What will Josiah Elliott run, the 500 or the 1000? The decision could have a ripple effect on the entire 4A boys meet.
(Schedule, Performance Lists)
I certainly hope that nobody gets tired of hearing about Wakefield's girls, because I think they deserve all the attention they get. Though obviouslt talented, it is equally clear that they work very hard to get where they are. And "where they are" is right at the top of the national rankings in the long sprints, which has been a theme for them over the past several years. Tyra Lea is currently US #4 in the 300, while Tiana Patillo ranks second in the 500. Both of them could face a strong challenge from Layla White (Cary), who practiced for aggressive racing by going out very hard in her last meet at the JDL two weeks ago. In a great display of depth, Wakefield also has the third seed in each of those races: Jemay Ward in the 300, and Dejah Jones in the 500. It looks like the 500 could be an incredible race, with the entire fast section seeded at 1:18 or faster (that means 5 of the 6 are already in North Carolina's all-time top 25!). Imari McLean (Hillside) has the best 55 time coming into the meet, but she will definitely be pushed in the final by West Johnton's Jasmine Dawson. Sabrina Moore (North Mecklenburg) is lurking in third (considering indoor times only) coming into the meet, but we all know that she is only one good race away from winning at any point in her career. Freshman star Breanne Bygrave provides yet another potential champion for Wakefield; she beat one High Point superstar last weekend, and this week she sets her eyes on Hunter Roberts (Southwest Guilford). Alyiah Riley (High Point Central--what is it about High Point and great hurdlers?) is close enough to be a threat for the title, as well.
The 1000 should be a real barn-burner on Saturday, with current state leader Gina Daniel (Providence) squaring off against defending champion Jennie Cunningham (Pinecrest). You can't forget about Mattie Blue (Broughton) or Dejah Jones (Wakefield), either, and that should make for an interesting race. As always, the 1000 will be affected by the 1600, because some athletes may choose to double and therefore have tired legs. Speaking of the 1600, it is pretty wide-open this year, with four athletes between 5:16 and 5:19. Brooke Gordon (TC Roberson) has the best PR of anyone in the field, having run 5:00 as a sophomore, and her skill set (superior stamina that lets her go out very hard) is perfect for trying to burn out a kick-runner like Maura McDonnell (Green Hope). Chandler Borton (RJ Reynolds) is a better candidate than her seeding shows, as her best time for the full mile puts her at 5:19 (and she ran 5:10 last spring on part-time training). Gordon is also the top seed in the 3200, where another Providence runner, Bianca Bishop, will challenge her. Never rule out Central Piedmont Conference foes Kayla Montgomery (Mount Tabor) and Anna McBride (Davie).
With 5 jumpers that have cleared 5' 4" or higher, the high jump might come down to misses. Gustell Prestion (Mount Tabor) and Anisia Starege (TC Roberson) have both been over 5' 6" this winter, but the state meet often fails to produce the best performances in this event, and that could throw the door wide open. Ama-Selina Tchume (Southeast Raleigh) leads the field in the long jump, with Arjia Gibson (Lake Norman) holding the second seed. Given her impressive improvement in the hurdles this season, don't rule out Breanne Bygrave (Wakefield) in this event. Breanna Warren (Western Guilford) is the best thrower in the state, throwing 44' 7" two weeks ago, but she also threw 39 feet in her next meet. Warren has a tendency to rise to the competition, and with India McWhorter (Alexander Central) and Brianna Heilsnis (Apex) in the event, she will have to be on her toes. Kristen Lee (Wakefield) has a full foot advantage on the next seed in the pole vault: her 12' 9" mark is currently US #6. Rayna Yvars (Green Hope) is the one jumper in the field with the potential to unseat Lee, although there are two young vaulters that are worth watching: Zoe Early (Green Hope) and Anna Eaton (Apex). The triple jump could go to at least three different jumpers, with Dejah Hayes (Western Guilford) the top seed over Kelsey Perry (Jordan) and Tyra Lea (Wakefield).
Teams To Watch
In most years, Parkland would be the heavy favorite in the 4x400 with their time of 4:01, but recently Wakefield has dominated the state in the mile relay. The Wolverines come in with a US #3 mark of 3:50.62, and they would love to drop that into the 3:40's (easier said than done on a flat track, even a fast one like the JDL). It's possible that the big battle in this race will be for third place, with Cary currently in the driver's seat for those bronze medals. Cary's girls also lead the entries in the 4x800, although they will certainly get a strong challenge from Providence. Southeast Raleigh and TC Roberson could also join the front group, but should at least be able to push each other for third place.
