High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: delaware

Press Release

NEW YORK CITY (May 16, 2012)—Josh Lampron and Ben Malone, who own the two fastest 1500-meter times in the nation so far this season, are among 16 top high school athletes added to the fields for the adidas Dream 100 and adidas Dream Mile at the adidas Grand Prix on June 9, organizers have announced.

Also headlining the roster are Ajee Wilson, the 2011 World Youth Champion at 800 meters, and freshman sensation Alexa Efraimson, the first freshman ever invited to a Dream event.

The Dream 100 and Dream Mile are again destined to be among the most hotly contested events at the adidas Grand Prix on June 9. In its eighth year as one of the premier track-and-field events in the world, the adidas Grand Prix, at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island, will feature dozens of Olympic medalists and World Champions, including Yohan Blake, the reigning 100-meter World Champion, and David Rudisha, the 800-meter World Record-holder, who will be making his U.S. debut. The event will again be the sixth stop on the international Samsung Diamond League circuit and is part of the Visa Championships Series. Tickets are now available at adidasgrandprix.com or by calling 1-877-849-8722.

Lampron, a senior from Mansfield, Mass., last weekend ran 3:45.74 for 1500 meters at a meet in Boston, among the top-20 high school times in U.S. history and the fastest in the nation since 2009. The 2011 national champion in the mile, Lampron is a three-time state champion and will attend Villanova University in the fall.

Malone, a junior from Hillsdale, N.J., is the 2012 National Indoor Champion at 800 meters and holds U.S. high school indoor records for a junior at 800 meters (1:49.94) and 1000 meters (2:23.56). On Monday, he ran the #2 time in the U.S. at 1500 meters, 3:49.84.

A senior from Neptune, N.J., Wilson is one of the top high school athletes in New Jersey history. Currently ranked #2 in the nation at 800 meters, she finished the 2012 indoor season ranked #1 at both 600 and 800 meters. A qualifier for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Wilson will attend Florida State University.

Efraimson, of Camas, Wash., has run 4:23.41 for 1500 meters already this season to rank #4 on the U.S. list, and her time of 2:08.92 for 800 meters is #7. She finished 14th at cross country nationals last fall.

Also accepting invitations to the Boys’ Dream Mile are Jacob Burcham, a junior from Ona, W. Va.; who finished seventh at 1500 meters in the 2011 World Youth Championships in 3:46.55, the fastest time by a U.S. prep last year; Brannon Kidder, a senior from Lancaster, Ohio, a four-time state track champion ranked #4 in the U.S. at 1600 meters who is headed to Penn State University; Craig Nowak, a senior from Cypress, Tex., who is a five-time 5A state champion, ranks #2 at 1600 meters and #3 at 3200 meters, and will attend Oklahoma State University; and Craig Engels, a senior from Pfafftown, N.C., ranked in the top 10 at the mile (#3), 1500 meters (#4), and 3200 meters (#10). Engels was the 2012 Penn Relays Mile Champion in front of Burcham, the runner-up, and Malone, who placed third. He will attend North Carolina State University.

Joining Wilson and Efraimson in the Girls’ Dream Mile will be Haley Pierce, a senior from Wilmington, Del., the 15-time State Champion ranked #3 at 3200 meters and #4 at 1600 meters who will attend Georgetown University; Angel Piccirillo, a senior from Homer Center, Penn., who is a two-time state Gatorade Cross-Country Athlete of the Year, a seven-time State Champion, ranks #2 in the mile and will attend Villanova University; Amy-Eloise Neale, a junior from Snohomish, Wash., six-time Washington 3A State Champion ranked #4 in the mile and #6 at 1500 meters; and Paige Rice, a sophomore from St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Ore., the 6A Oregon Cross Country State Champion ranked #4 in the U.S. at 1500 meters.

Burcham, Wilson, Pierce, Piccirillo and Neale are all making return Dream Mile appearances.

Joining the field of the adidas Boys’ Dream 100 are Raymond Bozmans of Fort Collins, Colo., a senior ranked #3 in the U.S. at 100 meters and #5 at 200 meters who is the 2012 Arcadia Invite Champion and will attend Texas Christian University on a football scholarship; and Khalfani Muhammad of Sherman Oaks, Calif., a junior who is the 2012 Mt. SAC champion at both 100 and 200 meters and 2011 state runner-up in both distances.

Added to the adidas Girls’ Dream 100 are Kali Davis-White of Lauderdale Lake, Fla., a junior ranked #4 in the U.S. and 2012 Florida State 4A runner-up at both 100 and 200 meters to the previously announced Shayla Sanders; and Destinee Gause of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, a senior who is the 2012 National Indoor Champion at 200 meters and is ranked #5 at 100 meters. The 2011 Ohio State Champion at 100 and 200 meters, she will attend the University of Florida.

Fields for the Dream Mile and Dream 100 are being drawn from the winners of three qualifying meets in the adidas Golden Stripes series, as well as from at-large bids. The first meet, the adidas Meet of Champions, was held on March 24, followed by the Kansas Relays in Lawrence, Kan., April 19-21. Next up is the Golden South Classic in Orlando, Fla., on May 26. In addition to the opportunity to compete in a world-class international track event, athletes in the Dream Mile and Dream 100 will also have the chance to receive coaching from mile legend Jim Ryun.

All of the latest news, photos and additional information on the event can be found at adidasgrandprix.com, the event’s pages on Facebook at facebook.com/adidasGrandPrix and on Twitter at twitter.com/adidasGrandPrix. When tweeting, use #agpny. For even more coverage on the Dream Mile and Dream 100, visit adidasgoldenstripes.com.


Sara Hunninghake, Global Athletics & Marketing

Record setters Tatnall, Cain share limelight

April, 27, 2012
Mary Cain Mile Penn 2012John Nepolitan/ESPNHSMary Cain raises her arms to celebrate victory in the girls mile on Thursday at the Penn Relays.

PHILADELPHIA – Haley Pierce and Mary Cain continued to cement their status as legends at the historic Penn Relays on Thursday at Franklin Field.

During an electric evening of racing for some of the country’s premier girls distance runners, Pierce and her Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) teammates smashed the Penn Relays record in the distance medley relay by more than five seconds, clocking 11 minutes, 28.86. That’s No. 3 all-time, trailing only the times Harvard-Westake (Calif.) and Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) posted at last year’s New Balance Nationals.

Pierce, who anchored the victory with a 4:42.8 split, had made the difficult decision to push her chips in with her teammates rather than try to duplicate her stunning 3,000-meter victory over Aisling Cuffe last year.

She had no regrets.

“It was kind of a hard choice at first,” Pierce said. “I thought I could really go after the 3,000, but the more I thought about it, the relay had such strong competition this year and we had three or four girls in position to run that (and win). It wasn’t that hard to decide once I thought about it. I’m really happy.”

North Shore (N.Y.) threw down the gantlet early, with Brianna Nerud gapping the field quickly and turning a scintillating opening leg of 3:26.7 for the 1,200 – and Penn Relays record split. Only four women in the college DMR championship race ran faster than Nerud did on the lead-off leg.

Tatnall Penn Relays
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSTatnall teammates Haley Pierce, Reagan Anderson, Julie Williams and Lindsey Voltz hold prized Penn Relays trophy after winning the DMR.
When she handed off the baton, Nerud had her team up by nine seconds.

But Tatnall’s Reagan Anderson ran a solid 3:35.7, and then Lindsey Voltz made up four seconds with a 57.8 split on the 400. Then, on the 800-meter leg, Julie Williams stalked North Shore’s Elizabeth Caldwell and ran 2:12.5, a whopping five seconds faster than her PR.

Williams put the baton in Pierce’s hand a half step behind North Shore’s Samantha Nadel. It was a perfect spot to be. North Shore’s lead and confidence were evaporated. Pierce remained tucked comfortably behind Nadel for a lap and then couldn’t resist going around her and pulling away.

“It was a perfect setup,” Pierce said. “At first I wanted to stay relaxed and just kick (at the end), but I felt good and I didn’t want to regret staying behind just because.”

North Shore finished second in 10:39.29.

A kick to ‘mess with’

As Tatnall celebrated its victory, Cain, the sensational sophomore from Bronxville, N.Y. dropped a devastating last-lap 62.5 to tear away from all contenders in a loaded girls mile. She finished in 4:39.28, breaking the meet record and moving to No. 7 on the all-time list. It is the fastest full mile ever for a sophomore, although Jordan Hasay ran a 1,600 that converts to 4:39.13 in 2007.

Cain bolted off the starting line and led the first lap but then two-time defending champ Angel Piccirillo of Homer Center (Homer City, Pa.) refused to yield and surged to the lead.

“Angel was amazing,” Cain said. “She was an angel to me. I wanted to go out and lead it, but she was going with me that whole time. She took the lead on the second lap and had it in the third. But with 600 (left) I was like ‘No, I want this so bad.’”

Cain ramped up her speed and sailed away from Piccirillo and everyone else.

“I got a kick to mess with,” Cain said. “That last 400, (I thought) just kill it.”

Piccirillo was second in 4:47.49 – running faster than she did in her wins in 2010 and 2011. Samantha George of Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) was third in 4:48.11 and Ajee Wilson of Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) was fourth in 4:52.89.

Lake Braddock 1-3 in 3K

Right after Cain’s heroics, Sophie Chase of Lake Braddock (Burke, Pa.) ran a lifetime best 9:37.86 to win the 3,000 meters. And perhaps more surprising was that her sophomore teammate, Hannah Christen, was right behind her, finishing third in 9:42.97.

It was a seven-second PR for Chase, a junior, and a breakthrough 17-second PR for Christen.

“I’m so proud of her,” Chase said of Christen. “It was great experience for us to be able to do it together.”

Tori Gerlach of Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.) nosed ahead of Christen for second, with 9:42.92.

LB Poly, Wakefield vs. Jamaicans

The bulk of the day’s action on the track was devoted to 4x100s and 4x400s, events that Jamaican schools have used to stamp their collective identity on the Penn Relays.

But a couple of U.S. sprints powers also were formidable during Thursday’s qualifying action. Long Beach Poly, the 2011 Penn champion, turned the fastest 4x100 relay of the day, clocking 46.39 seconds. Edwin Allen (Jamaica) ran 46.45 and Wakefield (N.C.) was third-fastest with 47.17.

Of the eight teams qualifying for the championship final, five hail from Jamaica, three from the U.S.
In the 4x400, Wakefield got a 54.7 anchor split from Ariah Graham and put together a US#6 time of 3:46.64. That was the second-fastest time of the day, trailing Jamaica power Holmwood Tech’s 3:45.58. The championship final will feature four U.S. teams and four Jamaican teams.

The split of the day belonged to Shaunae Miller of St. Augustine’s (Bahamas), who ran a blistering second leg of 51.7 for her team.

In the 4x800 relay, Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) clocked a US#1 9:04.21 to set up a championship showdown with Jamaica’s Edwin Allen, which led qualifying by winning its heat in 8:58.51.

In the 400-meter hurdles, Alexis Franklin of Old Mill (Millersville, Md.) won the first high school championship of the day by running US#1 59.05 seconds.

In the field events, there seemed to be a Pennsylvania vs. Jamaica theme. The home state collected three victories and Jamaicans four.

Rachel Fatherly of Williamsport, Pa. won the shot put with 47-5, Christine Streisel of Tamaqua, Pa. won the javelin with 154-11 and Larisa Debich of Hempfield Area, Pa. won the pole vault by clearing 12-5.50.

Meanwhile, Chanice Porter of Manchester won the long jump at 19-5.50, Shardia Lawrence of Vere Tech won the triple jump with 40-8.25, Danniel Thomas of Edwin Allen led a 1-5 Jamaican sweep in the discus with 167-4 and Kimberly Williamson of Edwin Allen leapt 6-0 to win the high jump.

