Virginia Tech Invitational
Friday-Saturday, Jan. 27-28, 2006
Rector Fieldhouse, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg VA

"It's Been a Great Meet in the Past, and It's Still a Great Meet"

Meet Story by Steve Underwood

Any external issues surrounding a big track meet are usually submerged, if not forgotten, when the athletes start doing their thing.

The Virginia Tech Invitational has had its issues this year with a leadership change and forcing a downsize in participants. But if those things hadn’t been relegated to the background by performances earlier in the weekend, they sure were when Bethel VA sr. Francena McCorory hit the track for the first section of the 300 meters. Getting out with a blistering 23-point first 200, the Howard University signee crushed the USR by becoming the first girl under 37 seconds – 36.96 – to instantly become the highlight of an exciting weekend on these banked boards.

Mike Byrnes and Francena McCorory - Photo by Brandon Miles

Not only did the tremendous effort ignite the crowd, and fulfill the plan set out by McCorory and her coach, Eddie Williams, but it sure helped make new meet director Dan Ward’s weekend. “We had a bunch of good performances,” said Ward by the end of Saturday. “It’s been a great meet in the past and it was a great meet this weekend. We had a few glitches, but we got some experience Friday and today went better.”

McCorory’s national record was just the best of a bevy of great marks. There were eight more US#1s, 184 total Dyestat Elite (the most of any meet this year), and two more that cracked the all-time top 10. It was no surprise those historic performances came in the 500 meters, expected to be one of the premier events here. On the boys side, New Bern NC sr. Karjuan Williams put on another display of smooth running and sprint/middle distance versatility to score a 1:02.80, history’s second-best and the swiftest since 1984.

For the girls it was Eleanor Roosevelt School MD jr. Tameka Jameson, fresh off a national leader 1:13.6 in her county meet the week before. If she thought she would get even a closer race than her teammate Tasha Stanley gave in that race, it wasn’t to be. But no matter, she pushed herself to a 1:12.40, fifth best ever.

Two more of the national leaders came from the legs and hearts of ERS, as they combined for 1:39.47 4x200 and 3:48.04 4x400. DeMatha MD’s boys took over the other 4x400 lead again with the first sub-3:20 of the year, a 3:17.59. The other number ones were Bayside VA sr. Charles Clark 34.25 boys 300m, Deep Creek VA jr. Ashley Gatling 5-9 girls high jump, and Northside VA jr. Catherine White 10:39.66 girls 3200.

Long Sprints: Showtime with McCorory; VT 500 Attack

If there hadn’t been a timing malfunction at the start of the girls 300 meters, there might never have been a USR by Francena McCorory. When the gun first went off, she didn’t get a good start. The second time she did and 36.96 seconds later her name was in the record book.

Running in lane 3, she quickly began making up staggers and by the time she flew down the backstretch toward the 200 mark, there was no doubt who would win. When Jim Spier of the National Scholastic Sports Federation (NSSF), calling the race, announced the startling 23-second split at 200, a very special time was at hand. McCorory lost a little form in the last 50 meters and flailed a bit, but the record was in the bag by then, thanks to the torrid sprinting to that point. Largo sr. Michaylin Gollady, despite a very respectable 39.22, was a very distance second.

For one of the few times the attention of almost the entire fieldhouse was held, she received an ovation and was subsequently interviewed for everyone to hear by the NSSF’s Mike Byrnes.

“I got out better,” McCorory said of the key to her race. “I usually get a horrible start. I got out real good, listened to my coach, and let God do the rest. But the last 100 was real tough.”

“Our goal was to come in here today and break the national record,” confirmed Bethel head coach Eddie Williams. “She wanted to break it here in Virginia because she’s a Virginia girl. I also have to thank the guys on our team because she’s been training with them.”

He admitted that while McCorory will be mixing it up with all three sprints outdoors, the indoor 300 is truly “an ideal event for her.”

McCorory was originally slated to run the 60 as well, but since she had an exam Friday morning to precluded time to travel there and participate in the heats, Coach Williams opted to have her anchor the 4x200 and 4x400 relays in addition to the 300. Bethel was second (1:40.33) and third (3:54.61) in those events.

Charles Clark winning the boys 300 - Photo by Brandon Miles

The girls 300 was just the beginning of a great day in the long sprints at the fieldhouse. Bayside sr. Charles Clark couldn’t quite match McCorory, but he did sprint to another US#1, with both his 34.25 and DeMatha sr. Jaumale Sykes’ 34.46 topping the old national leader. Clark had already been a swift runner-up in the 60 (6.84).

