BOYS WEIGHT THROW: Mike Gama opened this year's competition at the Nike Indoor Nationals with a bang. The 5-foot-8, 230-pound weight thrower from Warwick, R.I., pulled off an upset win with a best of 73 feet, 5.25 inches.
Taking the lead in the third round and adding to it on his fourth and final attempts, Gama relegated Mitchell Gormley (Snellville, Ga.) to second place with a best of 70-9.75. Third was Patrick Onye (Providence, R.I.) at 70-7.25. Gormley is third on the current U.S. prep indoor list, while Onye is No.2.
Gama's victory in Saturday's first event surprised everyone at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Comples, including Gama himself. "I'm still shaking," he said. "I was just hoping to get top six. I definitely thought Pat was going to beat me today. I didn't know I had it won until his last throw. Actually, it wasn't until Mitch's last throw, because Mitch was in second place."
The Wakefield, R.I., native said he has no definite plans this coming outdoor season, other than a personal best of 220 feet for the hammer throw. "In the summer, football and track mesh and then we go right into football," said Gama, a linebacker and fullback at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick. Asked which of the two sports is his favorite, Gama broke into a wide grin and said: "Track, now!"
BOYS 5,000 METERS: Before most of suburban Washington could finish the Post sports section and have a second cup of coffee, Solomon Haile of Sherwood High School in nearby Silver Spring, Md., was busily at work.
The tall, handsome junior cruised to an easy victory in the 5,000 meters with a meet-record time of 14 minutes, 53.93 seconds. Haile was running for only the eighth time in the United States. "I am a native of Ethiopia," he explained. "From the capital city, Addis Ababa. I came here to visit my family and to get a college education."
Sherwood track coach Dan Reeks said Solomon showed up at school one day with his older sister, Naomi. "He had to take an entrance exam and was pretty much placed at Sherwood," said Reeks. We have a strong ESL [English as Second Language] program at our school. I was pretty skeptical at first."
After her kid brother's win, Naomi Haile was beaming. "This is something that just happened," she said. "I hope this will lead to a scholarship for him, and a good education and a good career." Haile took over the lead at about the halfway mark and from there on, there was no doubt about the outcome. Second was John Luttrell (Kettering, Ohio) in 15:13.06 with Neal Darmody (Gaithersburg, Md.) third in 15:13.41.
The only blot on the day for Haile came at the finish. Checking his watch as he crossed the finish, he tripped and stumbled. "I lifted up my leg," he said, grinning sheepishly.
BOYS MILE WALK: A year ago at the Nike Indoor Nationals, twins Roberto and Ricardo Vergara of Edinburg, Texas, took the top two spots in the walk event. The Vergaras came to Landover this year as the top two performers on the national prep list — Roberto on top with a time of 6:29.92, Ricardo next at 6:37.17.
It was Ricardo's turn in the winner's circle Saturday, after he finished first with a time of 6:34.98. But Roberto was eclipsed by Trevor Barron (Bethel Park, Pa.), who upset the form wityh a second-place finish in 6:37.12. In 2007, Barron finished third in this race.
With five laps to go, the Vergara brothers had the top two spots. That's when Barron moved past Roberto for second, and then took over the lead from Ricardo. "When Trevor passed me, I kind of pushed myself," said Ricardo, who surged back into first and stayed there. "I'm kind of tired right now, from all the trips we've been making," Ricardo said afterwards.
Roberto finished third with a time of 6:44.85.
On April 6 the Vergara brothers will head to Hauppauge, N.Y., where they'll compete in the U.S. team trials for the IAAF World Cup. This year's World Cup walk events take place in Cherboksary, Russia.
BOYS 4x200 METER RELAY: Waldorf (Md.) Track Club came to Landover Saturday morning with victory in mind.
Saturday afternoon, the Westlake High School quartet of Deon Smith, Jesse Mitchell, Kenard Harris and Greg Walker made it happen, covering the 200-meter flat track in 1:28.90.
Their time was the year's best flat-track prep indoor mark, nine-hundredths of a second better than the previous best — set by Westlake on February 25 at the Maryland state meet here in Landover.
Waldorf had a clear lead by the second exchange and never looked back. Second was Track Eastern Carolina (New Bern, N.C.) in 1:30.02 with Nansemond River (Chesapeake, Va.) third in 1:30.03.
Trenton (N.J.) Central, which came to Landover as co-holder of the year's best banked-track time (1:28.35) was disqualified for passing outside its zone.
"We changed our order at the state meet and ran 1:28.99," said Walker, a senior who plans to attend Virginia Military Institute. "Trenton Central came here with the top time, but they ran that on a banked track. We've always run on a flat track. We came in with the idea that we're going to win."