Top 10 storylines for the 118th Penn Relays

April, 25, 2012
Penn girls mileJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSThe intensity should be sky-high when two-time Penn girls' mile champ Angel Piccirillo tries to defend against superstars Ajee' Wilson and Mary Cain.


Everything about the Penn Relays is huge – from the crowd, the numbers of athletes, to the tradition. The 118th Penn Relays features 33 hours of competition and an average of one race every five minutes.

Here is a closer look at 10 of the top high school storylines this week at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.

  1. The Boys Distance Medley Relay: This has the makings of a classic, with two sensational New Jersey teams going at it. Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.), the consummate team (2011 NXN champion), led by senior George Kelly, is trying to become the first U.S. repeat champion since Bishop Loughlin’s four-year run from 1949-52. Meanwhile, St. Benedict’s has Foot Locker champion Edward Cheserek on the anchor leg, a prospect that throws CBA’s title defense into serious doubt. St. Benedict’s won the New Balance National Indoor title, with Cheserek going 4:07.4 on the anchor. A third New Jersey team, Piscataway, could be a factor with Tim Ball on the anchor leg.
  2. The Girls Mile: On the face of it, Olympic Trials hopefuls Ajee Wilson of Nepture, N.J. and Mary Cain of Bronxvile, N.Y., are the headliners. They faced one another in the 800 meters at New Balance Nationals Indoor, with Wilson taking the title. Wilson ran 2:05.28 for 800 meters last week at Princeton. Cain is the sophomore class record holder in the indoor 1,500 and is coming in off a 2:05.90 800 meters at the New York Relays. But the homestate girl, Angel Piccirillo of Homer Center, cannot be overlooked. She is a two-time defending champion in this event and will do all she can to defend her turf. This fast lineup also includes Kelsey Margey of Friends Academy (N.Y.), a future teammate of Piccirillo’s.
  3. The Boys Mile: This one could be a blockbuster, too. Cabell Midland (Ona, W.V.) standout Jacob Burcham is the top returnee after placing third last year as a sophomore. But this race could have everything to do with closing speed, and Ben Malone of Pascack Valley (Hillsdale, N.J.) and Drew Magaha of Upper Moreland (Willow Grove, Pa.) have shown raw speed. Malone ran 1:49.94 to win the NB Nationals Indoor title. Magaha is the hottest runner in the country right now, coming in off a 1:48.82 last week. How sweet would a win at Penn be for him? Magaha is a University of Pennsylvania recruit and Franklin Field is about to become home. Also, Millrose and U.S. Open champ Zavon Watkins (Liverpool, N.Y.) could be in the mix when the big push begins.
  4. Boys 4x800 relay: Can Chariho (Wood River Junction, R.I.) or Boys and Girls (Brooklyn, N.Y.) win another big championship? One of the biggest surprises of New Balance Nationals Indoor was Chariho, which won the 4xMile. B&G, meanwhile, won the 4x800 national indoor title. Challenges will come from Cabell Midland (W.V.), Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.) and Jamaica’s Holmwood Tech.
  5. Girls Distance Medley Relay: Two of the top distance programs in the U.S. go head-to-head with lineups chocked full of Division I talent. The Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) boasts Haley Pierce, the reigning Penn Relays 3,000 champ, and talented junior Reagan Anderson. North Shore counters with the one-two punch of Samantha Nadel, coming back from an injury, and Brianna Nerud.
  6. Girls 4x100 relay: Defending champion Long Beach Poly (Calif.) is the only U.S. school to break the Jamaican hold on this event going back to 1982. Poly also won in 1995 and 2003. If there is another U.S. contender, it may be Wakefield (N.C.), which has senior anchor Ariah Graham and owns the US#1 4x200 (1:35.98).
  7. Girls 4x800 relay: The reigning DMR champions, Fayetteville-Manlius is pushing its chips into the event it won at New Balance Nationals Indoor. The quartet of Katie Sischo, Jillian Fanning, Heather Martin, and Katie Breslin ran 8:58.18 at the Armory in March.
  8. The 4x400s: There are hour upon hour of 4x4s, a spectacle unto itself. The girls from Vere Tech in Jamaica have won the event 10 times but could be pressed by U.S. teams from Wakefield, N.C. and Long Beach Poly (Calif). The boys event could be dominated by Jamaica yet again. Munro College has run 3:12.32 this season already. Calabar won the Jamaican championships with 3:10.19. Boys and Girls (N.Y.) and St. Peter’s (N.J.), featuring Najee Glass, are the top U.S. contenders.
  9. Boys 3,000: This event doesn’t have a lot of marquee names, but there is an opportunity here for someone to seize a big moment. Adam Visokay of Albemarle, Va. has run 9:00.06 indoors for two miles and will face competition from Connor Rog (Ct.), Sam Parsons (Del.), Tom Awad (N.Y.) and Eric Holt (N.Y.).
  10. Boys Shot Put: For four years in a row, Nick Vena won the boys shot put for New Jersey’s Morristown High School. This year, Vena will vie for his first college title at Penn (against the likes of Ryan Crouser), opening the door to a new high school champ. Braheme Days of Bridgetown, N.J. threw 70-8 indoors, won the national indoor title, and looks like the heir apparent to the Penn title.

Devon Allen shines brightest at Arcadia

April, 8, 2012
Arcadia Allen Brophy John Nepolitan/ESPNHSDevon Allen stretches for the finish line at the end of the 200 meters on Saturday at the Arcadia Invitational.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The maximum number of events an athlete can enter at the Arcadia Invitational is four.

No one apparently told Devon Allen, because he won five times over two days at the country's biggest in-season high school track meet. And if he happened to step into a sixth or seventh event, he might have won those too.

The junior from Brophy Prep (Phoenix) was unstoppable over two days at Arcadia, earning four gold medals Saturday on top of the one he picked up Friday. Allen ran the second leg on Brophy Prep’s winning 4x100 relay team (41.15), swept the hurdles races (13.52 in the 110s, 36.39 in the 300s), and also beat an elite field in the 200 (21.10).

The hurdles performances were both Arizona all-time records. On Friday, Allen had anchored the shuttle hurdles relay – crashing on the final barrier and then getting back to his feet to complete his team’s win.

Allen was named the outstanding boys performer of the meet, although his victory in his fifth event (the 200) may be vacated from the meet records because of the four-event limit.

“I came here feeling pretty confident about the hurdles and I thought our 4-by-1 team could win if we had good hand-offs,” Allen said. “In the 200 I just wanted to run fast.”

He is the first male athlete to win three individual events at Arcadia since Xavier Carter (2003).

Records bonanza in 3,200

More history was made in the meet’s signature event, the boys 3,200, where 16 runners charged across the finish line in less than nine minutes and six state records were broken.

Over a dramatic final lap, unheralded Bernie Montoya kicked into high gear and rocketed past Futsum Zeinasellassie with about 280 to go.

The Nike Cross National champ was momentarily stunned to see Montoya cruise past him and gathered himself to make a final attempt at the win. Zeinasellassie caught Montoya with 80 meters left and pulled clear, taking the win in 8:47.75.

It turns out Zeinasellassie and Montoya connected at NXN in Portland. They met at breakfast and then warmed up and cooled down together after the cross country championship, which Zeinasellassie won (Montoya was 12th).

“I just got this adrenaline rush,” said Montoya, who PR’d by 34 seconds. “Me and Futsum are good friends. I was so excited to get past him and maybe win this, but he got me in the end.”

Said Zeinasellassie: “When he went by me I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Is that (Montoya) or somebody else?’ I couldn’t respond to that (surge). I had to hope he would die a little bit in the last 100.”

State records tumbled in Indiana (Zeinasellassie), Arizona (Montoya 8:48.25), North Dakota (Jake Leingang 8:51.23), Montana (Zach Perrin 8:55.24), Idaho (Dallin Farnsworth 8:55.28) and Delaware (Sam Parsons 9:00.61). Zeinasellassie took down a Rudy Chapa equivalent two-mile record from the mid-1970s to set a new mark in the Hoosier state.

Forty-six boys broke 9:20 in the invitational and seeded sections of the event, including sophomore Blake Haney of Stockdale, Calif., who was seventh in the invitational race in 8:54.65, and freshman Elijah Armstrong of Pocatello, Idaho, who was third in the seeded race in 9:04.78.

Baxter repeats as girls 3,200 champ

Simi Valley sophomore Sarah Baxter led wire-to-wire to defend her Arcadia title in the girls 3,200, pulling away from Marina’s Laura Hollander in the final 300 meters to win in 10:08.02. She earned the girls’ athlete of the meet award.

Baxter ran a 4:52 anchor leg for Simi Valley in a second-place finish in Friday’s 4x1600 relay.

On Saturday, Baxter, Hollander and North Central (Spokane, Wash.) junior Katie Knight pulled away from the field by the start of the third lap. Those three were together for laps 3-4-5-6 before Knight fell off the pace.

Hollander, from Huntington Beach, Calif., has shaved more than a minute off her PR in the past year.

In the girls mile, Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak (Snohomish, Wash.) won her second straight title by running 4:51.43. Neale went through the first 400 in 72 seconds and staked a 10-meter lead on the field. On the second and third laps, fellow Washingtonian Maddie Meyers, the 2010 champ, moved up to challenge Neale, but then fell back again. Less than an hour later, Neale returned to the track and ran the 800, kicking too late to challenge winner Savannah Camacho of Templeton (Calif.), who won in 2:07.61. Neale was second in 2:10.00.

Illinois duo Aaliyah Brown and Shamier Little dominated the girls individual sprints. Brown won the 100 easily (11.48) and outleaned Long Beach Poly’s Arianna Washington to win a close 200 (23.96 to 23.97).

“It feels really good to run some good times. I’ve been trying to bust a 23 for over two years now,” Brown said.

Little, of Lindblom (Chicago), won the 400 in 53.79 and was also fifth (100) and third (300) in the hurdles races.

While Long Beach Poly’s Traci Hicks sped off with the 100 hurdles title (13.63), the 300 hurdles came down to a dramatic finish. Jordie Munford of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. and Jaide Stepter of Canyon del Oro (Tucson, Ariz.) were running side by side approaching the final hurdle when both of them lost the rhythm of their steps.

Munford reached out her hands and pushed over the final barrier and still managed to break the tape in 41.93, ahead of Stepter, who stutter-stepped before clearing the final hurdle and crossing in 42.22. Munford was disqualified, moving Stepter to first place.

Raymond Bozmans from Fort Collins, Colo. backed up his stunning early season results with a blistering 10.41-second clocking in the 100 meters. Then he returned in the 200 and finished in a near-tie with Allen.

In the 400, Champ Page of Henry Wise (Md.) ran 47.31 to beat Arnold Carrillo of McQueen (Nev.), who finished in 47.43 and Rashard Clark of Dorsey (Calif.), who posted 47.54.

Canadian Tyler Smith kept finding extra gears on the final lap of the 800, pulling away and winning the title in 1:49.23. It’s his third big 800 win in the U.S., coming on the heels of indoor wins at the Simplot Games and Brooks PR Invite.

In the mile, Brad Nye from Davis (Kaysville, Utah) replayed his victory from New Balance Nationals Indoor, summoning a kick at 300 that drove him into the lead. He held off Marcus Dickson of White River (Buckley, Wash.) to win the race in 4:08.80. Dickson, who will be his teammate at BYU, was next in 4:09.41.

Cochran PRs in the discus

Ethan Cochran of Newport Harbor, Calif. improved to 209-8 to win the discus, a mark that ranks fifth in Arcadia Invitational history and ranks US#1 this season.

“It’s exciting,” Cochran said of the early season success. “I can’t wait until the end of the year to see how it all comes together.”

Cochran is specifically targeting 213-11, which is the California state record. He also won the shot put with a best of 62-10.

