Mobile Challenge of Champions, NSAF Select Meet, features outstanding athletes

by Steve Underwood

The challenges of the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic haven't kept elite HS track & field athletes from flocking to the Mobile Challenge of Champions in Mobile, AL this weekend. The prep season is rolling in Alabama and meet director Steve Schoenwald has kept the Challenge going by observing COVID-19 protocols and building on the meet's great legacy with another great field of outstanding athletes. The Challenge has been an NSAF Select Meet for many years and the Foundation has been proud to support it.

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The Challenge will honor and greatly misses Walter Pinion, the veteran photographer, announcer and coach who beautifully photographed and called races at the meet for many years. Walter passed away in a tragic accident at home in 2020. He was a much loved friend of the meet and of the NSAF. Thank you, Walter, and we miss you.

While the numbers for the Open section of the meet Friday were limited by pandemic restrictions, the Invitational division by nature of it's traditional small, but elite fields is close to full strength. Steve Schoenwald has assembled some great fields in the sprints, distances, jumps, throws and relays -- mainly with athletes from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Here are some of the leading entries cited by the meet director:

  • Christian Balcer, boys 1 Mile/800m - East Central MS senior blasted a 4:12.41 1,600m PR less than 2 weeks ago. He won his 2nd state XC title last fall, then ran indoor PRs of 4:17.75 1,600m and 9:11.22 3,200m.
  • Halyn Senegal, gilrs 800m/400m - Louisiana Indoor D1 state champ improved her PR to 2:10.84 outdoors last weekend. She also had 2021 bests of 24.80 200m and 55.43 400m.
  • Chanice Spicer, girls 100m/200m/LJ - The Brewbaker Tech, AL sr and Alabama commit has new PRs of 11.48 100m, 23.44 200m and 54.45 400m. She swept state 60m and 400m indoors.
  • Raven Nunnery, girls 100m/200m - A John Curtis, LA sr and Houston commit, she has ripped sprint PRs of 11.38 and 23.42 for 100m/200m this spring. Won 60m and 400m state titles indoors.
  • Jekovan Rhetta, boys 100m/200m - Another Alabama commit, the Parker AL senior is chasing the 10.50w/10.57 PRs he set as a soph at NBNO. Great indoor season with 6.72 60m PR the highlight.
  • Ariel Pedigo, girls javelin/high jump/100H/long jump - The Parkview Baptist LA senior is a 5,000-point heptathlete waiting to happen. She has a 4,284 best from before the pandemic. She's thrown the jav 142-3, long jumped 19-5.75 and high jumped 5-10 for the adidas title.
  • Jackson Rhimes, boys javelin - The Catholic HS, LA senior is currently US#2 in the jav with his new 202-4 PR. He has several other meets between 198-201. Back in 2019, he was 4th in the NSAF American JavFest, throwing 199-9 as a soph.
  • Brandon Green, boys triple jump - The Ruston LA junior has exploded to a 50-3 PR this spring already. He was state champ indoors at 48-11.5.
  • Hagen Ledrew, boys shot put/discus - Fast-rising senior improved his shot from 45-9 to 54-1.75 indoors and is now at 57-10 outdoors.
  • Emery Prentice and Heather Abadie, girls pole vault - Should be a great battle in girls PV between these Louisiana standouts who each went 13-9 at the Mac Vault Academy meet in January. Abadie, a St. Michael sr and Texas A&M commit, also won the state indoor title at 13-5.25. Prentice was 2nd at state, but then leapt 13-7.25 for 2nd at the adidas meet.
  • Camrun Norman and Malik Johnson, boys high jump - Norman (Hattiesburg, MS sr) is a 7-footer with a 6-10 backup, while Johnson (Phenix City Central, AL sr) is a state indoor champ who has done 6-8 numerous times.
  • The relays are always sizzling and exciting at Mobile, but maybe the boys' 4x800 will be best. Ruston LA's 7:53 crew will be there, while Alabama schools Hoover and Auburn should challenge as sub-8:00 quartets as well.


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