New Balance Nationals Indoor Girls Preview

New champions will be plentiful in the girls’ events at the New Balance Indoor Nationals as only three individual champions return from 2013. And one of those former winners will move down in distance to contest a different event on the 200-meter oval.

Buckle your seat belts. It should be a wild and exciting three days of action at the Armory.

In the 60-meter hurdles, three top finishers from a year ago return, and the trio has been fast thus far in 2014. Colorado’s Dior Hall was seventh in 2013 and is US#1 over the 60s in 2014 with a best of 8.18 seconds in January, while Virginia’s Chantel Ray was fifth last year and is tops over the 55s in 7.90. Quenee’ Dale of Michigan is US#6 in the 60s and had the same spot at the Armory last March. Also fast in recent weeks are two Pennsylvanians, Ciara Leonard and Sierra Brabham-Lawrence. Brabham-Lawrence narrowly missed matching the 8.43 all-time state record, hurdling 8.45 to Leonard’s 8.46 at Penn State two weeks ago.

Straightaway standout Mikiah Brisco of Louisiana will concentrate on the 60 dash and enters as US#1 in the 60 at 7.31, while Alabama’s Caitland Smith was third a year ago and is No. 8 at 7.49. Carolyn Brown of Virginia is US#5 at 55 with a 6.99 and will look to move up from eighth a year ago at New Balance. Others with top credentials include Maryland’s Shania Collins (T-US#2 at 55 in 6.95), New Jersey’s Torie Robinson (T-US#2 in 55) and North Carolina’s Charminique Hackney (US#4 in 55 at 6.99). Washington’s Hannah Cunliffe is US#2 in the 60 at 7.35, while Arizona’s Ky Westbrook brings a US#5 7.47 and Colorado’s Shayna Yon is US#6 at 7.48.

Headed to New York City, only one competitor has hit the 23s undercover in the 200 dash. California’s Gabrielle Cantrell ran 23.77 at the Simplot Games and is a quarter of a second ahead of home state product Symone Darius. The rest of the US top 10 is under 24.50 as no one returns from last year’s one-lap final.

The runner-up a year ago at 400 meters, Olivia Baker of New Jersey leads the 2014 rankings, zipping to a 54.09 at the Meet of Champions earlier this month. Layla White of North Carolina was third last year, while Zola Golden of New York ran 54.40 for US#3 at the Armory in the Eastern States Championships. Also entered are Michigan’s Anna Jefferson (US#2 54.30) and Briyahna Desrosiers of Illinois (US#5 55.04).

Junior Ersula Farrow of Michigan was ninth last year in the 800 but has been the fastest outside of Mary Cain in 2014. Farrow ran 2:10.17 at the SPIRE Showcase in February and has another pair of clockings that would be solidly in this year’s US top 10. Rhode Island’s Maddy Berkson is seventh over 600 meters and was third last year at New Balance, while New Yorkers Emma Gallagher, Jasmine Fray and Erin Jaskot were sixth, seventh and eighth last year. The 2013 NBIN mile champion at 4:40.62, Elise Cranny of Colorado showed her fitness last month with a convincing victory over 6K in the USA Junior Women’s cross country championships and drops down in distance this year at the Armory.

The class of the mile field is Washington’s Alexa Efraimson, who tested out the 200-meter banked oval during the Millrose Games. Her 4:32.15 was worth sixth in the Women’s Wannamaker Mile as the Nike Cross Nationals champion and the veteran professionals all chased Cain to the finish. Efraimson also blasted a US#1 9:00.16 in the 3K at the UW Invitational. Kennedy Weisner finished second in this year’s Pennsylvania indoor championships and was the runner-up in the Millrose high school mile in a US#5 4:48.16. She was sixth a year ago at New Balance and is the top returnee, while home state standout Tiana Guevara was ninth last year and West Virginia’s Amelia Paladino was 11th in 2013 and has run 4:48.07 this season. Mady Clahane of Pennsylvania was fourth at the 2014 Millrose in 4:49.17 and likely will challenge for a medal.

Tenth a year ago in the 2 mile, Hannah Debalsi of Connecticut is coming in with plenty of momentum for this year’s NBIN event. The Foot Locker runner-up in San Diego, Debalsi is US#1 at 10:12.95 and has a sizable edge at the top of the 2-mile charts. Foot Locker champion Tessa Barrett of Pennsylvania plans to double-back from Friday’s 5,000 to contest another 16-plus laps around the Armory. Her last two races ultimately produced an all-time indoor record for Pennsylvania at US#2 9:36.45 over 3K. Virginia’s Caroline Alcorta also has been racing very well, having earned All-American status at Foot Locker, winning the Millrose HS mile in a US#4 4:46.06 and posting a US#2 10:22.29 at 3,200. She was fourth a year ago, finishing right behind Michigan’s Audrey Belf, who currently is US#3 10:26.95 at 3,200. New York’s Katie Lembo (5th) and Virginia’s Allie Klimkiewicz (8th) also are back, while Ohio’s Annie Heffernan is US#7 in 2014 at 10:35.05.

