Meet Of The Week: 15 Athletes To Watch At The #VAShowcase

 * Sophia Gorriaran (left) is scheduled to compete in the 500m and 1K at The VA Showcase

Photo Credit: Mary Ann Magnant/MileSplit

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Few indoor invitationals offer the kind of record-breaking opportunities that The VA Showcase presents annually.

This weekend's sixth installment of the series will be another reminder of that fact. 

With a selection of the nation's top athletes -- individuals and teams from over 20 states -- scheduled to compete in various events across the track and field space, we should be in store for a few more state and national records of our own.

Below, we've profiled 15 athletes with grand opportunities over the weekend at the Virginia Beach Sports Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

Related Links: 

National Meet Of The Week: The VA Showcase's All-Time Top 10

Shawnti Jackson, Raleigh Wakefield (NC)

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Events: 55m/60m, 300m

The Breakdown: If her opening month of the season was of any indication, Jackson is ready for a blistering 2022. She's clocked times of 7.34 in the 60m (U.S. No. 3), 38.06 in the 300m (U.S. No. 1), 54.94 in the 400m (U.S. No. 2) and 1:13.04 in the 500m (U.S. No. 2). 

Where should we expect to go from here? For Jackson, we already know she's one of the top sprinters in the country. But her goals exceed that of most athletes. And in 2022, her future performances have the potential to rank historically among the junior class and all-time. Her primary duties at The VA Showcase will center on two races, and perhaps specifically in the 300m, where she will look to break into the sub-38 club. If all things go right, Jackson has the potential to go after Sydney McLaughlin's 300m national record of 36.82.

But we shouldn't sleep on the 55m or 60m, either. Jackson owns top 30 performances in both events and clocked a time of 7.24 in the 60m in 2021, a U.S. No. 6 all-time effort. The national record in the 60m is 7.19 and was last set in 2004.

Rheinhardt Harrison, Nease (FL)

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Events: 1K

The Breakdown: This weekend will mark the first indoor race of his season. Interestingly enough, it will also represent the first indoor race of his career. While it would be easy to temper the expectations, we're talking about Harrison here.

The Florida talent has the ability to put down Florida's top 1K ever -- IMG Academy grad Cole Piotrowski owns a time of 2:31.21 from last year -- and he could even cross into historic territory. The 1K national record stands at 11 years old. It was last set by Manalapan (NJ) graduate Robby Andrews, who ran 2:22.28 in 2009.

But what makes us think Harrison has potential here is his personal best in the 800m, which stands at 1:51.48. A total of 13 high school boys have run under 2:25 in history at the distance. 

Jassani Carter, Flanagan (FL)

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Events: 55m/60m, 200m

The Breakdown: Florida has been surprisingly dominant indoors over the last five years. Carter can thank the efforts of Tamari Davis -- a No. 1 Florida time of 7.19 in 2018 -- and Briana Williams -- Florida's No. 3 effort of 7.28 seconds -- for that. 

Carter, however, has experience on her side. She competed at The VA Showcase in 2021, finishing fifth overall in the 60m in 7.61. The University of Southern California recruit, however, should have her sights set on a bigger, better and more rewarding weekend.

She owns a personal best time of 24.70 in the 200m from this same meet last year, too. 

Will Sumner, Woodstock (GA)

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Events: 500m

The Breakdown: Sumner has his sights set on one race and one race alone: The 500m. And to be clear, the strategy just might pay off. Currently, Sumner owns a U.S. No. 3 time in the 200m (21.66), a US No. 1 mark in the 400m (47.69) and a US No. 1 in the 800m (1:52.38).

Just a month and a half into the season, he's arguably done more than any other male athlete in the United States. This weekend, he could claim another U.S. No. 1 in the 500m, too -- though his performances in the 200m and 400m could get surpassed. 

