New Balance Nationals Preview: Saturday

NBNI champion Ariah Graham (Wakefield NC) faces an uphill battle trying to add a second 400m title to cap her senior year.


Best Events to Watch:

Girls 400  |  Boys PV  |  Boys & Girls 400H

Girls & Boys 800  |  Boys 4x100  |  Girls HJ


Championship Shuttle Hurdles

Girls: Long Beach Poly (CA) has a load of talent, but might be running without superstar Traci Hicks, who is not entered in the individual hurdles race (she is entered in Junior Nationals tomorrow, I believe).  If she does run here, this will be a tough team to beat.  Uniondale (NY) has a deep and balanced group of hurdlers, but nobody can match the depth of Western Branch (VA), whose fourth girl has run 14.68 this year.

Boys: Western Branch has their four runners between 14.54 and 14.66 based on this season's best times, making them favorites coming into the race.  Oakcrest (NJ) has a strong anchor, but isn't as deep.  Washington Township (NJ) has the strongest individual in the fast section, but he might not be close enough to make a difference.


Championship Girls Hammer

National leader Avana Story (Woodward Academy GA) will be in the field, and she is the prohibitive favorite.  Her teammates at Throw1Deep, the Georgia throws club, account for 9 of the competitors in this event.  That includes Monica Phillips (Pope GA), US #2, and Josie Hardin (Harrison GA), US #6.  The other pocket of hammer throwing, Rhode Island, is represented by Ann Dagrin (Classical HS, US #7) and Maggie Dufault (Pilgrim HS, US #8).


Championship Girls Javelin

Maria Jimenez (Vineland NJ) is the only girl in the field that has thrown over 160 feet this season, and she is currently US #3.  Katherine Johnston (Haddonfield NJ) is US #6, while Shauntierah Douglas (Garfield NJ) is US #11, both over 150 feet.  Megan Glassman (Park City UT) will be shooting for that 150-foot mark today, and will have to share in that pursuit with Lauren Lubarski (Hickory PA).


Championship 800 Sprint Medley Relay

This medley goes 100-100-200-400, which means you need to have a strong quarter-miler on the anchor leg, along with good sprint handoffs, to win.

Girls: Great Oak (CA) is the top seed, and with Khala Taylor on the last leg they will definitely be strong.  Blooomfield (CT), Bay Shore (NY), and Newark Tech (NJ, running as Essex County) both have 56-second anchors, so it will come down to whose sprinters are better up front.  Keep an eye on Withrow (OH) in the first section, as they ran well in the Swedish Relay Thursday.

Boys: After winning the Swedish Relay on Thursday, Smiths Station (AL) is a favorite in this race, especially given Quincy Smith's sub-47 anchor leg.  If Mount Vernon (NY) can stay close, then there could be a titanic battle between Smith and Steven Gayle.  Cherry Hill (NJ) could also be in contention, with Alex Reber taking the final lap.  Suitland (MD) has been running very well so far this week, but could be a bit worn out after several relays.


Championship Boys Pole Vault

The top vaulter in the country, Shawn Barber (Kingwood TX), is in North Carolina to jump for a national title.  He has cleared 17' 6.5" this year, but this won't be an easy ride for him: Austin Eckenroth (Flowery Branch GA) has cleared 16' 8" this season, good for US #7.  Connor Foxworth (St. Patrick MS) is right behind, having jumped 16' 6.5" for US #11.


Championship 2000m Steeplechase

Girls: This will be a largely New York affair, as the Empire State actually contests the steeplchase regularly.  US #2 Keelin Hollowood (Saratoga Springs NY) has run 6:49.74 this year, and she will have US #3 Leila Mantilla (Penfield NY) breathing right down her neck.  For good measure, US #5 Amber Goodspeed (Middletown NY) and US #6 Christina Melian (Susan E. Wagner NY) are also here, and the top four are separated by only seven seconds.

Boys: Paddy Grandinalli (Warwick NY), US #4 at 6:02.90, is the top seed in this race.  Brian Cook (Pearl River NY) is US #6, only five seconds behind Grandinalli (and surely gunning for him).  Thomas Awad (Chaminade NY) is US #8 and will deifnitely be in the mix, as well.


Championship High Jump

Girls: Megan Kirschling (West Deptford NJ) has a narrow lead entering the competition, having cleared 5' 10.5" this season.  Dakota Dailey-Harris (La Salle Academy RI) is right behind her at 5' 10", and there are several jumpers who have cleared at least 5' 8" this year.  That makes this a fairly tight field, and this could be a fun event to watch.

Boys: Carl Heinz (Oak Park-River Forest IL) is currently tied for the national lead with a jump of 7' 1", and he is a heavy favorite if he jumps well.  Jonathan Addison (Enloe NC) and Jake Scinto (Cheshire CT) have been over 6' 10" thins year (Addison indoors, Scinto outdoors).