In the 5,000, Barrett will contest her first 25-lapper of the indoor season. A year ago, she was fourth in 16:42 and returns along with New Jersey’s Mackenzie Barry, who was sixth last March and has run 10:47.13 for 2 miles. Claire Howeltt of Connecticut is ranked fifth over 2 miles, while Iowa’s Stephanie Jenks is sixth in the rankings and New York’s Bella Burda is eighth with a 10:36.63.

Raven Saunders of South Carolina and California’s Stamatia Scarvelis likely will decide who is No. 1 in the shot put as they currently share the national lead at 53 feet, 8.25 inches. Saunders hit the mark before Christmas, while Scarvelis went just as long at the Simplot Games. The only other indoor 50-plus thrower – Ashlie Blake of Nevada (52-3.5 at Simplot) – also is entered, along with last year’s fourth- (Tara Belinsky of New York) and seventh-place finishers (Galissia Cause of Virginia). Cause moved to US#8 at last weekend’s Meet of Champions with a heave of 46-7.25.

In the long jump, the meet record (20-7.25 by Brittany Porter in 2009) could be in jeopardy as three of last year’s top eight return. New Jersey’s Keturah Orji was fifth a year ago but is a solid US#1 thus far at 20-8.75. Cidae’a Woods of New Jersey placed fourth last year and has jumped a US#6 19-4.75 in 2014, while Kate Hall of Maine is third nationally at 19-11 and was seventh at the 2013 New Balance.

Orji also leads the field in the triple jump. Her 44-0 is the nation’s best by almost 4 feet. Also entered are Canada’s Angela Mercurio, who was second last year, and Javonne Antoine of Maryland and Anisa Toppin of New York. Antoine was fourth in 2013 at the Armory and is currently US#4, while Toppin claimed sixth a year ago. Also scheduled to compete are New Yorker jumpers McKyla Brooks (US#2 40-2.5) and Kaylyn Gordon (US#5 39-6.5) and Texas standout Asa Garcia (T-US#6 39-3).

Desiree Freier of Texas will be looking to lead another Lone Star State onslaught in the pole vault. Tied for third a year ago as Texas vaulters occupied the top five spots, Freier cleared 14-0 in the Millrose Games in her 2014 debut at the Armory. Kally Long and Zoe McKinley, who shared third in 2013, also have topped 13-0 this season, along with Maryland’s Olivia Gruver. Last year’s runner-up Shay Petty of Texas also is back, along with fellow Texans Sara-Kathryn Stevens (8th in 2013), Meagan Gray (T-US#9 12-10) and Nicole Summersett (T-US#9 12-10).

Cyre Virgo of Pennsylvania likely will have her hands full as she tries to defend her high jump championship.

Currently T-US#5 at 5-8, the junior will be joined by Ellen Dipietro, who leads the US rankings at 5-10 out of Marshfield High in Massachusetts.

Other entrants who bring in 5-8 season bests include Virginia’s Nicie Grier-Spratley and Crystal Jones, who was tied for third in 2013 at the Armory. State champion Megan McCloskey of Pennsylvania shared fifth last year and has cleared 5-8 this season, along with Kerstin Darsney of Massachusetts, Isabella Laurel of Maryland, Amiaya Carey of Virginia, Jailah Mason of Michigan, Kathryn Gulbrandsen of New Jersey and Shayla Broughton of New York, who tied for fifth in 2013.

Gabby Figueroa has dominated the weight throw charts during the 2014 indoor season. With her past five winning throws better than the nation’s No. 2, the Ohioan appears headed for gold and an improvement on last year’s third-place finish. Four others return from last year’s top 8, as Kelli Thomas of Georgia was fifth, Leia Mistowski of Rhode Island sixth, Mohogany Baker of North Carolina seventh and Nyla Woods of Georgia eighth. Thomas enters with the No. 3 throw at 58-11.5, while fellow Georgian Kamry Brinson is ranked next at 58-8.75 in the field of 34.

A pair of placers from last year’s indoor pentathlon are back for national honors. Alexa Harmon-Thomas of Kansas was the runner-up in 2013, while Maya Neal of Illinois placed fifth.

In the relays, Columbia of New Jersey is entered with a pair of event-leading times. Columbia returns to defend its 4x400 title, running a meet record 3:42.03 to cross first last March and owning the US#1 time of 3:46.42 for 2014. Motor City Track Club was fifth in 2013 and is US#2 this season at 3:47.02.

The 4x800 quartet from Columbia ran a national-leading 9:05.40 to win Eastern States, while Benjamin Cardozo of New York and Strath Haven of PA will bring their US#2 9:08.97 and #3 9:09.52 clockings to the Armory. Oakton, Va., last year’s runner-up in the 4x1 mile, returns, while New Rochelle is US#2 in the 4x200 and was fifth a year ago and will be matched against this year’s US#3 Cheltenham of Pennsylvania. Winslow Township of New Jersey and New York’s New Rochelle return from their 1-2 finish in the shuttle hurdles.


More on 2014 New Balance Indoor Nationals: