Nike Indoor Nationals Girls Preview


By Pete Cava,

National Scholastic Sports Foundation

    Here is an event-by-event look at the girls competition in the Nike Indoor Nationals this weekend (March 10-11) in Landover, Maryland.

   THE TOP RUNG of the victory platform is every Nike Indoor Championships athlete’s dream destination. It’s the goal they’ve all been aspiring to, in many cases, for years and years and years.

  But, as NIN celebrates its ninth anniversary, it’s clear that a handful of the most talented young competitors in the land have an inside track on their gold-medal goals.

   Among them are such bright stars as Danielle Tauro, Chanelle Price, Ashley Cruder, Bianca Knight, Jackie Coward, Katie Veith, Jamesha Youngblood, Kamorean Hayes and Ryann Krais - and an amzing collection of relay runners representing the Blazin’ Raiders of Eleanor Roosevelt High of nearby Greenbelt, Md.

   The event-by-event analysis:

    60-METER DASH - Ashley Cruder (Aurora, Colorado) won it decisively a year ago in 7.36 and bids to join 2000-01 champion Erica Whipple (West Palm Beach, Florida) as NIN’s second two-time short dash champion.
   She will not have an easy time of it, with such blazers as Victoria Jordan (Desoto, Florida), Jasmine Russ (Philadelphia) and Jessica Antoniades (Philadelphia) arrayed against her. Heading into Landover, Jordan has posted the nation’s best 60-meter time and a U.S. junior-class record (7.24) while Cruder has run a 6.90, Russ 6.96 and Antoniades 7 flat over the 55-meter route. The 7.19 national and meet record by another Ashley, Owens of Colorado Springs, the 2004 titlist, will be under attack.

   60-METER HURDLES - One of the most dominant athletes in the entire NIN cast is Jackie Coward (West HS of Knoxville, Tennessee) who has already destroyed the national record with her 8.17 performance at the University of Kentucky Invitational. And she’s just a junior.
   Coward, much improved over her third-place form at the 2006 Nike Outdoor Nationals, totally monoplizes the 2007 year list with the top five clockings (starting at 7.67) at the 55-meter distance and the top four (8.29, 8.35 and 8.39 on top of her 8.17) over the 60-meter route.
  Jasmine Stowers (Liberty, SC) ran fourth in the 2006 final at 8.60, while Kali Williams (Menchville, Viriginia) was fifth at 8.70 and both challenge again.

   200-METER DASH -DeAngela McDougald (Fort Riley, Kansas), fourth at 25.06 in 2006, has every intention of racing to the very top of the one-lap sprint heap this time around and checks into Landover with 24.37 credentials. But Victoria Jordan, doubling back after the 60, has clocked a 24.39 this winter and is a serious threat. Then there’s Jackie Coward who is a 24.44 furlonger on top of her national-record hurdling performances.

   400-METER DASH - When Francena McCorory (Bethel of Hampton, Va.) sensationalized the 2006 meet with her national-record two-lapper of 51.93, many guessed that this would be a mark to stay in the books for eons.
  They may be right - but that would be underestimating the potential of
freshman revelation Thandi Stewart (Union City, California) who has gone 54.44 this winter and obviously leaves all kinds of room for improvement.
   Another bright young prospect, Dominque Jordan (Newport News, Va.) was third at 55.96 a year ago as a sophomore and has run 55.03 this winter.
  In there, too, is senior star Bianca Knight (Ridgeland, Mississippi) who set the NIN sophomore-class record for the 200 with her 24.05 win in 2005 and was a dominator at the 206 NON with a 200 win at 23.06 and a second in the 100.

    800-METER RUN - Junior standout Chanelle Price (Easton, Pa.) seems an absolute lock, with her 2:04.96 dossier and just one other runner, Blaire Dinsdale (Traer, Iowa) under 2:10 at 2:09.39. But that’s just on paper and let’s see how it all unfolds.
   If Price (2006 NON winner at 2:07.71) is at her best, this race has all kinds of record potential. Easily within reach is the meet record (2:09.52 by Arkansas’s Kateya Kosteskaya in 2003) and 2:04.96 has already bested the junior class record (2:06.60) by the illustrious Joetta Clark for Columbia High of Maplewood, NJ in 1979.) At 2:10.25, Dominique Jackson (Fairfield, Calif.) is the only other sub-2:11 entry; she was second to Price at 2006 NON in 2:08.25.

