| BOYS |
Haile completes distance double with US#4 2-mile
BY JIM LAMBERT
NEW YORK NY 3/15/09 – Solomon Haile shrugged off the national 5-K record that he lost on Friday by winning his second national title of the weekend and the fifth of His career when the 26th National Scholastic Championships concluded on Sunday at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory.
Haile, the 19-year-old Ethiopian from Sherwood High in Maryland, made it two for two for the weekend when he ran 4:28.4 over the final mile to win the two-mile in a US #4 9:02.67.
Haile also won his second straight 5-K title on Friday here with
a then US record 14:22.88. It was broken six hours later in
Boston at the Nike Nationals by 16-year-old freshman Lukas
Verzbicas of Illinois.
Haile couldn’t stop gushing about what Verzbicas did. ``I want to congratulate him,’’ said Haile. ``That was just an amazing performance, especially for a 16 year-old. ‘’
What if they had been in the same race,?
What if Haile had run after Verzbicas, thus aiming for his Verzbicas’ record rather than the other way around?
``Well, I would have been running differently and trying to get it,’’ said Haile. But that’s okay. Maybe we’ll be able to meet in the 5-K outside. That would be a great race and I hope it can happen because it would be very fast.’’
Haile, who also won the 5-K at the Nike Nationals indoors and outdoors last year and at the Foot Locker Nationals in December, wanted to break nine minutes in Sunday’s two-mile and was eyeing the meet record of 8:54.46.
``I wanted to get under nine minutes and go for that record, but
I just didn’t have the competition I was hoping for and my legs were feeling just a bit tired from the other day. But I am not going to complain. It was a great weekend. I love running in
Jeremy Rankin was very close to not coming to New York to
compete. The Florida-bound senior from Aurora CO was coming back
this season from a hamstring injury suffered this time last year,
and despite a US #2 6.69 this season, wasn’t happy with the way
things were going.
``I ran 6.67 (a US sophomore record) and 6.64 (a US Junior record) the last two years and I just couldn’t train the way I wanted in October and November to get myself in the shape I needed to be to run faster that I what I did last year. So I really had second thoughts about coming here because I just didn’t know if I could win.’’
What made him come anyway?
``When I found out the tickets were non-refundable I felt like I
had to come,’’ he said. ``If they were refundable, I don’t think
I’d be here.’’
It’s good thing he did come, otherwise he would have missed
out a on a natioinal title as Rankin exploded like a champagne
cork out of a bottle at the start and was never really seriously
challenged, crossing first in 6.71.
Rynell Parson of San Antonio TX, also coming back from a hamstring injury was second in 6.75.
Ranklin was called for a false start when he flinched at the start,
but luckily the USATF rules don’t disqualify sprinters for their
first false start, instead the false start is given to the whole field.
``It’s a good thing this wasn’t a state meet because I would have
been DQed,’’ said Rankin. ``But I didn’t let that stop me from being aggressive at the start. I knew that was the key to winnng.’’
Justin Crawford didn’t get the time he came for, but the senior
from Ashbrook NC was more than happy to take the win, which
came in 7.85. Crawford ran a personal best and US # 2 7.84 in
Only Wayne Davis of North Carolina, who set a national record
of 7.60 when he won the Nike National title in Boston on Sunday, has run faster than Crawford.
Crawford was seeking to break the Armory record of 7.73 set
last year by Spencer Adams of Charlotte NC.
``That would have been nice, but I ran my best time here this
weekend and became a national champion and that’s the most
important thing,’’ said the Georgetown-bound Crawford.
Crawford can’t believe how far he’s come in a year.
``I never came to a national meet before because I just wasn’t
running fast like this last year,’’ aid Crawford, who bit off his
necklace during the race when it bounced into his mouth. ``But
I just worked hard and gained a lot of confidence and it paid off
James Taylor of Suffolk VA tried to steal the race, burning a 22
flat opening 200 to open a five meter gap. But Daundre Barnaby of Weaver CT stole it back.
Barnaby, who came into the meet with solid personal best of
48.6, powered by Taylor with 100 meters left and blazed across
the line in a US # 2 47.12. Taylor was second in 47.88
Only Nike champion Tavaris Tate of Starksville MS ran faster
in the nation this season with a 47.06.
