bronze medalist Isaiah Moore (Hugh Cummings, Burlington senior). Last summer, Moore spanned 24-8.5 for third in Donesyk, and was 6th in the 110H (36”). A few weeks later over the 110H at the high school height (39”), he upset USATF Junior champ Tony Brown to win the USATF JOs in a PR 13.64.
So far this winter, Moore (photo at left from World Youth champs) has gotten off to a fast start with a US#1 7.96 60H, US#2 7.37 55H and US#1 23-8.25. He’s entered in the invitational 60H and the long jump here, as well as the high jump where he’s also tied for the early national lead at 6-6. He has the best creds of anyone in the meet, but he’s far from the only standout performer.
Here’s a look at the Invitational fields:
Boys 60 dash
Each of the entrants is a sub-6.6 performer over the more frequently contested 55, but the favorites look to be Jamaal Daniel (Terry Sanford, Fayetteville, sr) and Trentavis Friday (Cherryville sr). Daniel is the defending state 4A champ in the 55 and was state 100 and 200 champ, too. His 6.36 55 has the current national lead and is just .02 off his PR from last winter. He was also 7th in the NBNO 100 last June.
But also look out for Friday, who is running in his first-ever indoor meet after surging to prominence in superlative style last spring. He swept the state 1A 100 and 200, then had a stunning 10.37 runner-up finish at Golden South. He went on to take 3rd in the NBNO 200. Another to watch will be Daniel Estrada, who competes for Platinum Sports. He ducked under 11.00 as a frosh last June at NBNO, and has run 6.48 so far this winter for 55 and 6.98 for the full 60.
Girls 60 dash
Three girls have sub-7.20 creds for 55 coming in and all three competed in this meet last year. Sydney Murphy (Apex, jr) has the state’s best times of 7.16 (55) and 7.80 (60) this winter and was 2nd in both this race and the non-invite 55 in this meet last year (yes, this meet has both an open 55 and an invite 60). But Ama-Selina Tchume (Wakefield, Raleigh) – while 6th in the 55 here last year – has bests of 7.64 and 7.09 (en route) from NBNI last March. Then there’s Imari McLean (Hillside, Durham, sr), who has bests of 7.16 and 7.90, also nipped Murphy with that 7.16 in the NCRunners 55 last year and was 4th in the 60. Any of the three, as well as a few others, could win it.
Boys 60 hurdles
There’s four other hurdlers in this race who have done the 55H in the 7.60s, but it would be a huge upset if anyone came close to Moore. Last year, in fact, Moore hit 7.87 for 60H and 7.30 for 55H (en route), so a margin of a quarter-second or more would be expected.
Girls 60 hurdles
The favorite in this race isn’t quite as overwhelming as in the boys’ 60H, but Jacklyn Howell (Southeast Raleigh sr) has a 55H best from last year of 8.13 (and 8.15 this year) that is .20 up on the field. She was 4th in the 4A 55H last winter (#2 returnee) and has a 8.90 for 60H from NBNI last March.
Boys 400 dash
This deep field includes half a dozen runners with sub-49 talent, including a pair who have gone sub-48. Marquavious Johnson (Knightdale, sr) is defending champ in this race, defending state 4A champ at 500 indoors and 400 outdoors (with that 47.16), and is the favorite. He also represented Team NSAF in the Caribbean Scholastic Invite last June.
Jamaree Murray (Southeast Raleigh, sr) was 2nd in that 4A 500 last winter and has a 47.37 PR from last summer’s USATF JOs. He has clocked a US#2 35.02 300 this winter already. He’s clearly the one with a best chance of challenging Johnson. Then Johnson’s teammate, Henry Kiedy, returns after a 3rd in this race last year and a 48.21 best.
Girls 400 dash
The girls’ 2-lap field is pretty deep, too. Layla White (Cary, jr) (photo at right from 2013 CSI) is the clear standout, but the top three outdoor state returnees are here. White was 2nd in this race as a soph last year, but went on to win the state 4A indoor 500, and run an impressive 3rd at NBNI in the 400 with a 54.66 PR. She also ran a 55.09 state best outdoors. White didn’t have a good outdoor state 400, though, and the top returnee from that race – Jocelyn Culbreath (Ronald Reagan, Pfafftown) with a runner-up PR of 55.76 – is another key threat here. She was 4th in this race last year.
