By ELLIOTT DENMAN
Who'll steal the NON spotlight this year?
Jessica Beard? Gabby Mayo? Tiffany Townsend? Chanelle Price? Ashley Higginson? Jacquelyn (Jackie) Coward? Kamorean Hayes? Patience Coleman? Emily Pendleton? Karlee McQuillen?
Rest easy, Nike Outdoor Nationals fans. When this group steps onto the track (or into the ring, or onto the runway) at the Irwin Belk Complex at North Carolina A&T University, something's got to give.
Will it be the national record book? The meet record list? Or simply a complete revision of the 2007 best performers lineup?
Event by event, it shapes up this way:
100 METERS - Killeen, Texas senior Tiffany Townsend checks in atop the leader board at 11.21 and North Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Shataya Hendricks stakes her claim at 11.30. Right behind on the start list at 11.31 is Atlanta junior Brittany Long (third-placer in 2006)
But don't ever look past Raleigh's own Gabby Mayo, 2006 NON 100 champion with an 11.42 clocking plus a 2007 best of 11.43.
Star-gazing into the future? Don't look past Charlotte sophomore Nyosha Bryant or New Jersey freshman English Gardner. Bryant has 11.61 credentials, Gardner an 11.62.
200 METERS - Just as in the 100, there's Townsend (who has run 22.84)
and there's Long (at 23.03) and there's Hendricks (at 23.60.)
Be wary, though, of Georgia's Chalonda Goodman (just 13th in the 2006 prelims)
but down to 23.69 this spring. Or New Jersey champion Shavon Greaves (her state's champion in 23.89). Or Charlotte's Bryant (who's run 24.01.) Or the celebrated Gabby Mayo (third in 2006 after winning the 100.)
400 METERS - On paper, it looks like a Jessica Beard runaway.
After all, the Euclid, Ohio senior is simply the NON record-holder (52.04 last year), the 2006 USATF junior champion, the 2007 Nike Indoor Nationals winner at 55.24, and already faster than ever outdoors in 2007 at 51.63.
She's come off the injury list to be faster than ever before.
If there's to be a serious challenger, she may another Ohioan, Toledo's Meshawn Graham, who has gone a lap in 52.51. In the medals hunt, too,
will be Uniontown, Pa.'s Breehana Jacobs (53.58 this year) and Brooklyn's Nadonnia Rodriguez (at 53.92.)
800 METERS - A total dominator is Easton, Pa.'s Chanelle Price, who clocked an eye-opening 2:03.30 at the Island Games at Long Island's Mitchel Field, after winning the Pennsy state meet in 2:05.85.
After a 2:07.71 victory at the 2006 NON meet, she's running faster than ever and filled with growing confidence. Oh yes, she's still a junior.
The 2-3 finishers last year are back to challenge, but it will take a huge upset for them to do better than 2-3 again.
They're Dominique Jackson of Fairfield, California (2:06.25 in 2006, 2:06.09 in 2007) and Boulder, Colorado's Sarah Cocco (2:08.50 2006, 2:07.91 2007.)
And don't overlook sizzling Solon, Ohio freshman Caitlin Hartnett, who checks in at 2:09.73.
1-MILE - With 2006 champion Danielle Tauro apparently sticking to relay action, this one becomes a wide-open affair.
Tauro ran 4:39.25 last year, but no one seems to be in that vicinity this time around.
Top candidates: Ohio's Emily Infeld (4:41.37) and Jenny Morgan (4:46.41), Mississippi's Cory McGee (4:46.87) and Tennessee's Rita Jorgensen (4:48.73.)
2-MILE - No matter what transpires in Greensboro, Colts Neck, NJ's Ashley Higginson has already had an incredible senior season.
She ran off with the individual gold at Nike Team Nationals XC. She won her high school Indoor Nationals two-mile race in New York. She won the Penn Relays two-mile a second straight year.
And now (after running a far-back 13th in the 2006 NON two-miler) she's at least the co-favorite in this one with another Ashley - Melbourne, Florida junior Brasovan.
Ashley Brasovan has gone eight laps in 10:13.45, Ashley Higginson 10:16.75.
Don't overlook Colorado's Kristen McGlynn (10:24.57) or California's Sarah Cummings(10:24.82.)
100-METER HURDLES - Knoxville's Jacquelyn (Jackie) Coward was merely third in this one last year, her time a disappointment, 13.62.
Now a junior, she's already a cool-calm-experienced competitor who doesn't figure to stumble below expectations this time around
With a 13.27 clocking to her credit, she's the solid gold medal choice.
But don't you dare look past April Williams of Dallas who is, after all, the defending NON champion with her 2006 13.52 and has gone 13.39 this spring.
Also figuring to be in the hunt: Knoxville's Bianca Blair (13.57), New York's Lindsay Rowe (13.59) and Pennsylvania ace all-arounder Ryann Krais (seventh in 2006, 13.73 in 2007.)
Another super freshman talent to watch: Anderson, South Carolina's Jasmin Stowers, who has run 13.72.
400-METER HURDLES - Leslie Njoku, the pride of McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, NJ, took the 2006 NON title in 59.28, but hasn't been that dominating this spring.
Perfect example, the NJ State Meet of Champions: Winner: Kristen Mahon of Notre Dame, 1:00:11; runner-up, Leslie Njoku, 1:00.34.
Cardozo High New Yorker Dalilah Muhammad ran fourth in the 2006 NON title race in 59.82 and comes to Greensboro with 59.68 credentials.
Pennsylvania all-arounder Ryann Krais, third at NON in 2006 in 59.64, has improved to 58.93 this spring.
2000-METER STEEPLECHASE - With 2006 titlist and National record-holder Marie (Mel) Lawrence sitting this one out in Reno, it becomes a wide-open battle.
