by Mike Byrnes
As I sit here, bleeding slightly from a major tooth extraction earlier in the day, I look at Jim Spier's Performance List and am almost awed by what I see. This nation's young athletes will surely serve us well in future World Championships and Olympic Games. The talent is impressive.
This year's NEW BALANCE NATIONALS will see these top quality youngsters compete for the title, NEW BALANCE NATIONAL CHAMPION and the ring that goes with the title. Below I'll attempt to give you a brief look at just who's who in the vast world that is high school track and field in the United States.
THE 100, 200, 400 - Two juniors, SHEROID EVANS, 10.39-20.82 and MILES SHULER-FOSTER, 10.39 lead the sprint group with FUQUAWN GREENE, 10.43-21.16 challenging. JOSH MANCE, 45.90 will be severely tested by indoor sensation BRADLEY GEHRET, 46.39. Two others are also sub-47. The best field in a meet loaded with such events.
THE 800m: could see a challenge, although slight, to Michael Granville's hsr, 1:46.45 set back in 1996. There are always difficulties with seeding. Inevitably there will be coaches with legitimate concerns, their kid won't make the top heat but he's beaten two of the kids that did. Valid complaint. Problem? The committee can't possibly know all these nuances. Believe me, the committee wants the BEST kids to run head to head. The most embarassing thing for a committee is to from a slower section win the whole thing. Case in point, several years ago a youngster from, I think, Wyoming had won his state meet at 1:55, not nearly fast enough for the first or even second section. Then it was found he'd run in a near blinding snowstorm. How does the group make an adjustment? We tried moving their kid from the 4th section to the second. His winning time from the second section, in under 1:50 (!) placed him second overall. Would he have won had he run in the first section? Fortunately his coach did not rant about his kid had been cheated. Who knows? It was pointed out to the coach his kid had run unimpeded the entire race, always on the pole, never jostled at the start…forget it. Had he run in the fast section he would have won. the coach KNEW. Maybe. But I digress. Sorry. There are two kids under 1:50, USL SEAN KRINIK, 1:48.20 and CHRIS FITZ SIMMONS, 1:49.80. To get the record, or ANY distance mark in a meet like this, requires someone to take it out. Otherwise, it becomes a tactical race with everyone in the race with 200m to go and the one with the best finish wins. But…isn't that the point?
THE MILE mile offers a rare chance for GREATNESS. This field, absolutely loaded, has several young men capable of running sub-4:00. Yes, I KNOW that's big statement but take a look at the field: JAKE HURYSZ, 4:04.98c; ALEX HATZ, 4:05.50; ELIAN GEYDON, 4:05.80c; and EIGHT others under 4:10! But here's the rub…to run a sub-4:00 a kid has to plan on a 2:00 flat half, then pick it up to maintain through 3:00-3:02m and then come in at 56-58. Can they do it? ABSOLUTELY. Do THEY think they can do it? Aye, there's the rub. I'll never forget Marty Liquori commenting to me after his 3:59.8, "I heard 3:00 at the 3/4 and thought, I've run so many sub-60 440's, I KNEW I could run one more." He did and became immortal. Will one of these great high schoolers have those kinds of guts? To once again quote the immortal bard, "Tis a consummation dcevotely to be wished." (Ed Note: To those who have doubts about this countries future in the mile, the 29th seed, 29th - 4:13.92.)
The TWO MILE is as good, maybe better than the mile. Nine runners under 9:00! with four more sub-9:02! Only two, leaders JERAMY ELKAIM and JOE ROSA from the same state. Two Californians (expected) and two from Tennessee (UNexpected) head the field. The top thirteen hail from ten different states!
The rarely run 5000m has some wonderful talent lead by MATT MIZERECK, 14.25.99 less than second ahead of #2, LANE WESLEY, 14:26.92.
