Located on the third floor of the historic Fort Washington Avenue Armory in New York City is the New Balance Track Center.
This weekend some of the best high school athletes in the country will make their way up those two flights of stairs and into the famed facility for the New Balance National Indoor (NBNI) Track & Field Championships.
Beginning Friday morning at 9 o’clock with the Emerging Elite 60-meter hurdles and concluding on Sunday at 3:14 p.m., with the boys’ 4x400m relay, fast times, long distances, high heights and perhaps a few records and nation-leading performances will be achieved during an exciting three days of competition.
Among the elite boys, here’s some of the questions that will be answered by the time the final events have ended.
How will Zyaire Clemes, the gifted senior from New Jersey’s Trenton Central, respond from a heartbreaker at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions less than two weeks ago? He’s the top-seeded 400m runner and one of the best in the 200m. Will there be a sub-1:50 performance (or two) in the 800m? Kyle Francis, the senior from Bensalem in Pennsylvania, came close to achieving that milestone at his state meet on March 1 with a 1:50.55 effort. How about Luke Gavigan of Tappan Zee, the winner of the high school mile at the Millrose Games in February. Will the No. 1 seed from New York be able to finish out his outstanding junior season with the biggest victory so far of his promising career?
Just like every year at this time, one thing is assured at the NBNI meet. While the weather may be cold outside, the competition will be heating up inside.
Trenton’s Clemes will be looking to earn an individual title in the 400m, an event he finished second last year to Virginia’s Michael Cherry of Oscar Smith. Cherry has since graduated and is a freshman at Florida State University. Clemes, also bound for FSU this fall, currently owns the fastest time in the country with his winning 47.13 clocking at the Eastern States Championships on Feb. 24.
Unfortunately, a week after earning that victory, Clemes suffered a tough fall at the Meet of Champions when he bumped into eventual winner Taylor McLaughlin of Union Catholic on turn one of the second lap. He was not injured in the mishap and graciously got up from the track and completed the race, finishing dead last among the 30 competitors.
Chances are the fall just bruised his ego a little and he’ll be ready for this weekend’s meet. In fact, maybe the fire inside is burning a little more to win. But it won’t be easy. To earn the coveted ring that’s awarded to the winners of the championship races, Clemes will have to contend against some stiff competition with most coming from neighboring New York. The Empire State is loaded with top competitors, beginning with Mount Vernon junior Raj Benjamin, a third-place finisher at the Eastern States in 47.13 (US #3). Richard Rose of Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls, the top-ranked 600m runner in the country at 1:18.61, will toe the line. There’s also Arlington (NY) senior Trenton Beram, who has blazed a 34.16 for the 300m. Two other runners to take notice are Oak Park (MI) senior Maurice Allen, who ran 48.45 back on Feb. 22, and Hingham (MA) senior Andrew Bolze, a state record-holder (34.19) for the 300m with his win at the MSTCA Elite Meet on Jan. 26. Bolze, who ran a 400m time around 47 seconds in a relay last month, indicated that he is focusing on a victory this weekend.
Clemes, who is also the nation’s fastest for the 300m (PB, 33.50) with his win at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 7, certainly has potential to place high in the 200m, too. He has a best of 21.29 on the outdoor surface. There’s a number of speedsters that can break the tape. DeMatha Catholic (MD) junior Darryl Haraway ran close to his all-time best for the 200 this season by winning the Kevin Dare HS (PA) Invitational on Jan. 25 with a fast 21.64 clocking. He was sixth at the nationals in 2013. There’s also New York’s Anton Porter of Mount St. Michael, who ranks No. 2 in the 300 with a time of 33.82. T.C. William (VA) sophomore Noah Lyles has also dipped under 34 seconds for the 300m with a best of 33.90 this season. Other runners to keep an eye on are Cherryville (NC) senior Trentavis Friday, who has run 21.67 (US #7) for 200m and Trenton’s Beram, who on Sunday ran a best of 21.59 (US #4) to win his age category at the Armory Youth Championships at the NB Center.
The 60m dash will feature six of the top 10 sprinters in the more-commonly run 55m dash this indoor season. Cherryville’s Friday, who is No. 2 in the country, is the quickest among the bunch with a time of 6.30. Highland Spring (VA) junior Marcus Taylor (6.31, US #4), Grassfield (VA) senior Vincent Lowe (6.32, US #5) and Terry Sanford (NC) senior Jahmaal Daniel (6.35, US #8) are a few others that could break the tape as well as Sylvania Southview (OH) senior Malcolm Johnson (6.76) and Oak Park (MI) senior Eli Minor (6.78), who are ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in the 60m this season.
