Despite the talent split between Nike Outdoor Nationals and USATF Junior Nationals, Greensboro will showcase much of the top talent in the land this coming weekend. From start to finish nearly every girls event is packed with U.S. top ten ranked athletes, hoping that their finest performance can land them atop of the awards podium. See which girls are favored and in which events in our Girls Nike Outdoor Nationals preview.
Nike Outdoor Nationals Girls Preview
Girls 100m/200m Dash
Sprints are generally a hard thing to judge, but at NON this year it's fairly clear who the pre-race favorite is in the girls 100m and 200m dash events. Chalonda Goodman (Newnan, GA) seems primed and ready to go after a double national championship. The Georgia junior tore through her regular in-state season, running a handful of marks that really showed her fitness. Since then she's remained under the radar, but if history repeats itself, expect Goodman to be right there.
Goodman's top competition in the 100m dash comes from in-state rival Breanna Hubbard (Mundys Mill, GA), who's run under 11.80 already this season. Goodman's chief challengers in the 200m dash are Toni Graham (Conant, IL), Marlena Wesh (Landstown, VA) and Briana Nelson (J.L. Mann, SC). All three of these start athletes cannot be overlooked.
Graham competed all season in Illinois, showing her best at the end of the year. While she's had a month off in between races, she was rarely challenged during the regular season, so increased competition might do her some good. Wesh is on a roll after winning both the 100m and 200m dash events at the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational (PR) last weekend. Traveling back to back weekends is always hard on an athlete, but luckily for Wesh she doesn't live too far from NC, residing in the neighboring state of Virginia.
Nelson will be a touch overlooked in this event as eyes focus on the 400m dash. Nelson ran through competition all season long and will finally have a true test against this field. Do not be surprised if she ends up being the national 200m champion.
Athletes to Watch: Chalonda Goodman (Newnan, GA), Toni Graham (Conant, IL), Marlena Wesh (Landstown, VA), Kelsey McCorkle (South Central, NC), Briana Nelson (J.L. Mann, SC), Breanna Hubbard (Mundys Mill, GA).
Girls 400m Dash
Similar to the boys sprint events, the girls 400m is the best field when it comes to the sprints. With five girls running under 54 seconds already this year in the field, and another half dozen capable of cracking the barrier, this event is one of the deepest. Unlike last year when Jessica Beard (OH) completely dominated the field, this year's event should be a bit closer.
Leading the charge is Natalie Stewart (Spanish Fork, UT). The BYU-bound senior has looked strong all season long and really came into form towards the end of the year. Focusing on only one open event will be key for her progress towards an individual national championships. Without questions she'll be helping her team, but the 400m is marked with her name on it until otherwise proven.
A handful of contenders should give Stewart a very strong push, led by Nadonnia Rodriques (Boys & Girls, NY), Diamond Richardson (DeSoto, TX) and Briana Nelson (J.L. Mann, SC). All three of these young women have shown multiple times this year that they are front runners and are national caliber. Do not be surprised to see someone dip into the mid-52's.
Athletes to Watch: Nadonnia Rodriques (Boys & Girls, NY), Diamond Richardson (DeSoto, TX), Briana Nelson (J.L. Mann, SC), Natalie Stewart (Spanish Fork, UT), Michelle Brown (Seneca, NJ), Kendra Chambers (EP Hanks, TX).
Girls 800m Dash
While Chanelle Price (Easton, PA) and Laura Roesler (Fargo South, ND), the top two ranked 800m runners in the country, prepare for the Olympic Trials in a week and a half, athletes like Jillian Smith (Southern Regional, NJ), Nachelle Stewart (Spanish Fork, UT) and Charlene Lipsey (Hempstead, NY) clash at NON hoping to prove that they are in the class of Price and Roesler.
Smith is the top ranked athlete in the field, currently sitting at the U.S. #3 spot with a 2:05 effort from the New Jersey State Championships. However, challengers Stewart and Lipsey both ran extremely well at their respective state meets and will be out for the win as well.
The additions of Phyllis Francis (Catherine McAuley, NY) and Rebecca Addison (Grand Haven, MI) set this race up to really produce. Having all six athletes finish under 2:07 is not out of the question, as the event continues to showcase the national depth seen time and again in the distance races this season.
Athletes to Watch: Jillian Smith (Southern Regional, NJ), Charlene Lipsey (Hempstead, NY), Nachelle Stewart (Spanish Fork, UT), Phyllis Francis (Catherine McAuley, NY), Rebecca Addison (Grand Haven, MI).
Girls Mile Run
The obvious favorite in this year's NON mile field is last year's runner-up Emily Infeld (Beaumont, OH). Infeld has shown time and again that she is one of the best in the country, and with in-state rival and last year's NON champion Stephanie Morgan (Barnesville, OH) deciding to stay home and run Junior Nationals, the time is right for Infeld to pick up her first national title.
