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Fri-Sat, April 3-4, 2009 - OPEN DIVISION @ UMS-Wright Prep - INVITATIONAL DIVISION @ St. Paul's Episcopal
DyeStat on-site for 10th consecutive year with SteveU, Arthur Mack, and photos by Walter Pinion

Meet Previews

National Elites: Goodman, Tate, McGee form a "Big Three" of returning talent

By SteveU, Senior Editor DyeStat.com/ESPN RISE

 The statuesque form of Chalonda Goodman, arms and knees pumping high as she sprints to the tape.  The grit and determination of Tavaris Tate as he rounds the curve and heads toward home.  The grace and style of Cory McGee as she measures the field and makes her winning move.

Sound familiar?  They should, if you’re a fan of the Mobile Challenge of Champions.  Goodman, Tate and McGee all starred in this meet last year – Goodman and McGee will actually be competing here for the third straight spring – and look to be among the headliners as this annual showcase springs to life again this weekend.

The 17th Annual Mobile Challenge of Champions will continue its great tradition this weekend, April 3-4, 2009.  As always, it will feature many the region’s top athletes – including a healthy handful of national champions and other elite stars.  The meet also continues to bring in some teams from outside the region (12 states total), but also be heavily steeped in athletes from the local and area schools, in both the open and invitational meets.

While it’s often good to tread lightly on such characterizations, it’s probably fair to call Chalonda Goodman, Tavaris Tate, and Cory McGee “The Big Three” here this year.  To wit:

  • Goodman, a Newnan GA senior, came here two years ago unknown nationally, but sprinting in the big footsteps of her brother Cedric.  She split the 100 and 200 with fellow GA soph Breanna Hubbard, but then her prep career really took off.  She stunned fans in Greensboro a few months later, winning the Nike Outdoor 100 and 200.  Last year, she returned her much better known, and ruled both the 100 and 200 this time, running a nation-leading mark in the former, and winning the DyeStat MVP Award.
In June, she repeated as NON 100 and 200 champ, then just last month, she won her first Nike titles indoors with a sweep of the 60 and 200.  She is truly royalty here … but don’t think her old rival – now a Mundy’s Mill GA senior – won’t be pushing her.  A nice goal would be the very tough meet records by Erica Whipple (11.24, 23.24) from 1999.
  • Like Goodman two years ago, Tate arrived here last spring relatively unknown, but having just put up a sub-47 in Mississippi.  While he didn’t have one of his fastest days here, he ruled the 400 and was a narrow loser in the 200.  He went on in 2008 to get under 47 several times, including a 46.39 that rated as the top mark by a non-senior, and was 2nd at Nike Outdoor.  
So the Starkville MS senior came into 2009 season as the man to beat and backed it up by winning the NIN 400 and running the fastest overall time for the indoor season at 47.06.  Again, some good meet records to shoot for in 21.03 by Fernando Bryant in 2000 and 45.88 by the X-man, Xavier Carter, in 2003.  The athlete who nipped him at the line in the 200 last year, however – Northeast LA star Dennis Richardson – returns to defend his 200 crown.
  • McGee has been a bridesmaid much of her career in the big races, but not here.  The Pass Christian MS junior won very convincingly as a freshman two years ago in the mile, then last year held off the closing rush of Amanda Winslow in setting a meet record 4:50.67.  This year, Winslow – a Collins Hill GA senior – is going for the 2-mile title, while McGee will do both the mile and 800.
How many four-time champions has there been in the Challenge?  McGee has a chance the next two years to become the first.

Goodman, Tate, and McGee aren’t the only national class performers here.  Towers GA senior Brittany Porter is another defending champion, but last year her winning mark was “just” 18-03.50.  Now a senior, though, she has pushed herself to a new level.  At Nike Indoor, she popped her first career 20-footer (not including wind-aided, outdoors) and did so by a huge margin – 20-07 – to win the title.  Earlier this week, in her Dekalb County meet, she raised the bar to a stunning 21-03.50.  There was no wind-gauge, but only nine jumpers in history have gone further outdoors in any conditions.

Porter will be not only looking to win the long jump, but is in the triple jump and 100 as well.