What's more, though, is this: Sumner could be chasing a national record. Every year, it seems Strymar Livingston's all-time mark of 1:01.70 could be coming down. But nine years since, it hasn't. There were attempts by Tyrese Cooper in 2017, Justin Robinson in 2020 and Justin Braun in 2021. 

Those three athletes were purely sprint specialists, though. Sumner's M.O. has always been the mid-distance events, and with that strength may come a very honest attempt at Livingston's mark. 

Justin Braun, Westerville Central (OH)

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Events: 55m, 200m, 300m

The Breakdown: Braun, as always, will be shoulder the responsibility of a large workload. But if anyone can do it, the Ohio sprint star can. A year ago at this same meet, he ran a U.S. No. 14 mark in the 300m, clocking a time of 33.24. 

This year, Braun's focus is purely on speed. He's chosen to go after times in the short sprints. For starters, the 55m could be interesting. With elite competitors like Terrell Robinson, Jordan Anthony, Nyckoles Harbor and Shamali Little, Braun will truly have to be on the mark to even reach the finals. And then from there, it's anyone's game. 

The 200m, meanwhile, will pair Braun with Anthony. Braun clocked a wind-assisted mark of 20.87 at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in August, while Anthony went 20.57 at The Outdoor Nationals in June. 

Finally, the 300m might present an opportunity for Braun to become just the seventh athlete to ever go under 33 seconds. The national record -- a healthy one at that -- stands at 32.64, and it was last clocked by Brian Herron in 2018.

Roisin Willis, Stevens Point (WI)

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Events: 500m, 1K

The Breakdown: Get your popcorn ready. Willis and Sophia Gorriaran are both scheduled to run in the 500m and 1K over the weekend. A year ago, the pair from Wisconsin and Rhode Island dueled to historic times in the 600m at The 757 Showcase -- Gorriaran went No. 2 all-time while Willis was No. 4. 

From that point, the duo followed with a team effort in the 4x800 just a couple weeks later at this very meet, clocking a World U20 best in the process. 

The friendly rivalry on Saturday once again could spur some history. Willis has yet to run a 500m over her career, but she undoubtedly will be targeting a sub-1:10 time -- and only three girls have achieved that feat all-time, including national record-holder Athing Mu with a time of 1:10.22.

With 2-minute flat 800m speed, Willis certainly will challenge both Gorriaran and the record in this race. Meanwhile, Willis will try to challenge her best of 2:41.53, which placed her at US No. 2 all-time a year ago. 

Alaysia Oakes, Lynchburg Heritage (VA)

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Events: 55m, 300m, 500m, TJ, LJ

The Breakdown: Few athlete will have as crazy of a schedule than Oakes this weekend. The Virginia athlete is scheduled to compete in five events, including her two primary ones: The triple and long jump. 

Something tells me, though, that a busy schedule won't be anything new for Oakes. The Stanford recruit already has had a busy year, with seven performances in the 55m, four in the 300m, two in the 500m, seven in the long jump and six in the triple jump. She's won 12 out of 13 jump events so far this year and has produced marks of 19-7 in the long jump and 38-11 in the triple jump. 

Oakes will no doubt be looking for a breakthrough 40-footer, while 20-feet seems to be closing in, too. 

Nyckoles Harbor, Archbishop Carroll (DC)

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Events: 55m, 300m

The Breakdown: Harbor is a fascinating athlete, in that he mirrors the balancing act that many football players have had to play in years past. Only Harbor, like the very few before him -- Nick Cross, Anthony Schwartz, Domani Jackson -- is one of the nation's top sprinters in the country, too. 

Harbor, a 5-star football recruit, owns personal best times of 6.85 in the 60m, 21.36 in the 200m and 35.19 in the 300m. Those marks put him at US No. 19, US No. 10 and US No. 25. With a little more precision, could Harbor be the best in the country? I think few would doubt that. Perhaps The VA Showcase will be another example of his sky-high potential.