It’s anybody’s guess in the 60m hurdles with a number of athletes capable of breaking the tape. Last year’s second- and third-place finishers are back with Hoover (AL) senior Marlon Humphrey and Cummings (NC) senior Isaiah Moore, respectively. Moore is tied for the No. 1 spot in the 55m hurdles this year with Grassfield (VA) sophomore Grant Holloway with both hurdlers recording a best of 7.28. Humphrey is fourth in the 60m hurdles with his 7.92 effort in the prelims of the Ice Breaker Invitational on Jan. 4. The Ohio tandem of JFK-Warren junior Chad Zallow and Glenville senior Davon Anderson share the top ranking in the 60m hurdles with identical 7.84 clockings. They could also be threats to snare a title.
Bensalem’s Kyle Francis established himself as the nation's fastest runner in the 800m after his win at the PTFCA Indoor State Championship at the beginning of March. However, Francis will not be at the indoor nationals and now the favorite becomes the runner who finished second at that championship meet in Council Rock senior Jeffrey Wiseman, who was timed in 1:51.36 (US #2). Wiseman ran sub 1:54 several times during the outdoor season and has 48-second 400m speed. In other words, if the leaders go out hard, somewhere around 53 seconds, more than likely the Council Rock runner can handle it. He also has a best of 1:20.67 in the 600m, which he did to place third at the New Balance Armory Collegiate Invitational early last month. Other runners capable of making things happen are Mendham (NJ) senior Christian Kildel-Brandt (1:20.50-600m, 1:54.80-800m) and North Rockland (NY) senior Liam Purdy (2:25.80-1,000m). The sleeper could be Gloucester (MA) junior Everest Crawford. Crawford upset top-ranked Gabe Montague of Newton North (MA) last week in the 1,000m at the New England meet with a best of 2:26.11. He’s not afraid to challenge the leaders.
Based on his nation best and state record of 4:08.96 at the Millrose Games, nearly three-seconds faster than the No. 2 seed in the event, Gavigan has to be considered the favorite to take top honors in the mile. He proved his nearly seven-second best in the mile was no fluke by capturing the N.Y. state meet on March 1 with a 4:11.21 for 1,600 meters. The race will be without West Chester (PA) senior Tony Russell, the winner of the Yale Track Classic and the junior mile of the New Balance Grand Prix. Russell, who ran a best of 4:11.56 at the Grand Prix race, is scheduled to run the mile leg of his school’s medal-contending DMR squad. Three other runners in the field have broken 4:14, including Foot Locker National champion Grant Fisher (4:12.87), a junior from Grand Blanc. There’s also Rock Springs (WY) senior Rick Faure (4:11.67) and Mont Tabor (NC) senior Ian Milder (4:12.71). You can’t count out Newton North’s Montague. He has the top seed in the 1,000m at 2:25.45 and ran a best of 4:14.13 to place third at the Grand Prix. After his rare loss at the NE meet, Montague may have a little added motivation when the gun is fired.
The two-mile field is stacked with several runners capable of breaking nine minutes at The Armory. The top seed is Fairfield Prep (CT) senior Christian Alvarado, who came close to a “sub nine” by winning the New England title on March 1 with a state and meet record of 9:00.29. Alvarado, who has a devastating kick, won his state meet with a crisp 9:07.63 for 3,200 meters. He also owns an 8:26.25 effort for the 3K.
Ellsworth (ME) senior Dan Curts, who placed third to Alvarado at the NE meet with a best of 9:07.24 (US #4), should be among the lead pack. On Feb. 23, he ran the country’s fastest time for 3,000m with an 8:23.65 at the USATF New England Championships in Boston. Pearl River (NY) senior Brian Cook has the talent to contend. In mid-February, he won the Section I State Qualifier in N.Y. with a two-mile best of 9:08.30 (US #5). He also has done 9:05.14 for 3,200m and has demonstrated his speed with a fast 2:27.75 for 1,000m. Other legitimate threats are Middlesex School (MA) senior Garrett O’Toole (9:07.0, two miles), Sky View (VA) junior Conner Mantz (9:09.44, two miles) and Tatnall (DE) senior Stephen Garnett (8:35.20, 3,000m).
The 5,000m will feature returning champion Elijah Armstrong of Pocatello (ID), who won last year’s race with a national sophomore record of 14:54.27. At the outdoor nationals he placed third with his all-time best of 14:28.97. Armstrong, who was a sixth-place finisher at the Foot Locker Nationals in December, would appear to be the runner to beat in this event. Earlier this year, the junior ran a then-No. 1 for two miles of 9:08.60 by winning the Jackson Invitational on Jan. 24.