``I wasn’t sure if I could get him, but he started to die a little
and then I knew I could get it,’’ said Barnaby, who is looking at
Mississippi and UConn. ``When I got the lead I feel like no one
can catch me.’’
Barnaby, who won the 300 and 600 and anchored the winning
4x400 at the Connecticut state championships, had a huge day.
In addition to winning the two lapper, he also led off Weaver’s
runner-up 4x200 that ran 1:29.58 and he placed eighth in the
200 in 21.95.
James Taylor didn’t hang his head when he walked off the
track after he had just finished second to Daundre Barnaby of
Weaver CT in the 400, 47.12 to 47.88.
He knew he had another shot at gold in an event that he feels
more comfortable running.
``I’m not used to running the 400,’’ said Taylor, a senior from
Suffolk Va. ``It was just my second time running it. We run the
300 in Virginia, so I ran the 400 like it was a 300 and just tried
to hang on.’’
Taylor led through 200 in 22.0 and at 300 before Barnaby
``I’m not used to losing, but that was okay because the 200 was
coming up and that was a better race for me,’’ said Taylor.
It sure was as Taylor smoked the field with a 21.34. Travey
Sinclair of Loganville GA was the only one close to him,
crossing second in 21.34. Barnaby was eighth in 21.95.
The race would have been much more interesting had Jermaine
Brown of Medgar Evers NY not reinjured his hamstring the
the 60 dash final earlier in the day. Brown, who ran a US #1 21.26 in the 200 trials, limped noticeably as he finished 12th and last in 22.93. He was also last in the 60 dash after he grabbed the hamstring after the first of two false starts.
``It was disappointing that he wasn’t 100 percent, but I think I
still would have won the race if he was,’’ said Taylor, who is
headed to Norfolk State.
Jeremy Rae certainly did his homework before he toed the line.
The Notre Dame-bound Canadian noticed how this race tended
to go out slow and inevitably became a kickers race, including last
year when Rae finished 11th.
``I am not a kicker,’’ said Rae. ``That’s just something that isn’t
a strength of mine, so I had to come here with a different plan.’
Rae’s plan was simple. Blast out to the lead and make everyone catch him.
True to his word, Rae hit the first quarter in 61.0 to open a big
gap on the field. He went through the half mile in 2:04.7 before
he finally got some company from Michael Atchoo of Flint MI,
who briefly took the lead with two laps to go
``That woke me up, but I felt pretty energized when he went by
me and I decided to draft for a little while,’’ said Rae.
With 300 to go, Rae made the defining move, going by Atchoo for good on the way to victory in a personal best 4:10.09. Rae ran the final 400 in 61.6.
``I wanted to get under 4:10 and maybe go for the meet record
(4:07.12 by Jonathan Riley of MA in 1997), but I’ll take the PR and the win."
Atchoo wound up second in 4:11.14 and Olivier Bernard of
Canada, second last year, was third in 4:11.18.
Alek Johnson was in a familiar position. And he liked it.
Johnson, a sophomore at De La Salle CA, grabbed the baton in
second place behind Weaver to run the anchor leg, just where
he was on Saturday in the trials.
``I caught him yesterday and his lead was a little bigger than it
was today, so I knew I could do it again,’’ said Johnson.
And he did, but by the slimmest of margins, outleaning Weaver
right at the line as both crossed in 1:29.58. De La Salle was
awarded the victory as both teams ran faster the third and final
heat (the fastest), which was won by West Charlotte NC in
Newburgh NY left little doubt about this one, going wire-to
wire for the win in 3:17.47, improving on its own US #3 time of
3:18.65 that it ran on Feb. 7 at the New Balance Collegiate
Randy Patterson anchored for Newburgh in a sizzling 47.6.
Ghost PA (3:19.03) and Rahway NJ (3:19.99) also dropped
Xavier Fraction vs Mike Jennings, Part 2.
For the econd time in three days, Fraction, a senior at
Washington Township High in NJ, and Jennings of Fordham
Prep, looked up in a great 800 anchor battle.
Fraction made it 2-0.
Fraction, who outkicked Jennings to give Washington the sprint
medley title on Friday, 3:29.07 to 3:29.87, was again trailing
Jennings by about 25 meters when he got the baton on Sunday
to run the final leg of the 4x800.
