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boys sprints | 07-08 most outstanding performers

This is the tenth of a series of DyeStat year-end awards for 2007-08. The DyeStat Most Outstanding Performers series, which follows the DyeStat Athlete of the Year awards, includes top honors for boys and girls distances, sprints, hurdles, jumps, throws, relays, and multi-events. Selections are made by DyeStat editors and are based a combination of multiple major victories/honors won and performances on all-time and yearly lists. Performances from outdoor track, indoor track, and cross-country are taken into account..

Text by SteveU - Photos by Vic Sailer and John Nepolitan

Jeff Demps

It was one of the last big marks of the year, and may have gone unnoticed by a large portion of trackdom, but remember when Jeff Demps made the jump from being a 10.3s 100 guy to 10.25 at the AAU JOs in late July of 2007?  At that point, he may have well set the stage for his historic season in 2008 – a season that went from very good (10.17) to great (10.19 at Pre, 10.03w) to one for the record books (10.12, 10.01 HSR at the Olympic Trials).  It was a campaign good enough that many felt he should have been chosen for DyeStat Athlete of the Year over German Fernandez, who broke a 29-year-old 2M HSR and had the greatest distance double in history.

The Groveland (South Lake HS) FL senior first really opened eyes this spring in early April with a 10.17 (+1.6w) at the Florida Relays, a mark that put him in the pretty elite sub-10.20 club.  With no indoor season and a first month outdoors that sort of got overlooked during the indoor finales, the performance caught a lot of non-Floridians off guard.  Demps’ focus would then shift to The Olympic Trials and while he would win his state meet 100, the world would have to wait for another big mark until he joined the field at the Prefontaine Classic.  There he burned a 10.19 into an 0.5 headwind, beating four Olympians-to-be and leaving no doubt where he stood.  A 10.03w (+2.2) that followed in a low key meet at the National Training Center in Florida staggered the imagination, but still didn’t compare to what followed.

Finally on the starting line in Eugene, Demps in the first round of the century overcame a bad start and roared to a 10.12 (+1.8w) to breeze into the quarterfinals.  The mark, history’s 2nd best for preps, was especially stunning given how pedestrian he was out of the blocks.  Later that day, in the quarters, he got a great start and the rest was history.  He led the race until Tyson Gay blew by him – but Gay was on his way to setting an American record 9.77.  Demps would take second in a mind-numbing 10.01 (+1.6w), crushing J-Mee Samuels’ 3-year-old HSR.  One of the best images caught by the telecast was of Demps clapping Gay lightly on the back as his momentum carried him past Gay beyond the finish.  It sort of conveyed that Florida 18-year-old was part of the club, that he had truly become part of the national elite, capable of beating almost any of the pros on a given day.

Demps’ struggled the next day to a 10.34 semi and missed making the final, but his legacy was secure.  While his focus would quickly shift to football for the U. of Florida, his plans were to return to run in the spring and who knows what he can do in college?
Ja-Vell Bullard

From the time Ja-Vell Bullard established himself among the top sprint elite with his 33.97 in late January at the Virginia Tech meet, he was an ongoing presence through a very long sequence of winter, spring and summer meets.  While his name was not always at the top of the list time-wise, he showed up at each of his season-ending national meets ready to win – and he did.

To conclude the indoor season, the Hampton (Bethel HS) VA senior chose the Nike Indoor meet close to home and came on late to take the 400 in 48.81 – then later anchored his team to the 4x4 title.  Outdoors, he worked his time down into the low 47s, then picked the best time for a big PR.  At the Nike Outdoor, against a good field that included consistent mid-46 performer Tavaris Tate, he again closed very hard in the final 100 to win in 46.54, just 0.26 off the national lead.  He got his team down to 3:14.00 in the 4x400, good for 3rd.

But Bullard wasn’t done yet.  Perhaps through an alignment of the stars, Tate and Bernard Goodwyn joined him in an unusually good AAU JO field in late July.  Goodwyn blasted a 46-mid in the prelim, but in the final, even off his best, it was Bullard again topping the field with a 47.32.  Three major 400 national titles in less than five months – not bad!

D'Angelo Cherry

Not many Southerners enjoy record-setting indoor seasons, given the sport’s relative lack of opportunities in that part of the country, but what D’Angelo Cherry did undercover was a big part of establishing his status in this Most Outstanding Performer group.

At the Gainesville Sports Commission meet in February, the Jonesboro (Mt. Zion HS) GA senior burst to a 6.21 55, moving to =9 all-time and setting the stage for the fireworks that followed.  A month later in the Big Apple for the NSIC, he scorched the track from the moment he set foot on it, hitting 6.64 for 60 in his prelim, but more significantly passing the 55m mark in 6.14, taking down the HSR.  The 60 itself was =4 all-time.  He followed with a 6.66 final (6.19 55 split) to win decisively.

During the Georgia outdoor season, he hit big FAT marks of 10.24, 10.33 and 20.91, but never had the benefit of a wind gauge to give them the utmost credibility.  In the post-season, he went to Folsom GA for the Golden West, where he ripped a PR 10.16 – only to discover a wind of 2.9mps was behind him.  Still, only 10 sprinters have ever gone faster in any conditions.  He then closed out a fine prep career with a legal (1.0w) 10.34 to win the USATF JOs Young Men’s 100.

Honorable Mention

Tavaris Tate – If the Starkville MS junior is disappointed about his NON and AAU 400 losses, he shouldn’t feel too bad.  He has another year to improve; his conquerors don’t.  Before that, though, Tate burst onto the scene and put together a great string of fast 1-lappers.  It started with an unlooked-for huge PR of 46.91 at the Bulldog Invite at Mississippi State, and continued with major wins at Mobile COC (48.00), his 5A state meet (46.41), the Atlanta Prep Classic (46.48), and the Golden West Invite (46.45).

Brandon O’Conner – The Miami Southridge FL senior set a pair of early outdoor standards that were tough to beat all year with his double at the Bob Hayes Invite in March:  A 20.63w 200 and 46.50 400.  At the Florida 4A meet, he ran a 20.82 (+0.6w)/47.12 double, and added a close 2nd in the triple jump.  For his post-season, O’Conner chose to make his mark at Great Southwest, where he stopped the clock at a US#1 20.65 200 (+0.8w) and again doubled with 46.93 400.

TJ Graham – A very strong year across the board was enjoyed by the Raleigh (Wakefield HS) NC senior, starting from an indoor campaign capped with a US#2 21.38 victory at NSIC.  At his 4A state meet outdoors, he rolled to a 10.44/20.82 double, the latter with a 1.1 wind that was just off the US#1.  For his outdoor postseason, he went to Golden West and notched a super 10.21w (+2.9w, 2nd to Cherry)/21.04 (+0.0w) double.

Joey Hughes – The Long Beach (CA) Poly senior didn’t venture much outside of California to compete and bypassed the outdoor post-season.  In his two biggest meets, however – Arcadia and the California State Meet – he came up golden.  In the former, Hughes ripped a 46.97; in the latter, he produced the fastest clocking of the year, a 46.28 that held up all summer.

Dentarius Locke – When the Tampa (Chamberlain HS) FL senior ran 21.02 and finished second to Brandon O’Conner’s blazing 20.82 at the Florida 4A meet, he set the stage for a pretty successful late spring/summer.  At NON, he authored a solid runner-up 100/200 double with 2nd-place performances of 10.60 (-0.6w) and 21.52 (-2.2w).  When he raced to a 10.49w (+3.2) / 21.03w (+2.4) double at AAU JOs, he had completed a year of pretty solid credentials.

Year-End Awards Index