Klyvens Delaunay of Claremont (Calif.) swept the horizontal jumps with wind-legal marks of 23-11.50 and 49-4.25.

Peter Chapman of Murrieta Valley (Calif.) cleared 16-6.50 to win the pole vault.

Sophomore Gabrielle Williams from Reed (Nev.), the U.S. leader in the high jump, won the event with a clearance at 5-10. Another talented Nevada sophomore, Ashlie Blake of Liberty (Las Vegas) won the shot put (49-10.5) and discus (152-5).

Freshman Margaux Jones of Redlands (Calif.) jumped 19 feet even to win the long jump, while Rachel Toliver from St. Mary’s Academy (Calif.) soared 40-3.75 to win the triple jump.

McKenzie Johnson of Clairmont (Calif.) won the pole vault at 12-7.50.

Vista Murrieta boys win DMR

The quartet of Tyler Dain, Kevin Gonzalez, Omar Solis and Porter Reddish pieced together a US#1 time of 10:08.52 to win the distance medley relay, with Reddish outkicking Centennial (Nev.) star Nick Hartle to take the win. Centennial was next in US#2 10:08.96. Those were the sixth and seventh fastest performances in meet history.

The girls distance medley also held some drama, but for a different reason. Big favorite Harvard-Westlake got a gutsy 800-meter leg from Elle Wilson, but fumbled the baton on the exchange to anchor Cami Chapus.

Two teams went flying by but Chapus reached down to grab the baton and then tore after the leaders. She dueled for three laps with Redondo Union’s Lyndsey Mull but then put her away on the final lap, bringing it home in 11:45.18. Amy Weissenbach led off with a 3:30.66 split for the 1,200.

It was a rough day for the sprinters from Wakefield (N.C.). The national indoor champions dropped the baton on the final exchange in the girls 4x100 relay. Later, Olicia Sharp pulled up with an apparent injury in the invitational 200 meters. Wakefield then withdrew from the 4x400 relay.

California schools closed the meet with victories in the 4x400. Serra anchor Chimere Ezumah tracked down St. Mary’s from behind and pulled into the lead in the last 120 meters to bring home victory in 3:47.18.

“I didn’t know if I could get her but I was like ‘I think I got a little bit left. I think I can pull it off,’” Ezumah said.

Long Beach Poly’s boys pulled out the win in the 4x400 in 3:18.55.
Charho MarsellaJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSShaker NY 4x1 mile anchor (and leader) Christian Delago looks to his right to see Chariho RI's Mike Marsella passing him.

NBNI Index

NEW YORK – To fully appreciate Chariho’s national record Saturday in the boys 4x1 Mile relay, try imagining the vantage point of longtime coach Bill Haberek, who will soon enter his 23rd season as the outdoor track head coach at the Wood River, R.I. school.

There he was, bellied up to the rail, wearing the Steve Prefontaine T-shirt , watching his first three runners log PRs and then once-in-a-career standout Mike Marsella chase Shaker (Latham, N.Y.) anchor Christian Delago with a national championship on the line.

“First of all, I wanted Mike to hold on and win the thing,” Haberek said. “Then, I’m looking at the clock and trying to savor as much as I can. I knew it was going to be close. When I saw (the time) posted, I can’t explain the emotions.”

Tiny Rhode Island doesn’t often barge into a meet like New Balance Nationals Indoor and rearrange the all-time list with a national record. But Chariho turned the stick over to Marsella within striking distance of Delago, right on time and according to plan.

“I had a feeling I’d be 15-20 meters behind the guy in first,” said Marsella, who split 4:11.7. “I just wanted to keep my eyes open and hopefully catch him with 800 meters to go. I was hoping to sit on him, but I knew we had a chance at the national record so I made a move and just had to keep going for it.”

By the time Chariho’s quartet – Dan Kilcoyne, Bryce Kelley, Jake Kilcoyne and Marsella – was kneeling next to the reader board stuck on 17:20.20, it had been nearly forgotten that the squad wasn’t even favored to win the race.

Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) was expected to be the team that pushed all of its chips into the record chase, but the Nike Cross Nationals (and defending 4x1 Mile) champs fell behind early and were barely a factor in the race.

Meanwhile, Chariho knew it had a foursome that could average close to 4:20 per mile.

“We wanted to stick on the leader and be as close as possible so I could go after him, whether it was CBA or Shaker,” Marsella said.

Dan Kilcoyne split 4:24.1 and Kelley followed that with 4:15.6. Then Jake Kilcoyne, more of a long-distance specialist, stripped six seconds off his mile PR to split 4:28.8. Marsella did the rest.

“It was crazy, absolutely crazy,” Marsella said. “I couldn’t see the time (coming around the final lap), I just knew I had to close as fast as possible. I didn’t want to leave anything out there.”

Chariho took down the 2009 record of West Windsor-Plainsboro North (N.J.), which ran 17:21.58. Shaker ran the second-fastest time in history, clocking 17:21.56.

Relays in the spotlight all day

Chariho’s record came on the heels of a near-miss by The Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) in the girls version of the same event.

With pressure coming from Saratoga Springs (N.Y.), Tatnall ran aggressively throughout and put together legs of 5:03, 5:03, 5:00 and 4:54 on the way to 20:00.97. Senior Haley Pierce, who placed second (and #2 all-time) in the 5,000 meters the night before, anchored the race and came up just a second and a half short of the national record.

Saratoga Springs, which set the record of 19:59.24 in 2005, finished second in 20:16.23 – good for No. 6 all-time.

In the 4x800 relays, much later in the day, the Armory crowd was treated to more sensational relay action. The powerhouse Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) girls ran away from the field and won in 8:58.18 – four seconds shy of the national record and No. 4 all-time. The school won the same event in 2010 and then claimed the distance medley relay last year.

NXN championship team members Katie Brislin, Katie Sischo and Jillian Fanning were joined by Heather Martin, who returned to training in January after missing out on cross country with a foot injury.

In the boys 4x800 race, Boys and Girls of Brooklyn produced the No. 2 time in history, 7:41.10, thanks to Robert Rhodes’ heroic 1:52.1 anchor. Rhodes gave it everything he had, to the delight of a roaring home crowd.

“It was all about my team,” Rhodes said. “I was not giving up this race. The whole time I was running I was thinking ‘I’ve come way too far.’ If I would have gave up, and let them pass me, I’d be ashamed of myself. I was too close and I wasn’t letting it go.”

Rhodes paid a price for his effort. He spent nearly 10 minutes doubled over, on his knees, throwing up and trying to recover. But after he and his teammates had their fingers sized for championship rings, it was all worth it.

In the boys sprint medley relay, Edward Cheserek led St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.) to its second relay title of the meet. Cheserek anchored with a 1:51.2 800 to bring the baton home in 3:25.88, for No. 4 all-time – outrunning a quartet of the nation’s best half-milers. He will try to add third and fourth titles on Sunday in the two-mile and mile.

Hillhouse (New Haven, Ct.), spurred by long sprint superstar Precious Holmes running on the third leg, won the girls sprint medley relay in 4:00.58. Her teammate Kellie Davis gradually extended the lead on her 800 anchor, then provided one of the day’s best expressions of delight at the finish.

Conley, Blankenship win marquee events

When the coach in your corner is an Olympic champion and an American record holder, it’s a little bit easier to react in the big moment and not get overwhelmed by it.

Sydney Conley made the adjustment she needed to on her sixth and final attempt to win the girls long jump with 20 feet, 1.5 inches.

Conley, of Fayetteville, Ark., said it was the first time she had ever pulled out the victory on her final attempt. She needed it because Jasmine Todd of Chandler, Ariz. had taken the lead in the fifth round with a leap of 19-11.5. Todd’s jump surpassed Javanique Burruss of Louisa County, Va., who took the early lead with a second-round 19-8.75.

There were four current 20-footers in the loaded event, including defending champ and Newton North (Newtonville, Mass.) junior Carla Forbes, who was fifth.

The boys’ pole vault competition lost some of its luster despite the presence of three vaulters who had scaled 17-6 or better this winter. Jacob Blankenship won the competition with a clearance at 17-0 and then took the bar up to 17-8.5 and missed all three attempts at that height.

Reese Watson of Spring, Texas had been nursing a quadriceps injury that he hoped would heal in time to compete. But when he tried to run on it at the start of the competition, the leg didn’t respond as he’d hoped. He ran through three times and didn’t attempt a jump.

Shawn Barber of Kingwood Park, Texas worked his way up and over 16-8 – good for second place – but couldn’t summon the energy he needed to keep pace with Blankenship.

“I was going slow,” Barber said. “(I was) trying to get up, trying to get moving. I had a hard time getting down the runway, getting upside down. I tip my hat to (Blankenship).”

Blankenship, of Lincoln (Gahanna, Ohio) had a few early misses, but then found his rhythm and made majestic first attempt clearances over 16-8 and 17 feet. It was his second NSSF title, following his triumph last June in the outdoor meet.

“At the end, sometimes you run out of adrenaline,” Blankenship said. “There was so much competition, I was worried about Reese Watson being there and Shawn Barber. That’s good for me, but maybe I kind of played it a little long. It worked out well, though.”

Blankenship has two more indoor meets scheduled (Ohio has not had its state meet yet) in which to try and surpass the national record of 17-9.75.

In the boys’ long jump, US#1 Devin Field of DeSoto, Texas won his first New Balance championship, finding a 24-footer on his fourth attempt. It wasn’t an easy day for Field, who has been suffering from back pain and also had cramping issues in his calves. He sought help from the meet trainer three times during the competition and fouled his final two attempts.

“The last jumps I tried to hide (the pain,) but I really couldn’t (go),” Field said.

The 2011 U.S. junior champion has a 25-5.75 from earlier this year. But he has been ruled ineligible to compete this spring for DeSoto because residency issues. He has transferred twice in the past year. He may be able to compete unattached in a few meets, but he will not be allowed to defend his state title in the long jump.

The nation’s top-ranked shot putters closed the deal on NBNI titles as well.

Torie Owers of Athens Academy (Georgia), part of the Throw1Deep Club’s contingent, threw a new PR of 51-0.75 to win the event as well as move to No. 11 all-time. She won by three feet.

Braheme Days, Jr. of Bridgeton, N.J. continued his dominance of the boys shot put, throwing 68-10.75 to win the competition by more than eight feet.

“It’s all about development,” Days said of his progress this winter. “I didn’t throw 70 feet today, not even close, but I’m more happy about the win. It’s my first national championship and I’m excited. A lot of guys can say I threw this far, or threw that far, but I like titles.”
Erin FinnJohn Dye/ESPNHSErin Finn moves out to a huge lead against the great national class 5k field -- which she would never relinquish.

NBNI Index

NEW YORK – Erin Finn decided that she’d had enough of driving to the lead in big races and then getting passed at the end. That happened to her in the Foot Locker XC Finals this past December and it happened again at the Brooks PR Invitational two weeks ago.

It didn’t happen on Friday.

Instead , the junior from West Bloomfield, Mich. charged to the front and kept on charging. She buried the field on the way to smashing the U.S. high school indoor 5,000 record by more than 15 seconds – crossing the finish line in 16:19.69 to win her first national championship at New Balance Nationals Indoor at The Armory. The previous record was set in this meet just last year: 16:35.15 by Waverly Neer.

“I told myself this is my chance,” Finn said. “I’ve come in second and third too many times. This is my race, my night, and everything worked out so well. God blessed me tonight, I’m so happy.”

Haley Pierce, of the Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.) – who was second at NXN and second ahead of Finn in the Brooks PR two-mile – figured there was a chance that she could stick with her evenly paced plan and catch back up to Finn. She briefly edged closer in the middle of the race, but Finn’s pressure was too relentless.

Finn opened with 2:31 for 800 meters and went through 1,600 in 5:07. She then hit a succession of laps mostly in the 39s, with just one over 40.