In overall team scoring, Wakefield is the likely champion, and it would take a series of surprises to bring them back to the rest of the field. They only give out two trophies at NCHSAA championships, and the battle for the silver one could be intense: Providence and Southeast Raleigh are the most likely contenders, although Cary and TC Roberson could also get into the mix there.
(May not include entries submitted after the deadline.)
The final of the 55 should be an incredible race, and we might need all the sensitivity of the FAT system to tell the winner. Jahmaal Daniel (Terry Sanford) has the top indoor time in the state, followed closely by William Buckley (East Chapel Hill), William Cameron (Southern Durham), Caleb Gabriel (Broughton), and Aaron Tindall (Olympic), all under 6.50 FAT. DeJuan Massey (Hopewell) has a big polar bear time, but has yet to produce a matching results indoors; Saturday would be the perfect day to do that. Kwame Donyinah (Myers Park) leads the list of qualifiers in the 300, but Xavier Jones (Ragsdale) has the best indoor time and a ton of experience on flat 200m tracks behind him. Gabriel could be a factor here, as could Barry Harris (Southeast Guilford). Watch out for Jalen Buxton (Wakefield), who turned in a big time on the banked curves at Virginia Tech last weekend. Harris could have stiff competition in the 500 from Josiah Elliott (Parkland), as the two produced faster times indoors than anyone has managed to run outdoors this season.
Sometimes one athlete's choice can affect the entire course of a meet, and such is the case with the 4A boys 1000. Josiah Elliott (Parkland), the top seed in the 500, is still undecided as to which race to run (he likes the 1000 more, but is better seeded in the 500). If he elects to run the 1000, he will certainly be a contender in that race, and could make life more difficult for Bakri Abushouk (Cary). You see, Abushouk may attempt to run all four distance races Saturday (including the 4x800) in an effort to carry his team to the overall championship. Bakri will be favored in all three individual races, but his fatigue could grow as the day wears on (note that he practiced for this at one of the JDL Mini-Meets earlier this year). The NC State-bound senior should be able to cruise a bit in the 1600, but will face his toughest race in the 1000, where in addition to Ellott he will face Wyatt Maxey (Providence) and Philip Hall (Terry Sanford). Hall's best chance at a title might be to sit out the 1600 and focus on the shorter race, but gaining championship experience is also a worthy goal. The battle for second place in the 1600 should be between Ariel Shores (Southeast Guilford), Hall, and Ian Milder (Mount Tabor). Abushouk would normally dominate the 3200, but with tired legs he could be pushed by a number of the runners, most of them listed above, especially if someone like Collin Loy (Southern Alamance) saves all his energy for that race.
Both the long jump and the triple jump lack a dominant competitor, but that only serves to make the events more competitive. The top 5 seeds in the long jump are separated by only 4 inches, with Sandy Chapman (Southeast Raleigh) on top of the list coming into the meet. Alex Martin (Reagan), Kimani Hoffman (Knightdale), Malik Goldston (Riverside), and Brandon McRae (Hoke) could all win with a good jump, and none of them can affor to let nerves cause them to foul. In the triple, Immanuel Henderson (Ardrey Kell) holds a slight advantage in the rankings, but Chapman and Antonio Jones (Wakefield) are definitely close enough to take the title. Jesse Freeman (Harnett Central) has the top mark in what looks to be a two-man high jump battle, as other than Caleb Conwell (Wakefield) there isn't anyone else in the event that has cleared higher than 6' 2" this winter. Phillip Thomas (Cary) and Thomas Popek (Ragsdale) have both been over 14 feet this winter, with Phillip having the slight edge coming into the meet. Defending shot put champion Jon Beyle (East Chapel Hill) is almost a lock to repeat, although Chris Cubra (AC Reynolds) left the JDL two weekends ago feeling like he could go further than the 53' he threw. With three more guys that have thrown over 50 feet, the competition for the medal stand will be fierce inside the ring.
Teams To Watch
Knightdale currently ranks fourth in the country in the 4x400, while Southeast Raleigh leads four other sub-3:30 squads in the pursuit of the Knights. Cary has the top time in the 4x800 field and the top anchor leg, and that's a dangerous combination. The Imps' first three legs could help their team's title chances by getting out to a good lead, not only scoring 10 points in the relay but also letting Abushouk cruise and save his legs for other races (or will Cary put Abushouk early?). Green Hope, Knightdale, and Southeast Raleigh will all try to stay in the race, and at the worst will find themselves battling for second.
As for overall team scoring, there is no dominant favorite as in the girls' meet. Cary and Knightdale are almost equal as co-favorites for the title, while Southeast Raleigh could sneak into the competition with some good performances. Terry Sanford could also be a threat for the top 3 if Philip Hall runs all three distance races, but for some reason I don't think that will be the case.
(May not include entries submitted after the deadline.)