The 110m features Florida's EDDIE LOVETT far ahead of the #2 kid, KEYUNTA HAYES, 13.46 -13.71. There are TEN sub-14.00 so this should be a great one. The 400mH event is hampered by too many people doubting our high school kids ability to run the full 400m, an insult to the abilities of the American hurdlers. Still, we have two under 53, ROY SMITH and BARRY BETHEA, 52.40 - 52.89. JAMAL McCLENDON is right behind. This could see some one dip under 51.00. Now these kids will go mano a mano and I expect a sub 51.0 performance.
The 2000m Steeplechase is too regional for much predicting. More states have to come on board, the talent is there, Coaches, let's bring it out!
THE RELAYS will be exciting. Why no lengthy predictions? No one knows who's team is loaded. So, let's let them play it out on the track.
One I will mention, the 4x800mR. Two upstate New York squads, WARWICK TC and LIVERPOOL TC along with Connecticut's HAMDEN TC can all go close to 7:30. That's HSR country. Definitely NOT the time to take soda break.
HIGH JUMP: North Carolina, two Mississippians, Georgia and Indiana all have kids over 7-01 or better with Tanner's 7-03.25 leading. This has ALWAYS been a stellar event at this meet. Could we see a 7-05 jump? Don't count the kids out.
The POLE VAULT offers a stunning competition. ANDREW IRWIN leads the way at 17'06.25 with no one close. Well, maybe. Two over at 16-09 including the CHRIS UHLE and PAUL MAlQUIST, CHRIS' brother JOEY at 16-08. Over the years we've learned whomever is "hot" on competition will win. Check it out.
The LONG JUMP will be tight. COREY CRAWFORD has the best jump, 25-00.50 but if CARLTON LAVONG, 24-08.5 can overcome constant foul problems, he could surprise. JERROD SAMUELS, 24-10 will make his presence felt.
In TRIPLE JUMP action, the aforementioned LAVONG has a 51-0 performance and, according to his coach, the famed "Doctor Jumps" ARNIE SHIFFRIN has had two fouls close to 52'! BUT…they don't count.
The SHOT PUT: DUSTIN BRODE is the leader at 71-06.5. Now THAT'S a serious throw and one would have to be at their best to beat it. Well, Brode stands ready and willing to take on any and all who think they can beat him. THAT'S the mark of a champion.
The DISCUS has two young men from Illinois, BRANDON NOE and ALEX THOMPSON fighting for the #1 spot. Noe, 203-07 and Thompson, 201-06 exemplify the best our sport has to offer. But with four others at 196-06 or better, they'd best be at THEIR best.
The HAMMER crown is presently worn by ALEC FALDERMEYER, 235-00 with DAVIS FRAKER, 229-09 closing in. At the NEW BALANCE NATIONALS only one will go home wearing the ring. This is an event that is growing in stature every year. I can recall when the event was almost the sole province of the Rhode Island contingent. Today one has to head to Georgia to find the quality coaching to establish a group such as Mike Judge's "Throw It Deep." Athletes from that club hold down six of the top eight spots nationally!
The JAVELIN has had its share of problems. Too many serious accidents have caused its removal from too many high school programs. As a result, many of the top throwers hail from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, strange since many of the accidents took place within those two entities. This year KALEB ZUIDEMA comes to Greensboro with a throw of 224-01 with CHRIS CARPER close behind at 223-09. Out of Texas comes self-taught (they don't have the event in Texas) defending champion DEVIN BOGERT, 221-08.
Most meets eschew the RACE WALK. Well gang, I've got news, the gold medals in the Olympic Race Walking events look the same, feel the same and weigh the same as those for the 100m, steeplechase or pole vault. We're proud the NEW BALANCE NATIONALS contests the Race Walk and Yes, the awards are the same as for any other event. Who'll wear the ring? The leading entrant, VINCENT EVAN, 7:00.19 way ahead of the rest of the field. I coached two Olympians in the Race Walking events, DAN O'CONNELL and STEVE HAYDEN. Dan paid me one my greatest compliments when, giving a talk at a coach's convention he said, "I owe a lot to Coach Byrnes. He taught me the meaning of pain." I'm proud of that and, on that note, I'll close this preview. See you in Greensboro!