By Mike Byrnes

WHAT DID I TELL YOU?! As of this writing, March 3, 2009, athletes from 42 states have entered the NIKE INDOOR NATIONALS! Only eight states have not sent in an entry. That's what makes a meet "national" in caliber. But let's face it, having a whole bunch of states with mediocre athlete's means nothing. Well, the 2009 edition of the NIKE INDOOR NATIONALS is loaded. You've all read Jim Spier's Top Five list, he publishes it weekly, it's clearly defines who the best of the best are. Right now, 70% of those athletes will be in Boston. Think about that, almost four out of the top five will come into Beantown for this competition. EVERY event is loaded. Plaudits must go the recruiter for our male athletes, AJ HOLZHERR. He had significant help from New Jersey's Joe Lanzalotto. Let's take a look.

(Ed, Note: Please note the following abbreviations, initials: 'b' = banked track; 'f' = flat; 'o' = oversized; A = mark made at altitude; 'm' = meters; 'y' = yards; USL = #1 in the nation; #2-US, nation's second best; #2-AT = second best in history; +=conversion from another event.)

THE SPRINTS: (60-200-400) The USL in the following events will be in Boston (honest!) DEVON SMITH, 55m-6.21; 60m-6.65; TAVARIS TATE, 200mf-21.58; 200mfo-21.41; 400mf-47.80; 400mfo-47.06; FUQAUWN GREENE, 200mb-21.39; CLAYTON PARROS, 400mb-47.58, USL. With one exception, the 300mb, EVERY top sprinter in the nation will go head to head in Boston. But wait, THERE'S MORE! In the 60m event, the #'s 2-3-4-5 over 55m are Boston entrants! And almost the same depth may be found in the other two events. Kids like TORRANCE HUNT, BRANDY SILVE, MILES LEWIS, BLAKE HERIOT, JOHN THOMAS, DENTARIUS LOCKE and TAYLOR SYKES all have solid chances to take the gold and the ring signifying the Nike Indoor National champion. Every one of these kids is ranked in the top 3-4-5-US. We shouldn't count out a local, CHRISTOPHER McCONNELL, CURRENTLY #6-US, and the NE champion, with a best of 6.34. With a great start…who knows what can happen!

THE MIDDLE DISTANCES: (800-Mile) (Ed. Note: We run a full mile, NOT the 1600) TOM MALLON is the USL, 1:51.79; he's backed up by ALEX WEINHEIMER, 1:53.11; TERRANCE LIVINGSTON, 1:53.30, MICHAEL PALMISANO, 1:53.66 and CAS LOXSOM, 1:53.80* (600m) merely the TOP FIVE in the country! All have won at least one major title this past season and all could win at NIKE. Loxsom took the NE 600m in 1:18.72b so you know he's ready. According to Michigan guru David Mitchell, TOMMY BRINN, 1:54.65f, the USL on such a facility, is the real thing. Surprising CHRIS STOGSDILL could sneak in with no trouble. All the marks listed above, with the exception of Brinn, were made on banked tracks. My choice as the "MB Sleeper" — Terrance Livingston. This just in from the New York State meet, while running the 600m, Livingston suffered an injury and dropped out at the 300m mark. Will he be ready for NIKE? Let's hope so. Even without this great talent, the field is loaded. Who can blame an athlete for ducking this field?

In the Mile we have the USL on a flat surface, BOBBY PEAVEY, 4:10.51+ but there's a problem, he intends running only the two mile in Boston. The NIKE also has the USL over 3000m, ANDREW SPRINGER, 8:27.21. He's also recorded a 4:09.16b in finishing second at the great Reebok mile run on the Reggie Lewis track a few weeks ago. Springer's entered in both the mile and two mile but it's doubtful if he'll attempt a double. The young Rhode Islander may be the nation's best distance runner and this is his chance to prove it. Another of the US' best, Alabama's PATRICK McGREGOR, 4:09.41b, a mere .25 back of Springer in Boston. Watch out for TYLER STUTZMAN, 4:14.91f. He's a lot better than that and will definitely be a factor. As might BRETT JOHNSON and NATHAN MATHABANE. This latter could be the surprise of the meet. One doesn't fly in from Oregon just for the exercise AND HE'S GOT 1:51.88 credentials. Johnson? Merely the #1 returnee from 2008 with a 4:07.07+ to his credit. The there's OMAR ABDI, another local, who hasn't surfaced in the mile this year but posted a 4:12.36+ last. He's headed for the University of Arkansas. This field may turn in the best performance in the meet. A major surprise could be in the offing.

