It's not just the Invitational Elite events that attract top-flight, multi-state talent. Check out the loaded field events this weekend!
It's the final weekend of the North Carolina indoor regular season, and also time for the biggest high school meet on the JDL Fast Track schedule, the David Oliver Classic. In only its third year of existence, the meet has become a marquee event that draws talent from 7 states across the Southeast. There's so much talent in the building this weekend, we had to prepare three separate previews to cover it all! Today we're looking at the girls events, tomorrow morning the boys, and tomorrow afternoon the Invitational Elite events that race Saturday afternoon.
This meet uses a slightly different entry process than previous JDL Fast Track meets: athletes had to enter verifiable marks to get into the meet, and if there were more than the maximum number of entries then the excess were cut. In other words, it's not "first-come, first-served" this time around, and you can tell the difference in the quality and depth of the fields for nearly every event. Athletes were allowed to enter times from this year or last year, though, and that can make it hard to tell the true contenders. Luckily, we're here for you!
Events to Watch:
- High Jump: Current state leader Kenya Livingston (Rocky River) cleared 5' 7" last weekend, but if she's not on her game she'll have her hands full with Sarah Timberlake (West Forsyth) and Brittany Small (East Rowan).
- Pole Vault: Ragsdale's Chesney Ward has been over 12' 6" twice this winter, and had some good attempts at 13 feet. She'll be competing against 4 vaulters that are almost dead even with each other: Zoe Early (Apex) and Adele Blalock (Bishop England SC) have all-time PR's of 12' 6" and 12' 0". respectively, but Early has a season best of 11' 6". That puts her even with Tessa Sheets (Northwood) and Tori Martin (Rockingham), which means the top 4 vaulters in the state will battle it out this weekend!
- Triple Jump: In addition to 3 37-foot jumpers from North Carolina, we have 3 strong out-of-state athletes. Kayla Moore (Cummings) took a break from the event, but now she's back to go for 38 feet agin, along with teammate Kenya Majors. Imani Bennett (Southern Guilford) is also in the meet, as well as South Carolina's Maggie Milam (St. Joseph's SC). As if that's not enough 37-footers, add in Shanthi Hiremath (Maggie Walker VA), who actually has a PR of 38 feet.
- 4x800 Relay: Virginia's E.C. Glass is in town with a full-strength relay: all 4 girls are back from last year's 9:09 squad that finished 6th in the final national rankings. Can Southeast Raleigh, Leesville Road, and Weddington keep up with them? All three have been under 10 minutes indoors. And don't forget about Providence, as the Panthers ran 10:01 back in December.
- 500 Dash: It's rare when a long sprinter gets to run one race, sleep for recovery, then run more races. It happens at this meet, as the event is on Friday, and boy are folks taking advantage of it! There are a whopping 11 girls entered with times under 1:20, 7 of them under 1:19! Shellbi Chapman (Leesville Road) leads the way, but watch out for Mariah Atwater (Rocky River), Victoria Porter (formerly South Meck, now at Mallard Creek but competing unattached), and Cheyenne Jones (Fuquay Varina) - all three are strong.
- 3200 Run: This is also a Friday night event, and it always draws a great field. This year, two private-school runners take center stage as Sarah Bodmer (Cary Academy) faces Jennifer Stephenson (Village Academy). Bodmer ran 10:54 outdoors in November, but is making her indoor debut in this meet. Sophie Ebihara (Cardinal Gibbons) is also in the race a week after clocking 11:10 at Virginia Tech, and that makes her a legitimate threat to win. The same is true for Ashley Cox (R.J. Reynolds), who has burst onto the scene as a first-time senior this winter and currently sits at NC #4 with her 11:08 from UNC last weekend. In fact, anyone in the top 6 could come away with the win if she has a good race, and that includes Marija Crook (Chapel Hill) and Georgie Mackenzie (Heritage VA).
- 55 Dash: Two girls that are in different Elite events are going to race here, and it could be awesome. Anna Cockrell (Providence Day) will focus on the hurdles on Saturday afternoon, but in the morning she will take on Karimah Davis (Palm Beach Central FL). Cockrell has been sub-7 in the 55 this winter, but Davis has an 11.81 PR in the 100. Add in the surging Cambrea Sturgis (A.L. Brown), who ran 7.10 a few weekends ago in a race she won - but this race could be much faster.
- 1600 Run: With a cutoff of 5:10 in place for the Elite mile, there are a lot of fast girls in the 1600 - and they have a LOT of motivation to prove themselves. Isabel Zimmermann (Reagan) and Sarah LaTour (Cuthberston) were among the top NC girls who just missed out. They will race with returning visitor Julia Wood (Rappahannock VA), who went 5:08 here last year and should help set a quick pace early. Add in G'Jasmyne Butler (Leesville Road), running her first 1600 of the indoor season, and Khloe Pointer (Maggie Walker VA), and there's a good chance we will see multiple sub-5:10 girls here.
- 1000 Run: Despite fairly large numbers of entries, the 1600 and 1000 will be closer than they normally would be, simply because the 500 is run Friday night; in its place, we will have the 300. That might make it harder for top seed Pointer to double back after the 1600, and could open the door for Sydney Winchel (Leesville Road) or Naomi Cartier (Asheville) to take the win. Tatiana Mills (Berry Academy) has 57-second 400 speed and a 2:15 800 PR, and she keeps getting better in the mid-distances.
Athletes to Watch:
- Khayla Dawson (Olympic NC): I was thinking how it's been a while since I've seen her throw this winter, and then I realized there's someone else I've been missing even more: where has Alycia Springs been? I was looking forward to their duels this year, but so far it hasn't materialized. Because of that, Dawson is flat-out dominant, although it is always interesting to see her pursue the next big mark (50 feet in this case).
- Daloria Boone (Baldwin GA): She has a lifetime PR of 20' 4" in the long jump, although she hasn't broken 19 yet this winter. Just breaking 18 could be enough for her to win, although Kenyae Majors (Cummings) did accomplish that at UNC last weekend, the only NC girl to do so this season. Boone will also be in the Elite 60 Dash on Saturday.
- Southeast Raleigh 4x200 & 4x400: The Bulldogs are head and shoulders above everybody else in the state right now, and have moved up to NC #5 All-Time in the 4x2 and NC #2 All-Time in the 4x4 (not to mention US #8 and US #2 in the 4x4). They still have a long way to go to reach the state records, but then again there's still over a month left until indoor nationals...
- Cambrea Sturgis (A.L. Brown): We were all so busy watching Anna Cockrell go under 39 for the second time this winter, that many may have missed Sturgis clocking 40.00 in the same race. That was two weeks ago at the weather-shortened Fast Track Invitational, and it's good enough to make her the favorite in the 300 this weekend, plus a threat to join the top 15 in state history by breaking 40. If anyone can stay with her, it's probably Cheyenne Jones (Fuquay-Varina) - although Charminiqu Hackney (Cary) is intriguing in that race, too. Sturgis is also in both the 55 and the Elite 60, which makes for a busy day.