Andrews caps magical senior campaign with win in stacked 800

GREENSBORO, N.C. – When it was finally over, Robby Andrews laid flat on this back, raised his arms in the air, and said thank you. Not just because he won but because it was over.

"Oh thank God," he said. "No more races."

No question it had been a long year for Manalapan senior, who won the final high school race of his career Saturday when he used the kick that vaulted him into the national spotlight to blitz Curtis Beach (Albuquerque, N.M.) on the home stretch to win the national championship in the 800 meters in 1:50.05 at the Nike Outdoor Nationals at North Carolina A&T University.

The race was another marquee event for Andrews, packed with the best middle distance runners around, all of which were waiting for the other to make a move through the first 400 meters. Andrews couldn't have asked for a better set up. Then Beach started to spread the field, Andrews poised himself to strike with 200 left.

"I wasn't expecting it to go out so slow," he said. "It was around 56-57. I was just like, 'Alright, if you're going to give me position, cool."

Then Beach made a hard surge with 200 left that put some space on Andrews but once they hit the straightaway, Andrews hit the gas.

"I got a little nervous," Andrews said. "He put a huge move on."

Andrews, who's headed to Virginia, couldn't help thinking about last week's loss in the mile at the Portland Track Festival when he failed to run down Mac Fleet (San Diego, Calif.) in the stretch. He had a six-hour plane ride to relive that race. But the win Saturday capped a senior campaign that saw him win the mile at the Millrose Games, break two indoor national records and become the first high-schooler to ever break 1:50 indoors. It didn't matter that the time wasn't fast or that he barely beat Nick Kaiser (Lambertville, Mich.) who won the previous section in 1:50.47 and earned second overall. Beach was third in 1:50.75.

"A national championship is a national championship," Andrews said.

A loaded 800-meter field left the boys mile wide-open for Chris Stogsdill (Marcellus, N.Y.) who led the entire way, wearing a tight pink girls singlet. Yes, a girls singlet.

"Well, at indoor nationals my teammates and I were going to run the sprint medley and we wanted find the most obnoxious uniform possible to wear," Stogsdill said, adding that the team finished third and he wore the jersey again for good luck. "I knew that if I wore this jersey, I'd have to back it up."

Stogsdill took the pace when no one else would and with 600 to go he gapped the field in a familiar way. He buried the field the same way at the New York State championships in the 3,200 only to implode with two laps left and fell to fourth in the last 250.

"I really wasn't expecting to lead the whole way," he said. "Coming into the third lap, I think I felt Neff (Danny Neff of Vandalia, Ohio) clipping my heels so I wanted to get some space. The only time I ever lost after leading headed into the last lap was at states. Honestly, I kept expecting someone to blow past me."

Only Alex Hatz (Manilus, N.Y.) took a shot at Stogsdill in the last 100 meters but ran out of room. He finished second in 4:07.28.

"This was something I wanted to do but it was more like, 'wow if I could win that would be really awesome,'" Stogsdill said. "This is just really great for me."

The girls 800 saw the favorite, Southern Regional (N.J.) senior Jillian Smith, drop out of the race with leg cramps after the first lap while Charlene Lipsey (Hempstead, N.Y.) towed the field through the first 600 meters. But Cardozo (N.Y.) sophomore Claudia Francis snatched the lead heading onto the final curve. Lipsey initially let Francis go but the move was strong enough that Lipsey couldn't bring Francis back in and Francis won her first national championship in a huge personal best, 2:05.47. Lipsey was second in 2:06.89.

Francis, who rarely shows any emotion after races, pushed a finger toward the sky and dropped to track while her sister Phyllis, who won the indoor national title at NSIC, ran over to congratulate her.

"I wanted to start of easy and pace myself," Francis said. "We have good competitors out there and practice to be ready for anything."

Francis said she didn't come into the race as concerned with winning as she was with running her best time. She left with a national championship and a four-second improvement.

"I was pretty surprised," she said. "When I saw the time I was just happy to improve my time. I just wanted to close the door on 2:09."

Outside of the boys 800, no event was as anticipated as the boys shot put, which featured four 70-plus foot throwers. It wouldn't be long before Stephen Saenz (Rio Grande City, Texas.) launched the first 70-footer on his second attempt. But Mason Finley of Buena Vista (Colo.) popped a 71 foot, 8.75 inch throw on his third attempt that proved to be the best throw of the afternoon.

Saenz produced what he said was the best series of his life, which included four throws over 70 feet. He finished second with a toss of 71-6. Nick Vena of Morristown (N.J.) was third at 70-6. Hayden Baillio (Whitesboro, Texas.) struggled to stay in the circle most of the competition and saw his best attempts red-flagged. He fouled on four attempts and first fourth with his best attempt at 68-0.50.

Finley also won the discus Friday.

"It's hard to describe," he said. "To come here and win the shot and the discus – hardly anyone has ever done that. It's just an amazing feeling."

Boys 400 hurdles: Reggie Wyatt (Riverside, Calif.), blitzed the field through 300 meters and put an assault on the national record in the 400 hurdles but just fell short, winning his first 400 hurdles race of the season in 49.78, the sixth-fastest time in United States history. The national record is 49.38 set by Kenneth Ferguson (Detroit, Mich.) in 2002.

"I was thinking breaking 50-point was going to be pretty hard," he said. "But it wasn't as hard as I thought. … This is what I came out here to do. I came to break 50-point and I did. "

Girls 200: Chalonda Goodman (Newman, Ga.) has been on the top of the podium at the Nike Outdoor Nationals enough times that her name should be etched into the wood. Goodman broke the meet record in the 200 in 22.94, topping a mark set by Sanya Richards of 23.03 in 2002. Goodman will compete at the University of Texas where Richards became an NCAA 400 champ.

"Did you see me?," Goodman said after her ecstatic reaction to the time. "I heard them say 22, that's all I cared about. As long as I heard 22. I could have been 22.99, as long as it was 22-something."

Boys 400: Tavaris Tate (Starksville, Miss.) held off a charging Clayton Parros (Bloomfield, N.J.) in the last 100 meters to win in 46.17. Tate said he didn't get the start he wanted because of some tightness in his right hamstring but still managed to come off the last turn with a lead. Parros finished second in 46.34.

"Since I had the inside lane, I could see everybody," he said. "Once I passed them I looked at the JumboTron and saw where (Parros) was. I knew if I could come off the turn in front that I'd stay in front."

Girls mile: Chelsey Sveinsson (Dallas, Texas) completed her distance double, winning the mile in a season-best 4:40.24, a night after setting the sophomore national record in the 2-mile. Sveinsson said she was concerned with how she would respond to running the mile Saturday but clearly had no issues doubling after she walked away from the field after the second lap. She will compete at the USA Junior Championships in Oregon next week in the 1,500.