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10th Nike Indoor Nationals

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

Saturday - Girls

Near misses and last lick rallies

by Steve Underwood, DyeStat news editor

The first day of Nike Indoor Nationals was a day of near-misses on the girls side. Ryann Krais just missed taking down the US record in the pentathlon. Mountain Brook AL just missed snagging the meet record in the distance medley relay. And the Blazin Raiders (Eleanor Roosevelt MD) NEARLY missed winning a relay on day one – but finally got one during the day-ending sprint medley.

That said, it was also a day of last-licks come-throughs. Blazin Raider girls on their last relay. US record-holder Victoria Flowers finally getting a 60-footer on her last throw. Erin Brooks finally getting a 40-footer on her last triple jump. Landstown VA winning the 4x200 relay (over Blazin Raiders) in the final 10 meters. And, in perhaps the virtuoso individual performance of the day, Chelsey Sveinsson scorched the track in the freshman mile, leaning at an imaginary tape (despite being all by herself) to clock a 4:49.37 that could hold up as the girls mile of the whole weekend.

Krais, the World Youth Champs medalist and Methacton PA sr, reacted with a combination of frustration and resignation when told she needed a 2:15 800 to break the USR in the pentathlon. She had already all but sewn up her 2nd straight title in the event, but had a higher goal of taking down Shana Woods’ 3924 and maybe hitting 4,000 points. A 2:15, with the events she had already done, seemed like too much.

A quick confab with her coach got her perspective in the right place, though, and she toed the line ready to take the challenge. She would have at least been very close to her time – with an even pace. But she too closely followed the scorching early laps (31-64) of Shakeia Pinnick, an 800 specialist. The result was 2:23.32 and 3,823 points, #2 all-time.

“I was like, ‘Oh, Gosh,’” she said afterward, recalling her being notified of the mark needed in that final effort. “But I talked with my coach (Rob Ronzano) and he gave me splits to go by.

“If I could redo it, I wouldn’t go out in 31,” she added. “(But) I’m happy overall (with the whole pentathlon).”

Actually, the Mountain Brook AL near-miss performance wasn’t what it seemed. The record, 11:48.68 set by the Blazin Raiders last year, wasn’t on the heat sheets, so most announcers, fans, and officials thought it was the previous mark of 11:56.87 that was being chased. On the anchor leg, Madeline Morgan of Mountain Brook, the NTN XC champ, had opened in 2:22 in catching the Blazin Raiders anchor and looked to have a chance to take her team in with at least a low-11:50s. The rich early pace had taken its toll, though, and she came back in 2:33 for a 4:55. The final time was 11:57.50.

Of course, from Mountain Brook’s perspective, the record would have just been a bonus. The girls and their coach were ecstatic about the win, and rightfully so. “It feels pretty amazing,” said Morgan. “We’ve wanted this for a few years.”

While the Mountain Brook girls were trying to win their first national relay title ever, the Blazin Raiders – top contenders if not outright favorites in every relay in which they were entered – were trying to get their first of the weekend. National relay championships are a way of life for this group and anything but a victory seems like a disappointment, even if the reality is that everyone has run their best. With the graduation of three of its greatest big-meet veterans, the Blazin Raiders have more young, inexperienced talent than in the past.

In the 4x200, Landstown anchor Marlena Lesh put on a big charge on the final leg and, when Blazin Raiders anchor Afia Charles stumbled in the final 10 meters, took her team across the line in 1:40.08, the top time in the US.

Then came the DMR defeat, which saw the Blazing Raiders use distance standout Dominque Lockhart on a solid first leg, take the lead and maintain it on the next two legs, but lose to Mountain Brook on the anchor. And there was even a ‘B’ team effort in an early heat of the sprint medley where the Blazin Raiders were caught at the line.

Blazin' Raiders come through in last race

But in the final heat of the SMR, the Maryland school’s team had finally come. Charles and Doris Anyanwu opened with quick 24.9 and 25.0 200s for the lead and Jenea McCammon held it through a 59.9 400. There was no way anchor Tasha Stanley was going to lose it, even if she went out way too fast (61.8) for the first 400. The team came through in a slowish 4:07.42, but they had the golds. “Three of us were in the 4x200, so we said we’ve got to push ourselves,” said Anyanwu. “It was the last race and we wanted to bring back the gold.”

For Flowers and Brooks, it wasn’t really a matter of getting the win, but being able to leave the track with smiles on their faces. For the Providence RI (Classical HS) weight throw queen, that didn’t necessarily mean a PR and another US record, but just a mark she could feel good about. After all, she had NSIC the next day and a clash with Lauren Chambers to think about.

“I wanted to break the meet record,” said Flowers. “That came with a 61-02, her 2nd best ever, on the final effort, and still further than anyone in the country has thrown “A PR is nice in any meet … but maybe tomorrow will be the big day.”

Brooks DID want a PR, though, and did want her event to end without one. “I just kept thinking about my phases, spreading my effort out over all three … and keeping my knees up and hanging in the air as long as I could,” the Seton Keough MD sr said. The result was a 40-11.50, a mark second in the US only to Vashti Thomas’s 42-8.

Sveinsson opens eyes in freshman mile

Perhaps the most eye-opening performance of the day, though, belonged to Sveinsson. As a freshman who’s already been a Foot Locker Finalist and run as fast as 2:10 for 800, she has a dazzling combination of endurance, speed, and power. Gliding away from the field, she showed effortlessness and grace. But as she came down the final straight, it was clear she was calling on everything her body had to give and her dip at the line – as if she was trying to outlean an imaginary opponent – put an exclamation mark on the performance. It may also have been exactly what was needed for her to break 4:50.

Good grief, why wasn’t she in the fast heat of the regular mile? “My main focus isn’t the mile, it’s the 800,” she said, noting that she was entered in Sunday’s 4-lapper. “My goal was just to break 5:00, so I’m pretty shocked.”

Other victories came from Anna Shields CT in the 5000 (17:38.57), Kinetic RC (Saratoga NY HS) in the 4x1 Mile (20:47.73), the Running Panthers in the Shuttle Hurdles (34.59), and Leah Buletti NY in the 1 Mile race walk (7:46.78).

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