BOYS 4x55 METER SHUTTLE HURDLE: Franklin Track Club (Somerset, N.J., High School) emerged victorious in this seldom-run but crowd-pleasing event.
The Franklin lineup of Ike Onyejiaka, Eric O'Connor, Asjon Alford and Sean Schnarr won the three-team fast heat in 30.19.
Two lanes over, disaster struck Trenton Central when anchorman Devon Hill clipped a hurdle and fell.
Schnarr, running in Lane 5, was unaware of the turn of events in Lane 3. "I know I went out with Devon Hill, but I zoned out completely after two hurdles," said the Seton Hall recruit.
Second place went to Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn, N.Y), the other fast-heat participant, with a 30.65 clocking. Rocks Track (Wrentham, Mass.), running in Section 2, wound up third with a time of 31.33.
Trenton Central was disqualified for a hurdle violation.
BOYS 4xMILE RELAY: Stephen Donnelly opened up a lead on the third leg to give Chaminade High School (Mineola, N.Y.) all the room it needed for victory.
For much of the race, the Long Islanders found themselves in a tight battle with Mountain View (Stafford, Va.) and Enapay (West Windsor, N.J.) track clubs.
Chris Brown had Mountain View in front heading to the first exchange. Alex Brown kept the Virginians in front for most of the second leg. Chaminade's Michael Schieck briefly took control, but when Alex Brown handed off to Tim Wisniewski on the second exchange, Mountain View was back in front.
Joe Rosa briefly put Enapay ahead on the third leg, but Donnelly surged past him and never looked back. Christopher Tonn crossed the line first for Chaminade.
"There was a lot of tough competition," said Bryan Sutherland, who ran the first leg for Chaminade. "Schieck really blew it open on the second leg. He gave us the gap that we needed."
Chaminade's winning time was 18:01.85, with Enapay second in 18:07.05. Third place went to Western Cary (N.C.), winner of the first section, with a time of 18:10.01.
BOYS 400 METERS — PRELIMINARIES: Sixty-six names were assigned lanes for Saturday afternoon's eleven heats, but only the eight fastest moved on to Sunday's final.
Ja-Vell Bullard (Bethel, Hampton, Va.) was the quickest qualifier with a time of 49.43 in the final heat.
Others who advanced were Russell Dinkins (Philadelphia, Pa.), winner of Heat 3 in 49.52; Varick Tucker, (Belleville, Mich.), Heat 8 winner in 49.77; Quartez Clark (Memphis, Tenn.), Heat 4 winner in 49.79; Taylor Sykes (Chesapeake, Va.), winner of Heat 7 in 49.98; Terrance Livingston (Great Neck, N.Y.). winner of Heat 9 in 50.04; Jordan Higgs (Austell, Ga.), second to Clark in Heat 4 at 50.07; and John Jones (Panther TC, Burtonsville), winner of Heat 6 in 50.08.
BOYS PENTATHLON: Last year, Gray Horn of Waynesfield-Goshen High School in Waynesfield, Ohio, was second in this five-event competition.
This time around, the rugged-looking senior stepped into the winner's circle with a total of 3,786 points. Horn's performance included a time of 8.35 for the 60-meter hurdles (good for 896 points); a 21-4.75 long jump (702 points); a shot put put measuring 44-11.5 (710 points) a 6-5.5 high jump clearance (776 points) and a time of 2:56.22 for the 1,000 meters (702 points).
"I was just hoping to come here and better what I did last year," said the crew-cut blond giant. "I wanted to put myself on the list of the top names in this event."
Horn was grateful to a support system that includes family and fellow athletes. "This win means a lot," he said. "There's a system of people who have helped me win this event. First of all, you've got my fellow competitors. They supported me this whole time. I've got my grandma and grandpa, my mom and dad — the whole family. They're here for me today. This whole thing's a system of people."
Horn plans to enter the University of Florida this fall. At 6-5 and 200-pounds, he has the build of a wide receiver — a position he played in high school — but he intends to concentrate on track. "I'd love to do both sports," he said. "But with Florida being the football powerhouse that it is, I think I'm going to stick with track and field and work with that."
Second place went to Kevin Carney (Brentwood, Tenn.) with a 3430 total. Kurt Reichenbach (Pinckney, Mich.) finished third with a 3394 aggregate.
BOYS TRIPLE JUMP: David Wilson hopped, skipped and jumped 49-9 on his second attempt to move from fifth place into first. The junior from Washington High School in Danville, Va., held off challenges from Corey Fuller (Baltimore, Md.) and junior Kenith Roseman (Trinity Christian HS) for the win.
Fuller went 48-10 in the fifth round, good for the runnerup spot, while Roseman's first-round mark of 48-6.25 held up for third place.
