The Internet Home of Track & Field

As the 2008-2009 high school competition year draws to a close, we asked five staff members who spend a great deal of their time at meets to look back over the last twelve months and select their five favorite events, moments, match-ups, interactions, observations, confrontations or celebrations. The things that stood out, stayed with them, stuck to memory long after the coverage was over and the headlines had faded. The only catch was that they had to actually have been there. Stunned by Anna Jelmini's throws double at her California sectional, but heard about it on the internet like almost everyone else? Doesn’t count. Head spinning when you got word of Albemarle's 4x800 battle against Morris Hills, but you were covering a meet elsewhere in the country? Not good enough. Five favorites you saw with your own eyes.

So, without further ado… a week’s worth of moments we were “in the house” to see.

John Nepolitan | dyestat metro/photographer

Curtis Beach at NSIC – In the winter of 2008 I was first introduced to Curtis Beach at the NSIC, and would see him compete again at that spring’s Great Southwest meet and the USATF Jr Champs, but at the NSIC meet of 2009 I figured I would follow him as he went from event to event competing in the pentathlon.  As a result of tailing Beach though his 4127-point performance for the #2 mark of all time, I was able to put together the photo feature Being Curtis Beach, which opened my eyes to the life of a multi-event athlete. 

The performance that weekend by Beach that made me shake my head was not what he did on Saturday, but what he did the next day in the open 800.  The talk a good part of the day had been centered on just how fast Robby Andrews (Manalapan, NJ) would run in the 800.  Earlier in the season, Andrews had taken the 1000 meter national record away from Alan Webb, so it was natural for fans to speculate what he would run for the 4 lap event.  There were 6 sections of the 800, with Andrews scheduled for the last one, so most people in the Armory Track and Field Center could not be blamed for not really paying attention to the first few sections.  It was in the 2nd section that the fireworks would happen. 

Blasting from the starting line and pretty much running a time trial, Beach posted a 1:52.72, and all of a sudden Andrews needed to run a personal best just to win.  Andrews would go on to win the NSIC title, and yes, he would break the national record, a record that owes  a lot to Beach for setting the standard to shoot for that day.  As for Beach, his time would stand up for 4th place overall on the day, and leave all shaking their heads and wondering what could he have run without the previous day’s 5 events.

Jordan Hasay’s Foot Locker win – There is no doubt that Jordan Hasay will go down as one of the greatest female high school track athletes of all time.  Hasay has provided fans with a catalog of memories, but for me her 2nd Foot Locker win may have been her best and sent me back to the East shaking my head.  As the 2008 Foot Locker National girls’ race unfolded, it looked like Allie McLaughlin would run away with the title as she stormed out to a lead of over 50 meters on the field. 

In covering the last few Footlocker Nationals as part of the DyeStat team, it has been my job to get photos as the field goes up the course’s signature hill, and then run over to the downhill in an effort to catch action at two key places on the course.  Heading up the hill for the final time, McLaughin looked like she was going to pull off a huge upset, but at the bottom of the hill McLaughlin had been caught by 2007 Champion Ashley Brasovan.  It seemed that one of these two would win and Hasay would have to settle for 3rd at best, as there was no way with just 500 meters to go she would be able to catch the two in front of her. 

Once I got the photos of all the runners I needed, deep into the field, I started to make my way back towards the finish to catch up with my fellow DyeStatters.  As I jogged closer to the finish area I could hear the announcer starting to call out the results.  When I heard the winning time of 17:22 it really meant nothing to me, but when I heard that the winner was Jordan Hasay I was stopped in my tracks in an effort to give my full attention to what he was saying.  Could it be?  Could Hasay have made up that gap in such a short distance?  I could not believe it when I got back to the finish area and, sure enough, Hasay had indeed won her second Footlocker National title, kicking past Brasovan in the final 200 meters—a performance I still could not believe as I boarded the plane home to New York the next morning.

Shelby Greany national record – For over four years, Shelby Greany (Suffern, NY) had been an impact performer in New York and a known entity on the national stage having been part of Suffern’s National and Penn Relay championship relays.  But it would be in the 2000 meter steeplechase that Greany would make her biggest individual track impact in her career.  In her first three years in the event, Greany set class records, with a state and national title, and as she entered her final high school outdoor season she was running better than ever, setting personal bests throughout the indoor season in non-barrier races leading up to her first steeple race of the year. 

Greany made her season debut in the event at the small steeple-only meet – the Cornwall Steeplefest.  With Erin Cawley, the 2008 NY runner-up in the steeple, also racing, driving 5 hours south for a chance to run in a fast race Greany would have to be on her game just to win.  As she has so many times before, Greany jumped right to the lead, but while stepping on the first water barrier a slight loss of concentration and a slip on the damp crossbar seemed to shake the Suffern runner up just a bit and it was now all business. 

A decent early pace soon became fast as the laps clicked by.  With 1 lap to go it seemed that it would take a disaster for Greany not to break the 6:35.63 national mark by Marie Lawrence.  Powering all the way through the line, Greany stopped the clock at 6:33.7 to take hold of the national mark.  Sometimes great performances just happen when the athlete and coach don’t have any real expectations going into the meet.

Mason Finley at Arcadia – Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of watching some great throwing event performances, with Walter Henning in both the weight and hammer throws and Nick Vena as he re-writes the shot put record book, but I have not really seen a great discus thrower.  That is, until this year’s Arcadia Invitational and Mason Finley. 

Knowing that Finley was closing in on the national record, I knew I had to be there when he first stepped in the ring.  Standing down the left sector line right next to the 100-foot field marker, I pulled my camera to my face as Finley prepared to make his first throw.  The massive Colorado thrower spun round and released the platter.  Looking through the view finder, I could tell it took off differently than any I had ever seen from so close.  The disc flew high over my head and seemed to go on forever before it finally returned to Earth 221’ 0” away from where it was launched

Finley would not set the national mark that day— it would have to wait until later in the season—but once again I boarded a flight from the west coast back to New York shaking my head at a performance. 

Conor McCullough sends them scrambling at the Armory – The last time I saw Conor McCullough compete, he was getting 2nd in the hammer throw at the 2008 USATF Junior Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.  Since then, he had won the silver medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Poland and extended his indoor weight throw national record with a 92-07.50 toss at the Nike Indoor Nationals.  The day after his Nike win, McCullough drove south to the Armory Track and Field Center in an attempt to not only see if he could win two national titles in one weekend, but set his 2nd national record as well.  A few years ago, the Armory spent thousands of dollars to expand the throwing area to accommodate Walter Henning’s throws. Now, the facility would need all of those alterations to contain the throws of McCullough.  It would not be the final result of the California thrower that would make the deep impression; that was pretty much expected. 

For those who have never been to the Armory, the seating for fans and coaches is in an upstairs balcony that hangs out, not only over the track, but the far end of the throwing area as well.  So knowing that McCullough’s throws go very high and almost seem to come straight down, and also knowing that it was almost certain he would be getting at least one throw out over 90 feet, officials told people in the first few rows of the balcony that they might want to move back a few rows.  The warning simply brought chuckles from most of those with the best seats to see the action, but when McCullough unleashed an opening throw that looked like it may land in the upper deck, fans began to scramble to get out of the way, leaving video cameras behind. 

The implement did not land in the upper deck, and McCullough went on to claim his 2nd national title of the weekend with a new national mark of 93-03.25, but the lasting impression was the look of panic on the faces of those in the first few rows as they scrambled for cover from the 25 lb ball coming down from above and seemingly about to land in their laps.

 All photos by John Nepolitan

My Favorite 5 Index