by Mike Byrnes
Once again almost every one of the nation's #1 performers will be competing in Greensboro. In eleven (11) events, including every running event other than the two mile, you'll be watching the best athlete in each event. In those where the top gun is absent, the #2 ranking performer is almost always present. Why aren't they all here, boys and girls, after all, this IS the NIKE OUTDOOR NATIONALS, the meet where the unofficial high school national champion is crowned? Many reasons. In some states there is a very early state meet in order to accommodate spring football and it's too difficult for a kid to stay in shape for six/seven weeks. Some are graduating and their parents are taking them on a dream vacation. Some are just tired. Others have no high school worlds to conquer; they already hold the hsr and see no need for another high school meet. Some are attempting to peak for the USATF Junior Nationals the week following the NON. Rest assured, everyone who should be here was contacted.
Still, you're going to see most of the premier athletes in the nation. Not bad for a meet started by two guys with no sponsor and no money. Let me tell you about the meet.
THE SPRINTS: 100, 200, 400 CHALONDA GOODMAN is far and away the best sprinter in the US. The Georgian has bests of 11.30 and 23.30. An easy winner? Maybe. OCTAVIUS FREEMAN has bests of 11.36 and 23.36 and Florida has a reputation of producing superb sprinters. In each event, Freeman is .06 seconds back of Goodman. Do you know how much distance that is? About the width of your hand spread wide! Could we see an upset? In the words of the immortal Sarah Palin, "You betcha!" There is an entrant about whom we know little, ALLISON PETER. She hales from St Croix and you can bet her coach/parents didn't send her here for the trip. The fames "MB Sleeper" is AURIEYALL SCOTT from relay powerhouse Eleanor Roosevelt. Her coaches feel she is underrated and want to give her a shot. She's clocked 23.52 but could be tired from relay duties. Watch her, she could sneak in. Another Floridian, EBONY EUTSEY appears to be the class of the 400m field. Her 52.42 is the only US clocking under 53.0. Her closest competitor, BRIANA NELSON has a 53.18 which puts her close to another South Carolina 400m specialist, the great Monique Hennagan, Olympic gold medalist.
THE MIDDLE DISTANCES: 800 — Mile This may well be the best race of the day pitting the USL and #2-US, JILLIAN SMITH, 2:04.67 and CHARLENE LIPSEY, 2:05.83. The only other competitor who can seriously challenge is the NIN winner, Indiana's STEPHANIE BROWN. She's coming in with 2:09.12 credentials but she can go a lot faster. No one else is close although one would have to call it an outstanding field. Every athlete in the fast section has run under 2:10! Just a few years ago, if a girl ran that fast she was usually the USL! Today, just another fine runner. How fast can the top two go? That depends on the type race they run. To get close to 2:00 and the hsr, 2:00.07 set back in 1982 by Pennsylvanian Kim Gallagher, they'll need a fast opening 400, somewhere around 57-58. Then the racing has to begin in earnest. Both are very good finishers. Can they do it? I think they have the talent but this is for the national title and tactics may come into play that will preclude any shot at a fast race. The ideal race would have one of the other runners take it out for the first lap a la European races but that's highly unlikely. (Would we encourage such a tactic? Emphatically, NO!)
The MILE will give you a chance to see a young woman who has the ability to become the best ever in the USA, young CHELSEY SVEINSSON, North Dallas, TX. Just a soph, she is the USL in the mile, 4:46.47 and is a year or two away from challenging any national records. She'll get all the competition she wants from A'JEE WILSON, the pride of New Jersey. Her best, 4:46.84, but I doubt if she'll have enough to make a serious challenge. But…that's why they run the race. The "MB Sleeper?" MEGAN GOETHALS from upstate New York. The weather up there is comparable to that of the Midwest, cold and short.
THE DISTANCES: Two Mile and 5000m. Earlier, I had predicted a terrific race but the USL, Jordan Hasay vastly prefers the California weather and is staying home. But the young Texan, Sveinsson, comes to the meet ranked #2-US with a 10:16.11 effort. That's about ten seconds faster than the rest of the field. Will she try and go under 10:00 and have a shot at Molly Huddle's 2002 record of 10:01.08? I hope so. She certainly has the ability but can the field stay with the fast pace necessary? Doubtful. She'll need a sub-5:00 first mile. If she gets it, she's got a shot. The 5000m is too tough to predict since it's rarely run and no one knows how fast anyone can go.
THE HURDLES: 100mH, 400mH, 2000m Steeplechase. Up until last week the USL was Californian KORI CARTER, 13.59. Then the South Carolina state meet was held and JASMIN STOWERS snatched the coveted #1 spot in dramatic fashion. She sped to a 13.32 performance. But the best should never be settled by time, head to head competition is the only way to ascertain who the best is. You'll get to see those results since both will be at NIKE. The rest of the field is solid but not brilliant. BRIANNA ROLLINS too the Florida states, 13.83 and there are four others between 13.83 and 13.96. Should anyone falter, there's plenty of talent to take up the slack.
The 400mH is always a challenge since the athletes are saddled with the 300mH throughout the season. UGONNA NDU leads the US at 59.35 with CARTER heading up the 300mH list, 41.09. LEAN NUGENT, 60.05 and MARY BOHI, 60.66 are definite contenders. The question, will NDU's 400m experience overcome CARTER'S speed?
