THE ATHLETIC, THE TALENTED, THE GIRLS

by Mike Byrnes

Every year this article starts off by stating this is the BEST year ever for the young women competing at the season's premier competition, the year's end NSSF administered national championships. This year the meet is being sponsored by NEW BALANCE, hence the new name, THE NEW BALANCE NATIONALS. We are quite pleased and proud that NEW BALANCE has chosen to sponsor our event.

Well, when they read this preview they should be more than pleased at the overall quality of those entered. When you read this preview and see just how many of the nation's best WILL be competing in the NEW BALANCE NATIONALS, we think you'll be eagerly awaiting the results. Of course, if you're fairly close by, c'mon down!

THE SPRINTS: (100, 200, 400) There was a time when a sub-12.00 performance was noteworthy. Thjose days are gone. This year the top 23 entrants surpass that standard lead by OCTAVIOUS FREEMAN's 11.16. This puts this talented junior .30 ahead of #2 LAQUISHA JACKSON. But remember, many, if not most, of these kids have never met anyone nearly as good as they. Going head to head with the other lanes filled with those similar to you in terms of ability sometimes leads to an upset or two. Over 200m Freeman is still the leader but a young woman from the Virgin Islands, ALLISON PETER will challenge. A mere stride, 23.19-23.29, separates the two. In the long dash, DIAMOND DIXON's 52.92 heads the list with with BRIANA NELSON, 53.29 and SANURA ELEY O'REILLY, 53.43 set to challenge.

The 800m is, in the word of the late Doug Speck, "AWESOME!" Think of this, a time close to 2:10 will probably NOT make the first heat! That time ranks #13-US. The USL, AMY WEISSENBACH, 2:07.52 heads one of the best, if not THE best 800m field ever at the Nationals. Junior KIMBERLY MacKAY, 2:07.75, BRITTNEY JACKSON, 2:08.10 will lead the chase. Look for a time somewhere under 2:05 to take the gold and the ring that goes with it. RING? What ring?" The NSSF award a ring symbolic of the National Champion to the winner of each race, including the relays. The cost? Forget it. A NEW BALANCE NATIONAL champion deserves to be treated like one.

THE MILE may see a challenge to Sarah Bowman's meet record, 4:36.95, still the fastest ever run in high school competition. In what may be the fastest field in the meet, eleven under 4:50, several have the ability to run that fast. The problem, will someone have the courage to go out fast enough. An opening lap above 70 won't get the job done. Whomever breaks the record has to hit the 3/4 mark close to, or under 3:30 and have splendid finishing ability. But this field has SEVERAL that can do the job. MADELEINE MEYERS, 4:40.73c is the USL but that appellation in this meet doesn't mean too much. When one runs this fast, there usually isn't too much competition. That's what makes the NEW BALANCE NATIONALS such a great meet, ALL THE BEST ARE HERE, THEY COMPETE HEAD TO HEAD and THE CREAM WILL RISE TO THE TOP.

THE TWO MILE appears to be a "WOW! I don't believe it!" type event. The top runner, MEGAN GOETHALS, 10:00.15m appears to be head-and-shoulders above the field. But that's based on times and ignores competitiveness. Behind her you have AISLING CUFFE, 10:08.19, EMILY LIPARI, 10:14.00 but possessed of a truly formidable kick and the Stevens' sisters, 10:12.21 and 10:16.03 but rarely tested o one has no idea of how fast they can run in a competitive race, and the ever-present LIPARI, 10:14.00. Should they all contest the two mile we could definitely see a sub-10:00 clocking. The 5000m run is rarely contested but when it is there usually results a quality performance. Frosh WESLEY FRAZIER is far-and-away the class of the field but, again, that's based merely on time, 16:48.47 with all others over the 17:00 mark.

THE 100mH race will see a new USL mark. This meet has always had that result. Why? Rarely do top quality hurdlers face each other. At the NEW BALANCE NATIONALS most of these kids will see, for the first time, others who are as good or better than they. When that happens usually one of two things happen, 1) one of the better kids hits a hurdle and falls and/or 2) an awesome race results. Let's hope for the latter. But, the top six entrants are each from different states. This is a great way to see the aforementioned "…cream…" Frosh KENDELL WILLIAMS, 13.57 looms as the favorite but MADALAYNE SMITH, is close at 13.78. Neither has faced serious competition this past season. Now, that's easy to say BUT there are FIVE others under 14.00, none from the same state. What does that mean? THEY HAVE YET TO BE TESTED. This will be a terrific event at NEW BALANCE.

THE 400mH is always a fascinating event since very few states run the full 400m as they should and so all those who have been running at the correct distance have a huge advantage over the rest of the field. Two New York seniors, DONNA JEANTY, 59.01 and JANET MELLOR, 59.61 along with Ohio's KAILA BARBOUR, 59.88 lead the field but lurking is Kendell Williams, 60.83. Don't miss this one.

