JDL Fast Track High School Kickoff Preview

The first full invitational of the high school indoor season is upon us, and it's time for some would-be stars to prove their fitness.


Meet Page


Performance List

(via JDL Fast Track)


The opening meet of the North Carolina high school indoor season is upon us, and it should be a very strong start!  Even though there are back-to-back weekends available at the JDL, which should spread out some of the demand for participation, the meet is loaded with both talent and numbers.  NCRunners will be on hand, and we won't just be taking pictures and videos; athletes who perform well can earn invitations to compete in the Invitational Events at the NCRunners Elite Holiday Invitational next weekend.


Boys Preview

Events to Watch:

  • Shot Put: Mateius Brown (Western Harnett) is the #2 returner from outdoor season, with his PR of 55' 11", and he currently leads the state with a 53' 5" thrown outdoors.  Ryan Davis (Pine Forest) is an explosive thrower who came on strong in the spring, experience that might help him reach a new level this year.  Seventy-First is obviously very high on newcomer A'Shawnte Sinclair, having seeded him at over 55 feet.  Finally, Alex Tate (Marvin Ridge) has started off the 2014 season a full 4 feet ahead of where he left off in the spring - that's good offseason training!

  • Triple Jump: Kimani Hoffman (Knightdale) is the top returner in the state, and has already jumped over 43' this winter.  That actually puts him behind the competition, though, as Mekhi McGuyver (Ashville) has gone over 45 feet.  Don't count out Marcus Krah (Hillside), who has a 43-foot mark this year and a PR over 47 (more on him below).

  • 55 Dash: It's always interesting when the defending state champion and top returner is seeded 4th in his first race of the new season.  Expect Jahmaal Daniel (Terry Sanford) to repay the hubris from his competitors by giving them a good old-fashioned beat-down.  That's not to say that there aren't some strong competitors for Daniel in this field.  Far from it, in fact: Jakara King-Penn (Reagan) is the current state leader and was not really pushed in his only race so far this season, while Daniel Estrada (Platinum Sports) ran 6.98 for 60 meters (the equivalent of a 6.51 in the 55).  Kimani Hoffman (Knightdale) is better known for his longer sprints, particularly the 200, but he can run the 55 and the 100 well.  There are also several polar bear all-stars in the race, as well as some that are grossly over-seeded; the light of FAT will shine upon them, and they will either be proven true or found wanting.

  • 500 Dash: TJ Bleichner (Fuquay Varina) cranked out a fast 1:06.2 at a polar bear meet, but it's harder to negotiate the tighter (and more frequent) turns of an indoor track.  Still, he should be in contention against solid runners like Saadiq Sweezer (Eastern Alamance), Dakota Schaub (Pine Forest), and Micah Grier (Mallard Creek, running unattached).  The top competitors could be DeAndre and LeAndre McGill (Northeast Guilford), who both broke 49 for the 400 last spring.


Athletes to Watch:

  • Marcus Krah (Hillside): the sophomore is the only long jumper in the field that has cracked the 23-foot mark, ranking him 7th nationally among freshmen last spring.  He struggled a bit in the hurdles in comparison to his middle-school exploits, perhaps adjusting to the new height, but he has come out of the gates strong this winter with a 7.61 already under his belt.  Krah's greatest potential might be in the triple jump, where his PR of 47 feet was achieved two years ago - he "only" jumped in the 45's last year.

  • Jahmaal Daniel (Terry Sanford): The #1 returner in the state in the 55 Dash, as well as the 4A state champion, is also ranked 4th nationally coming into the 2014 winter season.  He has elected to focus on the shorter sprint at the beginning of the season, and this race should be an excellent measure of his explosiveness as he heads into the first of many big showdowns next weekend.

  • Wyatt Maxey: the defending 4A champ and the top returner in the state in this event, Maxey may have to push himself over the last two laps on Saturday.  He had an excellent fall season, and that should provide the base for some strong races this winter - many underestimate how much that can contribute to a runner's "speed" in terms of being able to hold a higher percentage of maximum effort late in a race.

  • Zach Boone: strongest in the longest distances, he ran 9:45 last winter before struggling a bit outdoors.  Boone could be a contender in the 1600 as well, especially after a strong cross country season.

  • Kimani Hoffman: though he is an excellent sprinter and could be a surprise contender in the 55, he is best known for his jumping ability.  Hoffman is NC's best returning triple-jumper, though he has not yet crossed the 48-foot barrier.  He came tantalizingly close to a 23-foot long jump last spring, and is tied for the 6th-best returning mark in that event.

  • Jamaree Murray (Southeast Raleigh): one of five returning runners in the state who broke 48 outdoors, which represents a bumper crop of long-sprint talent here in NC.  Murray was unable to compete for most of the 2013 winter season, and getting an earlier start this year could be a significant boost.

