NSAF On-Site: New Balance Boise Indoor Select Meet Preview

by Steve Underwood

File photos from World Youth Champs by Joy Kamani

Eight Great Storylines to follow at Boise

1.  Four World Youth team members on hand

While their individual events and storylines will be detailed below, it’s worth noting in and of itself that no less than four Team USA athletes from last summer’s World Youth Championships will be competing in Boise.  They include:

  • Triple jumper KeAndre Bates (Burges, El Paso, TX senior), who made the TJ final and finished 9th, getting a PR 51-6.25 in the prelims.
  • Shot putter Ashlie Blake (Liberty, Las Vegas, NV senior), who made Team USA in both the SP and discus, and captured bronze in the shot in Donetsk.
  • Sprinter Hannah Cunliffe (Federal Way (unattached), WA senior), who was 2nd in the 100 and 3rd in the 200 in the Trials, then ran the longer race in Donetsk – taking 4th in the final.
  • Long jumper/sprinter Chyna Ries (East, Denver, CO senior), who was 3rd in the WY Trials LJ and while she didn’t make the 100 final, she was chosen for team as a LJ alternate/relay pool athlete.  She didn’t LJ in Donetsk, but ran the 100 leg in the medley relay prelims as Team USA made the final.
2.  Project TJ’ers rev it up

Five TJ’ers from the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation’s (NSAF) Project Triple Jump will compete in Boise, with four making their season debuts and one trying to follow up on a terrific start last weekend.  Ja’Mari Ward (Cahokia, IL soph) launched his campaign in stunning fashion last weekend, winning the Arkansas Invite with a US#2 49-00.25 that is within nine inches of the soph-class HSR.  To see him matched up against the above-mentioned Bates – the more experienced and decorated senior, but who is jumping in his first meet of the year and first indoor meet ever – will be a huge treat.  It’s as if Ward threw down the gauntlet with his monster leap last weekend ... can Bates respond?

For the girls, our NSAF sophomore duo of Chinne Okoronkwo (Mountlake Terrace, WA) and Nashedah Mumin (Mission Oaks, Tulare, CA) will face off for the first time after they were the country’s best two freshmen outdoors in 2013.  Mumin had the best legal TJ by a frosh last spring at 39-9.5, while Okoronkwo was at 38-10.5 as #2 – but with a 40-0nwi jump.  Indoors, though, Okoronkwo has been there, done that – with a frosh #1 39-5.5 at Simplot last year – while Mumin is in her first-ever undercover affair.  We’ll also see Arielle Mack, Bates’ teammate at El Paso Borges and a 9th-grader who got her first big win last weekend at Great Southwest, leaping a near-PR 34-4.25.

Bates and Ward are the clear boys’ TJ faves, but Okoronkwo and Mumin could be challenged by several others with PRs over 37, including mid-39s jumper Maya Ries – Chyna’s younger, talented sister.

3.  Cunliffe ups the ante

The meet got a big shot of energy with the addition of Hannah Cunliffe to its 60 field this week.  Cunliffe, a senior from Federal Way, WA and above-mentioned WY team member – who has competed unattached her whole career, made big headlines last weekend when she dashed to a PR and US#1 7.35 at the UW Indoor Preview.  That was .03 better than her 2013 best and indicates she is in fantastic January form.  She’ll be the clear favorite to take down Chyna Ries and the rest of a good field that has several who can run 7.70 or better.

4.  Ries double attempt gets tougher

Chyna Ries looked like a favorite to double the 60 and long jump and her task got tougher this week with the addition of Cunliffe to the field.  But don’t count her out; she just blasted a PR 7.46 last weekend that ranks #3 nationally.  Of course, she’s #1 in the LJ and nothing has changed there.  She bounded a 20-1 a few weeks ago, the 2nd best of her indoor career behind her 20-5.75 of 2012.  That she’s done 20-1 and 7.46 indicate that she might be approaching the best shape of her life.  Also, she’s defending champ in both events here.

5.  Blake enters the ring

You might think that the above-mentioned Ashlie Blake also belongs in the indoor debut category, but you search back and see that she did throw the shot and weight at Simplot way back in 2011, as a freshman.  So let’s just say it’s been a long time coming.  She would break through to 49+ later that year and has been one of the nation’s best ever since.  Her PR still sits at the 52-1 she threw in 2012, though she came very close when she hit a runner-up 51-8.5 at NBNO last June.  A big win here would be a nice way to start her campaign.

6.  Golden State super frosh debuts

Look for the name Lauren Rain Williams this weekend and make sure you remember it; chances are good you’ll be hearing it a lot in the next several years.  Williams has been one of the top age-group sprinters in the U.S. as a youth, reportedly with at least eight world bests over the years.  In 2012 as a 7th-grader, she ran 11.94 and 23.71w for 100 and 200, then 11.86w and 23.95 last year.  She’s won her share of Junior Olympic titles, though in last year’s deep, tough USATF JO fields she settled for 3rd in the 100 and 4th in the 200.  She is reportedly a frosh at Long Beach Poly.  While cracking the medal stand in the loaded 60 will be tough, she looks like the potential favorite in the 200.

7.  Armstrong-Mantz distance battles

Great distance times are tough to achieve at altitude and Boise sits at about 2,700 feet.  But that doesn’t mean there won’t be great competition.  Idaho’s shining star Elijah Armstrong (Pocatello), an extraordinary youth himself who is still just a junior, will be favored to defend the mile and 2-mile titles he won here last year – in 4:21.78 and 9:22.01.  Armstrong also enters the season as the defending NBNI 5,000 champion and has a 3,200 PR of 9:04.78 – actually dating back to his freshman year at Arcadia.  He’s also coming off a fall campaign where he was 6th at Foot Locker Finals.

He should get two good tests, though, thanks to Conner Mantz (Sky View, Smithfield, UT junior).  Mantz was just a spot behind Armstrong at Foot Locker, and gave him a good battle at Simplot last year, too.  He also has a 9:04, 3,200 best of his own – from the 2013 Arcadia race (where Armstrong struggled to 9:16).  The field will be hard-pressed to challenge either of these guys in the deuce, but the mile field is deep enough – with fellow YMCA Team Idaho sub-4:20 stars Andrew Rafla (Timberline, Boise, senior) and Jordon Wallin (Rocky Mountain, Meridian, senior).

Wallin will be the favorite in the 800, where he went 1:51.85 last year and was 8th at NBNO with 1:52.15.

8.  Summit vaulters head north

With a few exceptions, the boys and girls pole vaults will be rematches of a few of the notable standouts from this region who competed in the Reno PV Summit last weekend.  There are three 12-footers and two more 11-footers in the girls’ field, led by Laura Taylor (Tualatin, OR senior) – who went 12-4 for 5th in the second flight in Reno.  There’s also Makayla Linebarger (Sparks, NV frosh), looking for a good meet after going “just” 11-2 in the Summit championship flight.  She cleared a USATF Youth record 12-3.75 at JOs last summer.  And of course Project Triple Jump athlete Chinne Okoronkwo will compete in her other great event, where she went 12-0 last year and 12-2 in 2012.

The boys’ field is paced by Connor McLean (Clackamas, OR senior), who won the second flight of the PV at Reno with a PR 15-10 last week.  Like Taylor, he was a state Class 6A champ last year.  Liam Henshaw (Marist, Eugene, OR senior) was the 5A champ last year with 15-6 and went 14-10 at the Summit.

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