  1-MILE RUN - Danielle Tauro didn’t run the mile at the 2006 NIN, concentrating on anchoring her Southern Regional, NJ team to the distance medley crown. But she’s declared for the mile this time around and so we can expect some genuine fireworks at the eight-lapper (plus nine meters.)
  Hopes were high at season’s outset that Tauro would have a serious run at the national indoor record (4:38.50) that Debbie Heald (La Mirada, Calif.) has owned since...would you believe?...1972.
Even though she’s won absolutely everything in sight over the past two years - lone exception the World Junior 1500 in China - Tauro's fans keep hoping she takes out a few more records before heading off to Ann Arbor, Mich. Her 2007 best is the 4:46.13 needed to win the Reebok Boston Classic.
   Amazing but true, it’s her own Southern Regional sophomore teammate, Jillian Smith, the NON national freshman champion of 2006, who has 4:53.41 credits and has been running in her slipstream all year, who may be tracking her trail once again in Landover.
    Thirteen of these NINers have broken five minutes this winter, with freshman star Cory McGee (Pass Christian, Mississippi) at 4:53.90 and senior Alex Kosinski (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) at 4:54.05.

   2-MILE RUN - Junior Hannah Davidson (Saratoga Springs, NY) has an open track margin on her top rivals coming in, but the deuce is always loaded with the potential for surprise. With a 10:32.82 to her credit, Davidson is the solid choice over Ashley Brasovan (Wellington, Fla.) at 10:44.40, Catherine White (Roanoke, Va.) at 10:46.86 and Kayla Hale (Indialantic, Fla.) at 10:47.90.

   5000-METER RUN - This Saturday Special - new to NIN this year - is unexplored territory for virtually all 13 entries, few who’ve done the 3.1-mile distance since cross country.
   A few leading candidates (based on 2-mile credentials): local Halsey Sinclair (Silver Spring, Md.), Kassie Meholick (New Cumberland, Pa.), Katherine Ward (Matilda, Pa.) and Sullivan Parkes (Winchester, Va.)

    1-MILE RACEWALK - Leah Buletti’s big sister, Heather, set a National and NON record of 7:00.87 winning at Greensboro last year. So can Leah, a Westhampton Beach, NY sophomore. keep the National walk title in the family?
    Off her 7:30.00 best in 2007, she’ll be right in the mix.
   Top gold medal candidate, though, remains Olivia Lapham (Penfield, NY) junior. With a 7:17.63 clocking this winter, she’s good, but certainly not good enough to lap ‘em.
    Her Penfield teammate, Eileen "Meg" Patterson, is a top contender, too, with a 7:24.63. Then there’s young veteran Allison Snochowski, the Fair Lawn, NJ junior who has been competing for years in the Junior Olympic and USATF ranks, with a 7:39.00 best.

   HIGH JUMP - Just one NIN champion. meet record-holder (of course) Sheena Gordon (Erie, Pa.) has ever cleared six feet (a precise 6-0 in 2002) - and it’s an unlikely happening again in 2007.
Who’ll win it this time? NIN defending champion Patience Coleman (Durham, NC; 5-10 3/4 last year) seems to be the pick but her 2007 best is just 5-8.
    With two at 5-9 and five others at 5-8 on the year-list, it seems to be a wide-open event. The 5-9ers are Ashley Gatling (Chesapeake, Va.) and
Audrey Gariepy-Bogui (Potomac, Md.)

    POLE VAULT - Katie Veith (Homestead of Fort Wayne, Indiana) is back as defending champion but hasn’t matched her 13-5 1/4 2006 gold medal ascent (or her junior-class record of 14 feet, either) this winter.
   But, on experience alone, Veith (also the 2006 NON winner at 13-2 1/2) , is the choice to win it again and thus join 2001-2002 titlist Samantha Shepard (Weston, Mass.) as NIN’s second-ever two-time PV champion.
   But keep your eyes looking Shade Weygandt (Mansfield, Texas) who has cleared 13-6, and Stephanie Duffy (Monroe, NY), who has done 13-0.

