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boys relays | 08-09 most outstanding performers

This is the tenth of a series of DyeStat year-end awards for 2008-09. The DyeStat Most Outstanding Performers series, which precedes 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 Donna Dye and John Nepolitan

New Bern NC

Coaches “Big” Dave Simpson and Nick Sparks knew they had something special this year with their New Bern HS / Track Eastern Carolina group.  The had Hendrix twins Anthony and Andrew, freshman prodigies during Karjuan Williams’ senior year and now maturing seniors, with great range from 200 to 800.  They had junior Fuquawn Greene, perhaps the most talented of the crew, with sprint range from 55 to 400.  They had gutty Miles Sparks, Nick’s son and another junior, gradually dropping his 200, 400 and hurdle times to national class levels.  And they had Daishawn Styron, a developing talent who brought much needed sprint speed.  With the talent to challenge records in at least four different relays, and the resources to travel to big meets around the country, the group began a season-long odyssey that would take them from coast to coast.

New Bern/Track EC came out of the blocks fast, with a 1:27.02 4x200 on the fast oval at Arkansas, plus a 3:19.28 4x4.  The 4x2 was #3 all-time and would hold up as the fastest of the winter, but the coaches knew their best shot was at 4x4.  They got down to 3:17.00 at Virginia Tech, then the last weekend in January, they improved to a sizzling 3:13.24 – faster than the national record, but on an oversized track.  Preferring a record without an asterisk, they migrated to New York the following weekend for New Balance Collegiate and nailed it down – 3:13.06 on the standard 200m oval.  NB/TEC would go on to a US#1 1600 SMR at Simplot, and NIN titles in the 4x2, 4x4, and SMR in Boston, but the magical record in the Big Apple would stand as the indoor highlight.

Outdoors, they wasted no time.  Historically, the 1600 SMR had always been a target with the blend of 200-800 talent at the school and at the Raleigh Relays in late March, they put it together like never before for an epic 3:19.58, destroying the USR by more than a second.  Splits were Greene 21.4, Sparks 21.8, Andrew Hendrix 46.6, Anthony Hendrix 1:49.8.  They also hit 1:25.20 and 3:12.82 at the meet. 

The latter, unfortunately, would be a harbinger of things to come.  They badly wanted to break the USR in the outdoor 4x4, too, but the 3:07.40 standard by Hawthorne CA (1985) was considerably more stout; indeed, it’s one of prep track’s greatest marks.  So what followed was a string of performances at meets as far-flung as the Oregon Relays and Great Southwest – the latter meet finding them soundly defeated by an All-Star team in a hyped record-attempt.  The squad had also battled with the suspension of Greene from the school team, which affected several earlier meets.  There seemed to be a sense of fatigue, both from within the squad and concerning interest in the endless record attempts.  Little did fans know what was to come.

NON would be the final display of the NB/TEC talents; could they muster a few more titles and outstanding times?  The weekend began with an impressive US#1 1:24.80 4x200, then continued with a relatively modest 1600 SMR win in 3:24.54.  But the 1600 SMR wasn’t what the team wanted that weekend.  The next day in the 800 SMR, all of the NB/TEC brilliance was back in full force, as the quartet of Styron, Greene, Andrew Hendrix and Anthony Hendrix (46.39) blasted a 1:28.20 USR, taking down the 1:28.43 of the Bryshon Nellum-led LB Poly from two years earlier.  Finally, it was time for the meet-ending 4x400 and most pundits would have told you if NB/TEC could get down around 3:10, it would be a great end to their season.  But with legs of 47.0 from Anthony Hendrix, 47.7 from Sparks, and 47.45 from Greene, the baton went to Andrew Hendrix and it began to dawn on fans that something much bigger was happening.  The final 45.87 brought the squad through in a jaw-dropping 3:08.05, history’s #2 performance.  Only the team itself would have ever believed they could run 3:08, but in doing so, NB/TEC made the final race of an amazing year the most special of all – even if it wasn’t a record.

Albemarle VA

In 2008, a story developed about a quartet of boys from Albemarle VA – Luke Noble, Garrett Bradley, Zach Vrhovac and Anthony Kostelac – who started the season with some talent but little experience, but somehow improved their 4x800 time from 8:05 in February, to 8:02 at NIN, to 7:51 at Penn, and finally to 7:42.21 at NON.  None of them were seniors, so hopes were high for 2009 – but how many times have great underclassmen seasons been followed by average or injury-riddled senior years?  How much more improvement could be made from 7:42.21?  In this case, it turned out, a whole lot.