“I was a little disappointed that I was slowing down,” Finn said. “I think my ego got the best of me. I knew if I went out and held on as long as I could I’d (get the record).”

Pierce also had reason to think she could break through with her biggest win since last year’s 3,000 at the Penn Relays.

“I was pretty confident,” Pierce said. “I know she goes out hard, but sometimes you can pull her back in, you know? I was just trying to stay relaxed in my head. I was trying for the national record and I could win if I got the record, but (Finn) ran an amazing race so I can’t feel too bad.”

Grosse Pointe South
John Nepolitan/ESPNHSKelsie Schwartz hands to Hannah Meier during Grosse Pointe South's winning DMR.
Pierce also ran under Neer’s 2011 standard, running 16:31.86. Brianna Nerud from North Shore (Glen’s Head, N.Y.) was third in 16:43.56 and 2011 New Balance Outdoor 5,000 champ Wesley Frazier of Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.) was fourth.

Finn wasn’t the only success story from Michigan on Friday.

The girls distance medley relay squad from Grosse Pointe South (Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.), featuring junior twins Hannah and Haley Meier, chased Mountain View of Utah’s 8-year-old national record (11:35.43) and came up just four seconds short.

GPS turned in the No. 4 time in history, clocking 11:39.29 and winning by nine seconds. And it could return intact next year to make another attempt. In addition to the Meier sisters, the quartet included sophomore Kelsie Schwartz (800 meters) and freshman Ursula Farrow (400).

Hannah Meier took the final baton pass needing to run about 4:42 to get her team the record. And the mixture of adrenaline and nerves drove her to a 65-second first 400.

“There was a lot of nerves,” she said. “I felt different than I usually do before races. I just got out there pretty fast and went for it.”

Meier, who won the mile at the Brooks PR Invite two weeks ago, split 4:47.3.

The third final for girls on Friday was the high jump, and Kell, Ga. junior Kendell Williams lived up to her No. 1 ranking in the event. Williams needed a third attempt to make 5-9.25 but then cleared 5-11.25 on her first try.

Williams, who will begin the indoor pentathlon Saturday and also has the 60-meter hurdles on her plate, was able to overcome nagging discomfort in order to focus on her event and win the high jump title. She spent at least 20 minutes trying not to think about her full bladder.

“I’ve never had to high jump when I had to go to the bathroom like that,” Williams said. “I’m just glad I could still jump. I just tried not to think about it, to look at something else.”

Kendell Williams
John Dye/ESPNHSKendell Williams approaches the bar en route to HJ victory.
After outlasting 2011 runner-up Maddie Morrow of Hoover (North Canton, Ohio) and Dakota Dailey-Harris of LaSalle Academy (Providence, R.I.), Williams was given permission to leave the competition for a few minutes to address her emergency and then returned to take three attempts at 6-0.5.

In the boys DMR, the irrepressible Edward Cheserek made his first appearance in the meet a memorable one. He anchored St. Benedict’s of Newark, N.J. to the championship in 10:10.08.

Cheserek took the stick in sixth place but burned through a 54-second 400 to catch everyone in front of him and move up to the lead. From that point he ran only as hard as he needed to in order to stay in front of Piscataway’s Tim Ball.

Ball made Cheserek work for it, but the Foot Locker champ and 5,000-meter record holder had enough in the tank to bring his team the victory. He has three more events on his weekend to-do list: The sprint medley relay on Saturday and the two-mile and mile on Sunday.

The meet concluded Friday with a stirring finish in the boys 5,000. Foot Locker finalists Daniel Lennon of Peru, N.Y. and Dallin Farnsworth of Pocatello, Idaho traded the lead and neither one of them could shake the other. For 25 laps they went, not separated by more than a stride.

Lennon sped to the lead with 220 meters left and tried to put the race away but Farnsworth responded. Coming around the final curve Farnsworth slide wide and tried to make one final pass but he ran out of room and lost by less than a foot. It was Lennon in 14:37.25 and Farnsworth, the Simplot Games two-mile champion, in 14:37.32.

Lennon was gracious, calling it a “co-championship” because the race was so close.

“I got to the last 100 and started to see his shadow and thought, ‘I’ve got to go,’” said Lennon, who summoned everything he had to get to the finish line first. “I had no idea (who won). In all honesty, I thought he was going to get me. I consider it a co-championship. He closed on me faster than I closed on him and it was both of us together the whole race.”

2012 NBNI: Friday Preview and Predictions

March, 9, 2012

NBNI Index

Girls High Jump (Friday, 6 p.m.)
This should be a great battle between a trio of jumpers who have cleared 5-10 or better, led by 2011 runner-up and top returnee Madeline Morrow OH. Morrow was known last year for a big handful of great duels with fellow Ohioan Taylor Burke (2011 NBNI champ), who has now moved on to college. But she’ll hardly have the stage to herself. Multi-event star Kendell Williams GA, always a national championship threat in any one of several indoor or outdoor events, is entered here – though she recently said she might just focus on the 60H and pentathlon. The HJ has perhaps been Williams’ best event (and favorite) this year, so it would be surprising if she skipped it. If she’s here, she’ll likely battle Morrow to the final jump. A later add to the field is fast-rising Rhode Island star Dakota Dailey-Harris, coming off her New Englands title a week ago. Finally, the deep field includes 13 jumpers at 5-8 or better, so if the stars falter at the higher elevations, it could be anyone’s gold.
Top Three Picks: 1. Williams, 2. Morrow, 3. Dailey-Harris.
Winning Height: 5-11.25

Girls Distance Medley Relay (Friday, 6:10 p.m.)
The last time a powerhouse girls distance program from Michigan was a threat for a national relay title was back in the early 2000s when Rockford was fielding some of the nation’s best. Now enter the girls of Grosse Pointe South, which won the Michigan D1 state XC title (MI teams aren’t allowed to run NXN) and feature the Meier twins – both sub-4:50 milers (See Baker’s Dozen story about their record chances). There are a handful of other teams that could run in the mid-11:40s to 12:00, including LaSalle RI (US#3 11:53.36), Ocean Lakes VA, and meet-record holder Saratoga Springs (US#4 11:55.14), but it’s hard to imagine anyone beating the Michigan squad. Defending champ Fayetteville-Manlius is only running the 4x800.
Top Three Picks: 1. Grosse Pointe, 2. LaSalle, 3. Kinetic (Saratoga).
Winning Time: 11:34.50, USR

Boys Distance Medley Relay (Friday, 6:40 p.m.)
CBA NJ assistant coach Chris Bennett said Friday that their US#1 squad was pulling out of this event, better to focus on Saturday’s 4x1 Mile relay – the assault on a record taking precedence over scoring a potential sweep of the three longest relays. That leaves the door wide open for US#2 St. Benedict’s NJ to take the win, with star Ed Cheserek’s path to a potential DMR/SMR/2M/1M quadruple growing a bit easier. That’s not to say there are no other contenders. Marshfield MA with its distance duo of Kevin Thomas and Joel Hubbard, Piscataway NJ with Tim Ball, and Pembroke MA with Wesley Gallagher all have a chance to run 10:10 or better. Still, if Cheserek gets the stick within 6-8 seconds of the lead, it’s lights out.
Top Three Picks: 1. St. Benedict’s, 2. Marshfield, 3. Piscataway
Winning Time: 10:06.40, USR

Girls 5,000 (Friday, 7:10 p.m.)
The rematch of Erin Finn MI, Haley Pierce DE, and Wesley Frazier NC is the story here (see Doug Binder Story, SteveU’s Baker’s Dozen) and, as has been mentioned, Brianna Nerud NY is also highly capable of winning. If Pierce is on form, she should win, but the fact that she has been prone to an occasional collapse or major mid-race fade opens the door for anyone else. Whoever is most on their game definitely has a national record shot.
Top Three Picks: 1. Pierce, 2. Finn, 3. Nerud
Winning Time: 16:31.20, USR

Boys 5,000 (Friday, 7:55 p.m.)
There aren’t going to be any record chases this year, but the 5k should still be a very good competitive race with national class talent. Dallin Farnsworth ID and Dustin Wilson PA are both familiar with the 5k on the track; Farnsworth was 4th in this race last year and Wilson was 5th in the NBON 5k last June. On top of that, they were 11th and 13th, respectively, at Foot Locker Finals last fall. Farnsworth is really on a roll, though, coming off his meet record Simplot 3,200 win. Also, New Yorkers Thomas Awad and Dan Lennon should be solidly in the mix, especially Awad, whose marks have been strong nearly all winter.
Top Three Picks: 1. Farnsworth, 2. Awad, 3. Wilson.
Winning Time: 14:33.70

Boys 800John Nepolitan/ESPNHSThe last time (from left) Ned Willig, Zavon Watkins, and Ben Malone were on the track together, great drama ensued at the NB Collegiate 1k. What will happen in the 800 Sunday?

NBNI Index

There’s so much to love at the New Balance Nationals Indoor, the second straight year of a single national championship meet indoors for preps to settle who’s the best in the U.S. Here’s a primer to Baker’s Dozen best of the best over the three-day stretch (boys followed by girls, but in no pecking order).

Boys 800: Talent and drama to burn
The boys 4-lapper at NBNI isn’t getting the buzz of, say, the 400 or pole vault, but there’s no doubt that there will be high drama, especially with the following four protagonists:
Liverpool (Liverpool, N.Y.) senior Zavon Watkins: Defending champ and the only sub-1:50 (outdoors) in the field, Watkins had a great run of mile victories, but at shorter distances (600, 800, 1k) he’s dealt with a few defeats and a DQ. He still has something to prove.
Columbus (Bronx, N.Y.) senior Strymar Livingston: USRs at 500 and 600, but definitely has something to prove at 800 (2nd at Simplot), which will be his main outdoor event.
Great Valley (Malvern, Pa.) senior Ned Willig: Still US#1 at 800 this winter at 1:51.25, he “won” the 1k where he and Watkins were DQ’d and might still be burning a little from his 10th at Millrose (mile).
Pascack Valley (Hillsdale, N.J.) junior Ben Malone might be the most talented of all. He was the official winner of the NB Collegiate 1k (2:23.56) when the DQs came in, and has a US#1 4:11.66 1600, a 1:51 800 relay leg, and even a 1:21 600 to his credit. A dark horse who could take it all for sure, but he’s also entered in the mile.
Don’t be surprised if Robby Andrews' USR comes under attack and more than one runner goes under 1:50.

Boys PV: Best indoor trio ever
There have never been three pole vaulters at 17-6 or better in a single year, indoors. And, suffice it to say then that there has never been an undercover competition with three guys doing battle at such high altitude. It’s not completely shocking that Spring (Spring, Texas) senior Reese Watson and Lincoln (Gahanna, Ohio) senior Jacob Blankenship have reached that level, given their creds from 2011. But Kingwood Park (Houston) senior Shawn Barber was “only” a 16-6 vaulter when the season began. With his 17-8 outdoors last weekend, he actually leads the trio now. Interestingly, Texans Watson and Barber have not met this year, with Watson winning previous meetings between them before Barber’s big improvement. Blankenship has never vaulted against either of them, but his creds certainly match up: He was the surprise New Balance Nationals Outdoor (NBNO) champ last June and then earned a bronze at the World Youth Champs. These are three of the top six indoor vaulters in history, enjoy them.

Boys 400: From teammates back to rivals
While the above-mentioned vaulters have relatively little competitive history between them, the top guns in this epic 2-lap battle could hardly be more familiar with each other (See Doug Binder story). Still, the drama could hardly be higher. St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) senior Arman Hall was the man almost all of last year – winning NBNO and World Youth titles – except when he was beaten by Timberview (Arlington, Texas) senior Aldrich Bailey at the World Youth Trials. That surely gave Bailey confidence, despite being second fiddle again at the World Youth Champs, and he came out sizzling this winter with 47.05 and 20.99 marks in January. But then St. Peters Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) Najee Glass – a runner-up in the biggest races last year – finally got his, too, when he beat Bailey by .01 at Brooks Feb. 26. Their 46.06 and 46.07 times are #2 and #3 all-time (all tracks). Hall has done little indoors, but is down to 46.41 outdoors now (his 46.01 PR is the best of the three). And that’s what has transpired to create a matchup that, despite the rivals’ familiarity with each other, will be as dramatic as any race in the meet. And don’t forget, Bailey and Hall are racing the 200, too.