Also there’s Jaleesa Smoot (Salisbury, jr), the 2013 2A state 400 champ outdoors and with a 55.75 best. Three others have 56-second creds.
In Malia Ellington (Davidson, jr), Eliza Dekker (Durham Academy, jr) and Blake Dodge (West Carteret, Morehead City, sr), the field has three of the better distance runners in the state – and three sub-5:00 talents. Ellington has a 4:55.91 best from NBNO last spring. She has run an early 5:07.60 1,600 this winter and her expansive distance creds include a 1A XC title last month. Dekker has a 4:57.90 PR and was the 3A independent schools state champ last fall. She and Dekker have competed back and forth numerous times.
Dodge improved dramatically in the 800 last spring, winding up with a 2:08.84 at NBNO that won the unseeded race and was 4th overall. And while her 1,600 best is not quite as impressive at 4:59.35, the range she showed in XC during a season where she eventually finished 4th in 3A suggests that bigger things are to come.
Addtional previews (non-invitational events):
- We’ve talked about the meet’s biggest star, Isaiah Moore, being entered in the long jump and the high jump in addition to those 60 hurdles. In the LJ, as in the 60H, it’d be a major upset if he (defending champ) was beaten. He has more than two feet on the field. Still, there are young talents like Marcus Krah (Hillside, Durham, soph), whose stunning 23-1 won 4A state as a frosh last spring; and Jeremy Davis (Ben Smith, jr) whose 23-0.75 was 2nd in the NBNO Emerging Elite LJ in June.
- Moore’s most interesting challenge in trying to win an individual triple could be the HJ, where he is a consistent 6-6 performer. That challenge should come from defending champ Myles Lazarou, who competes for Platinum Sports and has a 6-8.75 best from a 3rd-place finish at USATF JOs. He was also 2nd in the NBNO EE HJ in June.
- The boys’ triple jump could be between Florida 46-footer Noah Grillo (St. Thomas Aquinas, Ft. Lauderdale, sr) and Mekhi McGuyver (Asheville, jr) – who has two nice PRs already this early season with a 45-8.5 best. Look out also for the aforementioned Krah, who only bounded 45-3 last year, but hit 47-2.5 as a 8th-grader (!) in 2012.
- The favorite in the pole vault should be Michael Utecht (Apex, jr), who vaults with Kenesis here and his the only 14-footer in the crowd. And speaking of vaulters, the girls’ favorite is also an Apex junior vaulting with Kinesis: Anna Eaton is the field’s only 12-footer.
- The girls long jump should be interesting, with several of the aforementioned sprinters battling. Defending champ Ama-Selina Tchume (Wakefield, Raleigh) is in the 60, but not this event. Sydnei Murphy (Apex, jr) has done 18-3 this winter already, while Imari McLean (Hillside, Durham) comes in with listed bests of 18-3w/18-0.5 from last spring. Lydia Laws (Western Alamance, Elon sr) went 18-6w last year and Kayla Moore, a Cummings frosh, is fresh off an 18-1 PR from an outdoor Polar Bear meet (nwi).
- In the girls’ triple jump, there is more than half a dozen 36-9 or better hop-step-and-jumpers, but only Alexis Davis (Butler, Matthews, sr) and K’Lynn Beal (Broughton, Raleigh, jr) have 37-foot creds. Again, Kayla Moore of Cummings – now a 36-9 performer as a frosh – bears watching. Potentially head and shoulders (well, at least heads) above the high jump field is Hunter Welborn (Starmount, sr), who’s been consistently at 5-6 and is due for a breakout performance.
- The girls’ shot has a heavy favorite, at least on the surface, in Raven Saunders (Burke, Charleston, S.C., sr), who is the only 40-footer in the field at 42-5 for a PR. But she did that in 2012 and her best in the past year is 39-6. That establishes Hassana Clark (Southeast Raleigh jr) as a strong contender given her brand-new 39-6.5 PR.
- Speaking of fresh PRs, Elijah Mallory (Wakefield, Raleigh, sr) just went over 54 for the first time in the boys’ shot last weekend with 54-7. That has him 18 inches up on the field, with Alex Tate (Marvin Ridge, Waxhaw, sr) next among entries at 53-1. But Tate himself is on an even sharper improvement curve. He had never thrown over 50 until last week.