But this time, Jennings went out slow and allowed several
teams to go by him, the exact opposite way that he ran in the
``I really thought he’d take it out again and try to get away,’’
said Fraction. ``I was surprised.’’
After Fraction grabbed the lead, Jennings sped up and tried to
outsprint Fractuon this time. But Fraction didn’t let it happen,
splitting 1:55.9 and bringing Washington across first in 7:51.43.
Fordham Prep was second in 7:52.99.
Seniors Greg Krause and Tim Carey and junior Brian Keane ran
the first three legs for Washington.
Matt Armentrout of Deep Run High School in Virginia was just
hoping to get an personal best and make All-American. He got both along with a victory when he cleared a US #7 15-9 on his second attempt to knock off the favorite, Darwin Gibbons of Bear DE, who placed second at 15-3.
Armentrout, who is headed to Virginia in the fall, said there were a couple key ingredients that contributed to his performance.
``I think it was a case of confidence and a stiffer pole that I’ve
been using,’’ said Armentrout.
Lincoln Carr was down to last attempt and was on the verge of a
runner-up finish. But the South Carolina bound star from Fayetteville NC snatched victory from long jump gold medalist Bryce
Lamb of Chandler AZ, soaring through the air with a clutch
jump of 49-3 ½ to steal away the title from Lamb, who finished
second with a 48-11 ½.
``I knew if I just got the board just right, and did what I knew I was capable of, that victory was still there for the taking.’’
| GIRLS |
BY RICH BEVENSEE
New York NY 3/15/09 -- Ashton Purvis of Oakland CA and Chelsea Ley of Woolwich Township NJ emerged from the 26th National Scholastic Indoor Championships as the only double winners in the girls’ meet, but there were plenty of highlights provided by the rest of the field on Sunday at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory.
After anchoring the national champion sprint medley relay with an 800-meter anchor split of 2:09 on Friday, Hempstead NY senior Charlene Lipsey was quietly confident that her team’s success would carry over for her in the open 800.
What Lipsey wasn’t counting on was Phyllis Francis of Brooklyn NY, who was winless in three races this season with the LSU-bound Lipsey. Leading the entire race, Lipsey came around the final banked turn, glanced to her right and watched helplessly as Francis first ran shoulder to shoulder, then lunged past her at the tape for the victory, 2:07.69 to 2:07.77. Those times are US #1 and #2 this season.
``I guess I’m just happy to get a great time,’’ said Francis, a junior at
Catherine McAuley in Brooklyn. ``I thought I could win but I knew it would be tough to beat her (Lipsey). When I was behind her I thought if I stayed there and took it out at the end I could get her. She helps me run fast times regardless of whether I win or lose. I just want to thank all my competition for helping me run fast. That’s all I ask for in a race.’’
Lipsey came into the meet with a US #2 2:09.47. On the 600 national
performance list, Lipsey (1:29.85) and Francis (1:29.90) were listed 1-2.
``I was just looking for a fast time,’’ said a visibly angry Lipsey. ``I wasn’t worried about anyone else.’’
Trinity Wilson was still replaying the final 13 meters in her head after the championship heat of the 60-meter hurdles. That is how much distance is left in the race once hurdlers clear the fifth and final barrier.
Wilson, a freshman at Berkeley St. Mary’s CA, was in danger of losing the title to another freshman in the lane beside her, Lateisha Philson of New York NY.
Philson led by at least a meter over the last hurdle. At the 55 meter mark, the timing cameras caught Philson still ahead, 8.01 to 8.04. It is nearly impossible to make that up in the last strides. Somehow, some way, Wilson did it and edged Philson, 8.65 to 8.66, for her first national title. Philson was seventh a year ago as an eighth grader.
Janice Jackson of Brooklyn NY placed third in 8.71 after taking fourth last season.
``After that last hurdle I said to myself you gotta go get it,’’ said Wilson, who owns the US #1 time in the 55 hurdles at 7.94. Philson is US #4 at 8.02.
``I’ve been practicing my finishes so I guess practice makes perfect,’’ Wilson said. ``Her start is much better than mine so I was prepared for it. I am pretty proud of myself. Last year I hit the first hurdle and I was stutter-stepping everything. This time I just had to finish the race hard.’’
