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10th Nike Indoor Nationals

March 15-16, 2008 at Prince George's County Sportsplex, Landover MD

Saturday - Boys

Solomon Haile MD 14:53.93 MR, overachieving pole vaulters light up the day

by Dave Devine

On the boys’ side of the competition, the initial day of the 2008 Nike Indoor Nationals opened on the track with a meet record in the 5000 meters by a largely unknown junior named Solomon Haile, and ended on the field with a pack of overachieving pole vaulters putting on a show for an appreciative homestretch grandstand. In between, the national meet offered its now-customary mix of super performances and stellar marks.

Haile, an Ethiopian who arrived in the United States a mere five months ago and now competes for Sherwood HS in Maryland, got things started on the track with his 14:53.93 five-kilometer tour that slashed over ten seconds from Jason Witt’s 2007 meet record. Almost simultaneously, and at the opposite end of the track, Bishop Hendricken RI junior Michael Gama was launching the weight a PR 73-05.25 to win the boys’ Weight Throw over higher ranked athletes like Mitchell Gormley and Patrick Onye.

In the boys 1 Mile Race Walk, the favored Vergara twins of South Texas Walking Club (Edinburg TX) were nearly kept from the top podium step by a game effort from sophomore Trevor Barron of South Park TC (Bethel Park PA). As it was, the lanky Pennsylvanian broke up the brother tandem with his runner-up (6:37.12) finish to Ricardo Vergara’s 6:34.98 winning effort, leaving Roberto Vergara in third at 6:44.85.

“I knew I had to pass [Barron] in the last a lap and a half,” Ricardo Vergara said after the race, “so I could be in front. I thought if I could just get in front of him, I could do it. We’ve been racing with him for a while, so we’re proud of him because he’s really come along.”

The Freshman Boys Mile was next on the slate, and Brayden Burleigh of the powerful Midlothian VA program added another title to that school’s trophy case with his 4:31.21 victory over New Jersey frosh Kevin Byrne (4:35.33).

Waldorf TC 4x200 ties meet record

From there it was time for some relay action, as the 4x200, Shuttle Hurdles and 4xMile filled up the middle of the program. In the 4x200, Waldorf TC (Westlake MD), which entered the meet ranked US#3, ran one of the more impressive relays of the day, tying the 1:28.90 meet record of a 2004 Glenville OH team which included future pro footballer Ted Ginn. New Jersey squad Trenton Central, US#1 heading into the meet, should have provided a stiff test for Waldorf TC, but stumbled on the second exchange and never recovered.

“We knew about Trenton,” Waldorf second leg Jesse Mitchell said after the victory, “because we’d raced against them last year. We wanted to go 1:27, but it didn’t happen today. We were just happy to win.”

Greg Walker, who blazed the anchor leg for Waldorf noted that crisp baton exchanges had been a focus for the squad heading into the national meet. “Oh yeah, we worked on exchanges all week, ever since Monday.”

Clearly that work paid off.

In a relay which requires no batons, Franklin TC took the Shuttle Hurdles in a quick 30.19, a mark just north of the meet record 29.45. All four legs snapped crisp clearances up and down the track for the victory over Sheepshead Bay HS NY (30.65).

Chaminade NY’s 4xMile team put up four strong legs as well, using an exemplary second leg from Michael Schieck to open up a tight race and ride the momentum to an 18:01.85 victory over Enapay TC’s 18:07.05. Chaminade anchor Christopher Tonn said the strategy was to “get a bit of a lead, and then I would just run consistent splits and try to maintain the lead.” While breaking 18 was the goal, Tonn acknowledged, “We wanted to get the win, that was the important thing. We knew the slower heat went 18:10, so we had to keep that time in the back of our head.”

After the relay finals, it was time for qualifying rounds of the 400- and 200-meter dashes, where Ja-Vell Bullard (Bethel VA sr) led the prelims in the 400 with his 49.43 clocking, and Fuqauwn Greene (Track Eastern Carolina, New Bern NC soph) fronted the 200 hopefuls with his 22.04 mark.

Favorite takes the pentathlon, but not the triple jump

While the sprint rounds were taking place on the track, an unexpected final was unfolding on the triple jump straight. David Wilson (Washington VA jr) stretched out to 49-09.00 for the win, after decided pre-meet favorite Omar Craddock (Jumps Corps, Killeen TX jr) fouled his first two attempts and recorded a final effort of 46-08.75 which failed to qualify for the final.

While the triple jump favorite was unable to claim his laurels, the leading boys’ multi-eventer at NIN didn’t disappoint, as Gray Horn of Waynesfield-Goshen HS in Ohio tore through the challenges of the indoor pentathlon to score 3786 points with impressive marks across the board. Although he wasn’t entirely happy with his effort in the closing 1000m run, Horn took solace in the fact that he wasn’t exactly aiming for the indoor national meet.

“I kind of dogged that 1000,” he said after the final event was concluded. “I’m not happy with myself about that, but overall I’m really satisfied with my performances. I’ve been training through this meet, trying to get ready for the outdoor season. Keeping my legs fresh was definitely a big part of this for me.”

Pole vaulters delight the crowd with big PRs

Horn’s favorite event in the multis, the pole vault, isn’t included in the indoor pentathlon, but if he was missing the chance to participate in the vertical action, he could at least watch the sparks fly in the NIN pole vault along the track homestretch. There, an impressive six competitors were still in the hunt at 16-6, with Arkansas Vault Club (Bryant AR) senior Jason Pelletier emerging from the pack to elevate his 16-2 PR all the way up to 16-10.25, before taking three solo attempts at 17 feet.

“On that last attempt [at 16-10.25],” Pelletier said, “my coach, Morry Sanders, told me, ‘Hey, you make this bar and you’re a national champion. This is what we came here to do.”

Pelletier charged down the runway on his final attempt and followed his coach’s advice to a ‘T,’ slipping over the big PR and collapsing to the mat as he realized he’d nailed down the national title.

Two more national champion titles were handed out on the boys’ side before the day was out. Western Albemarle HS VA claimed the Distance Medley Relay in 10:25.73, and Track Eastern Carolina (New Bern NC) zipped a 3:29.24 winner in the 1600 Sprint Medley, holding off a game Cleveland Heights OH squad (3:31.14) to take the event for the third straight year.

When Track Eastern Carolina anchor Anthony Hendrix was asked if his squad takes special pride in the sprint medley event, considering it theirs to lose each year, he modestly but firmly his head.

“Really, it’s anybody’s event. It’s just who wants it most.”

The same could have been said for the entire day.

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