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National Scholastic Indoor Championships
March 13-15, 2009 - New York Armory

Preview - Boys

Vena, Andrews, Beach, Haile, Taylor look to rock the Armory

by Jim Lambert

NEW YORK NY 3/12/09 - Curtis Beach will aim for 4,000 points and his third straight pentathlon title, Nick Vena will try to launch the shot put beyond 69 feet, Sadiki White thinks the national record could fall in the 800, and Solomon Haile will try for a distance double at this weekend’s 26th National Scholastic Indoor Championships.

The 3-day meet kicks off Friday at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory in Washington Heights, New York NY.   While the Nike Indoor Nationals, taking place the same three days in Boston, has aggressively recruited many athletes away from the NSIC meet, the New York version of the national championships has no shortage of star power, which is sure to electrify the crowds.

Andrews-White duel could produce a national record for 800 meters

There will be plenty of fireworks on and off the track as national record holders and defending champions take center stage in the Big Apple.   The biggest explosion of the weekend may very well take place in the 800 where Robby Andrews of Manalapan NJ and Sadiki White of  Allentown NJ, who live just a few miles from each other, could make a run at the national record in the four-lapper.   It’s been 14 years since a junior named Michael Granville of Bell Gardens CA blasted a national record 1:50.55 in the 800 at the 1995 National Scholastic Indoor Championships in Boston.

White, a long-striding and imposing 6-4, 170-pounder who has visited Georgetown and is planning trips to Texas and Arkansas, thinks it’s time for new record holder to be crowned. And he’s confident it will be him. 

``I’m pretty sure that record will be gone,’’ said White, a senior who competes independently and has run a US #2 1:52.4 in the 800 ``And no offense to anyone else, but I really feel that I should win this race. The 800 is my best distance.’’

But Andrews, a senior headed to Virginia, should have something to say about that. After all, he’s undefeated this season at all distances, including a victory over White when Andrews ripped a US national record 2:22.28 for 1,000 at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational last month at the Armory. Andrews ran the final 800 of that race in 1:52.8.  
White was second in 2:25.99.

In that 1,000, Andrews uncharacteristically took charge from the gun as he launched an all out assault on Alan Webb’s national record of 2:23.98, unleashing a furious kick over the final 400 to get a gap on White.  Don’t expect the same tactics this time around.

``My No. 1 priority is to win,’’ said Andrews, who also won the mile at Millrose and at the Eastern States (US #6 4:12.31). ``If it’s slow up front, that will suit me just fine. But if someone wants to take it out fast, that’s fine too. If I see that we are 1:22 or faster with 200 to go, then I may have thoughts about running for more than just the win.’’

Andrews tuned up for this race by running 49.31 to win the 400 last Sunday at an open meet at the Armory.

White said he knows all about Andrews’ big wheels and will not let the pace lag. White is confident he can push a fast pace and still finish strong enough to hold on for the win.

``It’s harder to get do that (use a big kick over the last 200 to blast away from people) in the 800 than in the 1,000,’’ said White. ``I’m pretty sure I can hold off whoever is there.’’

No one has been able to do hold off Andrews' finishing fury this year as he’s become arguably the best closer around.

``If I am right there with 200 to go, I always like my chances,’’ said Andrews.

Another runner to watch in the 800 is Sean Halpin of  Iona Prep NY, the Eastern States champion in 1:54.46.   Olivier Collin of Canada, who won the 800 as a junior last year in 1:51.39, can’t compete at NSIC this year because he was born after Sept. 1, 1989, making him over the age limit.

Solomon Haile will try for a double in the 5k and 2-mile 

Another big attraction on the track will be Solomon Haile of  Sherwood MD, who is entered in both the 5,000 and the 2-mile.  Haile is the undisputed 5k king in the U.S. right now, having won a national title in each of the past three seasons. He won the 5k last winter at the Nike Indoor Nationals in Maryland (14:53.93), the 5k at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in North Carolina last June (14:38.23), and the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships at 5000 meters in San Diego in December.  

The last two times Haile has come to New York, he tore up the cross country course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.  In October, he ran a course record 12:06.7 over 2.5 miles at the Manhattan Invitational, and in November he won the Foot Locker Northeast regional with ease.

The 5000 meter national record of 14:29.28, set in 1984 by Brad Hudson of  South Eugene OR after transferring from North Hunterdon NJ, could be on shaky ground if Haile pushes the issue. 

In the 5-K, Haile will have to contend with a loaded field that is led by 2008 NSIC 5-K runner-up annd 2008 Nike National steeplechase champion Zach Ornelas of Vista Ridge in Cedar Park, Texas. Ornelas was second in the 5-K in New York last March in 15:07.49 and also placed third in the NSIC 2-mile in 9:11.77.
Ornelas has run 8:48.81 for 3-K this season and was second to Haile in 14:56.42 in the Nike Nationals 5-K last June in North Carolina.   

Curtis Beach guns for 3-peat in pentathlon

Curtis Beach, the Duke-bound multi-event star from Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, returns to try to win his third title in a row in the pentathlon. Beach won a thrilling tie-breaker with fellow New Mexican Dan Gooris last year after both finished with 3,866 points. In 2007, Beach rallied from third to first in the final event, the 1000, to finish first with a sophomore national record 3,785.

Only three athletes have ever topped 4,000 points in the pentathlon, which gives Beach a goal to shoot for.

