David Oliver Invitational Preview

3200 state leader Sara Platek (Ragsdale) faces stacked fields in that race and the 1600.



Friday Storylines

  • As is appropriate given the name of the meet, the hurdles will be in the spotlight tonight.  Tennessee-bound Isaiah Moore (Cummings) will try to draw inspiration from the presence of an olympian in his signature event, with Marcus Krah (Hillside), Emmanuel Jackson (Sanderson), Xavier Carter (West Johnston), and Drew Barker (TC Roberson) on hand to push the pace (and most likely battle each other for second place).  On the girls' side, two of the best from last winter return to take on the best from this winter, as Breanne Bygrave (Wakefield) and Anna Cockrell (Providence Day) make their season debuts against Jacklyn Howell (Southeast Raleigh).  The girls' hurdles are absolutely loaded, running 11-deep with quality performers; that means 3 girls that are in the US top 50 of this event won't even make the finals!

  • Everything Friday evening builds up to the final race, the 3200, where the girls' field will be seeking new facility records as well as national rankings.  Current state leader Sara Platek (Ragsdale) has run 11:00.51 this season, with an outdoor PR of 10:48.  She will be joined by Malia Ellington (Community School of Davidson), who has an all-time best of 10:46.  Also expected in the lead pack are Ryen Frazier (Ravenscroft), whose PR in this event (10:34) was run indoors last winter, and Lexi King (Marvin Ridge), with her best of 10:56 outdoors.  Callie Wynn (West Davidson) may try to stay with that group, or could settle into the strong second pack with Becca Meshaw (West Johnston) and a small host of Green Hope girls.  The boys' race is headlined by Broughton teammates William Roberson and Asher Smith-Rose, with Patrick Sheehan (Lake Norman) giving chase.  Andrew Hunter (Loudoun Valley VA), Grant Rodgers (Heritage), and Jeremy Brown (Broughton) will add to the depth of the front pack, while small-school stars Corbin Boyle (Maiden) and Zach Boone (Mitchell) looking to prove themselves against the large-school comp.

  • Sprinters get a rare treat (at least for North Carolina) as they get to run the 4x200 tonight.  Parkland's girls currently rank 2nd nationally in the event, needing to drop below 1:41.32 to reclaim the top spot.  Wakefield, Cary, and Sanderson, among others, will also try to make the US top 10 list.  On the boys' side, the state's top two relay programs have decided to put their athletes elsewhere, opening the door for an upstart to take the win and turn heads.

  • The first session kicks off with a 4x800 battle between Green Hope, West Forsyth, and Cary, with Leesville Road and Reagan clearly aiming to join the conversation based on their seed times.  On the boys' side, Green Hope puts a big polar bear time on the line against a loaded Providence Day team that has focused their entire indoor season to this point on this single race.  Knightdale, West Forsyth, and Southeast Raleigh will try to keep pace and lower their NC top-5 times, while Reagan wants to get into that territory for the first time this season.

  • Marquavious Johnson (Knightdale) is running the 500 for the first time this winter, though he ran 1:04.48 at the state meet in 2013.  Teammate Henry Kiedy is also in the race, along with LeAndre McGill (Northeast Guilford), and all three will be looking for the 1:05 barrier.  Xavier Carter (West Johnston) is a wild care here, as he has a 1:06 on his resume but nothing close to that this season.  With the 500 placed so close to the 4x800, US #10 Layla White (Cary) is focusing elsewhere individually.  That could make the race even more exciting, as there is no obvious favorite among at least three contenders: JeMay Ward (Wakefield), Erin Morrison (Parkland), and Jocelyn Culbreath (Reagan).  There is an outstanding chance that the winner will become the second North Carolina girl to break 1:17 this season.

  • Mariel Finger (North Gaston) and Zoe Early (Green Hope, competing unattached) square off in the only field event of the night, the girls pole vault.  If they both jump well, there's an excellent chance the winner comes out with the state lead.

Saturday Storylines

  • High jump is a fickle thing; unlike many running events, when you get top high jumpers together it doesn't always "push" the athletes to better performances.  As arguably the most difficult event to master technically, consistency can be difficult to achieve in this event.  With the number of top-flight jumpers in the building for this meet, though, fans can be pretty sure that they will get to witness some big jumps.  On the girls' side, Elizabeth Olesen (Hickory Ridge) and Hunter Welborn (Starmount) hold the top two spots in the current rankings, but Jocelyn Culbreath (Reagan) has been 5' 8" in the past.  Add in the potential of Makaila Roberts (Reagan), and this should be fun to watch.  On the boys' side, the high jump specialist (Myles Lazarou) takes on the mutli-event athlete (Isaiah Moore).  The Cummings star has been nursing a minor injury that has kept him out of his third-best event over the last few weeks, so it would be good to see if he can get back on rhythm here.