Long Beach Poly CA coach Don Norford must have seen something in
Akawkaw Ndipagbor last season which spurred him to ask his then-budding freshman star to put forth a complete effort in every race.
Ndipagbor took her coach’s words to heart. In a loaded field which produced three of the four fastest times in the nation this season, the sophomore from California cranked out a winning time of US #4 54.74 to beat Nijgia Snapp of Oakcrest NJ (US #2 55.19) and Ahtyana Johnson of New York NY (US #3 55.35).
Ndipagbor trails only Briana Nelson SC on the national list. Nelson won the Nike Indoor Nationals in 54.15 on Sunday in Boston.
``My coach has been telling me I have to leave everything on the track,’’ said Ndipagbor, who was 10th last season in 56.22. ``I knew there would be a lot of competition out there that would be very fast. I wanted to use that for motivation.’’
Ndipagbor was first to hit the break line and split 25.2 for her first 200-meter lap. She never trailed thereafter.
``Coach says whoever is first to the cones is most likely the winner,’’ she said. ``I wanted to make sure I was right in front.’’
Ndipagbor ran a meet-best 55.33 in the trials despite losing her left spike as she was about to complete her first 200-meter lap.
Last spring Ndipagbor ran 53.35, US #6 on the season, and placed third in 53.62 at the USATF Junior Nationals.
Melissa Kurzdorfer of Lancaster NY was extremely displeased with her shot put performance on Friday, so much so that she gave herself even less of a chance to contend in Sunday’s weight throw than when the weekend began.
That’s how low she had sunk after placing third overall with a 46-8 1/4, more than 18 inches short of her season best and US #2 mark.
And then the weight competition began, and things didn’t get much better. She fouled on her first two attempts, just like Friday. She got off a modest 52-foot throw on her final attempt in her flight, just
enough to get into the finals. Then she fouled twice more.
``It was rough out there,’’ Kurzdorfer said. ``It’s not like I was blinded by the lights of the national meet. I just was not having a good day.’’
But like all good athletes, even the bad days have great moments. On her final throw of the finals, Kurzdorfer popped a 54-11 ½ to vault to the top of the standings and win the national title.
``Don’t get me wrong, this is a big deal, but I could have thrown a lot better,’’ Kurzdorfer said. ``This meet has taught me a lot about mental toughness. I need to remember how I handled this weekend for the next time I’m having a bad day. It would have been a lost weekend if I couldn’t have done something good today.’’
Kurzdorfer beat out a slew of athletes from Georgia for the gold medal. Patrice Gates of Villa Rica GA placed second (54-10 ¾), Jazmin Miller of Hiron GA was third (53-3), Kate Bragg of Fayetteville GA was fourth (52-3 ¼) and J’Quyra Moncur-Blu of Covington GA was fifth (51-1 ¾).
Caroline Ehrhardt, a junior from Ontario, Canada, soared 40 feet, ½ inch on her sixth and final attempt to beat two of the top four athletes in the country and win the triple jump title.
US #2 Karimah Shepherd of Chesapeake VA placed second at 39-10, Geranda Williams of Waldorf MD was third at 39-1 ¾ and US #4 Saniel Atkinson of Upper Marlboro MD was fourth at 38-9 ¾. Atkinson won the national pentathlon title on Saturday.
Shepherd came into the meet with a season best of 41-2 ½ and Atkinson entered with a 40-4 ¼.
Ehrhardt, whose personal best is 40-8 ¾, said she wasn’t used to coming from behind to win a meet.
``Usually I’m the one leading and I get it taken away on the last jump,’’
Ehrhardt said. ``I never was in that situation before and I wasn’t sure if I was going to win.’’
Ehrhardt needed a pep talk from her coach following her performance on Friday in the long jump, where she fouled on two of three trial attempts and finished 12th overall.
``I was really upset about Friday and it wasn’t until supper yesterday that I finally got over it,’’ Ehrhardt said. ``My coach said that I had a better chance of winning in the triple jump, anyway.’’
Lindsay Crevoiserat of Glastonbury CT, hoping for a sub-5:00 mile but left to run alone for the second half of the race, won the 1,600 title in a personal best 5:00.99. Amanda Russell of Cedar Park TX was the runner-up in 5:05.48.
