By Mike Byrnes
For the past 25 years, the finest indoor competition in this nation has been conducted by the NATIONAL SCHOLASTIC SPORTS FOUNDATION. At its inception it was known as the Pathmark Classic. Later it went under the name, National Scholastic Classic. Today, it's the NIKE INDOOR NATIONALS. The name has changed but the high quality, both of the competition and the administration, remains.
The meet has also had several 'homes' starting in Princeton, then to Yale, Syracuse, the Naval Academy, the acclaimed Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, more recently to the Prince George's facility in Landover and now back to Boston. AJ Holzherr, in charge of Male recruiting for the competition, stated, "We feel very fortunate to obtain the use of what many consider to be the fastest indoor track in the nation." An examination of performances made in Reggie Lewis seem to bear out Holzherr's statement.
While the quality of the track is a vital part of the equation, far more important is the quality of the competition. Today I want to comment on a few events on the Girls side of the athlete equation. Specifically, the Sprints, the 800m and the horizontal jumps. Now understand, this is not to denigrate the other events, not at all. But the four aforementioned competitions are absolutely LOADED with a capitol "L!" More on the rest of the entrants will follow shortly.
THE SPRINTS: The quality of a track and field meet is in direct proportion to the quality of its competitors but just as importantly is the depth of each individual field. Many meets will have one or two top quality athletes/relay teams but to be a true national quality competition a meet needs fields that reflect a national-caliber contest.
To win either of the three sprints at the NIKE INDOOR NATIONALS an athlete must best the #1-US returnee, CHALONDA GOODMAN, Newnan, GA, the current USL in the 60mH, DONIQUE FLEMINGS, Fort Worth Haltom, TX, who also ranks #3-US over 200m, AURIEYALL SCOTT, Eleanor Roosevelt, Greenbelt, MD, ASHLEY COLLIER, Fort Worth Dunbar, TX, SHANAE BAILEY, Swenson, Philadelphia, PA, MARLENA WESH, Landstown, Virginia Beach, VA, SHAKEELA SAUNDERS, Great Bridge, Chesapeake, VA and NIJGIA SNAPP, Oakcrest, Mays Landing, NJ, current USL over 400m.
EVERYONE OF THE ABOVE HAVE WON AT LEAST ONE MAJOR INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIP THIS INDOOR SEASON. But wait, that's not all! If you call within the…(Sorry, had to throw in a little humor.) All of the aforementioned kids are already entered. And there will be others. This is being written mid-February, quite early for entries.
THE 800m: STEPHANIE BROWN, Tri-Valley, Downs, IL, the 800m USL, JILLIAN SMITH, Southern Regional, Manahawkin, NJ, USL at 1000m, 1500m and the mile as well as undefeated ay ANY distance this indoor season, her teammate, CHELSEA COX, PAIGE JOHNSTON, Midlothian, VA, another Eleanor Roosevelt champion AMIRAH JOHNSON.
Again, only one can win — yet again, EVERYONE has won at least one major title thus far indoors! Who is the favorite? How about NONE OF THE ABOVE! LAURA ROESLER, Fargo South, ND posted a brilliant 2:03.08 last spring and will be in Boston. A logical question, how can you train in Fargo, ND? My answer, if you think she's coming all the way to Boston and isn't in good shape, you're wrong. She's the #1-returnee over 800m and wants to take the ring, symbolic of the national champion, home with her.
THE HORIZONTAL JUMPS: (For those of you with limited vocabularies, that's the Long and Triple Jumps) One young lady currently leads the country in both events, KARIMAH SHEPERD, Grassfield, Chesapeake, VA — 20-05 and 41-02.5. She'll face a huge challenge from California ALITTA BOYD, the top returnee in the triple jump, 42-01.5 along with a 19-06.5 in the long jump. Is either the favorite? Well, take a look at the rest of the fields. TIFFANY HARRIS, Churchland, Portsmouth, VA, KARYN DUNN, Diamond Ranch, Pomona, CA, CIARRA BREWER, James Logan, Union City, CA and CHANEKA PERRY, Menchville, Newport News, VA. That's six, with a strong possibility of eight, of the top ten ranked nationally as of today!
Now again, let me clarify, all of the aforementioned athletes have already entered or committed to the meet.
There will be others, some, perhaps, better than the kids I've mentioned. The various state meets loom large and there are always athletes who rise to the occasion and perform better than ever. But suppose the athletes listed above remain the crème de la crème, it will be hard, nay, IMPOSSIBLE to improve upon these fields.
If you want to see another great NIKE INDOOR NATIONALS, the unofficial national championships for our sport, get your ticket to Boston. I'll be looking for you!