THE 2000m Steeplechase is always a mystery event. Some coaches who feel their kid has little or no chance in a flat race enter their athlete here. Sometimes it pays off. Usually it doesn't. McKINZIE SCHULZ, 6:40.11 heads the list with MARY KATE ANSELMINI, 6:44.50 the only other entrant under 6:50. BUT, there are SEVEN others under that mark. Don't miss this one, it will be fun to watch,

THE RELAYS are extremely hard to comment upon since most coaches have three/four kids who are very good in their event but not quite good enough to enter as an individual. So, they load up a relay. Or, a terrific individual, opts to run only the relays to help her/his teammates have a chance at a national title. So please forgive the sparse coverage given these events. The 4xmile event appears to be owned by The KINETIC TRACK CLUB (Saratoga Springs) . This year should be no exception.

In 4x100mR action, four teams are entered sub-47.00 with a mere .73 separating them. The surprise in the mix, TRACK EASTERN CAROLINA (Hopewell, NC) . This squad, mentored by an aspiring track coach turned successful writer, is usually noted for its male group so a female quartet could surprise. But look for two NJ squads to have the advantage along with a South Carolina foursome due to their baton familiarity. With no less than NINE teams under 1:40 the 4x200mR is wide open.

In the 4x400mR CARDOZO HS should go home wearing the watches.

The 4x800mR is always a superb competition. That event will be a dogfight between GARDEN CITY and the STOTAN TC (Fayetteville-Manlius NY) , 8:49.88 - 8:50.56.

The 800m Sprint Medley Relay (100-100-200-400) is rarely contested. It was revived at the NEW BALANCE NATIONALS and has turned into a popular event, one that is exciting and crowd pleasing. BUT, it's impossible to predict…watch for two New Jersey teams, COLUMBIA (NJ) and WALNUT HILLS (Cincinnati) although the NORTHWESTERN TC (Miami) isn't coming up from Florida for exercise.

The 1600m MEDLEY RELAY ( 200-200-400-800) has three teams under 4:00 so this race is up for grabs. Once again, the girls from Columbia are looking to add to their ring collection. One of the most anticipated competitions centers around the DMR. Three of the nation's top distance programs, FAYETTEVILLE-MANILIUS (11:37.56), SARATOGA (11:33.34) and BLACKSBURG, VA (11:35.33) will vie for the title. This race won't be decided until the last lap of the last leg and any of the three can win. All three programs are among the best, if not THE best in the nation. All are well-coached, all are loaded with talent and all know how to win. It may go down to who has the best 400m leg! Look for the national record to go. One thing to consider, if any of the three get greedy and go a bridge too far, they'll get hurt.

The SHUTTLE HURDLE RELAY will be a barnburner. Several teams are loaded but this race hinges on which team's girlscan stay patient and not hit hurdles. McDONOUGH, MD, SHEEPSHEAD BAY, NY and KELLENBERG, NY are all solid.

THE FIELD EVENTS:

The HIGH JUMP brings together six youngsters at 5"10 or better although there's only one six footer, MICHAELA PALU. Then three at 5-11 and two more at 5-10.5.

In POLE VAULT action, two Louisiana young women, MERRITT VAN GRACE VAN-METER and MORGAN LELEUX are truly outstanding. Van-Meter over at 13-08.25 with her competitor at 13-08. ELLIE McCARDWELL is an inch back.

LONG JUMPERS abound. (pun intended, sorry) with ANY ONE of the 29 entrants capable of hasving a good day and being fitted for the NEW BALANCE ring. The top entrant, A'LEXUS BRANNON has gone 20-03 but no less than eleven others have gone 19' or better. The "weakest" entrant has gone 19-00. WOW!

Brannon also leads the US in the Triple Jump with a leap of 42-00.75. There are a total of ten kids over 40'. Another superb event.

The SHOT PUT: MELISSA KURZDORFER's 49-09.5 is the top entrant with three othersover 48'.

The DISCUS has junior ALEX COLLATZ with a throw of 180-09 and oone other thrower, Wyoming's BAILLIE GIBSON close at 171-04.

Action in the HAMMER will feature SHELBY ASHE with a throw of 201-05 about nine feet better than the aforementioned Kurzdorfer.

The JAVELIN is dominated by Arizona's HANNAH CARSON. Only a junior, she's got a toss of 171-09, only 5' short of the national record.

The RACE WALK will see two Long Island kids, SUZY FARBER and AMY CHEUNG fighting it out for the NEW BALANCE ring. Farber's 7:26.40 a mere two seconds better than Cheung's 7:28.40.

That's the outlook for the distaff side of the competition. Every event will be fiercely contested and there will be plenty of AGONY and its partner ECTASY. We hope you can be there for the NEW BALANCE NATIONALS, it's an event you'll find exciting, competitive and heart breaking. See you in Greensboro!

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