``My biggest goal is to simply do my best in each event and just see what happens,’’ said Beach. ``I know if I have that attitude my point total will be at its highest for what I am capable of accomplishing. Hopefully that will put me over 4,000 points.

Beach’s personal bests in the pentathlon’s five events are 8.32 in the 60 HH, 23-1 in the long jump, 6-8 in the high jump, 44-3 in the shot put and 2:35.30 in the 1,000. He also added personal bests of 14-6 in the pole vault and 22.46 in the 200 when he won those events at the New Mexico State Championships last month.

On competing in New York rather than Boston Beach said, ``Competing in the NSIC is an incredible experience, the people who manage the meet do a fantastic job, and NYC is a
cool place to be- it was easy for me to decide on this meet.  And besides, how could I ever choose not competing at the Armory?’’

Nick Vena and David Wilson are field event stars

Off the track, all eyes will be on Nick Vena of Morristown NJ (shot put) and David Wilson of George Washington VA (triple jump).

Vena, the record breaking sophomore sensation, will defend his title in the shot put.  He is No. 2 in the US with the NJ state and national sophomore record 68-11 he threw to win at the Easterns in New York on Feb. 24.  Like most of the top athletes coming to NSIC, Vena was heavily pursued by Nike to compete in Boston. Vena said his decision to throw in NY instead of going to Boston to throw against US #1 thrower Stephen Saenz of  Rio Grande City Texas (69-7 3/4), was easy.

``I can sleep in my own bed, travel just an hour and throw in a circle that I really like,’’ said Vena.

Vena certainly has had a lot of success in the Armory circle. He won the national title here last year with a national freshman record 66-7 ¼, and threw his personal best of 68-11 at the Armory at Easterns.

The closest thrower to Vena on paper in Saturday’s competition will be Wesley LaVong of Methacton PA, who has a US #6 62-2, nearly 7 feet behind Vena’s best.  But Vena has proven that he really doesn’t need to be pushed by others to throw his best.

``I try to make every throw a personal best,’’ said Vena. ``That’s all I focus on is to get better and better, so I am always throwing against what I have already thrown to see if I go further. Hopefully I can get 69 feet or even further on Saturday.’’

Wilson,  the top ranked triple jumper in the US (50-1), won the Nike National title last winter. He’ll be up against a loaded field that includes Omar Craddock of Killeen TX, who soared 50-9 ¼ last spring.to win the Nike Outdoor National title. Craddock has gone 48-9 ½ this season.

Sprint Battles

Jeremy Rankin of Overland Aurora CO (US #2 6.69 in the 60) and Rynell Parsons of San Antonio TX (US #3 6.75) should have a great battle to the line in the 60 dash.   Sparks should fly in the 200 as James Taylor of Nansemond River VA, US #2 300 (33.88) and US #5 500 (1:04.33), US #1 300 Jermaine Brown of Medgar Evers NY (33.65), Clinton Collins of Fossil Ridge TX (US #8 (21.78), are expected to collide.

Taylor could be in for a huge weekend. He’s also one of the favorites in the 400 and is the top seed in the long jump with a US #2 24-8.

In the 400, Taylor will be challenged by Chris Morrales of Abington PA (48.56), Collins (48.79), Ethan Kasson of Parkview Lilburn GA (48.97), Daundre Barnaby of Weaver CT  (49.16) and Isaiah Gill of Plainfield NJ (49.39).

Justin Crawford of Ashbrook NC (US #2 7.23) is the man to beat in the 60 hurdles. A trio of New Jersey’s finest are in the running -- NJ champion Josh Evans of Irvington and Easterns winner Pierre Darisme of Rahway have run identical US #5 times of 7.40, and Devon Brown of  West Deptford NJ  ( US #7 7.42) will try to spring the upset. Claudio Delli Carpini of Harrison NY has also run 7.42, and Amadou Gueye of Albany NY has gone 7.44..

Other Events

The mile features the return of Canadian star Olivier Bernard, who ran 4:13.21 last year to place second to Charles White of Colorado (4:11.77). Among those trying to knock off Bernard will be Leoule Degfae of Edison VA (4:15.42), Jeremy Rae of Canada and Roblet Muhudin of Colorado..

In the field, Corey Shank of Fort Wayne IN is the top seed in the pole vault with a US #8 15-8 ¼. Darwin Gibbons of Delaware’s Caravel Academy is the next best at 15-6.

Chris Jimmerson MI and Sean Reilly of Arlington NY are top seeded at 6-10 in the high jump.

In the 4x200, US #2 Medgar Evers NY (1:28.51), and sub 1:30 teams Boys & Girls NY (1:29.01), Wiliam Penn PA (1:29.61), Newburgh NY (1:29.79) and Archbishop Carroll DC (91:29.84) will clash.

Newburgh NY is the favorite in the 4x400 with its US #2 3:18.65. The best of the rest are Abington PA (3:20.2), Fordham Prep NY (3:20.24), Boys & Girls NY (3:21.38), Transit Tech NY (3:21.51) and Rahway NJ (3:21.76).

DMR - Northport NY (10:21.99), Burnt Hills NY (10:24.23), and Warwick Valley NY (10:26.92) are the three fastest teams.

In the 4x800, Fordham Prep NY (7:52.99), Msgr. Farrell NY (7:54.73), Abington PA (7:57.73), Half Hollow Hills West NY (7:57.77), Bishop Ford NY (7:58.86), and Warwick Valley NY (7:59.86) have all broken eight minutes.