Her main challengers are Anna Shields (Lewis Mill, CT), Emily Lipari (Rosary, NY) and Melanie Thompson (Voorhees, NJ). Both Shields and Lipari finished the season on a strong note, especially Lipari, who won the girls 1500m and 3000m races at the New York State T&F Championships last weekend.
One athlete to really watch is Jami Hill (Onalaska, WI). At the Midwest Distance Gala (IL) last weekend Hill ran a new personal best, while breaking the meet record, in 2:09. Such success could mean great things are ahead for the Wisconsin star. The field is set up perfectly for a race to finish around the 4:42-4:44 mark.
Athletes to Watch: Emily Infeld (Beaumont, OH), Anna Shields (Lewis Mill, CT), Jami Hill (Onalaska, WI), Emily Lipari (Rosary, NY), Kathy Kroeger (Independence, TN), Brittany Koziara (Boone, FL), Melaine Thompson (Voorhees, NJ), Jessica Tonn (Xavier Prep, AZ).
Girls Two-Mile/5k Runs
Similar to the boys track races, the best girls track match-up comes in the two-mile. Foot Locker champion Ashley Brasovan (Wellington, FL) and multi-time all-American Neely Spence (Shippensburg, PA) go head-to-head for the first time since Foot Locker Nationals last fall. Brasovan, who started her season late due to injury, came on strong at the end of the season, running 10:15 to win her state meet 3200m. Spence meanwhile has set her sights on NON since early on in the season and has a treasure chest of big meet experience to pull from.
Following on the heels of Spence and Brasovan is the New Jersey combination of Melanie Thompson (Voorhees, NJ) and Kathleen McCafferty (Oak Knoll, NJ). These two have battled a few times before this season and both should be thinking that they can help one another stay connected to the two frontrunners. Another runner from the east coast is Emily Jones (Bromfield, MA), who's run under 10:35 for the two-mile numerous times this season. With more competition in the field it will be interesting to see how fast she can go.
The darkhorse in the field is '06 Foot Locker National Champion Kathy Kroeger (Independence, TN). Racing all of her races in state this year, Kroeger received little competition from her first race until her last. This leaves the junior with a bunch of questions marks, especially since she didn't compete in track last spring. How fast can Kroeger go is an obvious question.
Brasovan is the favorite in the girls 5k if she indeed chooses to run it. Her talent is a step above the rest, however, athletes like Heather Stephens (Ridgefield, CT) and Chelsea Ley (Kingsway Regional, NJ) would vie for the title if Brasovan decides to sit this race out and just prepare for the two mile.
Athletes to Watch: Ashley Brasovan (Wellington, FL), Neely Spence (Shippensburg, PA), Melanie Thompson (Voorhees, NJ), Kathleen McCafferty (Oak Knoll, NJ), Kathy Kroeger (Indpendence, TN), Chelsey Ley (Kingsway Regional, NJ), Heather Stephens (Ridgefield, CT), Emily Jones (Bromfield, MA).
Girls 100m/400m Hurdles
The 100m hurdles should be quite an exciting event this weekend, as some of the best fly in to show their stuff. Jasmin Stowers (Pendleton, SC) is the pre-race favorite in the event, especially after dominating competition at last weekend's Caribbean Scholastic Invitational down in Puerto Rico. However, Stowers will have plenty of challengers, especially from Destiny Lumas (Saginaw, TX) and A'Lexus Brannon (Ozen, TX). Both Texas starlets have the speed to overtake Stowers if she falters even slightly.
In the longer hurdle event, Elizabeth Mott (New Rochelle, NY) looks to challenge for the win, especially after her 58.01, U.S. #2 performance at last weekend's New York State T&F Championships. Her chief competition should come from Kennisha Holden (Redar, GA), who ran 42.80 earlier this season for 300m hurdles and has had time to work on finishing the extra 100m since her state meet a few weeks back.
Athletes to Watch: Destiny Lumas (Saginaw, TX), A'Lexus Brannon (Ozen, TX), Jasmin Stowers (Pendleton, SC), Elizabeth Mott (New Rochelle, NY), Kennisha Holden (Redar, GA).
Girls 2k Steeplechase
Davidson v. Greany, Greany v. Davidson...that certainly has a familiar sound to it. Last season Hannah Davidson (Saratoga Springs, NY) finished as the U.S. #1 steepler in a time of 6:43.73. Following closely on her heels was in-state rival Shelby Greany (Suffern, NY), who finished the season U.S. #2 less than a second back.
After both athletes ran well last weekend at the New York State T&F Championships, the two meet in the steeplechase for the first time this season. Greany won the state meet rather easily, while Davidson decided to focus on other events. With Marie Lawrence's (NV) 6:35.63 well within reach, it would not be surprising to see both athletes dip under the mark this weekend.