Boys 60H: Can Robertson confirm?
The boys short hurdle scene (55, 60) coming into 2012 was characterized by a big handful of guys with similar PRs, but no one having quite broken through to the super-elite level yet. And by the Brooks PR meet, the story was the same, with Potomac (Oxon Hill, Md.) senior Dondre Echols (7.17 55H) and Berea (Berea, Ohio) senior Donovan Robertson (7.87 60H) having pushed closes to all-time great territory. But then, shockingly, Robertson became that super elite performer Feb. 26 at the Brooks PR meet, hitting 7.77 in his prelim and then an eye-popping 7.57 in the final – cutting .03 off Wayne Davis’ 2099 standard. On Sunday, Robertson gets a chance to back it up. There will be eight other hurdlers in the deep field who have run 7.27 or better for 55H, or 7.89 or better for 60H. Robertson will have a big target on his back and it will be fun to watch if he can “get to the first hurdle first” (his words) and do it again, or if a challenger will rise up and take him down. One more thing worth remembering: In Robertson’s last national meet, NBNO last June, he led 110H qualifying (13.74, -0.1w), but finished last in the final. Think he won’t be motivated by that?

Ed Cheserek: Doing the “Verzbicas”
The races and circumstances may be a little different, but for all intents and purposes, Ed Cheserek looks to be trying to pull a “Verzbicas” this weekend at NBNI. No, he won’t be running the 5,000 and going for a record there – he’s already done that this winter. But he is expected to anchor St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) US#2 DMR (Friday) and US#1 SMR (Saturday), both with a solid chance to win. And he is entered in both the 2-mile and mile on Sunday. If he (and his team in the relays) wins all four, would it be as big a deal as what Verzbicas did last year? In comparing the Friday-Saturday part, Verzbicas pushed fairly hard to break his own 5k mark Friday before resting Saturday. With his respective 1600 and 800 relay legs, Cheserek would probably have to run PR-level marks to carry St. Bene’s to victories. On Sunday, Verzbicas had to beat Cheserek himself in the deuce, whereas Ches will not have nearly as tough a foe. And in the mile, Verzbicas faced a more experienced field for sure, but not necessarily more talented than what Cheserek will encounter. By Sunday night, we’ll see how the two historical efforts compared.

Boys Distance Relays: Can the Brothers beat ‘em all?
Whether or not a top cross-country program carries it through all year long to be a top indoor and outdoor distance power, in individual events and relays, is more hit and miss than people think. Some harrier outfits aren’t as well suited for the mile on down at the national level. So what the Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) has done already this winter – US#1s in the 4x800 (#2 all-time) and DMR – and are poised to do this weekend is pretty special. Besides the favorite’s role in the above-mentioned events, you certainly have to give them the nod in the 4x1 Mile, where they are defending champions. Could they win all three, something no boys’ school has ever done? Certainly; they look to have a good margin on the fields in the 4x1 Mile and 4x800, while Ed Cheserek and St. Benedict’s (2011 outdoor champ) may offer the toughest challenge in the DMR. As for national records, CBA might not have quite the top-end power to take down the very tough 4x800 or DMR marks, but WWPN’s 17:21.58 4x1 Mile from two years ago could go down.

Girls 800: Cain chases Ajee chases the clock
One can hope for more competitive drama, but in all likelihood, the girls 800 will turn into three races:
1. Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) senior Ajee Wilson chasing the clock, trying to strengthen her hold on #2 all-time or even, perhaps, making a decent run at Mary Decker Slaney’s 38-year-old USR.
2. Bronxville (Bronxville, N.Y.) soph Mary Cain running in no-man’s land for a fast time, somewhere in the 2:05-2:08 range.
3. The rest of the pack having a good race for third place.
Can Cain challenge Wilson? Maybe, on a really good day. And remember, Wilson is a racer – not someone who’s often tried to push alone in a race where she’s the clear favorite. But for Wilson, who has run all of her fast races this winter against elites in the U.S. Open, Millrose Games, and New Balance Boston Indoor GP, what other motivation would there be to run here? She won last year in 2:06.17 and to come to The Armory Sunday just to run to win seems pointless. Been there, done that. Thus, if she really lays it on the line, maybe we’ll see something as special as we presumed two years ago when she authored that epic relay leg at NBON. Stay tuned.

Girls distance relays: New girls on the block
If you assess the girls distance relays starting with the 4x800 and 4x1 Mile, you’ll notice some typically good fields with a handful of teams that could go low 9s or just under 9:00 in the former, and another potential challenger (Haley Pierce and Tatnall, Del.) to Saratoga’s 2005 USR in the latter. But then you check out the girls DMR – now THAT could be interesting. Grosse Pointe South, Michigan and the amazing Meier twins have never entered a national meet relay since they burst on the scene two years ago. Now, just off 4:43.24 (Hannah Meier) and 4:48.10 (Haley Meier) indoor mile PRs at the Brooks PR meet, they will see if their combined talents can attack the 11:35.43 USR by Mountain View, Utah from 2004. Remember, they also have Kelsie Schwartz who has run 4:59 for 1600 and Ersula Farrow, who has run 5:05. One wonders why they didn’t go for the 4x1 mile, but running the Friday night DMR allows the Meiers a day of rest before tacking Sunday’s mile (Hannah his defending champ). If Schwartz and Farrow can combine for a 60-62 400 and a 2:18-20 800, the twins ought to be able to do the rest.

Girls 5K: Rematch for elite trio
While Tatnall (Wilmington, Del.) senior Haley Pierce, Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.) junior Wesley Frazier and West Bloomfield (West Bloomfield, Mich.) junior Erin Finn may have a broader perspective on Friday’s 5,000 than how it compares to their NBNO 5,000 last June – the comparison is certainly interesting to fans (see Doug Binder’s story). Pierce’s creds coming in last spring had made her an exciting favorite, but when she faded mid-race, Frazier and Finn put on quite a show in finishing 1-2. Since then, Pierce and Finn both had national runner-up finishes in XC (NXN and Foot Locker, respectively), while Frazier was off form. But as evidenced by their 2-3-4 finishes in the Brooks 2M, quite a battle should be ahead. In grave danger may be the 16:35.15 USR set just last year by Waverly Neer. And don’t forget about North Shore (Glen Head, N.Y.) senior Brianna Nerud, who could beat all three with a really good day.

Girls 60H: Hall gets another shot at unseating the queen
St. Mary’s (Berkeley, Calif.) senior Trinity Wilson has been one of the nation’s elite hurdlers since before her high school years and she has absolutely owned the 60H and 100H for the last year-plus. But if there’s anyone that could deliver the upset, it’s George Washington (Denver, Colo.) super soph Dior Hall. As the track world saw at Simplot, Hall pressured Wilson to be at the absolute top of her game at Simplot, only to stumble herself at the end and finish sixth. Atonement was sweet at Brooks, as Hall lowered her 60H PR to 8.28. Now she gets a rematch with the World Youth 100H champion, with both having to face a very good field. Can the young gun top the senior veteran? Or might Wilson be better than ever and take down Jackie Coward’s 2008 USR of 8.16? Watch and see.

Girls LJ: Battle of the 20-footers
Given that the national record in the girls indoor long jump is 21-7.5 (Carol Lewis, 1981), a 20-foot jump isn’t necessarily something to get really excited about. But five of them in the same years is pretty good, and having four of those five competing together for a national title is special indeed. The key players really haven’t crossed each other’s path much and don’t have a lot in common. Newton North (Newtonville, Mass.) junior Carla Forbes (20-1.25) is defending champ (and 2010 Nike Indoor TJ champ), so this meet is familiar to her. Fayetteville (Fayetteville, Ark.) senior Sydney Conley (20-1.5) has Olympic genes (her father is 1992 TJ Gold Medalist Michael), but is a relatively late bloomer and this is her first NSSF championship, in or out. And in Virginians Javanique Burress (junior AA champ from Louisa County at 20-1) and Shakeela Saunders (senior AAA runner-up from Nansemond River at 20-0.5), you have another national newcomer who’s made a big leap up this winter (Burress) and a veteran all-arounder (hurdles, TJ, long sprints) who has starred since her frosh year but popped that huge one way back in December (Saunders). These four girls have PRs within an inch of each other.

Multis: Familiar names
If it seems like Kendell Williams has been around forever, you may be surprised to realize that the Kell (Marietta, Ga.) junior is … still just a junior. Williams is everywhere, whether it’s in the number of events she competes in at a meet, or the number of meets she competes in during a given year. One of her many successes last year was winning NBNI with 3,792 points (#3 all-time) and while she must missed Shana Woods’ soph USR, she can get the junior class mark with just a 36-point improvement. Oh, and she’s also entered in the high jump (current US#1 5-10.75) and 60H (US#4 8.39). Meanwhile, on the boys side, the last name of the leading light should be familiar (Lazas), even if the first name (Jake) isn’t. Jake’s older brother Kevin battled Gunnar Nixon in 2010 in becoming one of history’s great multi-eventers in and out and is now a star at Arkansas (as is Nixon). But Jake, now a Brentwood (Tenn.) senior, has struggled with injuries somewhat. There’s no question, however, that he has tremendous physical talent and attributes and with a healthy senior year could challenge or surpass some of his brother’s marks. So don’t be surprised if you see a coming out party.

Girls sprint relays: Open the door for new powers
When you think of schools that have been all-around sprint and sprint relay powers at the nationals in the past several years, you think of Long Beach Poly, Eleanor Roosevelt, Benjamin Cardozo and Medgar Evers. But it may be time in 2012 to open the door to some new names, like Wakefield (N.C.) and Martin Luther King (Ga.). Wakefield isn’t new on the scene, but they’ve never run like they have this year, led by senior Ariah Graham and with US#1 marks of 1:38.35 4x200 and 3:45.64 4x400. Meanwhile, MLK – with athletes trained by Sprint Athletics – has developed stars like Felicia Brown (US#2 53.53 400) and Jada Martin (US#3 24.00 200). Perhaps the sprint relay race of the meet for either gender will be the 4x200, where both schools, plus Poly, will lock up.
5kJohn Dye/ESPNHSWesley Frazier (1), Haley Pierce (2) and Erin Finn (3) finished first, seventh, and second in this NBON 5k race

NBNI Index

Three of the country’s top female distance runners are part of Friday’s New Balance Nationals Indoor 5,000 meters field and even if they aren’t peaking for this event, a race featuring senior Haley Pierce and juniors Erin Finn and Wesley Frazier promises to be a good show.

At the Brooks PR Invitational on Feb. 26 in Seattle, that trio went 2-3-4 behind Foot Locker champion Molly Seidel in a loaded two-mile. Their shared history, however, goes back to last June, when all three were a huge part of a dramatic outdoor national 5k.

But first, this winter: Pierce, a Georgetown signee from The Tatnall School (Wilmington, Del.), will seek her first national title to conclude a productive indoor season that included a US#7 4:48.59 mile victory at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, a US#2 9:40.46 in the Yale Classic, and a US#2 10:14.54 in the two-mile. That followed her runner-up finish at NXN Finals in December, leading her team to third place.

“This winter we’ve been fortunate with the weather,” Pierce said. “We’ve been building up base, doing a lot of strength work.”

With her focus on the upcoming outdoor season, Pierce can afford to come to New York and take a low-pressure approach to the meet. She is also in Saturday’s 4x1 mile relay with her Tatnall teammates and will no doubt want to run well for her team, which has a chance to break the national record.

