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SPECIAL - Relays

The annual DyeStat top athlete and most valuable/outstanding awards have traditionally not included relays. However, because of the incredible 2007 that Eleanor Roosevelt/Blazin Raiders enjoyed, we've seen fit to include this category for the first time, in a limited fashion. The aforementioned crew is honored in the most outstanding category, while some other top schools are detailed in honorable mention. This category may be expanded in the future.

This is the 11th in a series of DyeStat year-end awards for 2006-07. The DyeStat Most Outstanding Performers series will include boys and girls distance, sprints, hurdles, jumps, throws, relays, and multi-events. These will be followed by the DyeStat Athlete of the Year award. 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 Steve Underwood - Photos by Kirby Lee, John Dye, and Donna Dye

  Eleanor Roosevelt

The girls of Eleanor Roosevelt MD and the Blazin Raiders, starting in January and continuing all the way until June, had perhaps the most incredible year of all-around stick work of any school ever. Other schools have had more outstanding performances in single or closely related events, but for the gamut of relays between 4x100 and 4xMile, there has likely never been a school and a year like it. Not as strong at the extremes, but Eleanor Roosevelt – or the Blazin Raiders, as they are called when performing as a club in most national meets – had squads indoors and outdoors at or near the top of the lists and big-meet results in each of the five major relays, between the 4x200 and Distance Medley Relay, inclusive.

At least three factors have spurred this group to the heights it has reached this year.

1. A Plan and a Vision - The fruition of Coach Desmond Dunham’s long term goal of creating distance runners and distance-running abilities at a school with a sprint tradition. This philosophy and the workouts that have followed have nurtured the talents of middle-longer distance runners like Dominique Lockhart and Marika Walker, as well as lengthening the range of sprinters like the Jameson sisters.

2. A National Schedule – Coach Dunham decided early in the year that his group would try to beat the Jamaicans at Penn, and to do so would need the preparation that a trip west to Arcadia and Mt. SAC could help provide.

3. A Mix of Athletes Ready for the Task – The core of the group, Takecia and Tameka Jameson, were in their senior year. With fellow senior Marika Walker, and underclassmen Tasha Stanley, Dominique Lockhart, and Doris Anyanwu, the right ingredients were there for almost any relay. They had the hunger of a group that knew its time was now.

By late January/early February, the campaign was in full swing. It looked like ER would have little competition indoors for the 4x4 and 4x8 as they ran 3:44.96/9:01.17 at New Balance after a 3:46.26 at Virginia Tech. They also had a solid 1:42.27 at New Balance for 3rd and a 12:03.72 DMR at Va Tech. The DMR loomed as a real thriller of an event, with Southern Regional NJ again looming as the key rival.

At NIN, they had a chance to win at least 4 relays, with the 4x4 and 4x8 seeming like near-locks, but the others looking more challenging. The 4x2 out quite well as they ran 1:39.81 to beat top seed Uniondale NY, while the 4x4 went in a strong 3:45.02 with a decisive 4-second margin. The 4x8 wasn’t their best performance, but the Blazin Raiders pulled out the win in 9:07.21, beating Mtn. Brook AL by just over a second.

In the sprint medley, the Blazin Raiders didn’t have the answer to Easton PA and Chanelle Price, but in the DMR, they reversed their 2006 finish by knocking off Southern Regional. Final tally: An amazing four golds and a silver.

The West Coast trip was a mixed bag, with the girls winning some and losing some, all with the ultimate goal at Penn in mind. At Arcadia on Friday, Roosevelt’s 4x200 won impressively in 1:38.57 over Long Beach Wilson. But their 4x800 was surprised by Xavier College Prep AZ (9:02.99-9:04.98), their SMR was beaten by James Logan, and a not-as-loaded 1600 SMR was 5th, and 4xMile was 9th. Saturday, their DMR got reeled in by Corona Del Mar (11:41.28-11:43.59), but the 4x4 took a thriller over Long Beach Poly (3:40.48-3:41.17).

At Mt. SAC, Roosevelt rolled out an impressive winning 4x1600 in 20:41.41 and also won the DMR. The rest of the meet was a mixed bag of relay and individual places further down the list, with the disappointment of a 4x200 DQ mixed in.

