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Nike Outdoor Nationals
June 18-20, 2009 at Greensboro NC
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SteveU's Sweet 16 Storylines

Great Fields - Historic Depths

Nick Vena, by John Nepolitan
Battle of the 70-Footers: Boys Shot Put – It all started back in December, when you realized that there were five shot putters returning from last year that had 66 feet or better as underclassmen, led by superduper soph Nick Vena NJ.  It continued in January, when Mason Finley CO hit 68 feet, then Stephen Saenz TX over 69 feet.  It hit a winter peak in mid-March when Vena scored his first 70-footer at NSIC, only to see Saenz top 71 at NIN, and has continued afire all spring as Hayden Baillio TX, Vena, and Saenz have traded nation-leading 72-foot-and-better puts.

It’s the Year of the Thrower – or really, in terms of the most quality depth, the Year of the Boys Shot Put.  In any case, there’s never been more than two putters over 70 feet in a year, let alone four at 71 or better.  One can only wish the shot would take place in the middle of the infield with nothing else going on, better to watch the 24 breathtaking puts by these big guys.  Vena has had the last word, with his 72-08 at NJ Meet of Champions, for the current national lead, on June 3.  Saenz’s last 70-footer was a few weeks earlier, and Baillio and Finley have seen several weeks pass since they hit the mark.  But expect them to be ready for perhaps the most-hyped shot put ever … and if they’re not, expect one of the other 3 between 66 and 68 feet in the field – DJ Duke OH, Zack Hill MI, and Dan Block IL – to make them pay.  Finley, of course, is also defending champ and new US-record-holder in the DT, but 236-06 will be tough to reach in Greensboro.

Assault on sub-1:50:  Boys 800 – Of all of the boys and girls individual distance races, this stands to be the deepest and most intense.  Five are seeded below 1:51 and 14 total under 1:52.  Top-seeded Robby Andrews NJ (1:48.66 PR), who broke USRs at 800 and 1000 indoors, should be extra motivated to top Mac Fleet (1:50.31) after the Californian beat him last weekend in Portland over a mile.  Another race within the race could be Cax Loxsom CT (1:50.45) trying to avenge his Hartford loss to Terrence Livingston NY (1:50.32).  Further spicing things up will be Tommy Brinn MI (1:49.27), at last under 1:50; Peter Callahan IL (1:51.22), who just ran 4:05.20 for a mile last weekend at MDG; Curtis Beach NM, the double decathlon record holder who has split 1:50; and Elias Gedyon CA, the super soph who has run 4:07.26 for 1600 this year and 1:51.91 for 800 as a frosh last year.  No (Elijah) Greer here ... but just about everyone else.

Morris Hills' Liam Tansey, by John Nepolitan
Assault on sub-10:00: Boys DMR – While this event doesn’t have the record-chasing aura of the 4x1 mile, it could be the deepest and most intensely competitive of the always good boys distance relays here.  Yes, conjecture is involved; there have actually been no sub-10s yet this year.  But so fast have been the individual event PRs of contending teams’ athletes in recent weeks that the buzz is that 3-5 teams could break 10:00 (there has never been more than two in a race) and 3-5 more under 10:05.  Along with US#1 Westerly RI (10:01.13 with 4:02.70 miler Andrew Springer) and #3 Western Albemarle VA (10:01.87), there is Morris Hills NJ (with members from #2 a-t 7:31.60 4x8), The Woodlands TX (stars Reed Connor and Drew Butler), Plainsboro TC (West Windsor Plainsboro North NJ, 3rd at NIN, but 4x1 mile record-setting champs there), North Spokane WA (NXN champs North Central), and Conant IL (4:05 1600 man Jeff Thode on anchor).  The drama of at least five guys who have run 4:10 or better for 1600 on the anchor alone is worth the price of admission.

Battle of the 7-footers: Boys HJ – This event could be framed as a “Great Matchup,” with rising star and US#1 James White MO (7-05.75) against veteran star and NIN champ Erik Kynard OH (7-04.50) … but the bigger story is the depth.  How many guys can go over seven feet?  There are 10 in the field who have done so already, including Oxford MS freshman Justin Fondren (7-0), and nine more at 6-10 or better.  Still, look for it to come down to the senior Kynard – who has at least half a dozen meets over 7-02 in his career – against upstart junior White, who scaled 7-03 or better in three meets in eight days.  It’s possible the pair could be future teammates at Kansas State as Kynard has signed to go there this fall and White is reportedly interested.