Hoover AL senior Patrick McGregor is another national class favorite, but he will have different motivation here.  After placing 2nd in the Nike Indoor mile in 2008, he came here and had one of his worst outings of the year, taking 14th.  But the rest of his season was pretty darn good and he would be 5th at Nike Outdoor in the mile.  Indoors this winter he has been better than ever, taking 3rd in the Reebok Boston meet and 2nd at Nike Indoors, both under 4:10.  He should smash the meet record of 4:14.27.

McGregor’s teammate, Anthony May, competed well last year, but was edged out in the high jump by meet MVP Tyler Campbell, who cleared 7-00.  Now May is a 7-footer as well and will be favored to win.

The national class stars are not all returnees; some will be making their first appearance here.  Atlanta MLK’s Damar Forbes was one of the top three long jumpers all season indoors, reaching 24-07.50.  He’s also in the triple jump and 110 hurdles.

While most of the above athletes could win their events decisively, there are will be other top events where the competition could be pretty tight.  Mobile’s own Neal Tisher (St. Paul’s) is defending champ in the girls pole vault and has recently joined the 13-foot club.  She should be pushed by last year’s runner-up, Merritt VanMeter LA, and other 12+ vaulters in the lineup.  The boys 100 will see defending champ Soloman Patton (Murphy AL) battle the likes of Redemptorist LA star Cornell Hill.

Another Mobile star, UMS-Wright’s Robert Willett, leads a deep 800 field with a PR of 1:54, while the 2-mile could see a pack of sub-9:20s amongst Grayson GA’s Kirubel Erassa, Auburn AL’s Howard Graves, and Franklin Central IN’s Scott Lassiter.  

Bama Stars: Tisher, McGregor lead charge against national elites


While the Mobile Challenge of Champions has a star-studded field of out-of-state athletes with Chalonda Goodman, Breanna Hubbard, Cory McGee, Tavaris Tate, and more, there are also some outstanding performers from the state of Alabama who could provide some memorable moments in Saturday’s Invitational Division.

The Invitational Girls division could be a proving ground for a large number of Alabama athletes.

Take St. Paul’s Episcopal’s Neal Tisher, for example.  After months of trying to break the 13-foot barrier in the girls’ pole vault, she finally managed to do that at the St. Paul’s Relays in early March.  And with one of the best marks in the country, as well as competing on her home track, she has a golden opportunity to repeat as COC champion.

Tisher is also one of the favorites in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles.  In the latter event, she not only has competition from the likes of Escambia, Fla.’s Lauren Walton and Mundys Mill Ga.’s Maya Collins, but in-state competition from Julie McDonald (Oak Mountain), Mary Ashton Nall (Auburn), and Erina Houston (Murphy).

Another example is Sparkman’s Katie Huston.  Normally a 3,200-meter runner by trade, Huston showed some versatility by winning the Alabama State 6A high jump title last year.  Last November, she defeated highly regarded (and highly favored) Madeline Morgan of Mountain Brook to win the 6A girls’ individual cross country title.  Saturday, she will compete in the high jump, where she is sure to face some very strong competition.

Some of that competition could very well come from a quartet of fellow Alabama athletes—Hoover’s Brionne Williams, Foley’s Shakeria Williams, Murphy’s Alexis Paine, and St. Paul’s Episcopal’s Katherine White.  The strongest threat could very well come from White, a sophomore who has a personal best of 5-8, accomplished at the LSU Relays.

White will also be among the favorites in the triple jump, where she has a personal best of 37-11 this season.  Her teammate, Lacey Dent, should also have a strong performance, as well as Brionne Williams, who will also have two of her teammates—Breonna Humphrey and Nicole Charley—participating in  the event as well.  In the long jump, Shakeria Williams, Dent, and Charley will not only have to contend with strong out of state competition, but also from Faith Academy’s Kenyatta Hackworth, who went over 19 feet indoors in club competition.

In the discus, a trio of Alabama athletes—Bekah Hoppis of American Christian, Kristen Brining of Mobile Christian, and Shelby Builta of Bayside Academy—could have outstanding performances.  Builta led her team to victory in the recent Lyon Newell Charity Throws Meet, thanks to a 113-6 winning throw.

Hoppis, in addition to the discus, is also the defending champion and meet record holder in the javelin, an event that has, among others, Murphy’s Lizzie Clough, Bayside Academy’s Savannah Simmons, and Hoover’s Magen Schrimisher and Madison Brown.

