by Pete Cava
RALEIGH, June 13, 2001 --- In high school track, the mile and 800 meters
are a natural double --- events so similar that runners easily compete
both. But with all eyes focused on the mile this season, the boys 800
drawn about as much attention as a red-haired stepchild.
Not so at this weekend's adidas Outdoor Championships at North Carolina
State University, where the boys 800 resembles a summit meeting of the
nation's top prep talent.
At the top of the heap is defending champion Jonathan Johnson
Texas, High School. Last month in Austin, Johnson became the eighth-fastest
prep in history with a 1:48.21 win at the Texas 5A meet. Johnson's time
erased a 34-year-old state record of 1:49.20.
On June 9 in Sacramento, the Texas Tech recruit won the Golden West 800
for the second consecutive year. Johnson's 1:50.00 clocking bested an
excellent field that included Said Ahmed of Massachussetts and
Saturday in Raleigh, Ahmed and Soule get a second shot at Johnson.
Ahmed, from Boston English High School in Jamaica Plain, was second to
Johnson at Golden West with a career best time of 1:50.46. This fall,
attend perennial collegiate powerhouse Arkansas. Soule, from Pensacola
Catholic, was sixth at Golden West in personal best of 1:51.89.
Marc Sylvester, the indoor prep champ from Cleveland's St. Ignatius
School, returns to Raleigh. Sylvester, third in this meet last year, won
Ohio's Division 1 title on June 2. His time of 1:48.93 was a meet record,
and an improvement on his best of 1:49.50 from last year, when he ranked
2 on the national high school list. Sylvester is one of Tennessee's prize
James Hatch of Fairview High School in Boulder, Colo., comes in
season best of 1:51.23. Hatch was runnerup to Sylvester at the indoor
championships in Landover, Md., in March and won the Simplot indoor 800
last February in Pocatello. He'll join Ahmed at Arkansas next season.
Rounding out the field are Trent Riter of Mounds View, Minn.,
and Paul Cross of Flanagan, Fla. High. Riter dipped under the 1:50
a 1:49.71 last weekend at Minnesota's 2A Championships. Cross, only a
sophomore, has run 1:51.5 this year.
Johnson's looking forward to the challenge. "I'm pretty pumped up
excited, because the competition is a lot tougher at the national level,"
told the Abilene Reporter-News recently. "I'm starting to melt seconds
my time, and I really think I can run 1:47."
Co-meet director Mike Byrnes of the National Scholastic Sports Foundation
believes that's a possibility. "With this kind of field," says
could take a sub-1:48 to win."
Only four preps in history have dipped under that mark, including
national high school record holder Michael Granville of California, who
1:46.45 in 1996. The others are George Kersh of Mississippi (1:46.58 in
1987), Californian Pete Richardson of California (1:47.31 in 1981) and
Scott, another Californian (1:47.9 in 1972).
After Saturday, this select group might have to make room.
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