Alexis Perry (Jordan) established herself as the girl to beat with a victory over Mollie Williams (Clayton) two weeks ago. Shemiah Brooks (SW Guilford), her teammate Hunter Roberts, and Francesca Evans (Cummings) are separated by mere hundredths of a second. Janell Griffin (JH Rose) is one of several athletes looking to show that their big hand times can stand up under FAT. Don't be surprised if Tyler Brockington (Dudley) makes the finals.
Until someone else steps up to the plate, it will be the same two girls battling at the line as the last UNC meet: Gabriele Gray (High Point Central) and Alexis Murphy (Apex). Sabrina Moore (North Meccklenburg) and Markia Franklin (Southern Durham) are also proven to be finals-quality. As with the hurdles, there will be a number of girls trying to prove that their hand times are legitimate (or else learning the difference between hand times and FAT on the track).
1600m Run (Seeded Section)
Wesley Frazier (Ravenscroft) opened her winter season with a strong 5:00 effort two weeks ago, and she will surely be looking to go sub-5 today. Her sister Ryen will try to help her duplicate their 1-2 finish, as well. It's possible that nobody else in the field can challenge those two, but if so there will be a really competitive chase pack. Abby Motley (Kellam, VA) has a PR of 5:06 but has only run 5:18 this winter. Established North Carolina runners Erica Amatori and Brooke Gordon will both run their first 1600 of the winter, while upstarts Ashley Brubaker (Reagan, see below) and Chandler Borton (RJ Reynolds) are looking to build on their early successes. The potential is there for at least 10 girls to go under 5:20, making this a deep race and a fun one to watch.
Look for Cummings' Evans to contend for the top spot in this race. DeJah Jones is Wakefield's third girl under 1:20 in this event, and it looks like they've set her up to be the one to shine today; this is a girl that ran 2:15 for the 800 three years ago in youth competition, and so she has the potential to be very special. Madeleine McCarty (Kellam, VA) has been under 1:20 this winter, as has Maya Evans (Fike).
The defending 4A state champion in this event, Maura McDonnell (Green Hope), will make her 2012 debut at the distance today. The same is true for Mattie Blue (Broughton), who ran 2:15 last spring, while Madeline Talbert (South Mecklenburg) has run 3:07 outdoors this winter. Courtney Gwin (Kellam, VA) has a PR of 3:05 and a 3:08 so far this winter. Reagan's Brubaker has had a meteoric rise since breaking through during the middle of cross country season. Lurking behind is a large group of girls with the potential to break 3:10, including Julia Roberts (Watauga), Sophie Capshaw-Mack (Reagan), and Gina Daniel (Providence). Wakefield's Jones could be a wild-card here, if she is fresh, and it's hard to discount a girl with a 5:06 PR in the 1600 like Lauren Colberg (Green Hope). Overall, this could be one of the most exciting and up-in-the-air events of the day.
Briana Haith (Granville Central) has to be the favorite here after winning two weeks ago, although Franklin might have a shot now that she is in the same heat (the two were in separate sections two weekends ago when Franklin ran 0.04 slower). Tiana Patillo (Wakefield) is an interesting entry, as she is one of the nation's best at 500m. Dudley's Brockington put up a huge time outdoors, but her long legs might be a bit of a liability on the tight indoor curves. A deep field includes three more girls with FAT marks under 41, and don't be surprised if Central's Gray joins that group.
Wakefield will have a chance to win this race, even with what looks like a B team entered. Green Hope has a strong squad, and so does Southeast Raleigh. Southern Durham could be a wild-card here, with studs Aalayah Faulcon and Markia Franklin on the relay.
On paper, this event lacks the star power of some of the others, as there is nobody over 18' in the competition. At least, nobody so far this winter, as several girls have a chance to break that barrier today. SW Guilford's Brooks has the best mark this winter at 17' 10.5", with Jamie Glenn (Monroe) a few inches behind.
With eight girls entered in this event that have already gone farther than 36 feet, this may be one of the most hotly-contested events of the day. Brooks and Evans should be familiar names by now, as they are two of the best all-around athletes in the state; this is clearly the best event for both of them. Achsah Brice (Dudley) and Ro'Daijah Faucette (Cummings) will be right there to capitalize if one of the first two falters, along with Cidni Ford (Wakefield) and several others.
Speaking of great all-around athletes, how about Monroe's Glenn, who is a potential scorer in three field events (she's also in the triple jump)? She will have to get past Breanna Warren (Western Guilford), who has thrown 39 feet this winter but has been in the 35-36 range lately, and Regene Watson (Southern Durham), who already beat Warren once this winter.
Jordan's Perry is a favorite to win again here, but Chelsea Darden (Beddingfield) has put up a 5' 4" jump and could threaten for the title. Beyond those two, there is a fleet of 5' 2" jumpers, some of which have the potential to move up.
There are clearly a few mistaken entries on the performance list in this event, and I'm sure the Striders will do a good job of getting those cleaned up. Isaiah Moore (Cummings), Hezekiah Ward (Southeast Guilford), and Thomas Jones II (Cummings) all finished within 0.02 of each other at Liberty in December, and this race could be just as close. You have to consider Todd Gurley (Tarboro) the favorite, though, after his trip to France for the World Youth Games last summer.