Athletes to Watch: Hannah Davidson (Saratoga Springs, NY), Shelby Greany (Suffern, NY).
Girls Pole Vault
The girls pole vault should be an intriguing event to watch this weekend. While U.S. #1 Rachel Laurent (LA) and U.S. #2 Shade Weygandt (TX) are at US Juniors, a nice collection of talent will be testing their limits in North Carolina. Leading the way is 13-05.25 vaulter Stephanie Foreman (Lake Hamilton, AR). Foreman has shown time and again this spring that she is one of the consistent, if not the most consistent, vaulter in the land over 13-03. With a few weeks to prepare for NON after her state meet, do not be surprised to see her vault well over 13-06.
Following closely behind is seasoned veteran Abby Schaffer (Easton, PA) and relative darkhorse Leslie Brost (Watertown, SD). Schaffer competed exceptionally well during the indoor season, placing second at the NSIC and NIN meets. Outdoors, Schaffer won the Penn Relays event and her state meet as well. Meanwhile, Brost went unchallenged all season in South Dakota, clearing 13-03 and will be testing herself with equal competition for the first time this year. Both Schaffer and Brost have a great shot to knock off Foreman.
After those three a nice collection of talent will be looking to clear the 13-03 and 13-00 marks. Louisiana upstart Morgann LeLeux (Catholic, LA) has gone 13-01 this spring, while Mackenzie Wills (Troy Christian, OH) is another to watch that's already cleared 13-00 this season.
Athletes to Watch: Stephanie Foreman (Lake Hamilton, AR), Abby Schaffer (Easton, PA), Leslie Brost (Watertown, SD), Morgann LeLeux (Catholic, LA), Mackenzie Wills (Troy Christian, OH).
Can A'Lexus Brannon (Ozen, TX) earn double gold this weekend in the girls jumping events? That will be one question asked time and again until competition starts Thursday. Brannon may just be the star of the show if she can pull double gold, as she enters the meet ranked as the top seed in the long jump with her 21-00.50 effort and ranked very well in the triple jump as well.
However, Brannon is guaranteed nothing, especially when athletes like Charaschie Lockhart (Dallas Skyline, TX) and Sonnisha Williams (Raines, FL) are in the fields. Both Lockhart and Williams are leaping well right now. Lockhart enters the meet with a fine 40-02.50 effort in the triple jump, while Williams has a 20-03.50 long jump personal best this season. Both will challenge.
In the girls high jump Monique Roberts (Cicero North, NY) is one of the pre-meet favorites. She's cleared 5-09 and with much of the talent in Ohio this weekend it is certainly not surprising that a 5-09 could win this year's event.
Athletes to Watch: A'Lexus Brannon (Ozen, TX), Jacinda Evans (Southern Durham, NC), Charaschie Lockhart (Dallas Skyline, TX), Ada Unachukwu (Marlboro, NJ), Sonnisha Williams (Raines, FL), Monique Roberts (Cicero North, NY).
No other grouping of events will impress more this weekend than the girls throwing events. From the shot put, to the discus, to the hammer throw, to the javelin throw, the girls events are stacked!
Leading the way in both the shot put and discus is Becky O'Brien (Greely, ME). O'Brien is really turning it on here in the last few weeks, crushing the competition at the Maine State T&F Championships, then setting a new U.S. #1 in the shot put and furthering her personal best int the discus. Such momentum is hard to stop, so O'Brien is the pre-meet favorite in both events.
Emily Vannoy (Thomas Johnson, MD) should provide the biggest test to O'Brien in the shot put. Vannoy is as consistent as they get and earned a big win at the Penn Relays earlier in the season. O'Brien's best test in the discus comes from a trio of talent, including Natalie Baird (Park View Sterling, VA), Taylor Freeman (Iowa City West, IA) and Aslynn Halvorson (Butler, NC). All three of these athletes have thrown well over 150-00 this season, especially Baird who's seasonal best is nearly equal to O'Brien's.
In the javelin throw freshman sensation Hannah Carson (AZ) is primed and ready to finish off her season on a high note. While she might be entered at USATF Junior Nationals, Carson is also booked to compete at NON. Not only is the meet record in jeopardy, but if Carson hits her throws just right, we could very well see a new national record.
The hammer throw is fairly similar when compared to Carson' javelin event. Victoria Flowers (Classical, RI) is the standout in this event. After dominating the weight throw indoors, the Connecticut-bound senior is ready to take her talents one step further and earn a national title in the hammer. However, Flowers has a busy weekend ahead of herself, as she's entered in the shot put and discus as well.
Athletes to Watch: Taylor Freeman (Iowa City West, IA), Emily Vannoy (Thomas Johnson, MD), Becky O'Brien (Greely, ME), Victoria Flowers (Classical, RI), Natalie Baird (Park View Sterling, VA), Aslynn Halvorson (Butler, NC), Hannah Carson (AZ).