Things looked good from the start, as the quartet put up an early then-US#1 7:49.88 4x8 at Virginia Tech.  In that race, they happened to take the national lead away from Morris Hills NJ, which took note of the news and promptly took it back with 7:46.54 the next day.  A rivalry, as they say, was born.  Both teams were invited to the Millrose Games 4x800, which Albemarle won decisively with a very good 7:54.59 on the tight little track.  A month later, the VA school took back the US#1 with 7:44.70 at their state meet, #5 all-time.

The stage was set for some titanic distance relay showdowns at NIN.  On Saturday, with Kostelac closing it out in 4:09.2, Albemarle pulled away late and ran the #2 indoor DMR in history, 10:02.13.  But that was just the prelude to the earth shattering performance they would produce the next day.  With Vrhovac splitting 1:53.1, Noble 1:54.9, Bradley 1:57.3, and Kostelac 1:51.4, they annihilated the HSR by more than five seconds with a 7:36.99.

Fans could hardly wait to see Albemarle again, and six weeks later at the Penn Relays, they got their wish.  Though neither the VA school or Morris Hills really gave an indication of what was to come in the prelims, the 4x800 Championship of America that ensued a day later will stand as one of the great races in HS track history.  In a field that also included two great Jamaican teams and sub-7:40 power Central Bucks South PA, Albemarle got 1:55.43 from Bradley, a pivotal 1:50.57 from Vrhovac, 1:55.34 from Noble and finally an epic 1:49.33 for Kostelac as they came home with a USR 7:30.67, with Morris Hills behind them also breaking the old mark.  Unfortunately, that was the final appearance of the quartet together this spring as Kostelac suffered a season-ending injury.  But no one who saw the record 4x8s will soon forget them.

The Woodlands TX

With the long- and middle-distance talents of NXN champ Reed Connor and fast-rising Drew Butler, there seemed little doubt that whenever The Woodlands TX wanted to, they could put together a 4x1 Mile or DMR that would battle for US#1 marks and championships.  Athletes from the school don’t typically race indoors, but Connor and Butler showed up and each ran PRs at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, raising hopes that maybe they would battle their fellow relay titans at NIN.  Retiring coach Danny Green, however, decided to keep his charges home and prepare for the outdoor grind ahead.

It didn’t take long for The Woodlands to put a strong 4x1600 mark on the board, hitting a 17:26.71 in late March.  In April, they fashioned a studly relay double at the Texas Relays, starting with a then-US#2 7:46.06 4x800 on Friday, then finishing with a then-US#1 10:06.12 DMR on Saturday.  They had a long-range goal of coming to Greensboro in June and defending their 4x1 Mile title and hoping to take the DMR, too.  But some unexpected things happened in the meantime.  While Connor (1600 and 3200) and Butler (800 and 1600) both had strong times here and there at their specialties, both came up a little short of their ultimate goals.  Particularly hard was the swine flu-delayed state meet, where Butler won the 800, but finished far back in the 1600, while Connor was getting upset in the 3200 and also taking 2nd in the 16.  The end result was that they came to Greensboro VERY motivated to end their season on a high note.

Both the 4x1 Mile and DMR in Greensboro were loaded with talent, though the DMR was deeper.  The former wound up become the expected two-team battle between The Woodlands and North Central WA, with both teams feeling they had a legit shot at the national record.  Juniors Thomas Sanderson and Ross Moulder gave TWH 4:20.46 and 4:26.68 legs, then Connor took them from 3rd to 1st with a 4:13.15, the fastest leg of the race, and Butler maintained on a hot day for a US#1 17:17.21, #8 all-time US.  Six teams would run 10:00 or faster in the ridiculously loaded DMR, but Butler’s 3:00.81 1200 gave TWH a big lead.  Travis Southard and Sanderson followed with 49.33 and 1:56.15, with the lead shrinking down, but Connor again stepped up with a best-ever 4:08.89 as they pulled away for a US#1 9:55.17 win – #4 all-time capping off a relay double for the ages.