The Record-Chasers

Shade Weygandt, by John Dye
Jack Whitt and Shade Weygandt: Pole Vault Whitt and Weygandt have certainly taken different paths to Greensboro, but one thing is sure: This weekend should see an all-out vault assault on the national records by the top male and female PV entrants.  Whitt, the Norman North OK senior, has made 17 feet commonplace this year and even 17-06 relatively routine.  But he is still looking for that extra 2.75 inches that will take him from the US#1 18-00.25 he vaulted at Texas Relays (#5 all-time) to Tommy Skipper’s 2003 HSR of 18-03.  Weygandt had all but disappeared from the scene after graduating from Mansfield TX early, but dramatically reappeared at Great Southwest and attained her long-sought goal of 14-00, US#1 this year and =#2 all-time.  She needs just 1.25 inches to reach Tori Anthony’s 2007 standard.

Reggie Wyatt: 400 Hurdles – One record down, one to go for the La Sierra CA senior after he took down fellow Californian Jeshua Anderson’s 2007 300H record (35.28) with authority at the California state meet – a 35.02, in the prelims, no less.  Now it’s time for him to revisit an old friend.  Wyatt hasn’t run the 400H all year, but he was all over the event the previous two years, setting the US soph mark of 50.10 in 2007.  This weekend, he’ll hope to get under 50 and at least give Kenneth Ferguson’s 49.38 from 2002 a scare.  It make take a few more races, starting at USATF Juniors the following week, to really get flowing in the slightly longer race.  Meanwhile, current US leader Jordan Rispress OH – 51.89 at Penn Relays – knows he’ll have to cut close to two seconds to be competitive.

Lauren Chambers, by John Dye
Lauren Chambers: Girls Hammer – It only seems like Chambers has been throwing weights and hammers around at the prep level for years and years; she’s been among the national elite since she started.  While she competes for Kell HS during the school season, she’s best known as the leader of the Throw 1 Deep club crew out of Marietta.  The senior will hope to get two inches deeper this weekend, taking her from her 201-06 PR past Maureen Griffin’s 1998 standard (201-07).  After a winter of chasing Victoria Flowers’ weight mark, she’s been after the hammer mark all spring.  She’s the closest of any of the “record chasers” to actually closing the deal.

“The Field”: Boys 4x1 Mile Relay – Having stood for 33 years, the boys 4x1 mile relay is the toughest distance relay mark on the books.  South Eugene OR in 1976 threw down an astonishing 17:06.6 and, since then, no one’s come within 11 seconds.  To have four runners who can average 4:16+ - and do it on the same day – has proven to be more than daunting, despite the event being run at the championship level every year.  2009, though, might just be the year.  North Spokane (North Central WA HS) has three who have run between 4:13.58 and 4:14.67 for 1600, plus a 1:54.37 800 man.  The Woodlands TX has two at 4:10, another at 4:19, and a fourth at 4:25.  If the weather is decent and everyone comes fit to run at PR level – two big “if’s” – the record could go down. 

The Star Showcases

Chelsey Sveinsson, by Bert Richardson
Chelsey Sveinsson: Girls 2 Mile/ 1 Mile – When we talk about the matchups we wish we’d seen at the end of the season, Sveinsson vs. Jordan Hasay will probably be near the top of the list.  However, Hasay – widely considered the best girls prep distance runner in the country since her freshman year – will not be in Greensboro and Sveinsson will.  If anyone could be considered the heir apparent to the graduating Hasay, it is the Greenhill TX soph, who has run 4:18.13 for 1500 this spring and a breathtakingly easy 10:12.11 3200 at the Texas Relays.  The fields will be strong in both races, but Sveinsson should prevail and – if the weather’s not too rough – challenge sub-10:00 and sub-4:40.  Sveinsson’s toughest foe could wind by being Foot Locker 3rd-place finisher (Sveinnson, the NXN champ, was 4th) Megan Goethals MI in the deuce.