Finn, the 2011 Foot Locker runner-up and hard-charging junior from West Bloomfield (West Bloomfield, Mich.), is also focused on getting ready for a big outdoor season. After extending her cross country season into January so she could run the Edinburgh Cross Country Challenge in Scotland, Finn took some time off before ramping up her miles.

“Only recently have I added some fartleks and tempo runs,” Finn explained. “Indoor track isn’t really big in Michigan, so I am racing indoors to test where my body is on only a little training. I had a high mileage week last week, so I am just trying to make sure I am rested for the (NBNI) 5K. I am excited though! Hopefully I can go out and make it a gutsy race.”

Finn’s penchant for taking the lead has made her a marked target in national races (more on that in a moment), but her willingness to push the pace has helped produce fast times.

Frazier, meanwhile, said the weekend schedule dictated that she enter the 5,000 even though she’d probably have rather entered the mile or two-mile.

“It’s strictly a matter of timing for me this year,” said the junior from Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.). “I have a lot of school stuff due on Monday and the rest of the week is loaded, so I need to get back (home) and Sunday running in New York was just not an option.”

That said, the 2011 New Balance Nationals Outdoor 5,000 champion will do her best to mix it up.

“I would like to run on pace and maintain my form with no breakdown,” Frazier said. “And then a win would be a nice bonus.”

So three girls with a lot of talent and nothing to lose will gain more elite race experience in a field that also includes North Shore (Glen’s Head, N.Y.) standout Brianna Nerud (who was 5th in the Brooks 2M), Bishop Eustace (Pennsauken, N.J.) senior Holly Bischof and senior Alexis Panisse of Benjamin Cardozo (Bayside, N.Y.), among others.

Long time since last June

It seems so long ago that Frazier, Finn and Pierce took the starting line at the 5,000 meters at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor championship on June 18 in Greensboro, N.C.

The meet was a coming-out party for Frazier, who made the short drive from her home and ran an impressive triple in a warm, muggy conditions over three days. She surged away from Finn to win the 5,000 Thursday in a national sophomore class record of 16:24.83 (No. 8 all-time), placed third in the two-mile on Friday, then won the mile in stunning fashion on Saturday.

Finn led much of that race, but in a moment of lost concentration stepped on the rail and nearly fell. She still managed to finish second with PR and would set another best the next day in the deuce.

Pierce – considered the pre-race favorite for the 5k after a spring where she won the Penn Relays 3k – faded badly that night, running more than three minutes for her final two laps and finishing seventh.

Since that meet, fortunes changed. In the fall, Pierce and Finn were fixtures in the national rankings.

Pierce entered the cross country season gradually, coming off an injury. She won Great American and then found herself locked in an in-state rivalry with Julie Macedo. The two of them ran so fiercely at the New Castle County Championships on Nov. 5 that they ran each other into the ground. Pierce ultimately recovered and led Tatnall to the medal stand at NXN, with only Sarah Baxter finishing ahead of her.

Finn ran 17:16 and 17:22 three days apart in mid-September and moved to US#1. Her Michigan and Midwest dominance seemed to slip at bit with a narrow state meet win and a distant third at Foot Locker Midwest. But Finn pressed the pace impressively at the Foot Locker Finals in San Diego, storming to a big lead before Seidel ultimately reeled her in and won.

Finn also led in the race at Scotland and again at the Brooks PR Invite two-mile, and she didn’t win those races either. Still, Foot Locker (and the Brooks race) represented career-best efforts to date.

“I guess that my racing style has always been pretty aggressive,” Finn said. “It’s probably not the smartest racing tactic. I am going to start to play around with other things. Nevertheless, I like to keep an honest pace and make sure that a two-mile race is really two miles – not a one and half mile jog with an 800 sprint.”

Frazier entered cross country season with great expectations that were probably misplaced. The two-time Foot Locker finalist didn’t run with the Ravenscroft team, preferring to stay focused on track workouts.

“For me, cross country is much more team-oriented and not being on a team makes it a little more difficult for me to get immersed in the season,” she said. “Second, I’m very interested becoming a better track runner and most of my training, even during (cross country) season, is oriented to things that, hopefully, will make me better on the track, especially the shorter distances – 800, mile, two-mile.”

Frazier did run at the Foot Locker South regional, but didn’t have a good day, finishing 39th. She had made the previous two Foot Locker Finals. She has run well this winter, though, and at Brooks ran within four seconds of her winning time at the 2011 edition of the race.

Of her 10:21.07 in Seattle, Frazier said she was “80 percent satisfied, 20 percent disgusted,” but considered it a learning experience.

For all three, the race is a test but not the final destination. They are all looking forward to what lies beyond.
Haley PierceJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSHaley Pierce wins the New Balance Boston Indoor Grand Prix girls junior mile.

NG Indoor GP Meet Index

Although they were competing in races that unfolded quite differently, Haley Pierce and Craig Engels both used strong final kicks to collect junior mile victories at Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.

For Pierce – the highly decorated Tatnall (Wilmington, Del.) senior who won the Penn Relays 3k last spring and the Great American XC Festival last fall – it was a matter of waiting patiently and hopefully in front of a strung-out group of followers until mid-race leader Cayla Hatton finally faded and she could pass her with 200 meters remaining to win with a US#2 4:48.59. On the other hand, Engels – a late-blooming, fast rising senior from Ronald Reagan (Pfafftown, N.C.) – was part of a big lead pack that produced 3-4 lead changes before his own decisive move with 300 left resulted in a US#3 4:13.70 triumph.

The miles highlighted five events that included preps during the otherwise professional USATF affair before a packed house. Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) senior 800 megastar Ajee Wilson battled the pros for the second straight week in her specialty and while she placed 6th out of six runners, she improved her US#1 to 2:07.37, just over a second off her indoor PR that also led the nation last winter.

Then the meet featured two prep relays that were packaged as regional battles between New York and New England, with five schools from each area invited to compete as a team and be scored – cross-country style – against the other. The girls 4x400 saw the Villabears TC (St. John Villa, Staten Island, N.Y.) roll to a 3:57.88 win, but the two regions of squads fight to an 18-18 tie (four squads scored). The boys 4x800, however, saw New York not only feature the winning quartet of Firebird TC (Kellenberg, Uniondale, N.Y.) in 7:55.67, but pull away to the overall team win.

Girls Mile: Pierce’s Patience

It looked like there would be at least four serious contenders for the girls title and, for quite a while, those named contenders – Pierce, Cosby (Midlothian, Va.) senior Megan Moye, Friends Academy (Locust Valley, N.Y.) senior Kelsey Margey and Ravenscroft (Raleigh, N.C.) junior Wesley Frazier – pushed lap after lap in single file. However, another girl who few knew about coming in – the aforementioned Hatton – was 30-40 meters ahead of them, first pushing, then hanging on.

That scenario evolved because no one wanted to really take charge during a very pedestrian first lap (38+ seconds) and Hatton, a Phillips Academy Andover (Andover, Mass) senior, decided she wanted none of that. “I was really surprised it went out that slow,” she said. “I wanted to get out of the pack and run my race.”

Hatton, whose her 1500 PR is 4:38, shot out from the group over the next circuit, hitting just over 34 seconds for a 72 first quarter split. She gained three seconds on Pierce and the rest and there was no turning back after that. “I probably overcompensated a little bit,” she admitted.

The move was dramatic enough and, not knowing Hatton, the other contenders settled for a steady push that would maintain a reasonable distance and inch back toward the surprise leader. “I knew we started out slow and needed to pick it up,” said Pierce. “I thought she would come back and I was able to stay confident.”

Hatton passed halfway at 2:23, with an even faster 400, and slowing a tad through three-quarters at 3:37. It still wasn’t clear she was catchable, but finally with 300 to go she really started having to go to her arms and her form began to tighten. Pierce picked up momentum and – having pulled away somewhat from Moye, Margey and Frazier – passed Hatton just before the bell. Her last 200 meters was 33.35. Hatton would have enough left to hold on to second in 4:51.37, while Frazier’s trademark kick (33.14) enabled her to snare Moye and Margey before the tape for 3rd in 4:52.18.

It was a fine win for Pierce, even if not quite the resounding stunner her Penn Relays 3k triumph was last April. But what his concerning the Georgetown signee the most is getting and staying healthy for national championships and other big races ahead. “The last few weeks have been the best I’ve felt since this started,” Pierce said, referring to a nagging foot injury she’s been battling since last summer. “The doctor I have now has really helped.” She had taken a couple of weeks off after leading Tatnall to 3rd at NXN in December with her individual runner-up finish (“more of a mental break than anything”), but was still was experiencing some pain until taking a new direction.

Pierce seems at least as interested in helping her squad to relay victories as any individual glory. “We really want it now,” she said with determination upon being reminded of last spring at NBON, when her struggles helped prevent Tatnall from going after a title in the 4x1 Mile. If she stays healthy, an opportunity for such a feat is just five weeks away at NBIN.

Craig EnglesJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSCraig Engles wins the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix junior boys mile.

Boys Mile: Engels Arrives

Among a field of milers light on championship or major invitational experience, it took someone zeroed in on and confident in a winning strategy. In the junior boys mile Saturday, Craig Engels was that guy.

Though the pace was reasonable enough – 65-2:09 for the first half - the field was toiling along, rudderless, until the sixth lap. Then 2011 junior mile runner-up Chaminade (Mineola, N.Y.) senior Thomas Awad – the only runner in the field who had really raced at this level before – made his bid. “I wanted to make one big move,” he would say afterward. “It worked at Stanner.”

Indeed, Awad had run 4:15.67 at Stanner, which was the best coming in of the field. The contenders and pretenders began to separate, with Piscataway (Piscataway, N.J.) senior Tim Ball, Cary Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) senior Thomas Graham, and Engels giving serious chase. Marshfield (Marshfield, Mass.) senior Joel Hubbard, with a recent 4:13 DMR 1600 leg to his name and who fronted the field early with Ball, faded back.

Awad kept pushing and towed the chase trio past the three-quarter mark in 3:12. But halfway through the penultimate lap, Engels struck. The other contenders lifted and began to sprint, too, but no one could match Engels’ 29.99 7th lap. Awad didn’t have another gear and neither did the others as the Ronald Reagan senior maintained on the last circuit. The one who was able to do something was Hubbard, who was able to dig down and rally from 6th to 2nd, closing in 29.28. Awad was also passed by Graham and Ball dropped to 6th.

So it was Engels 4:13.70, Hubbard 4:14.35, Graham 4:14.75, Awad 4:14.85, Hubbard’s teammate Kevin Thomas 4:15.15, and Ball 4:15.34.

Said Awad afterward, “I kept pushing (after his big move with 600 left), but Craig made a big counter-move.”

Engels, meanwhile, had the look of someone dazzled by what he may have imagined to be a far-fetched plan having come true. Not that Engels didn’t have a great chance to win, but until you do it the first time on the big stage, you don’t necessarily know it’s possible. “I didn’t expect to run this fast,” he said. “The pace felt fairly hard, but I love kicking.

Engels said a 2:32 1k as part of a season-opening double, which was “not all out,” gave him a lot of confidence. After that, it was following the plan. “Coach (Chris Catton) told me to get in position with 600 to go and make my move during the lap after that. That’s what I did … It was all Coach Catton.”

While Engels is now in the elite group with a great chance to win an indoor championship, he’s most concerned with races closer to home. “I want to try and break the state 1600 record and help our team win state.”