  • Kevin Schmidt (Cary): one of seven returning vaulters who have gone 14 feet or more, he will have the chance to become the first to do so this winter.


Girls Preview

Events to Watch:

  • High Jump: This is probably the best three-person battle of the meet.  Jocelyn Culbreath (Reagan) has a 5' 8" PR, though her performances have been somewhat uneven over time.  In contrast, Hunter Welborn (Starmount) has been incredibly consistent, going 6' 6" each of the last three outdoor seasons (this is her indoor debut).  Makaila Roberts (Reagan) has a PR of 5' 4" and is a young talent that bears watching.

  • Long Jump: You can't get much more competitive than this: the #3 though #6 returners from the spring are all in the field, and all four of them jumped between 18' 3" and 18' 6" that season.  Lydia Laws (Western Alamance) has the slight edge in terms of PR marks, but Lauren White (Leesville Road, unattached), Imari McLean (Hillside), and Sydnei Murphy (Apex) are all capable of winning on any given day.

  • 55 Hurdles: Jacklyn Howell (Southeast Raleigh) was already having a good 2013 in the hurdles, having run 8.13 indoors and then low 14's outdoors.  When the summer came around, though, she went through the roof, clocking a new PR of 13.79.  That makes her the top returner and a favorite for the 4A title this year (in both seasons), but it's far from a foregone conclusion with all the hurdling talent in the state.  In this meet, it is young Kayla Moore (Cummings) that could be the top challenger; the freshman has already run 8.36 this winter,and she is a top contender in the triple jump, too.  Ariel Davis (Platinum Sports) was the freshman star two years ago, but she had to battle through a sophomore slump in 2013 (perhaps due to minor injuries?).  I'm betting she breaks out of it as a junior, and this could be the declaration that she is back in top form.

  • 55 Dash: Sydnei Murphy (Apex) and Imari McLean (Hillside) have proven chops indoors - they are the 2nd- and 3rd-fastest returners in the state, respectively.  They will be challenged by an interesting collection of athletes, many of whom have been bolstered by favorable polar bear times (or just highly optimistic seeding).  The field does include at least one other proven sprinter, though her best work didn't come in this event: McKinley McNeill (Platinum Sports) didn't really take off in 2013 until she switched to the 400 while competing for Parkland in the spring.  McNeill is also in the 300, which could be more in her wheelhouse.

  • 1600 Run: In addition to some strong talent at the top, this race has an added element: several of the runners will be looking to impress so that they can earn a spot in the Invitational Mile next weekend.  Malia Ellington (Community School of Davidson) and Grace Sullivan (Providence) are already in, while runners like Hannah Moerk (East Forsyth), Anna McElrath (Independence), and Hana Ratcliffe (Durham School of the Arts) are all good candidates that just need to show their fitness to get the bid.  Ellington is clearly the class of the field, as she has run under 5 minutes multiple times (she is also in the 3200 this weekend).  Sullivan had a breakthrough fall season and could be much improved over her 5:20 from last winter (she ran 5:11 outdoors).  The wild card is Elly Henes (Green Hope), who is running on the tail end of her cross country training as she competed at Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon last weekend.  If she has anything left in the tank, she will put up a strong time and then go back to base training, starting the long build-up that leads to outdoor track success.

  • 1000 Run: This race lacks a marquee name, but it should be extremely entertaining due to the unknown factor with many of the top seeds.  Kayla Holder (Kerr-Vance Academy) turned in a stunning performance at the NCISAA 1A state meet for cross country, and who knows how fast she can run in a mid-distance race like this?  Brittney Brinson (Reagan) is the #7 returner in the 1000 (all classes), and she has teammate Erin Jameson in the race with her - they were practically side-by-side in cross country.  McElrath is strong in this event, but this will be her second race on the first big weekend of the season, and she might not be ready for two strong performances in the same day.  Taylor Delaney (South View) exploded into the sub-5:20 range for 1600 late in the spring season, then followed that with big improvement during cross country; that combination could signal a strong winter ahead.


Athletes to Watch:

  • Bryanna Hames (Myers Park): better known for the discus, though she does have a 38' PR in the shot put.  This is her first indoor season.

  • Mariel Finger (North Gaston): in a wide-open year for girls' vaulters, she returns a PR that is just below the state leaders, and could be looking to move up.

  • Layla White (Cary): has already clocked 57.36 in the 400 this winter, she is the top returner in the state for that event as well as the 500.  She may have to push herself in this race, though.

  • Jocelyn Culbreath (Reagan): despite her top seed in the high jump (see above), she is best-known for her long sprinting - she is the #5 returner in the 300, but ran sub-56 in the 400 during the spring.

  • Bianca Bishop (Providence): on the heels of a successful cross country season, she is looking to become one of the state's top 3200 runners, and her duel with Ellington could be the perfect environment for a big time.