Jillian Smith: Girls 800, 4x800 – The two events which will find Smith competing will each be full of talented runners and teams – not quite historic depth, but very solid – but each will likely be remembered as the final races of her great career.  The Southern Regional senior’s last two seasons have been filled with championships, whether taking the NON 800 last year, anchoring two winning and near-record-setting relays at NIN this past winter, or dominating indoor miles at meets like Millrose.  Charlene Lipsey and Becca Addison will make Smith work for an 800 title, and a handful of squads could push her 4x8 quartet in sub-9 territory – but expect Smith to cross the finish line first on both occasions, challenging 2:03 and leading her girls close to 8:50 in the relay.

Wayne Davis, by Jeannette Seckinger
Wayne Davis II: Boys 110H – Ironically, Davis first really made his name outdoors – winning the World Youth 110s in 2007 – but that’s precisely where he’s struggled the past two seasons.  Of course, this year, you really have to put “struggled” in relative terms; Davis HAS run 13.56 (into a 3.0 headwind at Golden West), three more legal sub-13.70s, and a 13.35w.  The Southeast Raleigh NC senior just hasn’t been absolutely ruling the roost like he has indoors the last two years.  In Greensboro, though, there will be no US#1 Cameron LaCour TX to overcome; that will have to wait til USATF Juniors.  So expect that while there will be a strong contingent of sub-14s out there, that the lasting image of the race will be of WD II’s long frame and impeccable technique as he slices and dices his way to what he hopes will be a memorable finale to his career in the Nike Nationals.

Ebony Eutsey: Girls 400 – Getting the top sprint talent from Florida – and other warm-weather states with early state meets – hasn’t always been easy for NON.  That’s why landing the nation’s top quarter-miler from Miami Southridge is a special treat.  Eutsey, who has ranked in the top three nationally each of her first three years, has been untouchable this spring; her US#1 52.42 is more than half a second up on #2.  Eutsey’s fellow Floridian Sanya Richards set the national record at 50.69 in 2002 and, since then, only two prep girls have gone under 52.  The junior certainly has an eye on becoming the third, and a big picture goal of eventually moving to the top of the all-time list.  She’s most likely to be challenged by NIN champ Briana Nelson SC, who has run 53.17 this spring.

The Great Matchups

Chalonda Goodman, by Walter Pinion
Chalonda Goodman vs. Octavious Freeman: Girls 100 and 200 – No one has ever had the success at the Nike National meets like Goodman.  The Newnan GA senior was a definite underdog when she came in as a soph two years ago and beat the likes of Gabby Mayo and Tiffany Townsend for her first NON double.  Now she has three such doubles, including the 60/200 combo this past winter at NIN and comes in with the US-leading legal marks in both events.  In her way, though, is another sophomore who – like she was two years ago – is an underdog.  But Freeman is much better known, after a pair of doubles the past three weeks at Golden South and Great Southwest, and marks like 11.09 nwi and 11.20w at 100.  Either the difference in experience or recent travel – Goodman’s competitive schedule the past month as been light and local – could be keys in who comes out on top.

Tavaris Tate vs. Clayton Parros: Boys 400 – Unlike the other “matchups” in this section, this one has a history.  A short history, but a thrilling history.  Tate, the Starkville MS senior, took a memorable duel at NIN, just holding off the final surge from Parros, 47-84-47.85.  After outstanding outdoor campaigns in their respective states, both were chosen for a special 4x400 All-Star team to compete at Great Southwest – but before they passed the stick in the relay, they locked horns again in the open 1-lapper.  This time, Tate prevailed by 0.23, as their 45.48 and 45.71 times went to 1-2 in the nation.  Fans of the Seton Hall Prep senior will note, however, that their hero had tripled in the NJ Meet of Champs about 48 hours earlier.  Don’t be surprised if just a few inches separate them again this weekend.