Then came what many considered to be the feature events of the meet. In fact, if Dan Ward can keep attracting stellar athletes to this indoor-unique 2.5-lap event, the Virginia Tech 500 might start to rival the Indianapolis 500, at least in the minds of prep track fans. With recent national-leader Tameka Jameson from powerhouse Eleanor Roosevelt and versatile long sprint/middle-distance titan Karjuan Williams heading up the two fields, the fives looked to be potential meet headliners and they didn’t disappoint.

Jameson was first up, and after breaking into the lead before 200, she set the track afire again. The national record was in doubt as she hit the stretch and she stopped the clock at 1:12.40, more than a second faster than anyone has done this year and less than a second off of Devon Williams’ national mark. “I felt strong and just tried to stick with my strategy,” she said. “I wanted to get out that first 100 strong, maintain the next 200, then start kicking. I was trying to go for the US record, but I just did what I could.”

Next up was Williams, the displaced New Orleans runner who seems stronger than ever at New Bern NC, and whose range seems without limits. A ridiculous six runners would break 1:06, but it was Karjuan breaking into the lead for announced splits of 23.2, 35.0, and 49.8 en route to the 1:02.80. Only Mike Green’s 1:02.40 from 1984 is faster.

Archbishop Carroll sr. Randy Lee, who thought about taking the lead at 200 and didn’t, and E.C. Glass sr. Carlton Phipps were outstanding at 1:04.39 and 1:04.59, respectively, but were barely in the same race. “That was sick,” one of his competitors said to him with a rueful grin afterward.

“I got out the first 100, then I ran it like a quarter,” said Williams. But the race wasn’t perfect for him. Ironically, the relaxed power that allows him to mow down opponents as they tense up also may have kept him from getting through the line like, say, McCorory did. “I wasn’t into it at the very end like I should have been,” he said. “I think I could have ended it bigger.”

It’s also scary that Williams has hardly trained for the 500 on down. “These races (he also ran the 400 at Carl Lewis) are his sprint training,” said Coach Nick Sparks, noting that his athlete, did, however, benefit from another race restart, due to a false start by a DeMatha athlete. “His body was tight for the first start.”

More To Come ...

Outstanding 3200s Highlight First Night

Friday's Highlights

Steve Duplinsky - Photo by Brandon Miles

Boys 3200: Georgetown Prep sr. Steve Duplinsky ran away from a strong field, starting with 400 splits of 63-2:09-3:17-4:25 en route to a big PR 9:08.23. It was his first race since getting sick the week of Foot Locker NE last fall. Northside VA sr. Zac Edwards rallied for 2nd (9:27.07), ahead of West Springfield VA sr. Mike Spooner (9:27.69), Eleanor Roosevelt MD sr. Mikias Gelagle (9:27.72). Chantilly sr. Brad Siragusa was just ninth (9:41.83).

Girls 3200: Northside VA jr. Catherine White also blew the field away with a fast start, going 33-70-2:28-5:11 on her way to 10:39.66. ERS jr. Marika Walker came up for second in 10:57.73.

Girls, Boys 4x800: Eleanor Roosevelt picked out a speedy quartet out of their deep group of athletes and they combined for a 9:17.24, good for a US#2. Robinson Secondary VA put together an 8:00.43, 1.72 up on ERS.

Girls Field: Buffalo Gap sr. Angela Jenkins struck on her 2nd attempt for a US#2 40-2.75 triple jump. Hayfield Sec sr. Nakeisha Wineglass and Hermitage sr. Queen Harrison each soared past 39 feet, but couldn't catch Jenkins. Western Albemarle sr. was the only vaulter to try 11-6, which she made on her third try. She then missed a meet record 12-3. Christianburg VA sr. Hope Creasy took control of the shot competition with a 40-11.5 on her first throw in the finals.

Boys Field: Manchester so. Antonio Miller's 47-4.25 triple jump topped former national leader Jason Gross, the McDonogh sr. New Bern NC's Edward Armstrong paced high-jumpers at 6-4, a mark shared by South County's Chris Bartholomew. Thomas Edison sr. Devan Clark nipped Greenbrier sr. Trevor Bray, 54-10 to 54-8.5.

Girls Sprints/Hurdles: Bethel jr. Crystal Carrington and Western sr. Theresa Lewis led qualifiers for Saturday's 60-meter final, both clocking 7.82. Lewis was more dominant in the 60 hurdles, pacing qualifiers by 0.28 with her US#5 8.73.

Boys Sprints/Hurdles: Garner sr. Brandon Banks just missed US#1 with his 6.86 prelim. RJ Reynolds jr. Charlton Rolle 8.16 was fastest among 60H qualifiers.


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