   LONG JUMP - Carol Lewis has long since graduated from her brilliant days at Willingboro High, NJ... to the University of Houston to three Olympic appearances to her current starring role as an expert TV analyst. And her fame as "Carl’s sister."
   But her indoor LJ best of 21 feet, 2 ½ inches has more than passed the test of time, too. Fact is, it’s been the national record since 1981.
   Just two past NIN winners have even been in the 20s, with Marshevet Hooker (Southwest High of San Antonio) the meet record-holder at 20-6 ½ in 2003. Now starring for the University of Texas, Hooker will likely see her meet mark endure another year.
   Top gold medal candidates this time are Brittni Finch (Clifton, Va.), who was third in 2006; and three Californians, Karyn Dunn (Diamond Bar), Jamesha Youngblood (San Pablo) and Amber Purvis (Benicia.) Their 2006 bests: Dunn 20-3, Youngblood 20-1, Finch 19-10 1/4, and Purvis 19-10.
   Don't overlook Arantxa King (Medford, Mass.), either. Her 2007 indoor best is 19-6 and she took the 2006 NON gold at 20-1 3/4.

  TRIPLE JUMP - Jamesha Youngblood (San Pablo, Calif.) may be the second seed in the LJ but she’s number one candidate in the TJ with a 2007 best of 41-4. Clearly, she’s a threat to the NIN meet record of 41-8 ½ by Erica McLain (Plano, Texas) in 2003.
   Eastern Championships winner Stephanie McIntyre (South Brunswick, NJ) has been getting better every meet out, but the TJ is not a standard indoor event in NJ and her opportunities have been limited. Still, she’s gone 40-11 and just two other entries, Arantxa King (Medford, Mass) at 40-6 and Rachel Butler (Mechanicsville, Va.) have been in the 40's. 

    SHOT PUT - One more past champion on track for a successful title defense is Kamorean Hayes (Charlotte, NC.) Fact is, she’s gunning for a three-peat, after her wins in 2005 at 48-11 and 2006 at 50-8. Should she collect gold number three, she’d top the gold medal feats of Olympian-to-be Laura Gerraughty (Nashua, NH), winner here in 2000 and 2001.  Hayes also won the 2006 NON crown at 50-10.
   Likely still out of range, though, are the National and meet records (54-9 ½) achieved by Michelle Carter at the 2003 NIN.
   Karen Shump (Media, Pa.) was sixth in 2006 but is two seed this year at 49-4. Iowa City’s Danica Haight checks in at 47-10 1/4.
   And note the duel between New Jersey rivals Taryn O’Connor (Hillsborough) and DeAnne Hahn (Brick.) O’Connor has beaten Hahn two of three times but Hahn took the State Meet of Champions crown. Their bests: O’Connor 47-6, Hahn 47-2.

- Slowly but surely, the weight throw is gaining the national recognition it surely deserves. Top tossers are emerging all over the country. Just look at the four leading NIN entries - they represent four different states.
   Heading the pre-meet chart is Allison Horner (Marietta, Ga.), third last year at 48-9 but up to 53-6 this winter.
   Next in line are California’s Casey Kraychir (29 Palms) at 52-11; New York’s Cynthia Lloyd (New Rochelle) at 51-9 and Delaware’s Brieanna Kennedy (Newark) at 44-6.
   But no one’s yet in the class of Idaho’s Maureen Griffin (Pocatello) who set NIN and national records with her monster 60-10 ½ toss in 1997.