Championship Boys Discus Throw

Sam Mattis (East Brunswick NJ) 218-4 is the runaway national leader in this event with his mark of 218' 4".  The next best competitor in the field, as far as I can determine, is Jordan Roach (Fork Union VA) at 187-6, and he will have his hands full in a battle with Steve Michaelsen (Newport Harbor CA, 185-1) and A. J. Wolf (Hackley School NY, 186-3).  In fact, there are at least five athletes that have a legitimate shot at a top three finish, which could make for interesting spectating if you make the trip out to the sector.


Championship Long Jump

Girls: Carla Forbes (Newton North MA), fresh off her win in the triple jump last night, could be poised for a double win today.  With her best mark of 20' 3", she isn't the only 20-footer in the field: Javanique Burress (Louisa County VA) has jumped 20' 0.25".  Don't be surprised if some of the 19-foot jumpers in the field catch fire in the atmosphere (and slight tailwind) at Aggie Stadium tonight, making this an interesting competition.

Boys: Desmond Mobley (Greece-Olympia NY) is currently US #3 with a leap of 25' 2" this season.  Behind him, things get very interesting, with five jumpers within four inches of each other.  Jeron Brown (Lawrence Central IN) has a best of 24' 4", and he will be battling John Landis (Father Judge PA, 24' 3.5").  Joining them in the 24-foot club are Jerry Westerfield (Davenport North IA), David Prince (Patrick Henry VA), and Cameron Luper (Auburn AL) 24' 0".  That could mean an intense battle for second, but all of them would need the jump of their life to reach Mobley if he is on.


Championship Girls Shot Put

This is another event that seems completely wide open for whoever wants to step up and claim a national title.  Jessica Woodard (Cherokee NJ) has the best mark this season at 46' 2".  Behind her there is a logjam of 44-foot throwers looking to break out: Demara Compton (Lawrence Central IN) 44' 7", Alyssa Gary (Liberty-Benton OH) 44' 2", Briyah Brown (New Rochelle NY) 44, and Brianna Tate (Grimsley NC).


Championship 400m Hurdles

Girls: Nichole Candelaria (Newark Tech NJ) leads the field with her US #3 59.73.  She will be pushed for sure, as Kyah Seymour (Archbishop Carroll DC) and Jessica Gelibert (Bay Shore NY) are US #4 and US #6, respectively.  Helena Leyrer (Buena Regional NJ) is US #7, but hasn't broken 1:00 yet and will surely be motivated to stay with the front three.  Keep an eye on Tametris Morrison (Southeast Raleigh NC), US #18, in the second-fastest section.

Boys: US #2 Kadesh Roberts (Bay Shore NY) is the top entry in this event, while US #4 Jermaine Collier (Trenton Central NJ) is only a fraction of a second behind him on paper.  Alex Reber (Cherry Hill NJ) is US #10 at this distance, while Jonathan Russell (Broad Run VA) is US #12 at 300 Hurdles.


Championship 4x100 Relay

Girls: Mount Vernon (NY) led all qualifiers with a strong 46.87 run last night, establishing themselves as the favorites.  Three exchanges can cause some chaos in this race, though, and so Withrow (OH), Great Oak (CA), West Mecklenburg (NC), and Newark Tech (NJ), who all ran in the 47's, are still in the hunt.

Boys: Velocity Striders (GA), a late entry in this events that did not appear on the 6/14 heat sheets, ran the fastest qualifying mark with their 41.39.  Suitland (MD), a school that has run seemingly every relay this weekend (and been in contention each time), and Lawrence Central (IN) are close behind.  In fact, the slowest qualifying time to make the final was 41.90, only 5 tenths slower than the leader.


Championship 800m Run

Boys: This one will be intense! All eleven guys in this race have gone faster than 1:52 this year and you know they will all be eyeing the legend-maker, the sub-1:50 milestone. The two favorites going in have already achieved that this season: Tretez Kinnaird of Kentucky (US #3, 1:49.31) and Hector Hernandez of Texas (US #4, 1:49.33). Expect them to set the pace, but in a field this equally matched anything can happen. Keep your eyes on Zavon Watkins (NY, 1:50.78) and Andres Arroyo (FL, 1:51.04) who are both super-tough and won't hand over the gold without a fight. The other one who could surprise steal the show is Ahmed Bile (VA, 1:51.52) who is coming off of a 4:04.11 in the Dream Mile.

