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33rd Great Southwest Classic

Albuquerque NM

Thu.-Sat., June 5-7, 2008

DyeStat on-site coverage with SteveU, John Nepolitan, Sal Gonzales

Barriers Cleared; More to Go

Krais, Coward and Brisco were among those breaking through Saturday, but there's more work to be done...

Story by SteveU - Saturday Results

some quotes supplied by Sal Gonzales

Left: Krais hurdled to victory over the 300H after winning the hept. Right: Coward DNF'd with a fall in the 300H, but scored a monster win in the 100H. Photos John Nepolitan
If there was a pivotal moment during the Saturday session of the Great Southwest Classic, it came far from what most observers could see – certainly if they were anywhere near the finish line. In the meet’s best showdown, the girls 300H, Jackie Coward TN had gotten off to a lightening start in lane five. The defending champ and current US#2 rocketed down the backstretch, heading toward the curve. Coward has improved her speed, and has been working on adjusting her steps. Added to the mix was the adrenaline forged from not only having US#1 Donique Flemings and US#4 Ryann Krais in lanes four and three, but also from having already run 13.00w in the 100H an hour earlier, history’s 2nd-best all-conditions performance.

Coward was stoked.

Maybe too stoked, it turned out. She hit the fourth hurdle and went down. Thankfully, she wasn’t badly hurt, but she was out of the race. The focus turned to those still there. Flemings had run her nation-leading 40.96 in her state meet a month earlier, and hadn’t raced since. Krais had spent the previous two days chasing, and nearly nabbing, the HSR for the heptathlon. The hurdle Coward knocked out had went partially into Flemings’ lane, breaking her rhythm and she was playing catchup to Krais.

Flemings caught her in the last few hurdles, but Krais had something with which to respond. Her final push to the line carried her past Flemings. At first, the clock gave 41.22 for both, but then the final reading was US#3 41.20 to 41.21 for Krais.

The unfortunate Coward spill and torrid Krais-Flemings battle was just part of the drama at the 33rd annual edition of this great meet. While the temperatures had warmed considerably each day after Thursday’s unseasonably cool start, the winds were still whipping. Until the final hour-plus, every horizontal jump and straightaway sprint/hurdle mark was wind-aided.

But more significant than the weather was the doubles – and even triples and quadruples – that were attempted and completed or not completed.

Coward didn’t get hers’; Krais did. But that was just the start. There was Brandon O’Conner, Mason Finley, and A’Lexus Brannon. There were the Arizona horizontal jumpers and the Stewart sisters. There was Victoria Jordan’s triple and the unique “triple” forged by the Texas high-jumpers.

But first, Krais and Coward.

Krais, the Methacton PA sr, had laid it all out on the line for two days, during Thursday’s and Friday’s heptathlon, but here she was again, pushing it all the way through the tape. She was pleased with the win, but her thoughts were also on her competition and the watch.

“It was a shame,” she said of Jackie’s falling. “She got off to such a great start … my race was pretty smooth, but I had a big stutter at the 6th hurdle. I had a little bit of space (on Flemings) until then; after that, it was catchup to the finish … It was a nice way to finish the weekend, but I would have liked to have run faster.”

Coward was bruised from her fall, but well enough to come back and run the 200, where she was 4th in a very solid 24.19. “I’m ok,” she said with a slightly rueful smile. “That hurdle came up too fast. I just didn’t have my steps quite right for the speed I had going.” She looked at the ground. “I think I would have had a nasty time.”

She did have a nasty time in the 100H. In that race, she was surrounded by a trio of Texas hurdlers that had accounted for about half of the sub-13.6 clockings in the country this year, albeit mostly wind-aided or hand-timed. Riding a helpful, but rugged wind (+2.9), Coward quickly dashed the hopes of the competition. The Knoxville TN senior has never looked better, her nearly flawless form and improved speed taking her to the line in an eye-popping 13.00w, 0.46 up on runner-up Destiny Lumas.

“I knew that wind was going to be rough,” she said. “So I just told myself, ‘Be patient. Stay relaxed. Don’t press.’”

Coward added that while she was really happy with the start of her race, there’s plenty of room for improvement. “I wasn’t as strong as I needed to be the second half of the race. And there’s always a lot of little things to work on – little mechanical things, like my trail leg, keeping my head right … I have a lot to work on. I want to run 12.9 at the Trials, so I just have to go home and keep practicing.”

As far as the doublers, in the 200 and 400, Brandon O’Conner came over from Florida and after a somewhat lackluster 400 (still a 46.93 victory), he blazed a US#1 20.65 200, a race contested when the wind had finally settled down for a legal reading. Mason Finley CO came in with that huge US#1 222-01 DT mark (#3 all-time) and scored a 204-08 DT / 64-11.50 SP double. For the girls, there was A’Lexus Brannon TX, bounding to 20-01.50w and 41-01 TJ.

Soph Shanay Briscoe cleared 6-0 with her two Texas teammates, then was the only one over 6-01.25. Photo John Nepolitan
Three athletes had good chances for LJ/TJ doubles for the boys; as it turned out, it was an Arizona double as Bryce Lamb took the LJ (25-09.25w) and Will Claye the TJ (51-00.50 TJ), but each struggled in the other event.

You could also call what Utah’s Natalie and Nachelle Stewart accomplished a “Stewart Sister Double” as Natalie took the 400 in 53.55 and Nachelle the 800 in 2:12.04.

As for the triples, the most impressive “triple” of all was of a different nature – the triple sixes that the Texas high-jumping girls achieved. In an absolutely fantastic sequence, Victoria Lucas, Shanay Briscoe, and Brigetta Barrett all cleared the six-foot barrier in a few short minutes. Great excitement ensued at that point, as the successful leapers laughed, hugged and danced around.

“We all did really good!” said Briscoe, the remarkable Cypress Christian (Houston) sophomore. “We all brought our ‘A-Game.’ I was really nervous coming in but everyone did really really good.”

The call was made to raise the bar to 1.86 meters, or the Olympic ‘A’ qualifying standard of 6-01.25. Nine straight misses followed, giving the win to Briscoe on misses. But the day’s jumping wasn’t over. Officials offered the athletes another competition, an exhibition, with the bar starting at that 1.86 and giving the girls another chance to get that mark. Briscoe did so, punching her ticket to Eugene with the nation’s best prep mark of the year.

“I am really excited,” said Briscoe of her PR effort. “I was on the internet early this week checking to see what height I would have to do to get in. So that’s what my goal was, to get to go - and I got it!”

One of the meet’s most celebrated entrants, 2008 US#1 and #5 all-time 100 runner Victoria Jordan TX, didn’t win her signature event, but scored a triple anyway. After getting third in the century, with Terra Evans AZ winning, she anchored her Texas team to 4x100 and 4x400 victories, with a 23.74 200 win in-between. The boys side of the meet ended with another impressive doubler, Reggie Wyatt CA, following his 35.71 300H victory with an anchor of the winning Elite Team in the 4x400.

The meet’s other top performances came from Brandon Tucker TX, a 13.42w 110H, and Rachel Laurent a meet record 13-06.25 PV.

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