In the STEEPLECHASE there is one athlete under 7:00, JANIE TUREK, NY who's run 6:58.45, #4-US. The USL, SHELBY GREANY set a national hsr earlier, 6:33.70 and isn't in the race. Look for ALISON STAPLETON, 7:03.38, BRIANNA NERUS, 7:04.39, SARAH HIGGENS, 7:06.36 and KATY FARMER, 7:06.52 to provide the competition. All hail from New York. The interesting aspect of this event, the more you run it, the better you get. Since it's rarely contested (how many high school tracks have a water jump?) someone with a lot of talent can improve very quickly. This will be a good race.
THE RELAYS: Since many of these will be teams put together that never ran during the season, it's hard to do any prognosticating. But one team stands out, ELEANOR ROOSEVELT. They lead the country in the 4x100mR, 45.24, the 4x200mR, 1:36.55 and are #2-US behind NYC's CARDOZO in the 4x400mR, 3:39.96 — 3:40.65. There are some terrific teams assembled for the meet so sit back and enjoy the action.
THE FIELD EVENTS: HIGH JUMP action will feature five athletes over 5-10 with one, SHANAY BRISCOE, 6-0. But this is a freaky event and the ring will go upon the finger of the jumper who has a good day. BRIA RICE, WI and PEARL BICKERSTETH, VA HAVE BOTH GONE 5-11(1.80.) Two others, Ohio's TAYLOR BURKE and another Virginian TYNITA BUTTS come in at 5-10. According to female recruiter Joy Kamani there4's a slight chance the USL, TONI YOUNG from Oklahoma will finish her basketball commitment and fly into compete. Earlier Young established a new hsr of 6-04, (1.93.) The same problem exists for junior HANNAH WILLMS, Iowa but her sport is soccer. Let's hope both kids' teams are eliminated and they show up. (Just kidding!)
The POLE VAULT will see USL from Texas, SHADE WEYGANDT looking for another ring. She's cleared 14'0 (4.27) with only ELLIE McCARDWELL, Indiana close, 13-06.25 (4.12.) But don't count out Louisiana's MORGAN LeLEUX, 13-02.5 (4.03), MEGAN WELLER, IL, 13-01 (3.99) or SARAH BIRKMEIER, Michigan, 13-00 (3.96.) Always an exciting competition, the 2009 version will be no exception.
The LONG JUMP is headed by a Georgia youngster with lots of 'hops.' BRITTANY PORTER leads the US with a jump of 21-03.50 (6.49.) But close behind, Texan A'LEXUS BRANNON, 20-04.00 (6.19) with four others over the 20'0 mark. NY'er JENNIFER CLAYTON, 20-02.5 (6.16), ALITTA BOYD, 20-02 (6.14) and Tar Heel CHRISHAWN WILLIAMS, 20-01.00 (6.12.) Porter should be a lock but the competition behind her will be splendid.
The TRIPLE JUMP will feature the #'s-2-3-4-5-US headed by California's ALITTA BOYD at 42-10.50 (13.06), a distance that usually heads the country. Strangely, in a country that ordinarily dominates the jumping events; we lag ludicrously behind the rest of the world in the TJ. For instance, to make the finals of the World Junior championships, takes a jump in the neighborhood of 44' (13.41) and a US jumper rarely makes it. Why? We have outstanding coaches, great facilities and ample competitions. But, I digress, sorry. Texan A'LEXUS BRANNON, 42-00 (12.80), ASHLEY CORUM, PA, 41-09.5 (12.73) and ANDREA GEUBELLE, WA, 41-09 (12.72) round out a formidable field.
The SHOT PUT field is not as deep as usual. LAUREN CHAMBERS leads the US in the Hammer and throws the shot more as a fun event. Still, her 48-07.25 (14.81) heads the field. Teammate BREANNA RADFORD will provide some good competition as she's got a throw of 48-02.75 (14.70.) EMILY VANNOY has a best of 47-10 (14.58) and the Maryland lass would love to peel the Georgia peaches.
The DISCUS features the #2-US athlete, Golden Stater and only a soph ALEX COLLATZ, 177-00 (53.96-53.97) with Ohio's ERIN PENDLETON, 166-08 (50.81) and Wisconsin's junior JESSICA MAROSZEK, 164-08 (50.21) and North Carolinian ASLYNN HALVORSEN, 161-08 (49.28-49.29) giving chase. This gives us #'s-2-3-4-5-7, a terrific field in any event!
The JAVELIN is another solid event bringing together six of the top ten including #'s 1-2-3. KANSAS sends USL HEATHER BERGMAN, 165-06 (50.44-50.45) to Greensboro to try and b ring the gold back to OZ. Pennsylvania's DELOMA MILLER, 158-07 (48.34-48.35) and Arizona's splendid soph HANNAH CARSON, 152-11 (40.60-40.61-40.62) will try to derail the Bergman Express.
The HAMMER brings back LAUREN CHAMBERS, the only athlete past the 200' mark at 201-06 (61.42-61.43) and tantalizingly close to Maureen Griffin's hsr, 201-08 (61.46-61.47-61.48). You can bet Lauren is bringing hsr aspirations to NIKE and I think she'll go home with the record in her pocket! Understandably, no one else is close. Teammate PATRICE GATES, 177-00 (53.94-53.95) is Chamber's closest competitor.
So we have a slight shot at the record in the 800m and 2 mile and a great chance in the Hammer. How many post-season meets can even think about three records? Besides the record attempts the two days of competition promise to give you many chances to stand up and shout out encouragement to some kid you don't know. I've done it myself countless times and will do so until I head off to the HEAVENLY OLYMPICS, hopefully that won't happen for awhile. Thanks for coming and go home excited and happy. mb