Simplot Games winner Omar Craddock (Killeen, Texas), the nation's No. 2 prep indoor performer, failed to reach the final. Craddock, who came to the Nike Indoor Nationals with a best of 50-10.5, fouled on his first two tries and mustered only 46-6.25 on his third attempt.
BOYS 200 METERS — PRELIMINARIES: Thirteen heats, 64 contestants, 11 no-shows and just eight qualifiers for Sunday's final.
Sophomore Fuquawn Greene (New Bern, NC) had the fastest prelim time, winning Heat 8 in 22.04.
Also qualifying were junior Curtis Campell (Chesapeake, Va.), winner of Heat 4 in 22.20; Dominic Smith (Bloomfield, Conn.), winner of Heat 9 in 22.30; Juan Steward (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), Heat 5 winner in 22.34; Darryl Williams (Jacksonville, Fla.), winner of Heat 13 in 22.40; sophomore Blake Heriot (Gahanna, Ohio), winner of Heat 2 in 22.42; Lamaar Thomas (Fort Worth, Texas), Heat 10 winner in 22.46; and Christopher Herring (Raleigh, N.C.), second to Williams in Heat 13 at 22.48.
BOYS POLE VAULT: "I don't really remember much," said a drained but happy Jason Pelletier after the conclusive attempt of the competition. "We had five guys jumping at 16-10, which I don't think happens very often in the vault. So, on that third attempt, I just said a little prayer and went for it. Luckily, things went my way. After that, it was just 'Let's go have some fun.'
Pelletier, a senior from Bryant (Ark.) High School, had plenty of fun Saturday evening. The 5-9, 160-pound Penn State recruit won the Nike Indoor Nationals title with a personal best of 16-10.5.
Pelletier outlasted Riley Egan (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Joe Wesley (Marine City, Mich.), Scott Houston (Greensboro, N.C.) and David Slovenski (Brunswick, Maine), who all cleared 16-6.5 to finish in that order.
"I had third-attempt makes at 16-2.5 and 16-10," said Pelletier. "Both times I thought I was out, I thought I might not even place. After every clearance, especially my 16-10, I was just drained — mentally, emotionally, physically."
But the gritty Pelletier hung on, taking three attempts at 17-0 before bowing out. "Great crowd, very supportive — it definitely pumps you up," he said. "To come to a meet like this and be jumping alone was beyond my wildest dreams."
Pelletier admitted it wasn't easy being the last man standing. "It's not quite as much incentive," he said. "It's harder to get pumped up. But at the same time, it's pretty nice to just concentrate on you. So it's kind of a give and take."
BOYS DISTANCE MEDLEY RELAY (1200-400-800-1600): Western Albermarle (Va.) High School overtook Beall Track Club on the final lap and rode home first in 10:25.73.
"We've been thinking for the past couple of weeks that we were going to win it," said junior Tyler Stuztman, the lanky anchor who put Western Albemarle in front for keeps. Stuztman followed junior Kyle Satterwhite, Nick Ward and James Howard-Smith..
"Going into that last leg, I knew I had a pretty good mile in me," Stutzman continued, "because I was feeling pretty good. I was thinking I was going catch up to them and pass them."
Beall (Pittsburgh, Pa.) settled for second in 10:31.11 with Edison High School (Alexandria, Va.) third in 10:34.23.
BOYS SPRINT MEDLEY RELAY (200-200-400-800): For most of the way, the sprint medley relay was tighter than the Democratic presidential race. Track Eastern Carolina (New Bern, N.C.) fielded a team of Fuquawn Greene, Miles Sparks and the Hendrix brothers, Andrew and Anthony. Matching up against the Tarheel squad was Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with Wael El-Halaby, Bryan Underwood, Dontave Cowsette and Jared Hall.
The North Carolinians had the lead at the initial exchange, but the Ohio squad stayed right on their heels, taking the lead on the final leg. Anthony Hendrix passed Jared Hall to put Track Eastern back in front, but Hall held on like a terrier.
On the bell lap, Anthony put daylight between himself and Hall and began to pull away on the final turn. Anthony brought home the stick in 3:29.24 — meet record time — with Cleveland Heights second in 3:31.14.
Third place went to Blazin' Raiders Track Club (Greenbelt, Md.), with a time of 3:32.91.
"I had a long day today," said Fuquawn, the talented, soft-spoken sophomore who ran the fastest 200 meter qualifying time earlier Saturday. "I had to run three races, including the sprint medley," Greene continued. "So I had to come back on short rest for this."
Greene got another long day planned for Sunday. "I've got the 4x4 and the 200 final," he said.
The sprint medley was Saturday's final event.