The classic battle of track and field...distance events vs. power events...will play out in this meet in Fayetteville on Saturday. If a season could ever be said to favor the distances, then this is the season. First you have the fact that the winter has a better ratio of events for distance runners than the spring season (4 out of 14 vs. 4 out of 18). Then you must consider the effect of the weather this year: distance runners can train better in the cold, without as much risk of injury as sprinters, jumpers, and throwers. Can the Weddington Warriors claim a title, after some near misses, with a distance-dominated squad? Can the thinnest Cummings girls team in years get another title with their all-power-events crew? What about the Cardinal Gibbons girls, powered by one of the most dominating distance runners in the state? Here are some other things to look for:
With the extra rest built into the "Super Meet" format, will Sarah Rapp attempt the triple? Will she go for the sub-5 1600 in her first race of the day? Can Emily Shields of Salisbury, whose times are always a mystery until the state meet, give Rapp a challenge in the 1000?
What happened to the long jumpers? There are TWICE as many girls' pole vaulters as long jumpers, and there will be 4 points (3 in the LJ, 1 in the TJ) that will not be awarded to any team in this meet due to a shortage of qualifiers.
Can Janieyah Collins of Monroe double in the 55 and 55H? The top 4 hurdlers are all hand times, so who will prove to be the most legit?
Will Sage Proffitt (North Buncombe) succeed in an unusual double: the pole vault and the 300?
Defending champs Asheville are the favorites again, with their potent field program set to score them big points in the underrepresented events. Again the Weddington Warriors are in contention, with a balanced team that includes runners from 55 to 3200. This could be the closest of the four team competitions, with Marvin Ridge trying to get in the mix, as well. Will the meet come down to a battle between two good 4x400 teams? While you consider that, consider these also:
Who will emerge from the large group of 6.2 and 6.3 hand-timed 55 runners to take the big points?
Who will win the 4x800? Oh, wait, that's right, Marvin Ridge will win. Seeded a whopping 22 seconds ahead of the second-place team, the only question might be whether they can run a faster time than all the 4A teams.
Can Asheville get a double-double in the jumps? Daishaun White and Jason Thompson are seeded 1-2 in the triple and 2-4 in the long. Again, there are only 6 competitors in each jump for the smaller-schools division.
How high can Alex Lomax go? The senior vaulter from Maiden leads the state at 15' 8", but outdoor weather is not as forgiving as it is indoors.
Who will win the 4x400? The last race of the day may be the most exciting, with no clear front-runner.
One of the biggest stories of this winter is the missing names, and that is most evident in the 4A Girls. Samantha George, Dannielle Davis, and Gabrielle Gray are all headliners that are not attending the meet, and there are many other well-known athletes that also won't be there on Saturday. There should still be plenty of star power, though, with Ariah Graham and Olicia Sharp trying to lead the Wakefield girls to the team title. It looks like their chief competition comes from a diverse and deep Watauga squad, featuring cross country state champ Darby Middlebrook, fellow distance runners Hannah Barbour and Julia Roberts, and HJ/PV Sydney Cook. It will be interesting to see what races the Pioneer coaches choose to go with! Here are some other points of interest:
Will Keni Harrison (Clayton) win the MVP even though she isn't entered in the hurdles? The girls' 300 should be a barn-burner!
Who will be the 55 dash champ? Newcomer Degega Smith (West Charlotte) takes on veterans Sharp, Dominique Weathers (Vance) and Madison Rayfield (East Forsyth).
Will there be a different top 3 for each distance race? Unlike the other classifications and genders, which show the same names in multiple races, only Margaret Leak (Mount Tabor) is seeded top 3 in more than one distance race for the 4A girls.
Can anyone beat the relay queens? Cary has the top four performances in state history in the 4x8, and Wakefield sits at #3 in the nation in the 4x4.
Who will strike gold in the HJ? Colder temps might keep the heights down, but with 5 girls seeded over 5' 4" this should prove to be an intense competition.
More missing big names here: Forrest Lyerly of Reagan hasn't run this winter; Jarret Samuels (Vance) and Blake Williams (Northern Durham) are not entered. That leaves only one fundamental question here: can anyone challenge those Knightdale boys? With a flotilla of sprinters, jumpers, and hurdlers, they just have to put it all together in one day to get the glory. Still, there will be lots of other subplots in this meet:
Will Chris Garrett (West Johnston) attempt a triple, or even (*gasp*) the ultimate distance quad? ("I call your triple, Sarah Rapp, and raise you one 4x800.") He could put everything into helping his team win the 4x800.
Speaking of which, who will win the 4A boys 4x800? This looks like a great race with several possible winners.
Who will survive the 300? One of the deepest groups of sprinters will clash for pride, bragging rights, and critical team points. Anthony Bynum (Hopewell) is the top seed. Will Demari Boswell (Ben L. Smith) still have the legs after his title attempt in the 500?
Who wants to win a wide-open boys' 3200? This race may go to the freshest legs.
Will anyone come within 5 feet of Nick Sansotta (Butler) in the shot put, or within 6 inches of Daryl Saunders (Garner) in the high jump? These two could be the most dominating winners of the day...but strange things can happen at an outdoor indoor state meet at the end of a very weird winter!
What do you think? Post your predictions in the forum by commenting on this article!