Colts Neck. NJ's Ashley Higginson (who'll already have run the individual two-mile and four-mile relay) and an 8:50.39 finisher in the one and only ï¿½chase of her life?
Saratoga Springs New Yorker Hannah Davidson, third in 2006 at 6:58.79?
Talented New York Staters Shelby Greany (6:51.09), Nicole Rozario (6:53.03, the 2006 eighth-placer) and Jillian King (6:57.00)? Newton, Massachusetts' Jess Barton (6:57.00) ??
1-MILE RACEWALK - The pick is Jenna Monahan of Holbrook, NY, third-placer in 2006 and the top returner. The Sachem High star has improved tremendously in 2007, with a 6:56.00 best after a 7:51.57 clocking at Greensboro last year.
Lake Ronkonkoma, NY's Katie Williams checks in at 7:35.44, with Rochester, NY's Chelsea Conway all the way down to 7:56.00 after her 10th-place 8:40.94 in 2006.
With all kinds of national and international competitive opportunities awaiting America's young racewalkers, here's an event that welcomes the talent willing to put in the work on a new challenge.
HIGH JUMP - Texans Victoria Lucas and Brittany Carter figure to take this one to lofty heights.
Midland High's Lucas won the Texas state title at 6-1. Missouri City's Carter, second in the Texas state meet, checks in at 6 even.
But don't overlook Durham, NC's own Patience Coleman, who was third at NON in 2006 but followed by winning the USATF Junior crown in Indianapolis and NIN 2007 in Landover, Md..
POLE VAULT - Look for a Texas-Louisiana duel.
From the Lone Star State, there's sophomore sensation Shade Weygandt of Mansfield, who has soared 13-7.
From the Bayou State, there's Rachel Laurent, of Houma the 2007 Nike Indoor Nationals winner with a best of 13-5 1/4. While Laurent was topping out at 13-2 ï¿½ at NIN in March, Weygandt taking silver at 12-10 3/4.
Two others have gone at least 13 - Stephanie Foeman of Hot Springs, Arkansas (13-2) and Callie Griffin of Tyler, Texas (13 even.)
Ready to reach the 13 level, too, is Monroe, NY's Stephanie Duffy, with a 12-11 best.
LONG JUMP - Bethel, Virginia senior Shakia Forbes was third at the 2006 NON at 19-4 3/4, but seems ready to climb to the top of the podium.
At 19-9, she's the Penn Relays champion and top entry, outranking two juniors, Canfield, Ohio's Audra Frimpong (19-6) and Charlotte' s Ranae Nelson (19-5), along with Burlington, NC senior LaToya James, (19-5 best, too.)
TRIPLE JUMP - The triple jump is a relatively new addition to the New Jersey official program, but the Garden State is poised to deliver a winner.
NJ's gold medal candidate is South Brunswick senior Stephanie McIntyre, Penn Relays champion and a 40-11 leaper. Should she reach the top, it would be a huge advance from her 17th place 2006 finish at 36-5 ï¿½.
Four others have spanned 40 or better - Virginia's Rachel Butler (40-10) and April Sinkler (40-3), New York's Gabriela Baiter (40-8) and New Hampshire's Ellen Powers (40-2.)
SHOT PUT - Charlotte Harding High's Kamorean Hayes has a winning streak stretching to two years and there's no reason for it to end now.
The NON winner at 50-10 last year, she got one out to 51-3 ï¿½ winning at
North Carolina States this spring.
No one else on the premises comes in at 50 or more.
Trailing Hayes on the form charts - from a distance - are Pennsylvania's Karen Shump (48-9 3/4), Michigan's Mary Angell (48-9 3/4), Iowa's Danica Haight (48-7, fourth at NON 2006) and another Michigan athlete, Allison Liske (47-8.)
And check out the much improved Brick, NJ junior DeAnne Hahn, 13th here in 2006 (42-8) but up to 47-6 winning the NJ States this spring.
DISCUS THROW - As dominant as Hayes is in the shot put, she's out-dominated by Woodmore High, Elmore, Ohio senior discus standout Emily Pendleton.
The 2007 year list reads like her biography. Four of the top five throws are hers - to be precise 183-3, 174-11, 172-11 and 172-2. All easily exceed her 166-3 winner at NON 2006 and, given the right conditions and some crowd encouragement, she could threaten Suzy Powell's 1994 National record of 188-4 in Greensboro.
Pendleton went on to win the USATF Junior National crown in 2006 and no one would be surprised to see her do it again at Indy next week.
Owasso, Oklahoma senior Kyle Spurgeon is the only other thrower to beat 170, with an April whirl of 173-2.
Michigan's Mary Angell, a top shot putter, too, enters with a 165-7 best, while Virginia's Natalie Baird, fourth at NON in 2006 at 155-6, contends with a 159-4 this spring.
JAVELIN THROW - Intent on making it two NON golds in a row is Johnstown, Pa. senior spear slinger Karlee McQuillen. She won here at 150-1 in 2006 and arrives in Greensboro atop the 2007 charts at 157-3.
Just two others here have broken 150 - Byfield, Massachusetts' Tara Karin at 152-0 and Mobile, Alabama's Meghan Austin at 150-2.
HAMMER THROW - Marietta, Ga.'s Allison Horner finished second (158-5) to another Mariettan, senior star Emily Bernhardt, at NON 2006.
This time it shapes up as Horner's turn to win it all.
She's wound up and let her favorite ball-and-chain fly on a nation-leading journey of 177-2 this spring.
Expected to battle her all the way is Victoria Flowers, the flinger from Providence, RI - the ancestral home of high school hammering in America - who has a 2007 best of 171-0.
Just one other entry - Villa Rica, Ga.'s Patrice Gates (164-2) - has hurled it 160 or more.