Wd don't usually mention the Frosh mile but it should be noted, the top seed, JON CONLIN, hales from New Hampshire adding another top quality local athlete to the meet. New England has always produced far more than its share of top notch distance kids and Conlin is poised to assume his place at the table.

THE DISTANCES: Two Mile and 5000m show fields that forecast fast times. Most of the athletes entered ran their seed times with little or no competition. Thus, when they get into a race where the competition is as good as they, the big time running comes out. Here's the list, ANDREW SPRINGER, USL over 3000m, 8:27.21f and the NE champ, 9:02.58, eased up!; amazing frosh LUKAS VERZBICAS, USL at the same distance, 8:29.16b; BOBBY PEAVEY, 9:12.48b; two sub-9:10 Coloradoans, KEVIN JOHNSON and WES RICKMAN who will challenge along with BOBBY NICOLLS, #2 returnee and only one with a sub-9:00 to his credit, 8:59.89 from a year ago, and BILL MATTHEWS. Add to that mix, USL on a flat surface, SEAN POHORENCE, 9:12.55f and you have a field containing four USL's! It CAN'T get much better than that. All of the above have run under 9:10 for two miles. While a Ritzenhein, Webb, Centrowitz is not anticipated, we should get a top quality performance out of this field. And there are six more kids 9:15 or better! The 5000m is a tough call. It's rarely run in regular high school meets so the entrants are generally two milers that are OK. But, some are better at longer distances and fairly good performances are the rule rather than the exception. NICK ROSS, REECE AYERS, MAX STRANEVA, ERIK TRUEDSON and MICHAEL HICKEY head the entrants. Who's the favorite? I have no idea.

THE HURDLES will be graced by yet another USL and the national record holder over the 55mH, 7:05, WAYNE DAVIS. Now as much as I'd like to pump up this race, forget it. Davis has the nation's top FIVE performances and his closest pursuer is .20 back. That's about two strides. But, what do these three hurdlers have in common? Allen Johnson, Lolo Jones and Gail Devers. They all fell. So, where there's hurdles, there's hope. CAMERON LACOUR is a top quality athlete and should Davis falter, he could easily fill the void. So might Massachusett's COREY THOMAS. He just took the NE champs, 7.42 although he might forego this event to concentrate on the high jump where his 7-0.5 gives him a realistic shot at the win.

THE RELAYS: TRACK EASTERN CAROLINA (New Bern HS, NC), enough said. Here's what they've done this year, 1:27.02, #3-AT, 3:13.06, National record and 3:26.28, #5-AT. All run on fast surfaces but the track at Reggie Lewis is, perhaps, the fastest in the US. Ably coached by Dave Simpson with a little help from his friend scribbler Nick Sparks, this group may be the best of all-time, rivaling the great foursome from Muir, CA. They hold the indoor SMR record; 3:24.69 set in 1997 at…the Reggie Lewis Center! According to Simpson, "We're coming in looking for three wins and hoping for two more national records!" He's got the guns to do it. BUT, in the Sprint Medley (200-200-400-800) he'll get serious competition from the Marcellus (NY) TC. Who!? Trust me, they ain't bad. Good enough to run with ETC? Take a look. MARCUS QUERCIA, #2-US over 600m, 1:20.52f, about a 48.40(estimate), right there with ETC's ANDREW HENDRIX, 48.64. MTC will anchor with CHRIS STOGSDILL, 2:27.83f, 1:52.4 (estimate) neighborhood. But ETC has the best kid in the country, ANTHONY HENDRIX, USL over 500mb, 1:03.48 as well as 600mb, 1:18.36. The big difference maker? FUQUAWN GREENE, one of the best sprinters in the country. 6.29 over 55m and 21.39b (USL). ETC should take it but if they get the record they just may owe a vote of thanks to the boys from MTC. The short relay will also feature SHEEPSHEAD BAY and WESTERN BRANCH, both under 1:30. The 4x400mR should be a romp as ETC is SEVEN seconds faster than WESTERN BRANCH. (Ed. Note: Going thru an old notebook, I have the approximate splits for the Muir team. These are unofficial but…21.5 — 21.7 — 48.6 — 1:52.89 with a 51.3 1st 400) The 4x800mR may also see a new record. The present mark, 7:42.22, Syosset, NY, 2005 will be challenged by two teams, the ALBEMARLE 5 GUYS, a bunch of hot dogs, with a 7:44.70 to their credit and MORRIS HILLS TC, the #'S 5-10-AT respectively. 5 Guys will anchor with junior ANTHONY KOSTELAC, 4:11.93f while LIAM TANSEY, 2:28.02 appears to be the logical choice for the Jerseyites. The 4xOne Mile is impossible to predict as many teams put together their four best kids and project a time. Sorry. The DMR looks to be another great race. Three teams, the aforementioned ALBLEMARLE 5 GUYS, THE KNIGHTS TC and MORRIS HILLS TC are separated by 3.46 seconds, 10:05 — 10:07.21 — 10:08.46. In both medley's everyone should be fresh as they are Friday's final events. Look for some terrific times, the talent is there. The 55mShuttle Hurdle Relay is always one of the most exciting races of the meet. This year should be no different. SHEEPSHEAD BAY, EGG HARBOR, TRENTON CENTRAL are all splendid as are NEW ROCHELLE and WESTEN BRANCH. This will be fun to watch.