Despite being seeded 12th in the performance list, Tevin Hester (Granville Central) is currently the national leader in this event. That brings up the issue of overseeding again, and though it is a minor problem in a straight race when the runners advance on time, it is becoming downright embarassing to look at some of these entries. It's one thing to enter a hand time that an athlete has actually run, even though it clearly shows that too many coaches are thinking solely in terms of old-fashioned, football-style timing. It's another thing to enter a hand-time that goes to the hundredth of a second, which is illegal and exposes the ignorance of the coach, and it's quite another thing to "project" your sprinter to run 0.1 or even 0.2 faster than he has actually run, even with hand times. Some coaches and athletes are about to learn that the difference between hand times and FAT is often much more than the 0.24 conversion in the rule book. Always look for the guys that have run proven performances in big meets: watch Aaron Tindall (Olympic, seeded 20th), Todd Gurley (Tarboro, seeded 19th), and Bryon Maye (Roanoke Rapids, seeded an absurd 35th) make the finals over several athletes seeded higher.
1600m Run (Seeded Section)
Craig Engels (Reagan) is the top returner in the 1600 from last spring, and this is his first indoor race this winter. He will face a tough challenger in Matthew Schwartzer (Princess Anne, VA), a Nike Cross Nationals qualifier in cross country. There could be an intense battle for third place if the race develops as expected, with North Carolinians Tommy Schotzinger (Cardinal Gibbons), Jordan Marsh (Reagan), Josh Copus (Mount Tabor), and George Oliver (Mount Tabor) right in the think of things. It will be interesting to see if youngsters Phillip Hall (Terry Sanford) and Ariel Shores (Southeast Guilford) can step up to run with the upperclassmen. This has all the makings of a fantastic race!
This could be a titanic battle between Brian Davis (Fuquay-Varina) and Xavier Jones (Ragsdale), two of the best 400 runners in the state. Barry Harris (Southeast Guilford) does get into the fast section in this event (where he belongs, see below), His teammate Hezekiah Ward can hang with the big boys as well, and don't be surprised if Berry Academy's Larry Gibson races his way into the top 6.
In the shadow of all the great girls' distance running going on in our state this year, the boys' mid-distances have quietly become very competitive, as well. Reagan's Engels is the defending 4A state champ in this event, and he has already beaten his nearest competitor--Macon Gambill of Mount Tabor--by three seconds outdoors. The seedings are pretty good in this race, and that means there are several guys with a chance to go well under 2:40 in this race, although some of them could be impacted by a hard 1600 earlier in the day. Keep an eye on Christian White (Ardrey Kell), who ran 1:56 last spring before showing solid improvement during cross country season.
Overseeding can be a much bigger problem in this race than in the 55, as heat position is important in the timed finals with only six lanes per section. I'm not sure how a coach can project a kid to run faster on the tight indoor curves than they did outdoors, but several coaches have done just that. Luckily, it seems to have worked out so that the fast heat is composed almost entirely of deserving athletes (although SE Guilford's Harris should have been in there). Fuquay-Varina's Davis is one of the best in the state, but he could be fatigued after the 500. Chris Boyd (Ben L. Smith) has the fastest indoor time in North Carolina, and Ragsdale's Jones has a well-earned reputation in the long sprints. Again, don't be surprised when several runners who are seeded lower (at FAT times they actually ran) end up higher than most of the guys that were seeded ahead of them: anyone want to bet against Granville Central's Hester (seeded 21st) making it into the top 6 out of the fourth-fastest heat?
Two programs with tremendous history in this event (Ben L. Smith and Knightdale) are at the top of the list, but there are a few teams with the potential to steal the show in the final event. Berry Academy and Douglas Byrd are ranked third and fourth in North Carolina this winter, and that could make for an exciting race in the fast section.
If some of these jumpers experience a sense of deja vu today, that's because most of them competed two weeks ago in the same facility. Jonathan Addison (Enloe) and Isaiah Moore (Cummings) both cracked the 22-foot barrier in that meet, while a large number of jumpers in this field have broken 21.
George Freiberger (Westchester Country Day) has jumped consistently well in the past year, and he is the top seed here with a confirmed mark in excess of 46 feet.. Theodore Brown (Garner) is the only other jumper in the field to have broken 45.
State leader Jon Beyle (East Chapel Hill) returns to the ring looking for another win, while James Rowland (Jacksonville Northside) continues his family's tradition of success in the event. Two other 50-foot throwers are in the field: Jalen Peterkin (Southern Durham) and John Leonard (Terry Sanford).
Jonathan Addison (Enloe) carried the day two weeks ago in this event, but Jaylon Holt (Southeast Raleigh) has a PR that would equal him if they both jump well. Spencer Walden (Union Pines) is right on their heels and could elevate his game today.
Austin Vegas (East Forsyth) is jumping against himself as much as the competition this morning, as he seeks to reach the elusive 16-foot mark. Ethan Smith (Cedar Ridge) and Reid Harris (Watauga) have both been over 14' this winter.