- Short sprinters and hurdlers are afforded kind a unique opportunity in this meet: Those in the Invitational 60 and 60H can also enter the open 55 and 55H as tune-ups. They may end up running three races instead of one and be all warmed up by the time they hit their keynote event. Meanwhile, the 55-dash and 55H-only athletes might be trying to prove they belonged in the longer, elite race.
- So in the girls’ 55, the aforementioned invitees Murphy, McLean and Tchume are all entered – but the event is much deeper, so it will be interesting to see if they dominate or are upset. McLean and Murphy went 1-2 in the 55 last year, both at 7.16. In the boys’ 55, however, top 60 seeds Daniel and Friday are not doubling. Two others are: Estrada, who has that recent 6.48, and Khairee Lewis (Sanderson, Raleigh, jr), who ran 6.52 right behind Estrada in that race.
- In the girls’ 55H, the Invite favorite Howell is not entered, but four of the other six 60H invitees are. Ebony Williams (Parkland, Winston-Salem, jr), Kayla Moore (Cummings, Burlington, frosh), Jasmine Moore (Wakefield, Raleigh, sr) and Ariel Davis (Platinum Sports, Greensboro, jr) will battle in what should be a close fight.
- And, lo and behold, big 60H and LJ favorite Moore is slated to go in the 55H, too, adding to his busy day. Only one other athlete from the 60H is in both races and that’s Krah, the outstanding LJ talent who’s also done 14.60 for 110H outdoors but is pretty untested over the indoor barriers. Another to watch would be Chase Blackwell (Northern Guilford, Greensboro, sr), who has done 7.2h for 55H in a outdoor polar bear meet but needs to back it up.
- One of the most impressive out-of-state entries in the meet is Justin Marsh (Howard, Ellicott City, MD sr), who has already blasted a US#3 35.21 300 this winter and is the favorite in that event. Look for Saadiq Sweezer (Eastern Alamance, Mebane, sr) to potentially give him the biggest challenge, with a 35.87 to his credit last weekend. Justin Titgen (Marvin Ridge, soph) and Jalen Buxton (Wakefield, jr) should be in the mix, too. Marsh and Sweezer are also in the 500, where they should battle it out at the 1:05-1:06 level.
- Ebony Williams, who was mentioned in the 55H and 60H, is an outstanding long sprinter, too, and last winter got down to 40.01 for 300 at 4A state, where she was 2nd. She has a 41.54 so far this winter. Kaitlin Sherman (Parkland, jr.), who ran 24.47 outdoors for 200 last spring, just this week made her 300 debut with 41.29, which should put her in the mix. Sherman’s teammate, Myshale Spigner, ran 40.94 last winter but hasn’t shown that form yet. Another to watch is McKinley McNeill (Platinum Sports), who is coming off a 41.43.
- The girls’ 500 has several athletes untested in the event yet this year, but Nikolete Hurrinus (Cuthbertson, Waxhaw, jr) placed 3rd here last year and has a 1:17.25 best as she makes her seasonal indoor debut. Tatiyana Caffey (Miller Grove, Lithonia, GA, sr.) will make her debut at the distance with 57.61 400/2:11.96 800 creds from a few years back. And Reneazia Collins (Monroe, sr.), who hasn’t run this event much indoors but has 56.28 400/40.56 300 talent from last year, should be another factor.
- Aforementioned miler Malia Ellington (Davidson) is also listed on the 1k entries and, should she choose the double, would be a favorite there. Another is Katie Loyd (Southeast Raleigh, sr), who was 2nd at 4A state last year with 3:02.02.
- The best boys’ distance race could be the 1,600. While there wasn’t enough interest to stage an invitational mile, the metric version features Wyatt Maxey (Providence, Charlotte, sr), who ran 4:17.33 outdoors last year and is coming off a mostly strong XC season. He could be pushed by Andrew Fea (North Lincoln, Lincolnton, sr), who has run 4:23.37 for a mile.
- The 3,200 favorites should be Bianca Bishop (Providence), whose significant recent improvement includes a 10:50 3,200, a 4A state XC runner-up finish and an 18th at Foot Locker South, and Ryan Shannon (North Lincoln), who has a 9:33 best and was 5th in 3A state XC.