NB Boston Indoor GP: Haley Pierce, Craig Engels take Junior Miles

February, 4, 2012
Pierce and EnglesJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSHaley Pierce DE and Craig Engles NC captured the girls and boys junior miles in Boston Saturday.
Coverage of the 2012 New Balance Boston Indoor Grand Prix
Sat., Feb. 4, 2012 - Reggie Lewis Center, Boston MA

PHOTO GALLERY: Haley Pierce, Craig Engels rally to win miles
PHOTO GALLERY: St. John Villa girls, Kellenburg boys take relay trophies back to New York
Finishing Kicks Win for Pierce, Engels - Story by SteveU

Watch the meet on ESPN2: Sun, Feb. 5, 2:00-4:00 PM


  • Girls Jr Mile: Tatnall DE sr Haley Pierce took over with one lap to go for a US#2 4:48.59 victory, overtaking surprising leader Cayla Hatton (Phillips Acad. MA sr). Hatton had exploded into the lead after a slow first 200 and held it until the last lap, finishing 2nd in US#7 4:51.37. Ravenscroft NC jr Wesley Frazier kicked past two others for 3rd in US#8 4:52.18.
  • Boys Jr Mile: Ronald Reagan NC sr Craig Engels snatched the lead with 300 left and held on to win in US#3 4:13.70, with Marshfield MA sr Joel Hubbard kicking in the final 50 to 2nd in US#4 4:14.35. He was followed by Cary Acad. NC sr Thomas Graham US#6 4:14.75 and 2011 runner-up Chaminade NY sr Thomas Awad US#7 4:14.85.
  • Elite Women's 800: Neptune NJ sr Ajee Wilson improved her US#1 to 2:07.37 in taking 6th against the pros.
  • Girls 4x400: The Villa Bears TC (St. John Villa NY) won in a runaway with 3:57.88. They came in ranked US#6 with 3:55.81. The team score between the New York and New England teams was tied at 18 (XC-style scoring).
  • Boys 4x800: 5 teams broke 8:00, but at the front it was Firebird TC (Kellenberg NY) nipping Titan TC, 7:55.67 to 7:55.86. New York scored 18 to New England's 24 and won overall, 36-42.



Girls Mile: Don’t be surprised if the US#1 for this event goes down by the end of the night even though national leader Samantha Nadel (4:46.11) isn’t in the race. The top four contenders in this 12-girl field are an intriguing mix of girls running their first major individual race of the season vs. active participants in the busy East Coast circuit:

  • Ravenscroft NC jr Wesley Frazier: Having had more than her share of ups and downs, Frazier will be perhaps the most intriguing to watch here. Similar to 2010-11, Frazier has come off a disappointing XC season with promising track results. Last spring, those promising track results evolved all the way to an amazing triple at New Balance Outdoor, where she won the 5k and mile, and was 3rd with a PR in the 2M. Then this past November, she missed making what would have been her 3rd straight Foot Locker Finals. In January, however, she’s hit 1600s of 5:00.07 and 4:54.60 with little competition, showing she might be getting back to top form.
  • Tatnall DE sr Haley Pierce: The last time Frazier and Pierce met on the track, Frazier was winning the NBON 5k while pre-race fave Pierce was struggling home 7th. This past fall, while she had some ups and downs, Pierce finished the campaign off with a sterling 2nd at NXN Finals. This winter has been light so far, with the highlight being a 4:48 DMR carry and 9:40.46 3k at Yale. She has a 4:41.19 1600 PR outdoors.
  • Cosby VA sr Megan Moye: After running a 4:48.21 1600 outdoors as a junior and then making FL Finals last fall, Moye has continued to progress indoors, blazing a 4:49.36 mile in taking 2nd behind Laura Leff at the New Balance Games (qualifying for Millrose), then ripping a US#5 2:49.76 1k at Virginia Tech last weekend. Don’t be surprised if she takes a few more seconds off her PR here and contends for the win.
  • Friends Acad. NY sr Kelsey Margey: With her Millrose Trials victory, Margey stands US#4 with a 4:49.03 and should be right in the mix. She owns the best mile PR in the field with her 4:43.91 outdoors from 2010. Already she’s running better than she was last winter, so don’t be shocked if she emerges in the front of this fine group.

If you’re looking for a darkhorse in the field, consider Northwest Catholic CT sr Sarah Gillespie, who has “only” run 4:59.06 for a mile this winter, but hit 4:49.89 for 1600 last spring. Pierce’s Tatnall teammate Reagan Anderson is another to watch with sub-4:50 potential.

Boys Mile: A great opportunity presents itself for someone to rise up and get their first major invitational mile victory. Here are four who could be that someone:

  • Ronald Reagan NC sr Craig Engels: The fast-rising former soccer player started out his season with a 2:32.04/4:19.24 1k/1600 double two weeks ago. Last spring his 1600 best was 4:15.28, then in the fall he was 20th at Foot Locker South after taking 3rd at 4A state. In a 3200 track race in November before FL South, he ran 9:02.
  • Chaminade NY sr Thomas Awad: The top returnee from either mile here last year, Awad was a surprising 2nd in the 2011 race. The Molloy Stanner winner at US#7 4:15.67, he also owns a Hispanic Games 2M win at US#2 9:10.97. He was “only” 5th at the US Open, but could bounce back here.
  • Marshfield MA sr Joel Hubbard: A Foot Locker Finalist last fall, Hubbard has a 4:14.52 1600 best from last spring. His indoor has been low-key so far, but he did have a 4:13 1600 leg on his team’s winning DMR at Yale. Would love to give the host state a victory.
  • Piscataway NJ sr Tim Ball: Outside of FL champ Ed Cheserek, Ball was the man last fall in Jersey, winning the Meet of Champs and also having a great race at Eastern States. He’s taken a nice slow start to indoors, debuting with 4:18.60 and 9:36.97 for 16/32 last weekend.

PREP START LISTS (updated 2/4)
Note: Neptune NJ sr Ajee Wilson is in the elite 800.



5 ST. A'S TC

7 ST. A'S TC
















Resilient Fayetteville-Manlius does it again

December, 3, 2011
Fayetteville-Manlius NY girlsJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSThe US#1 Fayetteville-Manlius NY girls and Coach Bill Aris celebrate title #6.
PORTLAND – For the past five years, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls set the bar for excellence at Nike Cross Nationals.

On Saturday, F-M showed something else about why it is such a consistent winner. The Stotans refused to let adversity tip the team off of its emotional axis – throughout a difficult season and even within a drama-filled championship race. F-M scored 60 points to win for the sixth straight time at Portland Meadows and relegated New York rivals Saratoga Springs to second for the third year in a row.

“It was a challenging year – my most challenging ever,” F-M coach Bill Aris said.

Over the past couple of months, Aris made the call to bench stars Christie Rutledge and Heather Martin, members of 2010’s record-setting 27-point NXN team, because of nagging injuries. And less than month ago, on Nov. 10, coach Aris’ father died at the age of 85 in Connecticut. John Aris had suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for the past three years.

“I dedicated all of my coaching efforts to my dad today,” Aris said. “He’s the truest Stotan I’ve ever known and God bless him. He’s looking down right now from heaven with pride.”

The F-M girls ran with full hearts and a deep sense of commitment to one another, but their race plan was complicated even further when junior Katie Brislin went down moments after the start. Brislin’s heel was clipped from behind and she fell to her hands and knees. Then she looked up, in shock, and saw nearly 200 girls running away from her.

“I just remember being on the ground, like, ‘Oh my God,’ Brislin said, relating her moment of panic. “I have to run for my team. I just started sprinting all out. I knew if I kept going, and caught up to my team, I could help them.”

Brislin moved from dead last all the way up to 25th place – passing runners right to the end.

“I gave it everything I had,” she said.

Rutledge and Martin, relegated to spectators, ran to various spots and cheered and worried.

“We were so nervous I thought we were going to get sick,” Rutledge said.

Up front, junior Jillian Fanning placed fourth and trusted that her teammates would take care of the rest – the way they have all season.

“I had complete faith in my team,” Fanning said. “We were so strong and we had a lot of depth this year. I knew we were going to be able to (win) it.”

Everyone else’s dream has become Fayetteville-Manlius’ normal.

“With two of our top killers out (of the lineup), that made it closer,” Aris said. “Looking at it objectively, of course there were competitive concerns. But spiritually and emotionally it was a matter of really digging deep and seeing that our strong, deep, faithful team had a lot to offer and a lot more to give. And they did that.”

Elite Camp stars shine

Sarah Baxter, already a two-time California state champion as a sophomore, emerged from a strong group of individual contenders before the 4K and moved out to a 10-meter lead, which she extended in the final half mile. She won in 17:38 – four seconds ahead of Tatnall DE’s Haley Pierce and seven ahead of North Central Spokane’s Katie Knight.

“I wanted to win it but honestly I thought I’d get into the top couple of places,” Baxter said. “I’m happy with myself. I didn’t think I’d be able to (win) it this year.”

The top five finishers in the race all attended Nike’s Elite Camp over the summer. Fanning was fourth and Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak WA was fifth. So even though there was geographic diversity in the lead pack, there was also familiarity and friendship in that group.

“It made me feel really good to see them all again – even if it was during a race,” Baxter said.

Pierce said she tried to close the gap on Baxter late but couldn’t reel her in.

“The whole time I was thinking about how much I wanted to do this for my team,” Pierce said. “It was my last race in cross country and I wanted to do the best that I could.”

Pierce waged a season-long tug-of-war with Julie Macedo, who was ranked No. 1 for part of the year. Macedo, of Charter School of Wilmington, began the race up near the front but dropped out at about 3K.

Knight said she was pumped up by watching North Central’s boys place seventh for the second straight year. The boys are her training partners and their coach, Jon Knight, is her dad.

Knight was third – and in the middle of the action – at all of the 1K splits.

“This race was really fast and if felt like it just kept going faster and faster,” she said.

Saratoga a valiant second

Freshman Estela Smith led Kinetic (Saratoga Springs) with a 19th place overall finish (and No. 8 in team scoring). Saratoga went 8-10-13-25-28 on the way to 84 points. It is the lowest non-winning team score in meet history.

Tatnall won a sixth-runner tiebreaker over New Trier IL for third (by 12 seconds). Carmel IN and Fort Collins CO were not far behind, fifth and sixth, respectively. The four Californian teams -- Redondo Union, Simi Valley, Saugus and La Costa Canyon -- finished in order from 10th to 13th.

The rivalry in upstate New York isn’t going anywhere. Kinetic has two seniors in the top seven.

Fayetteville-Manlius has only one senior.

F-M girls overcome odds, still the favorite

December, 2, 2011
Fay Man girlsAndy Kiyokawa/ESPNHSCoaches Bill and John Aris consult with the F-M girls Friday at the course run-through.
Twenty-eleven is the year that the girls championship at Nike Cross Nationals reached critical mass.

Almost all of the nation’s most compelling storylines arrived in Oregon this week and will play out over 5,000 (not too swampy) meters on Saturday at Portland Meadows. There is a Foot Locker-quality individual competition – seven of the top nine individuals in the country – layered on top of an already loaded field of premier teams.

Consider the subplots:

Fayetteville-Manlius, New York, which scored a mind-bending 27 points last year to win its fifth straight crown, brought almost everyone back. But this has not been the easiest of seasons. Two members of the 2010 team – No. 1 runner Christie Rutledge (second overall in the race) and No. 4 runner Heather Martin (16th overall in 2010) – have both been sidelined with injuries. It has also been an emotionally trying year for F-M coach Bill Aris, whose father passed away recently. And still, the Stotan program hasn’t skipped a beat, entering NXN as the No. 1 team in the nation and the clear favorite to win for an astonishing sixth straight time.

Katie Sischo (the only senior among the seven in Portland) and junior Jillian Fanning were fourth and sixth, respectively, in this race last year. They give the Stotans valuable experience and an understanding of what it takes to win NXN. And Fanning, in particular, has been sensational. She is undefeated in 2011 and is currently ranked US#1.