Providence Day School (NC) senior Ben Huffman, who finished second at the Foot Locket South Regionals with a PB of 14:44 for 5K, should be strong. There’s also Lake Norman (NC) senior Patrick Sheehan, who tops the national indoor list with a 15:02 best. Another runner to watch is Darien (CT) junior Alex Ostberg, who recently placed second in the two mile at the New England’s with a time of 9:02.74.
Of the four high-jumpers that have leaped seven feet or higher this season, only one will be at the NBNI meet - Steve Dunbar of Tallwood (VA). Dunbar is ranked No. 2 nationwide with his 7-2 effort at a conference meet on Jan. 9. The senior standout tied for tenth at last year’s NBNI, but took second at the NBNO meet with his inaugural clearance of seven feet, matching the first-place height of 7-0.25 of Cartersville (GA) senior Miles Bearden. Another Virginia athlete could challenge for the top spot, junior Bradley Jones of Oscar Smith. Jones finished ahead of Dunbar at the recent VHSL 6A State Indoor Championships by taking second with a PB of 6-10. Dunbar was fourth at 6-8. Alexander Central (NY) senior Donald Ohlson could also be in the mix. He had a best of 6-9 at the Trent Jackson Invitational on Jan. 18.
Kentwood (LA) senior Devin King, a runner-up at last June’s NBNO meet, is the clear-cut favorite to take the pole vault this weekend. King has a best of 17-8, which he did at the LSU Last Chance Qualifier on Feb. 15. He was sixth at the indoor meet in 2013. Corsicana (TX) senior Noah Gilfillan is the No. 2 pole-vaulter in the country with a best of 17-1. He failed to clear the opening height last year so that may provide some added motivation to excel this weekend. Other strong contenders are Warwick Valley (NY) junior Todd Uckermark (16-9, US #4) and Memphis University School (TN) senior Harrison Williams (16-8, US #6).
The long jump includes five of the top eight athletes in the national rankings. Serra Junipero (CA) senior Adoree Jackson leads the lists with his 24-1.15 effort at the Simplot Games on Feb. 13. You can’t count out Moore from Cummings. The star hurdler also excels in the horizontal leap. He has a season best of 23-11.5 (US #4). He was third at the outdoor nationals with a distance of 23-10 and a month later competed in the IAAF World Youth Championships in Ukraine where he had his all-time best of 24-8.5. Bishop O’Dowd (CA) senior Nate Moore was second at the Simplot Games with a PB of 23-11.75 (US #3) and Longwood (NY) senior Dayshawn Taylor won the Eastern States Championship at 23-8.5 (US #8).
There’s potential for a great showdown in the triple jump with the nation’s top three competing this weekend. Prince George (VA) senior John Warren is the No. 1 seed with his 51-3 effort at the VHSL Group 5A Conference 12 Indoor T & F Championships on Feb. 7. Cahokia (IL) sophomore LeMari Ward (50-2.5) and El Paso Burges (TX) senior Keandre Bates (49-3.75) are the next two seeds.
New Yorkers have potential to sweep the top three placements in the shot put. Smithtown West senior Benjamin Bonhurst, who was seventh a year ago at NBNI, would have to be considered the favorite. He has the nation’s best toss with a first-place distance of 65-0 at the N.Y. Elite Meet on Feb. 21. Williamsville South senior Devan Patterson, a sixth-place finisher in 2013, is the No. 2 seed with his PR of 63-10.75 (US #2) and North Rockland junior Eric Favors holds the fourth seed with a PR of 63-0.5 (US #6). New Jersey state champion Nick Pulli, a senior from West Deptford, could break up the party. He ranks fifth in the country with his best of 63-1.75.
Rhode Island’s best chance to make it to the top of the podium is the 25-pound weight with Barrington junior Adam Kelly, who has been the No. 1 thrower nearly the entire season. Kelly came close to the cracking 80 feet when he captured the New England Weight Throw Championship on Feb. 25 with a distance of 79-1.25. Right behind Kelly is St. Pius X (GA) senior Daniel Haugh of Throw 1 Deep, who has a best of 78-5 (US #2). Other top contenders are Genoa Area (OH) senior Logan Bryer (76-6, US #3) and Barrington sophomore Bobby Colantonio, who recently unleashed the weight a PR of 72-6.5 (US #4) at the Weightarama this past Saturday at Brown University in R.I.
In some of the key relay events, top-seeded Don Bosco will look to earn a national title. The New Jersey team owns a best of 10:13.40. Blacksburg (VA), which ran a nation-leading time of 7:44.52, is entered in the 4x800. The final event on the track could turn into a nail-biter with the three fastest foursome in the country scheduled to compete in the 4x400 – Union Catholic (NY), Old Bridge (NJ) and Boys and Girls (NY). Union Catholic has clocked 3:16.12 this season.
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