THE FIELD EVENTS: The HIGH JUMP has no one athlete far and away the best as in other years. The USL ERIK KYNARD has a .5 edge over JONATHAN HILL and that's razor thin. Also a contender, local COREY THOMAS. He just broke the 30-year old New England record clearing 7-0.5. Californian HARRISON STEED, 7-01 will definitely be in the mix. In POLE VAULT action look for CHASE COOPER, 16-06.75 to fight it out with COREY SHANK, 16-06. Shank, the son of perhaps the best vault coach in the nation, is primed and ready. But so is Texan LOGAN CUNNINGHAM, 16-04.75. Rounding out the 16' footers, SAM EWING, 16-04 and JARED HIPPLER, 16-0. This is a "hot-cold" event. If an athlete is 'hot', he gets into a groove and could soar to the win. 'Cold' equates to a 'no height.' I've seen them both…many times. In LONG JUMP action keep an eye on junior DAMAR FORBES. This young Georgian, #3-US, has a slight edge over fellow junior CARLTON LAVONG, 24-0.7.50 — 24-02.75. JORDAN HILL, another of the Albemarle 5 Guys, comes in at 24-01. The "MB Sleeper", ZACH SMITH. He's coming in from Washington State and wants to go home with the national championship ring. He's at 23-10.25.

The TRIPLE JUMP will be highlighted by two 50' footers, DAVID WILSON, the nation's #1 guy at 50-01. Texan OMAR CRADDOCK is at 48-09.5 but went 50-11.5 last spring. This one is up for grabs. Long shot, junior RICARDO JAQUITE, New England's best, T#3-US, 48-09.5 could win it all. One name stands out in SHOT PUT action, STEPHEN SAENZ. His 69-07.75 is the USL and that should win it. BUT, coming on of late, HAYDEN BAILLIO who just popped 67-03. #2-US Mason Finley, 68-0 turned an ankle playing pick-up bb and is out.

The WEIGHT THROW: Why does this event get special treatment? Well, high school/s greatest weight-hammer thrower CONOR McCULLOUGH will be in Boston. This young man is incredible! He's the national record-holder in the Weight at 87'10.75! Imagine throwing a 25' ball almost 88'! Most of us old guys would have a hard time throwing a baseball that far. Now holding one national record is an awesome achievement, this kid holds two! His mark of 260' set at the Nike Outdoor Nationals last spring is the best in history. What will he do here? Who knows? Is 90' a possibility? With McCullough anything is possible. Don't miss seeing a great one in action. Two terrific athletes, junior ALEC FALDEMEYER, 75-07.5 and NABIL MUBARAK, 74' will offer token opposition.

The RACE WALK will be competitive. TYLER SORENSON is the USL, 6:33.00 for a full mile with ALEJANDRO CHAVEZ and MATTHEW FORGUES giving chase.

The PENTATHLON is ordinarily virtually impossible to talk about since there are so many quality athletes out there who are pretty good in a lot of events but not great in any. That's the case again this year. So, I'm not going to mention anyone. Unfair? Maybe. Consider, one coach predicts his kid will break the national record by over 2000 points. I doubt it.

That's it. If you'll be in Boston and can get to the Reggie Lewis Center, be there. It will be a tremendous competition. I guarantee you'll go away virtually breathless as the nation's BEST OF THE BEST clash. Not sure if you can make it? Let's go back to Nike JUST DO IT!

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