Morris Hills NJ

Like Albemarle VA, Morris Hills NJ knew they were going to be really, really good in the 4x8 and DMR this year.  They had been pretty good before, but they had a deep group of seniors reaching their peak.  Sean Pohorence had become one of the state’s best in XC and was on his way to sub-9:05 2M indoors.  Liam Tansey had run 4:15 1600 the year before and was on his way to 4:08 and 1:52 outdoors.  Lucas Clyne and Vinny Chiusano would run under 1:54 before the year was out.  These guys knew sub-7:45 was possible indoors, and sub-7:40 out.  What they didn’t know was how fast it was going to take to be the best.

By the early January Hispanic Games, Morris Hills was already down to a US#1 7:51.07 4x800, and when Albemarle took over the national lead two weeks later, the Jersey school got it back the next day at 7:46.54.  The teams met at Millrose in the 4x8 and Morris Hills suffered a galling defeat, but they picked themselves back up.  By NIN, they were ready for some beastly PRs – 10:06.06 in the DMR and 7:43.91 for the 4x8, both good for #5 all-time.  Incredibly, they weren’t good enough to win against Albemarle’s incredible performances.  Only once before had teams ever run that fast in those events and lost. 

The next big chance, and another showdown with Albemarle, was to be at the Penn Relays.  Morris Hills had moved Pohorence onto its 4x800 and, galvanized like never before, the school put everything into what would turn out to be its last shot to beat their new rivals.  Against a great field that was deeper than the two favorites, the challengers’ first three legs included 1:55.22 from Chiusano, a stunning 1:52.17 from Clyne, and a 1:53.36 from Pohorence that was just what the doctor ordered.  But Albemarle was still right on their backs, and despite a career-best 1:50.65 from Tansey, he could not shake Albemarle anchor Anthony Kostelac.  Morris Hills would smash the USR by more than a second, run a mind-boggling 12 seconds faster than their previous best, but still get 2nd place in 7:31.60.

At NON, with Albemarle not competing due to Koselac’s season-ending injury, the 4x8 didn’t have the drama, but Morris Hills still crossed the finish line triumphant with a fine 7:42.30.  They were also onsidered to be right in the mix for the DMR title, but they lost a little too much ground early and the wheels fell off at the end.  Still, it had been an incredible year for the Jersey power.
Honorable Mention

West Windsor-Plainsboro North NJ – With soph twins Jim and Joe Rosa, and fast-improving Tyler Corkedale, WW-PN had a super year highlighted by a smashing of the 4x1 Mile USR at NIN.  The 17:21.58 came from the efforts of Ryan Sleeper (4:25.0), Corkedale (4:22.3), Joe Rosa (4:16.0) and Jim Rosa (4:18.4).  They were also 3rd in the DMR (10:07.21) and 4th in the 4x800 (7:51.69).  They suffered a disappointing DMR loss at Penn, but came back for a great 3rd at NON with US#3 9:58.60, #10 all-time.

Monsignor Pace FL – In a year where no 4x100 quartet was really dominant nationally, Pace put up the 1st and 3rd best clockings.  With sub-10.7 standouts Derrick Hopkins and Kayvon Webster leading the way, they hit a US#1 40.54 at the Florida 2A state meet.  Four weeks later, they were nearly as good, rolling to a 40.65 at the Golden South Classic, a mark only one other school national beat in 2009.

Altoona PA – Led by budding phenom Brady Gehret, as well as Mike Treese and Aaron Nadolsky, Altoona put together a combinations of 4x100 and 4x400 relays that earned them a spot here.  They impressively made both Penn Relay finals, taking 7th in the 4x100 (41.83) and 6th in the 4x400 (3:18.06).  At NON, they were 3rd in the 4x100 (41.29) and 2nd in the 4x400 (3:13.38).  They swept the 4x1 and 4x4 in their outdoor state meet, and 4x2 and 4x4 indoors.

Central Bucks South PA – It was amazing enough that there were two teams breaking the national 4x800 record outdoors this year, but there was a quartet from Central Bucks South PA that went deep into the 7:30s twice this year as well.  Indoors, CBS ran 7:49.01 at its state meet, then was 3rd at NON in 7:51.33.  At Penn, while Albemarle and Morris Hills were battling for the USR, CBS – with Tom Mallon anchoring in an eye-popping 1:49.79 – ran 7:36.93 for 3rd.  At the PA 3A state meet, with Mallon hitting 1:49.0 and teammates Jeff Dickson, Matt Poiesz, and Dave Manion even better, they rocked a 7:33.48, #6 all-time.

Year-End Awards Index