Just about 5:30 on Sunday night, the Nike Indoor Nationals came to close. For the boys, the final day of the three-day meet couldn’t have had a better ending.
The hundreds of spectators that filled the seats at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center were treated to an exciting afternoon that included a pair of national records among a cluster of spectacular performances.
Here’s a recap of a long day of track & field that was worth the price of admission and perhaps a few dollars more:
It’s just two good
Five national marks fell this weekend and Sunday can hold claim to two of those records.
With an explosive anchor from Anthony Kostelac, Albemarle (Va.) High gave head coach “Buzz” Male a perfect gift on his 63rd birthday by shattering the 4x800-meter mark by more than five seconds with a time of 7 minutes, 36.99 seconds.
Kostelac sizzled his final leg with a 1:51.4 split to etch Abermarle’s name into the record books.
“I had a (best) of 1:56. I knew I was going to kill that time. I felt it coming,” Kostelac said. “I knew we could break the record. I just wanted to break it more.”
Comprising Abermarle’s squad with their times were Garrett Bradley (1:56.8), Zach Vrohvac (1:53.4), Luke Noble (1:54.9), and Anthony Kostelac (1:51.4).
“The biggest part,” said Noble, about his team’s success. “We love the pressure. The crowd just gets us hyped up more.”
It’s just two good
Despite missing the last nine days of training due to a sprained ankle, Wayne Davis of Southeast Raleigh (S.C.) High earned the crown in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.6, a mere 2/100th of a second under the meet and national record, held by three different hurdlers
Davis, who suffered his injury in a basketball mishap, wasn’t overly confident he would come home with a title in the hurdles. But once he began going through his heats, he started to gain some confidence.
“I was just trying to make it (to the finals). If I did, that was good,” said Davis, about his original goal. “After the first heat, that gave me a lot of confidence. I was like I can actually do it.”
Verzbicas does it again
Just two days after setting a national record for five kilometers, what does freshman Lukas Verzbicas do for an encore?
How about a crisp sub-nine minute effort for the two mile and another national title?
The 15-year-old phenom from Lincoln-Way Central (Ill.) High, continued his amazing weekend at the NIN, breaking away from a talented pack the final 400 meters to win the two mile with an amazing and nation-leading time of 8:57.44. With an emotional boost from a packed house, Verzbicas toured the last 200 in 32.5.
“It was tough. I was kind of tired from the 5K,” said Verzbicas, who set his mark in that event with a time of 14:18.42 on Friday.
The fleet-footed teenager held back in the early stages of the race and didn’t take the lead until there was nine laps remaining. He passed the mile mark in 4:30.5 and gradually picked up steam as the race progressed.
Smith saves his best for last
With the competition ahead of him faltering somewhat, Zach Smith saw an opening and took advantage. On his final attempt, the senior from Kent Lake (Wash.) High leaped a personal best distance of 23 feet, 11 inches (U.S. #6) to capture the long jump.
“I just knew I had a chance,” said Smith, who owns a best of 23-10, set at last year’s National Scholastic Indoor Championships (NSIC). “I got a lot of adrenaline, came at full speed and gave it all I had.”
Smith, who will attend the University of New Mexico next fall, recently won his specialty at the Washington State Championship. He had an inkling things would go his way as the event progressed.
Smith trailed eventual runner-up Damar Gomes (23-9 ½) of the Sprint Athletic (Ga.) Track Club going into his final attempt.
“I knew there was a lot of competition jumping 24 feet and a couple of scratches at 24,” said Smith, who had a prior season best of 23-8. “As the competition progressed, I could see a few people weren’t having a good day. I knew I had a chance.”
Springer tops Fleet, field in mile
In last month’s junior mile at the Reebok Indoor Games, Westerly (R.I.) High senior Andrew Springer finished about the width of his shoelace behind Mac Fleet, who won with a nation-leading 4:09.06 clocking to Springer’s 4:09.16.
The return match-up of the country’s top prep milers took place on Sunday and Springer was able to gain his revenge.
With Fleet doing the early pace-setting for most of the eight-lap race, Springer was able to take control at 1,000 meters and held on to cop the Bowerman Mile by posting a U.S. best of 4:08.38. Patrick MacGregor of Hoover (Ala.) High, third at the Reebok meet, was the runner-up at 4:08.61, while Fleet was third in 4:08.65.
Springer secured the triumph by uncorking a 28.6 split his final 200.
“I was definitely hurting at the end,” Springer said. “I wasn’t saving anything just in case someone passed me.”