Dentarius Locke, by Victah Sailer
Andrew Springer vs. Lucas Verzbicas, Boys 2 Mile – Who would have thought of this as a compelling matchup at NON just a few weeks earlier?  But thanks Verzbica’s announcement of relaunching his track career after a few months of triathloning, and the performances of each at the Midwest Distance Gala, this battle clearly holds intrigue and promise.  Thanks to their victories last weekend and a timer who hustled up FAT splits, Springer (4:02.70 mile) and Verzbicas (8:53.98 2 mile) each hold three nation-leading marks.  The Lincoln-Way IL frosh beat the Westerly RI senior at the deuce at NIN, but had a day of rest following his 5k win, while Springer had an hour or two after his mile triumph.  While fresh, they have been almost unbeatable this year.  Also, these are really just two of five strong contenders in the 2 mile, the others being Trevor Dunbar AK, Chris Schwartz CA, and Jeff Thode IL.

Dentarius Locke vs. Prezel Hardy, Boys 100 – At the end of May, this would have hardly held major intrigue as a top matchup for NON.  Locke’s status was somewhat uncertain after dropping the 200 from his Golden South double and Hardy had just stirred the national radar with a 100 win over Marquise Goodwin at his Texas regional.  Now Locke is said to be healthy and back in the form that saw him run 10.32 and US#1 20.58 at the Florida state meet, while Hardy has made a huge impression with his 10.08w (+2.2) at the Texas state meet.  As they’ve done with Eutsey and Freeman, NON has scored big with Florida sprinters this year and picked up the fastest man in Texas to boot.  Locke, a Chamberlain FL senior, is a Nike meet vet, having competed here last year and at NIN this past winter, while Hardy (Killeen Ellison junior) is making his national debut.

... And don’t sleep on these “darkhorse” storylines …
  • Does New Bern have anything left?  For the first time in seemingly months – after a series of misses on 4x400 record attempts – the relay titans from New Bern NC have been out of the spotlight.  But guess what?  The NIN triple champs have the top entry marks in the 4x2, 4x4 and 1600 SMR relays, as well as a great chance to win the 800 SMR. 
  • Roosevelt girls still on top – These girls have been out of the bright national spotlight themselves since Penn in late April, but Eleanor Roosevelt MD makes their annual trip to Greensboro with the decisive leading mark in the 4x1, 4x2 and 4x4.  None of the squads close to them on the lists for those events will be here.
  • How fast for Haile?  Solomon Haile’s mantel of invincibility from XC is gone, but the Sherwood MD senior looked much better in falling short to super frosh Lucas Verzbicas last weekend than he did at Penn in a bad 3k loss.  He’s been training well, has bashed through 9:00, and is ready to defend his NON 5k title.  The outdoor 5k USR is out of reach, but Haile might beat Verzbicas 5k NIN indoor time, which took down Haile’s own hours-old NSIC mark.
  • Girls field best yet for Nike 5K – In the few years of boys and girls NON and NIN 5ks on the track, no field has had the quality at the top that this one sports.  For a variety of reasons, Emily Sisson MO, Shelby Greany NY, and Chelsea Ley NJ have each picked this race over their other options.  Greany, of course, is the new 2k ST national record holder and 2008 NON champ, while Sisson (USATF Jrs) and Ley (NSIC) have each won national 5k titles before.  All three have been top ten at Foot Locker Finals.
  • Deep girls' jump fields – Despite some missing pieces here and there, the NON girls LJ and HJ fields are some of the best they have seen.  Six girls have gone 19-11 or better in the LJ, led by US leader and NIN champ Brittany Porter GA.  The HJ sports 2008 Olympic Trials qualifier and USATF Jr. champ Shanay Briscoe (6-01.25 PR), with six others at 5-09 or better.
  • Soph’s chance to shine in DTAnna Collatz made huge waves two weeks ago when she “beat” national-record holder Anna Jelmini in the California state discus prelims and set a soph USR 177-00 in the process.  She lost by more than 20 feet the next day, but with Jelmini holding out for USATF Juniors, Collatz is the top DT entry … as well as being the bright future of the event.
  • Spear-chuckers worth watching – Fans wanting a matchup between US#1 and #2 boys javelinists Sam Crouser OR and Justin Shirk PA (#2 and #3 all-time) will have to wait a week, but Shirk will be in the house to try take over the top spot this weekend.  The girls jav pits history’s #4, #6 and #7 all-time performers in Hannah Carson AZ, Fawn Miller PA, and Heather Bergmann KS.  The only catch is, each of their PRs are from previous years.  It stands to reason that the one who comes closest to her pre-2009 best will win (they rank 1-2-3 in reverse order for this year)