The sprints are loaded with Alabama athletes.  St. Paul’s Angel Watson will double in the 100 and 200, as well as Hackworth.  Watson was fourth in both events in last year’s meet.  In addition, Cottage Hill Christian’s Simone Pugh—who has one of the fastest 100-meter times in the state of Alabama (12.02) will also be one to watch.

Murphy has the best performances of any Alabama team (48.01 in the 4 X 100 and 3:59.29 in the 4 X 400).  McGill-Toolen will be a team to watch in the 4 X 800.  In the distances, Alabama athletes to watch are McGill-Toolen’s Carmen Carlos in the mile and St. Paul’s Episcopal’s Margret Harkness in the two-mile.

On the Elite Boys’ side, a pair of Hoover High athletes—Anthony May and Patrick McGregor—could be among the headliners.  May, the runner-up in last year’s Challenge of Champions high jump, is among the favorites to win the event.  He will have to contend against a field that includes several highly touted Alabama athletes from the Mobile area—Faith Academy’s Sidney Madise, St. Paul’s Ashton Krause, and Murphy’s Will Golston.

McGregor, ranked No. 2 nationally indoors in the mile, is favored to win that event.  Other Alabama athletes of note competing in the mile include McGill-Toolen’s Steve Dolan, Kasey Hayes of Oak Mountain, Brett Hanke, a Spanish Fort freshman who has a 4:29 1,600 to his credit, and Bayside Academy’s Stewart Shoemaker.

The two-mile will also have an Alabama flavor.  The Auburn duo of Howard Graves and Patrick Gomez should be among the favorites, while St. Paul’s Stuart Graham could have a breakout performance.

In the sprints, Murphy’s Solomon Patton is scheduled to double in the 100 and 200.  Patton is the defending COC 100 meter champion.  The 400 meters features Opelika’s Quitaze Baker, Williamson’s Mujahid Assad (who signed to play football for Southern Mississippi) and Alma Bryant’s Tyrell Moore.

The 800 includes an Alabama athlete who has one of the fastest times in the nation—UMS-Wright’s Robert Willett.  Willett ran a 1:54.6 recently at the Bayside Academy Invitational, and could very well be the favorite.

Opelika is expected to field strong teams in the 4 X 100 and 4 X 400 meter relays, but could get a test from Murphy in the shorter event.  In the 4 X 800, five Alabama teams—Opelika, Oak Mountain, Hoover, McGill-Toolen, and UMS-Wright—are in the field of 15, and at least two of them—Hoover and UMS-Wright—are capable of running under 8:00.

Alabama’s representatives in the hurdle races are Central-Phenix City’s Deonte Swinton, Auburn’s Chance Jackson, and Foley’s Travon Schultz.  Both Swinton and Jackson are in the 110-meter high hurdles (where they finished second and fourth respectively in last year’s Alabama 6A championships), while Schultz is in the 300-meter hurdles.

In the field events, McGill-Toolen’s Quinten Petty will be one busy man.  Not only will he be in both the long jump and triple jump, but the javelin as well.  The javelin alone has a total of six Alabama competitors.  Joining Petty in the competition is teammate Kensey Morar, Murphy’s Ben LaPane (who comes into the meet sporting a personal best of 191-10), Daphne’s Jacob Kirchenbaum, UMS-Wright’s Ty Johnson, and Hoover’s Matthew Braswell.

Alabama athletes joining Petty in the long jump are Jackson and Opelika’s Orlando Ezell, while in the triple jump, May, who finished second in the event at the Alabama 6A championships, could give Petty a strong challenge.

UMS-Wright’s Sidney Jordan is the only Alabama athlete of note in the Elite Boys’ discus, but he has a seasonal best of 165-0, and could be a huge factor.  In the shot, Foley’s D.J. Fluker and McGill-Toolen’s Jordan Haynes, who finished eighth in that event a year ago, are Alabama’s representatives.

McGill-Toolen’s Nick Farrell is one of the favorites in the pole vault, where he has gone 14-6 ½ this year.  Other Alabama vaulters include Cullman’s Michael Addison, Hoover’s Corbin Hand, and St. Paul’s Ashton Krause.

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