Keeping the pressure on F-M, as usual, is Kinetic from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. For two years running, Kinetic has finished in the runner-up position behind F-M. Last week at the New York regional, Kinetic’s pack matched up well. F-M had an advantage up front, going 1-4-5 with Fanning, Sischo and junior Hanna Smith. Saratoga countered with 7-9-10 but was slightly ahead of F-M on the combined 4-5 scorers (31-33). The final score last week was F-M 43, Saratoga 57. If coaches Art and Linda Kranick have figured out a way to close that gap any further it could eliminate F-M’s margin for error.

A third New York team in the mix is North Shore (Glen Head XC), which packs a wallop at 1-2 with Samantha Nadel and Brianna Nerud – both in the top 25 nationally – but drops off significantly after its top four.

Tatnall of Delaware, third in 2008 and fifth in 2010, might have its best team ever. US#8 Haley Pierce and Reagan Anderson give the team a talented 1-2 punch up front and the 3-5 runners went 18:16.5, 18:16.5 and 18:31.4 on a fast regional course in North Carolina last week.

Saugus of California (Newhall XC) remains a major player as well, having finished second, second, fourth and third over the past four years. Saugus won the Division 2 state title last week and senior Karis Frankian, who was third, has emerged as a dangerous front-runner.

The individual component is what really raises the stakes on the NXN girls championship.

Delaware’s dueling duo, US#4 Julie Macedo and Pierce, waged a rivalry that reached its peak at the New Castle County Championships – where the two runners essentially knocked each other out. After running in lockstep for more than two and a half miles, Pierce faltered and fell down. Macedo stayed on her feet, but didn’t have enough energy left to hold off Tatnall’s No. 2, Anderson, for the win. Macedo beat Pierce with less drama, and Anderson a well-back third, at NXN SE last weekend.

Washington’s talented juniors, US#7 Amy-Eloise Neale and US#5 Katie Knight, have gone back and forth through four straight head-to-head matchups. Neale won at Sunfair and Northwest Regionals. Knight won the Class 3A state meet and BorderClash.

To that mix add Sarah Baxter, the talented sophomore from Simi Valley CA who has quickly become the dominant runner in California – and perhaps the whole country. Baxter had a late start to the season but ran 17:08 at the state meet in Fresno last Saturday – running faster than Jordan Hasay did as a sophomore.

And if you are looking for a darkhorse … keep your eye on Mary Cain. The sophomore from Bronxville NY is a newcomer to NXN, but she ran the third-fastest time ever at famed Bowdoin Park this fall. And if it comes down to a kick, her 2:03 800-meter speed could be a factor.

As many as eight girls in the race have a reasonable chance to reach the finish line first.

It remains to be seen whether there are any teams that believe as strongly in their ability to win as Fayetteville-Manlius does.

SteveU's NXN Individual Top 10s

December, 2, 2011
Amy-Eloise Neale and Futsum ZeinasellassieGary Paulson and Bob GeigerSteveU's picks to win Saturday: Amy-Eloise Neale WA and Futsum Zeinasellassie IN
1. Futsum Zeinasellassie IN
2. Craig Nowak TX
3. Izaic Yorks WA
4. Anthony Armstrong WA
5. Tony Smoragiewicz SD
6. Jake Leingang ND
7. Elliot Clemente FL
8. Danny Martinez, Jr. CA
9. Daniel Vertiz TX
10. Kevyn Hoyos TX
11. Nick Ryan NY
12. Sergio Gonzalez CA
13. Michael Clevenger IL
14. Malachy Schrobilgen IL
15. Luis Martinez NM
16. Dylan Blankenbacker CA
17. Mike Marsella RI
18. Luis Gutierrez CA
19. Clayton Young UT
20. Josh Thorson MN

Breakdown: If the wind is moderate and the forecast of a dry, 45 degree day holds up, Futsum Zeinasellassie could break Craig Lutz’s 2-year-old course record and become the first-ever to duck under 15:00 in the meet. But regardless of how fast the race is, the North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.) senior is a strong favorite. Look for the unbeaten US#2 runner to pull away from the field mid-race and force the rest to fight for second.

And who might win that fight for second? Probably the three contenders with the best kicks are Craig Nowak, Anthony Armstrong and Izaic Yorks. Only Nowak (Cypress Woods, Texas senior) has run as fast as 4:08 for 1600 and has had a strong sprint finish in almost every race this year. Look for him to hang on long enough to use it. Kamiakin (Kennewick, Wash.) senior Anthony Armstrong is a fine kicker, too, and has utilized that weapon effectively, but rival Izaic Yorks (Lakes, Wash.) almost got him at Mike BorderClash 13 and could be primed to finally do so Saturday.

One who could alter the outcome of the race with his racing style is Belen Jesuit (Miami, Fla.) senior Elliot Clemente, who has shown this fall he loves to go out hard. He did so in his near-record 14:58 in NXN SE. He could back off due to the muddy course (yes, still muddy, just dry by comparison to past years) or the elevated completion. But he’ll probably stick to his strategy and force others who’ve never raced him to decide to go with him or not. Futsum will likely lay off for 1-1.5 miles, then make his winning move, and Clemente will probably get passed by a few more before finishing a still-strong 7th.

1. Amy-Eloise Neale WA
2. Julie Macedo DE
3. Sarah Baxter CA
4. Jillian Fanning NY
5. Katie Knight WA
6. Amanda Fox IL
7. Haley Pierce DE
8. Samantha Nadel NY
9. Mary Cain NY
10. Samantha Nightingale MO
11. Brianna Nerud NY
12. Sarah Fakler AZ
13. Maria Hauger MN
14. Karis Jochen TX
15. Erin Hooker CO
16. Elle Purrier VT
17. Madi McLellan TX
18. Katie Sischo NY
19. Hagen Reedy CA
20. Laura Hollander CA

Breakdown: The girls field is very hard to pick, with at least five potential national champions. On paper, very little can clearly separate US#1 NXN NY champ Jillian Fanning (Fayetteville-Manlius, N.Y.), #3 California champ Sarah Baxter (Simi Valley, Calif.), #4 NXN SE champ Julie Macedo (Charter School of Wilmington, Del.), #5 Katie Knight (North Central, Wash.) and #7 Amy-Eloise Neale (Glacier Peak, Wash.) – the latter two having split four big head-to-head clashes.

None of these girls is a notoriously fast starter, so look for them to run together – possibly with others hanging on – for at least a mile. Then the big question will be, who will make a move? Macedo, Baxter and Fanning, in particular, have shown they can make some devastating mid-race moves, but all of these girls will be hard for the other to break.

So figuring on at least four to be in contention with 600 to go, look for a girl with the best mile in the field, with a good kick, and someone who’s strong and knows the course. That would be Neale, who has lost twice, but is pretty hard to beat when she’s on. She is the top returnee from 2010, at 3rd, and it’s easy to picture her hammering the final 250 better than anyone else.

Another to keep an eye on, that could surprise, is uber-talented middle-distance star Mary Cain. She was a distant third behind Fanning at NXN NY, but the week before she had run 17:40 on that same Bowdoin Park course at NY Feds, seven seconds faster than Fanning’s NXN 17:47. No one in the field can run a mile on down like Cain can (4:17 1500, 2:03 800 relay, 55 400), so if she’s there at the end and still has legs, watch out.

On paper, it's CBA and F-M for the wins

December, 2, 2011
NXN Top 10 boys team predictions:
1. Lincroft XC Club (Christian Brothers NJ)
2. Carroll XC Club (Southlake Carroll TX)
3. American Fork XC Club (American Fork UT)
4. Columbus XC Club (Columbus North IN)
5. Manlius XC Club (Fayetteville-Manlius NY)
6. Arcadia XC Club (Arcadia CA)
7. North Spokane XC Club (North Central WA)
8. Latham XC Club (Shaker NY)
9. Davis XC Club (Davis UT)
10. Gig Harbor XC Club (Gig Harbor WA)

Christian Brothers Academy NJ (Lincroft XC Club) placed fifth here last year and returned four varsity runners, more than anyone ahead of it in 2010. All season they have dominated teams on tough courses while setting all-time marks on each course. This team is battle-tested, has shown consistency, and has a history of running well at this meet. All those factors point to CBA being the favorite going into Saturday's championship, but the stiff competition they’ll face is their greatest challenge to date. Southlake Carroll TX (Carroll XC Club) returned everyone from their NXN qualifying team last year and have had a few others step up and add to the depth. The undefeated NXN South champs destroyed their competition throughout the season and are so deep they can afford an off race by a runner or two and still finish on or near the podium. Two of the three teams that had the biggest races at NXN last year, Columbus North IN and Fayetteville-Manlius NY, return for another round with lots of big-time meet experience and look to impress on the big stage once more.

Arcadia may have lost its state meet, but the defending national champs were strong at the Southern Section championships and beat several top teams throughout the season. Most of Arcadia's varsity has run here before. The team revealed itself early this fall at the Bob Firman Invitational as a “tough, gritty, grind-it-out” type team that excels on challenging courses. North Spokane is another club with ton of experience, having qualified every year since 2007 and also entered the JV in the open race each yearl.
With consistently good finishes, don’t be surprised to see North Central in the top third of the race yet again, despite not having one senior on the varsity seven.

Utah teams, over the past several years, have struggled at NXN, perhaps due to the grueling course or perhaps the fact that their state meet race is in mid-October. Whatever the case, both American Fork and Davis are capable of podium finishes but have something to prove. Top-10 might be more likely. Shaker NY struggled at NXN last year as well, and has also had injury
issues plague them this season, but the team is running well late in the season and could surprise with a top-five finish. Gig Harbor is the lone newcomer in the top 10 but produced tremendous results at the Washington State meet and NXN Northwest. It is not unrealistic to think the Tides can finish near North Central for the third time in three tries. Tradition and experience seems to be
a defining characteristics of the top teams this year.

Girls Top 10
1. Manlius XC Club (Fayetteville-Manlius NY)
2. Kinetic XC Club (Saratoga Springs NY)
3. Wilmington XC Club (Tatnall DE)
4. Glen Head XC Club (North Shore NY)
5. Newhall XC Club (Saugus CA)
6. Carmel XC Club (Carmel IN)
7. Wilmette XC Club (New Trier IL)
8. Fort Collins XC Club (Fort Collins CO)
9. La Costa XC Club (La Costa Canyon CA)
10. Central Oregon XC Club (Summit OR)

New York has dominated the girls team race every year, and this year should be no different with Fayetteville-Manlius, Saratoga Springs and North Shore coming in as the strongest trio the state has ever seen. The top challenger threatening to break up an Empire State sweep is the small-school powerhouse from Tatnall DE, which has its best team in the program’s storied history. Even with their best team, the girls from Tatnall won’t find the task an easy one. The third New York squad has a phenomenal front quartet and the difference will have to come down to the key fifth runner, which just might be Tatnall's greatest strength.

Beyond the first four teams, it should be a tremendous battle that could end up including half of the field or more. Topping the list is the five-time California state champions from Saugus, a program that has finished in the top four at NXN each of the past four years.

Fort Collins CO and La Costa Canyon CA both teams have what it takes to challenge for a top-five finish and would be dangerous squads to overlook.

The two Midwest powers, Carmel IN and New Trier IL crushed their competition throughout the year, but now that they are on the big stage the race might feel a little different. Carmel has been here before, finishing seventh last year and returning all but one runner. New Trier is the top team to not qualify before, and sometimes the first time can be a bit of a shock. One other team in my top 10 predictions is also a first timer, Summit of Oregon, the undefeated “hometown” squad who won the tough NXN Northwest region even with a couple of runners not at their best. Five other first-time qualifiers have a good shot at finishing in the top of the race this year: Simi Valley CA, Redondo CA, Xavier Prep AZ, Glacier Peak WA and Monticello MN might lack the team experience of being at NXN before, but are teams with serious upside if they can capitalize on their strengths.