VA Showcase Preview, Links: New NSAF Select Meet!

by Steve Underwood

The NSAF is thrilled for addition of the new VA Showcase to its roster of Select Meets.  Check out the links and top storylines below.

Meet Info Page | Meet Coverage Page | Webcast Page (subscription required)Performance List Links

Top Six Storylines/Questions

Is Cooper fit to chase record in odd event (and season’s debut)?

Tyrese Cooper potentially chasing the national 300m record (33.05 by Michael Cherry in 2013) is one of the most hyped features of the meet.  Cooper's many successes in an historic freshman campaign included the NBNO 400m title and a US#1 45.23 - that plus what seemed like an endless succession of national class records at 60, 200 and 400. He is, by most accounts, the top returning all-around sprinter in the country. It may not matter that he's never run the 300; it could, in fact, be the perfect distance for him.

Still, running a national record out of the gate is no easy task, even if he and Coach X have been pointing to it for a while.  Cooper will be challenged by outstanding sprinter/hurdler Micaiah Harris (Western Branch, VA sr), who ran 33.87 last year, and Eric Allen, Jr. – the Bullis MD junior who’s excelling from 55 to 400 with a current US#1 34.13 to his name – among others.

Who will control epic girls’ 1000?

That Sammy Watson vs. Kate Murphy over 1000m Saturday is a supremely stellar matchup could not be more obvious.  The two seniors, from Rush-Henrietta, NY and Lake Braddock, VA, respectively, sit #2-3 on the all-time list with their 2:45.32 and 2:45.36 PRs (though they’ve never met at the distance).  Watson’s specialty is 800m, where she’s won three NBN titles, plus World Youth and World Junior crowns.  Murphy is #3 all-time on both the 1,500 and 3,000 lists, which tells the story of the best part of her range.

Normally you think of the longer distance specialist trying to run the kick out of the shorter distance specialist, but Murphy is known for a fantastic kick, too.  Still, in slower-paced races, Watson seems to be particularly unbeatable, always with excellently-timed finishes and seeming to mesmerize her opponents.  So Murphy’s best chance would seem to be a hard, record-level pace (the standard is 2:43.40 by Sarah Bowman).  Either way, it will be fascinating to watch and as good a matchup as anyone can hope for in the sport this indoor season.

It should be noted that both girls will have run big events on Friday.  Watson, in fact, will likely be chasing another all-time list-type performance, or even a record, in the 500m.  Like Cooper in the 300, she’s never run the event, but her 800 talent and 52-second 400 speed should lend itself to at least sub-1:12, if not a shot at Chanelle Price’s 1:10.40 HSR.  A supreme challenge should come in the names of Lauryn Ghee – the CSI Cuba alum (Grassfield, VA sr) who topped last year’s list at 1:11.78 – and perhaps sub-1:15 performers Masai Russell (Bullis, MD), Britton Wilson (Mills Godwin, VA soph) and Ariana Shockley (Western Branch, VA soph).

Murphy, meanwhile, will be running a leg on Lake Braddock’s DMR.  They were NBNI runner-ups last winter at 11:39.10.  Their Virginia rivals from E.C. Glass, led by Libby Davidson, should provide some good competition.

How hot will McLauglin-less girls’ 300 be?

Another super-hyped event has been the girls’ 300, which was originally to feature Olympian Sydney McLaughlin.  The indoor 400 and outdoor 400H HSR-holder withdrew, but fear not, the competition in the event is still stellar and the contestants could still shake up the all-time list – even if Francena McCorory’s HSR of 36.96 has a better chance of surviving without the New Jersey megastar. 

To start, you could say Lynna Irby will step into the Tyrese Cooper role – a great all-around sprinter, best at 400, who’s (almost) never tried the 300.  Owner of a 51.39 outdoor 400 best, Irby has captured World Youth and World Junior silvers the past two years.  This will be her season opener and she’s typically best at mid-summer, but don’t be surprised if she’s in excellent form.  There are several others, though, capable of sub-39 in this race.  CSI Cuba alum Daija Lampkin (DE sr) has been sizzling in the early season, including her US#1 38.59.  Lanae-Tava Thomas (Rush-Henrietta, NY jr) hit 38.38 last year and while Jayla Kirkland is also new to the 300, she is a two-time Team USA sprinter and 3-time NBNO champ over 100/200.

Will St. Jago be ready to burn in girls’ 4x200?

One of the biggest coups scored by the meet organizers was getting Jamaican powerhouse St. Jago to come up for their first-ever indoor competition – specifically a 4x200 quartet to battle many of the USA’s best.  The school is well known to Penn Relays aficionados with dozens of relay triumphs in 4x100s, 4x400s and 4x800s.  Indoor competition is, obviously, something Jamaican schools rarely have an opportunity to do, but don’t think the girls won’t be fit as the nation’s outdoor season is just getting rolling.

To add to the excitement, Virginia’s great Western Branch team ran a stunning 1:37.50 a few weeks back, among the top dozen all-time and a big national leader for the year.  The field also includes super quartets from Grassfield, VA – the ’16 NBNI runners-up led by CSI Cuba alum Lauryn Ghee – and Bullis, MD, led by Masai Russell.  Great competition will certainly ensue, as well as revisions to the all-time prep list – even if Long Beach Poly’s 1:35.86 HSR could be a bit out of reach.

Can Sawyers shave another second off his 500?

If Chantz Sawyers can find another second in his legs in the boys’ 500m invitational race, where he’s already run 1:02.36 on a flat (albeit fast) track at the JDL in North Carolina, then another national record at that distance will be under siege on Friday.  The High Point Christian, NC senior had one of the best early performances in any event this season when he produced that stunning performance back on Dec. 17.  He’s raced little since, so one hopes it’s because he’s been shooting for this and a strong second half of the season, rather than nursing an injury.  The top contenders to push Sawyers – who was 3rd and 4th in the two NBN 400s as a junior – are 1:05 performers Azavier Kirtley (William Fleming VA sr) and Edward Richardson III (Bethel, VA soph).

Is McGorty record-ready in 800?

Yet another race that could evolve into a near-solo record chase at the end is the boys’ 800, with favorite Brandon McGorty.  The senior middle distance star from Chantilly, VA is a near-household name among Virginia and national track and field fans, with a 1:48.58 outdoor PR to his credit and US#1 performances this winter of 2:26.87 1k and 4:15.87 1,600 – plus a US#2 1:04.33 500.  He and his teammates were also the ’16 NBNI sprint medley champs, in national record time of 3:24.02.  McGorty hasn’t run an 800 yet this winter – and if he sets out after sub-1:50, he’ll likely be alone.  But Robbie Andrew’s 1:49.21 HSR from 2008 could definitely be in danger.


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