``I was really hoping to come here and break five minutes,’’ said Crevoiserat, a sophomore whose personal best was the 5:01 she ran last week at the New England Championships. ``My plan was to stay with the lead pack, but the first lap (40.4 seconds) was so slow so I took off. I was expecting to come in the top six so I’m happy about how it turned out.’’
Serra Gardena CA senior Turquoise Thompson couldn’t believe the gift she received on her leg of the 4x200-meter relay. In second place and trailing Elizabeth Seton MD on the backstretch with a little
more than 100 meters left in her leg, Thompson erased a five-meter gap and then somehow slipped between Seton’s anchor and the inside rail.
The move enabled Thompson to avoid expending too much energy by going outside on the banked part of the track, and she sailed into the exchange zone in first place.
Freshman Alexis Falkner handled things from there, bringing Serra Gardena CA home in first place in a US #2 1:38.24.
``She gave me the inside and I said thank you very much,’’ Thompson said. ``I would have had to go out and around just to get past her. That wasn’t going to work.’’
Seton finished second in US #3 1:39.03, and Weaver CT placed third in US #7 1:40.86.
US #1 Eleanor Roosevelt MD improved its standing by winning the Nike Indoor National title in a meet-record 1:39.33.
There’s only one senior on the Cardozo girls’ 4x400-meter relay team which won the national title on Sunday. That girl, Tessa Wright, can’t wait to see what her teammates do the next two years.
Wright (56.9) and sophomores Ahtyana Johnson (56.1), Alexis Mapson (58.4) and Chamique Francis (54.7) won the 4x400 relay title in 3:46.13, just shy of their US #3 mark of 3:45.36.
Newburgh Free Academy NY finished second in US #4 3:50.81, and Gardena CA placed third in US #6 3:51.42.
Wright, who is considering George Mason, Prairie View, Grambling and Temple, has contributed to four national titles over the last three years.
Cardozo won the sprint medley in 2007 and ’08 and the 4x800 in ’08.
``I can’t say I did it without these girls, who have been like sisters,’’ Wright said. ``Without these ladies I would not have had the career I did. What we did is incredible. Every chance I get I’m coming back to see them race.’’
With nary a senior in the lineup, St. John Villa of Staten Island NY received the most from its underclassmen lineup and ran away from the field for a winning time of US #3 9:04.80.
``This is what we have been working toward ever since cross-country began,’’ junior Alexis Bivona said. ``Last year we came here and didn’t even place. This is huge for us and for Staten Island. Bringing home a national title to our home is incredible.’’
Junior Samantha Laura led off with a 2:19.0, the first of the freshman Claudio twins, Mariah, was next in 2:15.6, Bivona followed with a 2:19.3 and Mariah’s twin sister, Dominique, closed with an impressive 2:10.8.
Bronxville NY placed second in 9:12.49 and Bruin Track Club VA finished third in 9:18.14.
St. John coach Mike Proffitt instructed his young charges to run their own race and not to worry about which teams were making moves, no matter how dramatic.
Dominique Claudio followed her coach’s instructions to the letter. Receiving the baton in second place for the anchor leg, Claudio moved up on race leader Bronxville on the backstretch of her second lap, then used the next 200-meter lap to gallop away from the New York squad and open a 10-meter gap.
``You’re always tempted to look back, but you can’t do that,’’ Claudio said. ``It was nice to get a lead and then run hard without worrying about who was behind me. That’s how coach wants us to run.’’
Ajee’ Wilson of Neptune NJ won the girls’ freshman mile in a comfortable 5:07.56, about a second ahead of runner-up Lauren Hehir of Washingtonville NY. On Friday Wilson anchored Neptune’s third-place sprint medley (4:04.47) with a 2:12 800 leg.
400-METERS (7th-8th GRADE)
Kendall Baisden, an eighth-grader from Franklin MI running for the Motor City Track Club of metropolitan Detroit, won the 400 meters for seventh- and eighth-grade girls in 57.13. That is good enough for US #25 this season.
Last year she won as a seventh-grader in 56.19.
Baisden said her personal best in the open 400 is a 54.84, which she recorded last summer at the Junior Olympics. She recently won the unofficial Michigan state title in the 400 in 57.46. Michigan has no official state meet but track coaches have organized an annual season-ending competition.