Girls: Kimberly Ficenec (VA) has the top seed going in with her 2:06.84 (US #5) time from last month's Southern Track Classic, where she beat out fellow Virginian Megan Moye's 2:07.41 (US #7) who will be looking for some revenge. But both could be in for an upset by way Pennsylvania junior Emma Keenan who enters with a 2:07.06 (US #6) seed. Keenan has already already beat Ficenec earlier this year at New Balance Indoors. Don't count out seventh-grader Daesha Rogers (FL) as the darkhorse, she is undefeated this year and could easily take the pace out in 59 or 60 seconds to see who goes with her.


Championship 400m Dash

Girls: Kadecia Baird (Medgar Evers NY) is the top seed with her time of 52.62, good for US #3 this season.  Deja Parrish (American Heritage FL) is US #4 at 53.20, while Kendall Ellis (St. Thomas Aquinas FL) is US #5 with her mark of 53.22.  US #6 Kyle Plante (Colonie NY) and US #8 Olivia Baker (Columbia NJ) are also in the fast section.  Don't forget about Ariah Graham (Wakefield NC), who was the New Balance Indoor champion and US leader at this distance during the winter season.

Boys: Michael Cherry (Oscar Smith VA) comes in with a time of 46.70, which ranks him fourth in the country.  He will be challenged by Cody Rush (Northwest NE), who is looking to break 47 after clocking a 47.04 earlier this season.  There are several more athlete who have run in the low-to-mid 47 range in this race, making it very competitive.


Championship One Mile Run

Girls: On paper Wesley Frazier (Ravenscroft) is the clear favorite. Besides being the defending champion in the event from 2011, she is also by far the top seed with a US #5 performance of 4:42.78 in the Dream Mile last weekend in New York City. Frazier finished third in the 5K on Thursday (16:51) and won the two mile last night in 10:13.16; she is also entered in the DMR less than an hour after this race, which could make for an interesting choice come race day.  Her biggest threat may come from in state by way of Samantha George (Millbrook NC) who placed third at Penn Relays in April in 4:48.11. Also watch out for Kelsey Margey of New York, who is US #15 with a 4:48.42 equivalent.  

Boys: Jacob Burcham (Cabell Midland WV) ran 4:02.73 last weekend to take second in the adidas Grand Prix, and as long as all the travel didn't wear him out, he is the favorite in this race. Ben Malone (Pascack Valley NJ) will definitely challenge, but it could be a two-man break-away, and Burcham could be dominant in this race.


Championship 200m Dash

Girls: Kadecia Baird (Medgar Evers Prep NY) is US #8 with a best of 23.57 this season.  She will have Jada Martin (MLK GA) all over her in the final, as Martin has run 23.65.  Sabria Hadley (Lake Wales FL) and Ky Westbrook (Chandler AZ) have both been well under 24 seconds, as well.

Boys: With nobody in the field that has broken 21 seconds, this should be a wide-open event (and therefore impossible to predict).  Fabian Santiago (Oakcrest NJ) has run 21.00, while Joseph Horton (Knightdale NC) has clocked 21.03.  Tevin Hester (Granville Central NC) is intriguing here: he won the Championship 100 yesterday, but hasn't run the 200 in quite a while due to minor injuries.  If he is fit, he could make it a double.


Championship Distance Medley

Girls: Recognizable distance powers from New York abound in this race: Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa, Warwick Valley.  Saratoga, running as Kinetic RC, has the #9 time in the country at 11:58.17.  Right behind them is Lenape (NJ), US #10 with their mark of 11:59.23.  Ravenscroft (NC) is US #14 at 11:59.78, but anchor Wesley Frazier will have run the mile individually only a short while before the medley.  Southern Regional (NJ, running as Hammer Track & Field), also has a solid squad, as does Winter Park (FL).

Boys: Christian Brothers (NJ) is a powerhouse with depth and star power in the distances, and they will square off against a familiar foe in St. Benedict's Prep.  When it comes to the anchor leg, St. Benedict's has Edward Cheserek to try to bring home the race.  Texas distance power The Woodlands made the trip east for this race, and they have to be considered contenders.  Wachusett (MA) also has a solid squad with a good anchor leg.


Championship 4x400 Relay

Girls: It should be an exciting battle several of the top schools in the nation going at it under their club equivalents! American Heritage (FL)--led by seventh-grader Daesha Rogers, Deja Parrish and a host of other talent--will be the favorite with their US #2 3:43.15 seed. Garden City (NY) will keep Heritage honest as they come in at US #8 (3:45.25). Look out also for Wakefield (NC) 3:46.64, and Great Oak (CA) 3:47.44.

Boys: Boys and Girls (NY) comes in with the best time, having run 3:14.15 last month.  Trenton Central (NJ) has a best mark that is about a second behind, and Laurel (MD) is right there, as well.  Knightdale (NC) and Union Catholic (NJ) make is five schools that have broken 3:16 in the fast section, and that should make for a tightly-contested race.