Falon Spearman, Providence Day School (NC)

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Events: 55m, 300m, 55mH

The Breakdown: This weekend will mark Spearman's fourth straight trip to The VA Showcase. It could yield her best return yet. If we look back at her history, she certainly has improved significantly, clocking personal best times of 7.37 in the 55m and 7.95 in the 55mH over her last term in Virginia Beach. 

A little redemption could be in order, though, considering Spearman finished fifth in the 60mH finals a season ago. What's more, she'll also look to break 40 seconds in the 300m, proving herself among elite company. 

Sophia Gorriaran, Moses Brown (RI)

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Events: 500m, 1K

The Breakdown: Each ensuing season, Gorriaran does a little bit more and a little bit more. On Jan. 1, she clocked the 12th-fastest 500m in high school history, producing a time of 1:12.17 -- and consider that she was less than 100-percent in that race. 

This weekend, the national-class distance runner will have quite the matchup with Willis, a high school colleague who's made it a pattern of competing in historic races alongside the Rhode Islander. What could we potentially foresee in either race? One look at Gorriaran's resume shows her versatility: Everything from the 55m all the way up to the mile.

But her sweet spot is anything between 400m and 1K, and so that could yield some good fortune in Virginia Beach. Gorriaran owns a personal best time of 2:54.04 in the 1K. Willis has clocked a personal best of 2:41 at the distance. 

Jada Foreman, Atlee (VA)

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Events: 200m, HJ, TJ, LJ

The Breakdown: The University of Southern California recruit will get the benefit of competition. In the triple jump and long jump, she'll face in-state talent Alaysia Oakes. Both stars will be looking to break 20-feet in the long jump and 40-feet in the long jump. 

Foreman posted a career best mark of 39-8.75 in the triple jump on Dec. 18 at Liberty University. She owns a top mark of 19-5 in the long jump from her 2021 season. A season ago, she ran 25.78 in the 200m, too. 

Shamali Whittle, Hamilton North Nottingham (NJ)

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Events: 55m/60m, 300m

The Breakdown: Whittle is set for either one or the other. If he runs the 300m, Whittle might get the race of his career alongside Justin Braun. If he opts for the 55m/60m, he'll face elite competition like Jordan Anthony and Terrell Robinson. Ultimately, it's a win-win situation for Whittle, who is looking to build his foundation as he heads toward the outdoor season. 

Few New Jersey sprinters have his resume, though, which means the opportunity for this Georgia recruit could be grand. If he sets his sights on history, he should remember the number 32. Only six boys in high school history have ever broken 33 seconds in the 300m. 

Micah Trusty, Friends' Central (PA)

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Events: 1K

The Breakdown: Talk about consistency. In two races over the 2022 season, Trusty has gone 2:10.28 and 2:11.06 in the 800m. A season ago, she ran 40.41 and 41.71 in the 300m. She had five performances between 54.93 and 56.96 in the 400m. The point being? 

Give Trusty a time, and she'll hit it. With a field that will include Willis and Gorriaran, Trusty should shatter her career best time of 2:56.21 from 2019.

Xavier Jemison, McLean (VA)

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Events: 500m, 1K, 1,600m

The Breakdown: One of Virginia's top distance runners, Jemison has already broken 2:30 for 1K this season. He's also clocked a best of 1:05.87 in the 500m. 

Sometimes, all you need is competition. Jemison should utilize his competitors this weekend en route to some personal best times. He owns a best of 4:16.90 for 1,600m.

Mekhi Gammons, Hialeah-Miami Lakes (FL)

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Events: 300m, 500m

The Breakdown: Now a junior, this will be an important year for Gammons as he seeks opportunities at the next level. While he dropped a career best 300m a year ago at The VA Showcase in 34.80 -- sixth-best in Florida history -- he struggled at 500m. 

Gammons ran 21.22 in the 200m and 46.76 in the 400m over the outdoor season, so his confidence should be swooning at this point. Faced against the likes of Justin Braun, Nyckoles Harbor and Shamali Whittle? That might just do the trick in facilitating a career moment, too.