Ultimately, the purpose of Roosevelt’s California trip was to prepare for Penn, and the preparation paid off. In two of the meet’s most thrilling finishes ever, ER nipped the Jamaicans in the 4x800 and 4x400. The former saw the team of Dominique Lockhart, Tameka Jameson, Marika Walker, and Tasha Stanley run the #3 time in US history, 8:51.19, to win by .04. The latter featured Doris Anyanwu, Tameka Jameson, Tasha Stanley, and Takecia Jameson prevailing, with Takecia’s final kick doing the job, in 3:39.44.

The Blazin Raiders then came to Greensboro determined to put the cap on a great year, loading up the SMR, DMR, and 4x800. The SMR proved to the be the highlight, as a career-best 2:06.7 anchor by Walker got the crew their first national record, a 3:51.90. Putting Marika in position to finish it off were freshman Afia Charles, Anyanwu, and Takecia Jameson. In the 4x800, the Blazin Raiders and the rest of the field had to deal with a huge deficit as the Warwick Valley anchor went almost all out on her first lap of the anchor, but they came back at the end for another win in 8:55.50. Only in the DMR, did the crew find its match on this weekend, with Southern Regional/Hammer TC claiming the crown.

In the end, Eleanor Roosevelt/Blazin Raiders claimed six national titles (plus a 2nd and two 3rds), two Penn Relay titles, and an impressive haul of medals at Arcadia and Mt. SAC. Coach Dunham will have plenty of talent coming back in 2008, as well as up-and-coming talent, but it won’t be easy to top a year like 2007.

  Honorable Mention 

Long Beach Poly CA – With Bryshon Nellum, almost anything was possible, and between the 4x1 and 4x4, the Jackrabbits were money. At NSIC, they claimed the 4x2 and 4x4 in nation-leading times, but the fun was just starting. At Arcadia, Nellum anchored a quartet that included Evant Orange, Isaiah Green, and Joey Hughes to a USR 1:28.43 in the 800 SMR. They also ruled the 4x1 (41.39) and 4x4 (3:14.63).

The thriller of the year was at Penn, however, as Nellum anchored the year’s fastest 4x400 to beat the Jamaicans before a deafening throng of fans. The 3:09.89 didn’t make the all-time top 10, but it’s significant that it was the fastest since 1997. Poly wrapped up a great year by again sweeping the 4x1 (40.81) and 4x4 (3:10.92) at CIF Finals.

Southern Region/Hammer TC NJ
– Even though it was sort of a “not quite” year for the Danielle Tauro/Jillian Smith-led medley relays, which seemed to have the potential for national records, there were still plenty of great victories. The last one came at NON, as their DMR beat a loaded field in a US#1 11:40.81, good for #6 all-time. They were also 2nd to the USR of the Blazin Raiders in the SMR, with their 3:54.67 making it into the all-time top 10. The DMR also won at Penn with an 11:45.54.

Corona Del Mar CA – With the most sub-5 milers of any school ever, the squad seemed poised to smash the USR for the 4xMile at NON. They didn’t quite have it that day, but still ran the #6 time ever at 20:23.43. In winning Arcadia with a blazing 11:41.28, they claimed the 2nd-best DMR of the year.

Hightower TX – At the Texas State Meet, World Youth team member Isaiah Sweeney and Co. won an incredible 4x200 that resulted in the #4, #5, and #6 times in history, led by their 1:23.92. The school also just missed the US#1 4x100 in a 40.56-40.57 loss to Klein Forest in the same meet. At NON, long after their state meet, Sweeny and 400 standout Robert Simmons were keys as they swept the two events in 40.99 and 1:25.59.

Collegiate NY – Behind the anchors of Chris Williams, the prep school claimed US#1s in both the 4x800 (7:39.5) and 4xMile (17:19.42), the latter winning NON.

La Sierra CA – Led by twins Dylan and Spencer Knight, the school ruled the DMR with victories at NON (US#1 10:01.79) and Arcadia (10:09.51). They also won the Arcadia 4x800 in 7:44.90.

Year-End Awards Index