   PENTATHLON - Still just a junior, Ryann Krais (Eagleville, Pa.) comes to Landover as defending champion and top gold medal candidate all over again. She netted 3,670 points in 2006 and would like to add the 147 needed to erase the national record (3,846) set by Californian Shana Woods (Long Beach Poly) and the 40 required to erase the NIN best-ever (3,709) by another Californian. Gayle Hunter (JW North of Riverside), both dating to 2004.
  Other all-arounders to watch at Landover: Mindy Robins (Orem, Utah), Indira Morton (South Brunswick, NJ); and locals Jacia Montgomery (Greenbelt, Md.) and Saniel Atkinson (Upper Marlboro, NJ.)

   4X200 RELAY - In Uniondale, NY, there obviously is strength and speed and talent. The Long Islanders have already been clocked in 1:39.17 this winter, faster than the 1:39.52 meet record Bethel, Va. notched in 2006.
   But don’t ever underestimate those Blazin’ Raiders of nearby Eleanor Roosevelt High (Greenbelt, Md.) who’ve run a 1:39.36. Promising to be close up, too, is East Orange Campus High, NJ, owner of a 1:39.94.

-The Westside Quick Striders of Anderson, SC sure do live up to their title. Put a few hurdles in their way and they’re at their best. Westside has won this two straight years, running 33.51 in 2005 and 33.08 in 2006. They’re seeded at 33.30 in 2007 - naturally at the top of the charts.
  The NIN meet and national record of 32.02 by West Palm Beach, Fla. In in 1999 will clearly be under assault.
   Hammer Track Club, alias Southern Regional High School of Manahawkin, NJ will show folks that it’s not just a distance team, while New Rochelle, NY and Hillsborough, NJ are solid over the sticks, too.

   4X400 RELAY - It looks like those Blazin’ Raiders of Eleanor Roosevelt High of close-up Greenbelt, Md. all the way. In addition to their backyard edge, they own a 3:44.34 performance that’s under the meet record figures of 3:45.35 posted by Woodrow Wilson High, Long Beach, Calif. in 1999.
   James Logan High of Union City, Calif. has a solid foursome, too, the only other entry under 3:50 at 3:49.41.

   4X800 RELAY - The NIN has never seen a girls 4x800 time under 9 flat, but look for it this year. And you won’t have to look far, just down the Beltway, to - yup, once again - the Blazin’ Raiders of Eleanor Roosevelt High (Greenbelt, Md.) who’ve run a 9:01.17 this winter.
   Also set to take on the NIN meet record of 9:11.82 by Boys and Girls High (Brooklyn, NY) are Mountain Brook Track Club (Alabama), on a 9:05.00 performance, and Midlothian RC at 9:07.27.

   4XMILE RELAY - The Kinetic Track Club of Saratoga Springs, NY has won this one four straight years, so it would be a huge upset to see anyone else take it. In addition to all those gold medals, the Saratogans own three of the four best times in NIN history, topped by the meet record of 19:59.24 in 2005.
    Leading distance clubs gunning to break up the Saratoga monopoly include the Midlothian RC, Westfield Sisu of Indiana and Adrenaline TC of Wilmington, Delaware.

    SPRINT MEDLEY RELAY - Q. Can the Blazin’ Raiders of Eleanor Roosevelt High (Greenbelt, Md.) win this one, too?
    A. Why not?
   They won it last year in 4:05.50 and come in with a 3:52.09 seed time that would simply demolish the NIN meet record of 3:59.62 set by Woodrow Wilson High of Long Beach, Calif. in 2002.
   No school has ever won this event three times. The Raiders, who also won it with a 4:03.74 in 2003, figure to reach that plateau, too.
   Easton, Pa., the AJS Elites and James Logan High, among others, will give chase.

  DISTANCE MEDLEY RELAY - The Hammer Track Club, alias the Rams of Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, NJ, has a huge advantage in the all-star presence of Danielle Tauro and Jillian Smith.
   But do the Rams have the four-runner strength to win it all? And will their individual one-mile races impact the performances of Tauro and Smith?
   If all goes well, the Rams have the talent to wipe out the NIN meet record of 11:56.87 owned by the Rockford, Mich. club since 2003.
   The Rams cannot afford to falter, however, with such solid foursomes as Mountain Brook of Alabama, the Blazin’ Raiders, Midlothian and the E-Squad of Bethesda, Md. all full of eager talent.