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girls jumps | 07-08 most outstanding performers

This is the twelfth 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 John Nepolitan and Kirby Lee

Vashti Thomas

Over the past few years, Vashti Thomas has put together an amazing resume of jumping and hurdling performances that few in prep history can match, and that clearly make her at least one of the top 2-3 all-around track athletes in the country.  The San Jose (Mt. Pleasant HS) CA senior had her ups and downs this year, especially in terms of injuries or illnesses coming at inopportune times, but still compiled an absolutely memorable senior campaign.

Coming into 2008, Thomas was the 1st and 2nd national returnee outdoors in the long and triple jumps, and 1st in the 100H – though some critics in the latter event questioned the legality of her 13.03 PR and noted her head-to-head losses to Jackie Coward.  Indoors, Thomas quickly served notice that it would be a big season with good marks at Fresno and U-W, but it was at Simplot that she really ruled: A masterful US#1 42-08.75 TJ / 19-10.75 LJ / 8.27 60H triple.  The TJ was #4 all-time and the hurdle mark strengthened her hold on #3 all-time, though she lost to Coward’s HSR.  At NSIC, she didn’t top any of those marks, but still pulled off a historic triple against great competition (sans Coward).

Early in the outdoor season, Thomas had to pass on the Arcadia meet with injury issues.  But by her section meet she was rolling, hitting US#1 PRs of 43-01.50 (#7 all-time) and 20-05, plus a strong 13.52 100H (all legal).  At the CIF meet, again, a stupendous triple and outstanding negative wind marks of 13.44 and 42-00.50 (both -2.7).

Three weeks later in Columbus, Thomas got something she’d been wanting for two years – a win over Jackie Coward.  In the USATF Junior 100H she was 2nd to collegian Teona Rodgers (13.60-13.62, -0.7w), but ahead of Coward’s shocking 4th in a blanket finish.  In the TJ there, she suffered her first TJ loss of the year to fellow Californian Alitta Boyd, but Boyd didn’t have a legal mark to make the World Junior team and Thomas wound up traveling to Poland for both events.  Unfortunately, illness struck before the trip and her performances suffered badly, but Vashti Thomas should be long remembered as one of the Golden State’s all-time best.

Rachel Laurent

Half of what looked to be one of the nation’s best prep rivalries coming into 2008, Rachel Laurent was off form in her first battle with Shade Weygandt at the Simplot meet, suffering a grievous no-height while the Texan set a meet record.  No one could know it at this point, but the rest of the year in the girls PV would belong almost entirely to the Houma (Vandebilt Catholic) LA senior as she swept the indoor nationals and went on outdoors to chase the HSR all the way to Poland – while Weygandt had to end her season in May with injury.

Before Simplot, Laurent had already raised her PR to 13-07.25, part of a back-and-forth of trading US#1s with Weygandt that lasted into mid-spring.  At her indoor state meet, she went up to 13-09.25, which would stand as the US#1, and even got in an outdoor PR 13-10 before indoor ended.  She began nationals weekend with a win in New York (sans Weygandt), then topped her rival and everyone else in Maryland with a near-PR 13-08.50.

Outdoors, Laurent very quickly reached one of her big goals for the year, clearing 14-00 at the Nollie Arcement Relays in Louisiana to become #3 all-time.  The rest of the spring and summer, she would then pursue Tori Anthony’s HSR.  She didn’t get it, but along the way, she cleared 13-10 or better a total of five more times, making for a season of unprecedented quality.  After defending her state title, she embarked on getting her post-season goals of getting the record and also making the World Junior Team.

First, she won Great Southwest in 13-06.  Two weeks later in Columbus OH, she dominated the field at USATF Juniors, getting the last of those 13-10 marks.  Laurent had qualified for the Olympic Trials, too, but wisely chose the Junior meet where she had a chance to medal.  In Poland, it was another case of very good, but not quite what she wanted.  Laurent had her 2nd best mark ever, going 13-11.25, but missed at a height that would have gotten her in the medals.  Nonetheless, her fourth-place finish was the best-ever for the US at this meet.  Despite the fact that she didn’t get the HSR, her season set a high standard for quality and consistency, and showed how far she came after that rough meet in Idaho.

Shanay Briscoe

As many girls in many events in prep track history have discovered, it’s tough to keep improving when your talent and development enables you to get close to or to the very top at a young age.  So when Shanay Briscoe cleared an amazing 5-11.50 as a freshman last year, she set a high standard to work with.  But with consistency between 5-10 and her ultimate 2008 PR of 6-01.25, and an ambitious post-season schedule, the Houston (Cypress Christian) TX soph carved out a season unquestionably worthy of a Most Outstanding Performer.