Fleet, of University City (Calif.) High, took a crowded pack through a 1:01.1 split at the 400 and 2:03.9 at the 800. Springer forged to the front shortly after and passed the 1,000 checkpoint at 2:36.1.
“I thought I was going to have to take the lead (at the beginning) because I thought it would be slow,” said Springer, also a fifth-place finisher in the two mile with a more-than-credible 9:06.25 clocking. “When Mac took it out, that worked perfectly into my plans.”
The Georgetown-bound Springer, who recently captured three events (3,000, 1,500, 1,000) in the R.I. state meet, capped off an incredible season on the indoor boards with his first national title.
“It’s like blowing my mind,” Springer said. “It’s been a lot of hard work. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I did it.”
Tate’s the man in the 400
Starkville (Miss.) High senior Tavaris Tate says he was inspired to run as a youngster after watching Michael Johnson take home two gold medals for the U.S. with his incredible 200-400 double at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
On Sunday, Tate certainly looked a lot like his idol. Although he couldn’t quite pull off the two-for-one deal at the NIN, he still sizzled on the oval. The 18-year-old speedster captured the 400 with a nation-leading time of 47.84 and nearly did the same in the 200, falling a mere .02 short of eventual champion Faqauwn Greene (21.53) with his time of 21.55.
“It was a good race,” said Tate, about the 400. “I have been shooting for a national title all year. That’s what I wanted from the beginning.”
Tate’s win in the 400 didn’t come easy. After assuming the frontrunner position right from the beginning, cruising through the first 200 at 22.3, Tate had to hold off a last-ditch effort from Seton Hall (N.J.) Prep senior Clayton Parros the final straightaway, out-leaning his rival at the line and then falling to the surface.
“At the turn, I settled behind him and tried to use my strength the last 100 meters,” Barros said. “I came across the line and knew I had a chance. Once we hit 300 (meters), I thought I had a shot.”
“I came out hard,” Tate said. “I got the lead on the second turn and it was just all strength and dedication.”
Smith smokes competition in the dash
He wasn’t able to produce a national mark in the 60 dash, but Westlake (Md.) High’s Zach Smith was able to improve on his nation-leading time by 2/100th of a second with his winning time of 6.63.
The speedy senior, who set his previous best with a victory in the junior race of the Millrose Games on Jan. 30, had a quick start out of the blocks and was never seriously challenged the remainder of the way. Torrance Hunt of Jordan (N.C.) High was second at 6.72.
“My start was really good,” he said. “I was in front of everybody and I just held my position to the finish.”
Smith ran identical times of 6.71 in the preliminaries and the semifinals en route to his victory.
“It just gave me a lot of confidence,” he said about his heats leading up to the finals.
Ledder's better in the 800
After a fairly casual and conservative first 400 meters for the field, Gonzaga College (DC) junior Bill Ledder took charge in the 800 to take a decisive win over some favored athletes. Ranked No. 4 entering the race, Ledder was just .25 from his previous best with a 1:52.75 clocking.
Ledder held off a trio of strong finishes from US leader Tom Mallon (second, 1:53.29) of Central Bucks (Pa.) High, Otsego (Mi.) High's Tommy Brinn (third, 1:53.62) and Great Neck South (N.Y.) High's Terrence Livingston (fourth, 1:53.66).
Another title for TEC
On Saturday, Track Eastern Carolina took home two relay titles with a pair of meet records in the 4x200 and sprint medley. The team ftom New Bern (S.C.) High made it a perfect 3-for-3 on Sunday as the quartet of Anthony Hendrix, Faqauwn Greene, Miles Sparks and Andrew Hendrix combined their efforts to capture the 4x400 with an impressive meet record of 3:15.02.
The Western Branch (Va.) High foursome of David Nix, Jeffrey Artis, Javanti Sparrow and Cameron Cipcic also dipped below 3:20 with a second-place time of 3:19.5.
Saenz cracks 70
Rio Grande City (Tx.) High’s Stephen Saenz came less than a foot from erasing a 39-year-old record in the shot put with a winning heave of 71-½.
Saenz, who achieved his medal on his second attempt of the afternoon, set a meet mark and is now No. 3 on the all-time list.
High marks for Keynard
It’s too bad most of the spectators had left to go home when the high jump was coming to a conclusion because they missed a perfect ending to the meet.
With a field that included a handful of seven-footers, Rogers (OH) High senior Erik Keynard emerged victorious, improving on his top U.S. height with a leap of 7-3. Harrison Steed of J Serra Catholic (Calif.) High was second and Warkersville (Md.) High’s Jonathan Hill was third with each clearing 6-11.