  • It's rare that a single event can catapult an entire team into contention for a state championship, but without their cadre of top vaulters the Apex boys would not be in the conversation.  Getting three field-event athletes to perform well on the same day is a tough task, and that's why this meet could be valuable practice for Drew Pederson, Michael Utecht, and Joe Devries.  Cory Ginley (East Henderson) has been over 14 feet this winter, putting him right on par with two of the three Cougars, and there are a number of legitimate 13' 6" jumpers in the field.

  • Bryanna Hames (Myers Park) dominated the shot put at an earlier JDL meet, while Alycia Springs (Mallard Creek) won at Eddie Smith two weekends ago.  If Hames is healthy, the two will come together to push toward the 45-foot mark, which would get them US top 5 rankings.  Alex Tate (Marvin Ridge) will get to face Myquon Stout (Jesse Carson) in the first of what could be many battles for the 3A throwers this winter and spring.

  • If he jumps well, Moore will win the long jump.  It's the competition for second place that could be very exciting, with five legitimate 22-footers duking it out: Marcus Krah (Hillside), John Marino (Marvin Ridge), Kimani Hoffman (Knightdale), Kalen McNeill (Northeast Guilford), and Jeremy Davis (Ben L. Smith).  Ama-Selina Tchume (Wakefield) has been focusing primarily on the sprints this winter, but she was an 18-footer last year; she returns to take on state leader Sydnei Murphy (Apex) and freshman phenom Kayla Moore (Cummings).

  • Mikaela Siebert (Cuthbertson, competing unattached here) posted a US #10 triple jump of 38' 1.5" on Sunday in a college meet.  That should be more than enough to bring home the win against three 36-footers: Kayla Moore, Ila Mumford (Parkland), and K'Lynn Beal (Broughton).  Hoffman should be dominant in the boys' triple jump, although there are a handful of guys angling for the 45-foot mark.  

  • Saturday could be proving day for some of the state's would-be 55 Dash contenders.  Daniel Estrada (Platinum Sports) comes in as the favorite, with Quashawn Cunningham (Mallard Creek), Khairee Lewis (Sanderson), and Jakara King-Penn (Reagan) all certifiable competitors based on FAT marks.  On the other hand, Juwan Crowder (Forest Hills) leads a contingent of hand-time superstars that need to prove they can run fast when fallible humans aren't operating the stopwatches.  The interesting dark horse in this race is Jamaree Murray (Southeast Raleigh), the state leader at 300 and 500; don't be surprised if he makes the finals over someone with a bigger hand time.  This meet could also provide some information on the relative speed of JDL versus UNC, as top sprinters like Charminique Hackney (Cary) and Sydnei Murphy (Apex) have can compare their performances on the green and yellow to races on the blue and black from two weeks ago.

  • The girls distance races are outstanding Saturday, and the unusual order (1000 before 1600) should create some interesting results.   The 1000 features the state's newest mid-distance star, Alison Price (West Forsyth), as well as Megan Sullivan (Broughton) and a very deep field - 16 girls are entered with sub-3:10 times.  Later comes the 1600, with Sara Platek (Ragsdale) taking on Sullivan, Kayla Montgomery (Mount Tabor), and Elly Henes (Green Hope).  Throw in Blair Ramsey (Grimsley), who hasn't raced yet this winter, and you have a strong 5-girl lead pack to push the pace.

  • In boys' distance running, Jon Knight (Northern Guilford) seeks to move closer to the coveted 2:30 mark in the 1000, with strong runners like Carson Ellerby (Leesville Road) on his heels.  John Dalton Rohr (Broughton) holds the top seed in the 1600, although Ben Huffman (Providence Day) is in the race; he and his teammates are rumored to have had some stellar workouts in the buildup to this, their first indoor meet of the year.  Ian Milder (Mount Tabor), Grant Rodgers (Heritage), and Chris O'Brien (Raleigh Charter) should also be with the leaders.

  • Could Knightdale go 1-2-3 in the boys' 300?  With Hoffman, Kiedy, and Johnson in the race, it's a distinct possibility.  Standing in the way will be Wayne Patterson (Mount Tabor) and Kaylan Love-Soles (Rocky River), both proven runners.  Cunningham is the x-factor here; has his 300 improved as much as his 55?  In the girls 300, Ebony Williams (Parkland) is the only sub-40 girl in the race, although Tchume is looking to break into that territory.  Two Wards - JeMay from Wakefield and freshman Charla from Ragsdale -  should be in position to capitalize on a fast race.

  • The true battle in the 4x400 won't be in the fastest heats, where all the usual suspects are primed to continue running well: Parkland and Cary for the girls, and the trio of Knightdale, Southeast Raleigh, and Northeast Guilford for the boys.  No, it will be the battle for state qualifying times that will really have a lasting impact, as the state has a shortage of teams filling out those heats right now.  Only 7 teams have gotten into the 3A and 4A boys races, and the number is only 3 for the 1A/2A boys.  2 girls teams have qualified for the smallest schools, although the 3A and 4A girls are doing fine.