Competing in Texas’s private school association (T.A.P.P.S.), Briscoe didn’t always get a lot of competition, but improved to the 6-foot level at her region and state meets.  But her real season began in Albuquerque NM in June.  The Great Southwest Classic high-jump turned into an astonishing exhibition of Texas girls leaping as Briscoe, Bridgetta Barrett and Victoria Lucas all cleared 6-00.  Astute meet officials instituted a second competition, where Briscoe cleared an Olympic Trials “A-standard” 6-01.25, a mark that would stand as the yearly US#1.

The USATF Junior meet was next, and the young Texan beat all comers, including collegians, with her 5-10.75.  Then it was on to Eugene, where Briscoe would attempt to pull off the Trials/World Juniors double.  The schedule kept her from actually jumping in the final, but she made it from qualifying with 5-10.50.  Finally, she made the trek to Poland to see how she could fare against the World’s best Juniors.  Not yet 16, she was competing against girls as much as four years older.  But she went 5-11.25 to make the final, then placed 10th with 5-10. 

Briscoe was likely rather drained by the end of the campaign, but had gained valuable experience and, with her talent and two more years, she could have what it takes to eventually make a run at Amy Acuff’s 6-04 HSR.

Honorable Mention

Jacinda Evans – Though many of the event’s best performers chose other national meets, this Durham (Southern) NC senior still deserves recognition for taking both Nike titles.  In Maryland, her 18-11.75 ruled the day, though it was off the top US marks (and even her own; she would rank 4th seasonally at 19-06.25).  In Greensboro, while the nation’s other legal outdoor 20-footers were elsewhere, the competition was still better and Evans (19-09.50) outjumped A’Lexus Brannon and Jennifer Clayton.  Her best for the season was US#3 20-03.50. 

Leslie Brost – Though she was a 13-03 performer by mid-April, the Watertown SD senior was pretty unknown nationally as the national championships dawned.  That changed in three quick meets.  Though Rachel Laurent wasn’t there, Brost beat a handful of other 13-footers in taking NON in 13-03.  Then just two days later, she was in Columbus, jacking her PR up to 13-05.25, beating collegians and taking 2nd to join Laurent on the World Jr. Team.  Taking full advantage of the sudden success, she PR’d again in Poland, a 13-05.50 in taking 8th.

Shade Weygandt – Due to injury, the Mansfield TX junior only had about 2/3 of a season, missing the outdoor post-season, and the opportunity to compete there with Rachel Laurent, completely.  Still, she had quite a 2/3 of a season!  Weygandt was at her best from January to late April, starting with her winning 13-07 at the Reno Vault Summit.  She improved to 13-08 in Oklahoma, then scored a big meet-record win at Simplot (13-01).  At NIN, though, she had a disappointing 3rd, but then rallied to two more outdoor PRs of 13-09.50 and 13-10 (#4 all-time).  But after winning TX State, she shut it down for the year.  She’s got one more year, though. 

Brigetta Barrett – In the girls high jump, it wouldn’t be out of line to say that it was all-Texas, all of the time.  Shanay Briscoe, Bridgetta Barrett, and Victoria Lucas accounted for all of the girls 6-foot leaps this spring.  With their titles, Briscoe and Lucas got a lot of headlines.  But Barrett, a Duncanville TX junior, had the next-best slate outdoors to Briscoe.  She was 2nd to Briscoe at Great Southwest (6-0) and at USATF JOs (5-09.75), and beat Lucas in the TX state 5A HJ at 5-10.  She won the Texas Relays (5-11) to boot.

Victoria Lucas – Three HJ’ers from Texas on the HM list?  When they’re all as good as Briscoe, Barrett, and this Midland TX senior, then yes.  After leading the nation at 6-01 as a junior, Lucas came back this year with a Nike Indoor victory, then at least four 6-footers outdoors.  She was one of the three that cleared 6-0 at Great Southwest, but struggled at USATF Juniors.  She also couldn’t clear 5-10.75 at the Olympic Trials qualifying … but she made it there, something only a few preps can say.

Jen Clayton – If the Suffern NY soph could have had her own personal wind-gauge to take with her to meets, chances are she would have gratefully accepted, as her superlative summer 20-footers – 20-04.50 and 20-09.75 at state USATF JO meets – both fall into the “NWI” category.  She also had a US#1 20-00.25 indoors, though, and she placed 3rd at both NSIC and NON, as well 2nd at Penn.

Alitta Boyd – The Hayward (Moreau Catholic) CA junior jumped under the big shadow of Vashti Thomas much of the year, but at USATF Juniors, she emerged with a super 43-01w (+2.9) triple jump that beat an outstanding field.  Earlier, she had gotten attention for an outstanding 42-00w / 19-06.25w double at Golden West, with NON champ-to-be Jacinda Evans among those she beat.

Year-End Awards Index