2013 NBNI Previews: Eight Great Girls' Questions/Storylines
By Stephen Underwood
Wallace-Hall, Round II
With a USR on the line: It doesn’t get much better than this – a second matchup in two weeks between an event’s top two athletes, one a defending national champion trying to avenge a loss from the first matchup, and the two within .01 and .02 of the national record. That’s where 2012 NBNI champ and George Washington (Denver, Colo.) junior Dior Hall and recent Brooks PR Invite champ and Castro Valley (Calif.) senior Sasha Wallace (who beat Hall) stand coming into New York. Wallace was also the 2012 NBNI runner-up. And, should either or both falter, talented 8.30+ performers Skylar Ross-Ransom TX and Kendell Williams GA are returning finalists hoping to take advantage.
Can Majors challenge two-time pentathlon champ Williams?
One of the amazing stories of this indoor season has been Felicia Majors, a senior who scored 49 points in six individual events to single-handedly win the Virginia AAA state meet for South County. Majors could become a decathlete, given her national-class pole vaulting (12-2) talents in addition to those in standard pentathlon and heptathlon events. Majors has never done a major multi and will face the best in her first attempt. Kell (Marietta, Ga.) senior Kendell Williams is the two-time defending champ here and the USR-holder in the hept outdoors. Williams should have an edge in the hurdles and high jump, so Majors will hope to make it up in the shot, long jump and 800. Individually, Majors and Williams are the top two long jump contenders, and Majors will hope to score in the pole vault as well. Williams is the defending HJ champ and a challenger in the above-mentioned individual 60H.
How many titles (and records) for Michigan distance girls?
The Great Lakes State doesn’t have a state association-sponsored indoor season like many Eastern states, but they’ve had an impressive run of success in the distances at NBNI. On the first night of the meet last winter, West Bloomfield senior Erin Finn set a USR in the 5,000 while the Meier twins-led Grosse Pointe South crew won the DMR with history’s #4 clocking. Two days later, Hannah Meier defended her title in the mile with a 4:42.60, #4 all-time. None of these girls were seniors and all are back to try and mine more medals. There are a few differences for this year, though. The GPS girls will go for the 4x1 mile this time and have a great chance to smash Saratoga’s USR of 19:59.24; even sub-19:40 is possible for this crew. With Haley Meier also in super shape this year, both twins will be in the hunt for the mile victory. Finally, Finn looks full capable of topping her 2012 USR in the 5k (16:19.69), given her recent success in winning the Brooks 2M and placing second in the USATF Junior XC race.
Will the Texas PV girls challenge the national record?
Last year, a pair of Texas boys were over 17-6 in the pole vault indoors before the first week in February was over and, after Jacob Blankenship of Ohio joined them over that barrier, it was a great bet that a record could fall at NBNI. They didn’t quite get that high – and Blankenship won – but this year it’s girls from the Lone Star State that are the headliners. Bosworth (Fort Worth) senior Lakan Taylor and Midway (Waco) senior Annie Rhodes came into the year with 13-3 and 13-0 outdoor PRs from 2012. Both cleared 13-6 at the Arkansas Invite in January, with Taylor winning, then each achieved 13-10 at the Aledo Indoor vault-only meet on Feb. 9, with Rhodes prevailing. They share #4 all-time. Not far off is Tori Anthony’ s 14-2.5 from 2007. Northwest (Justin) junior Desiree Freier will also be in New York and she has cleared 13-6.
Who will be the queens of the sprints and sprint relays?
On occasion in national meet sprints and sprint relays – especially on the girls’ side – you see an individual star and her teammates take control of that part of the meet, gather momentum and win two or more events between them. Last year, for example, it was Ariah Graham claiming the 400 and anchoring champion 4x200 and 4x400 relays for her Wakefield (Raleigh, N.C.) teammates. This year, that could happen with several combinations of highly ranked stars and their squads.
You have, for instance, Columbia NJ at US#1 in the 4x400 and #2 in the SMR (top entry), with a leader like junior Olivia Baker – a top individual 400 hopeful. And there’s Medgar Evers NY, US#1 in the 4x200 and #2 in the 4x400, paced by 200 key contender Kadecia Baird. Benjamin Cardozo NY, with long sprint star Deajah Stevens in the 200 and Millrose mile winner Sabrina Southerland in the mile, would have been the heavy favorite in the sprint medley, but are going for the DMR instead. Also don’t count out this year’s Wakefield squad, which will try and defend in the 4x2 and 4x4 while Tyra Lea pushes for the 200 crown, and Long Beach Poly CA – which has been a many-time relay national champ in the past and has yet another potential 200 individual winner in Ariana Washington.
Battle of the 40-footers in the triple jump
In 2012, an unusually fantastic winter in the girls’ long jump saw four 20-footers converge upon the Armory before Sydney Conley grabbed the victory. This year, there’s a logjam at 40-plus feet – in the triple jump. Forty feet isn’t “really” exceptional, as the national record is north of 44 feet, but this event is building up to be one of the most competitive, high-energy events in the field. The above-mentioned hurdle superstar Sasha Wallace is also a standout here, with a best of US#3 40-7.75 this year (42-4.75 outdoors last year). But topping her in 2013 has been fast-rising Mt. Olive (Flanders, N.J.) junior Keturah Orji, who reached US#1 40-10.5 at Eastern States. Virginia AAA champ and Edison (Alexandria) senior Anna Williams is US#4 40-4.25; Ontario, Canada leaper Angela Mercurio has gone over 40-5, and Newark Tech (N.J.) senior Iana Amsterdam went well over 40 feet last year.
Can Sant rise back to the top in the 60?
Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) senior MaryBeth Sant had a terrific 2013 in the 60 through mid-February, rising to a US#1 7.30 at the Tony Wells Invite – #13 all-time – and winning the Carl Lewis and Simplot Invites. But then came the Brooks PR Invite in Seattle and Sant was a surprising fifth in her prelim (7.60) before winning the consolation final in 7.47 (fifth overall). Then last weekend, returning to altitude for the USATFs in Albuquerque, she ran 7.40 in the prelims and 7.36 in the final (eighth). The favorite’s role has thus shifted to Boyd Anderson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.) senior Kali Davis-White, who triumphed impressively at Brooks in 7.31. She had only other indoor meet prior to that in 2013, but had run 7.44 at Brooks the previous year as her now-graduated teammate Shayla Sanders won.
Who will claim deep, balanced 4x8 and medley relays?
It’s often the case the in the longest relays at NBNI – the 4x800, DMR and 4x1 Mile – that there are dominant teams at the top either chasing records or claiming all-time top five positions, but that the battle for victories is not particularly competitive. That may still be the case in 2013 in the 4x1 Mile, where Grosse Pointe South could destroy the national record and win by more than 30 seconds, but the DMR, 4x800 – and SMR, too – could be very close and competitive. Don’t be surprised if, for example, you see the DMR winner finishing slower than 11:50, but that there’s 5-6 teams under 12:00. The above-mentioned Cardozo squad is favored, but not by much. The 4x800 should be even tighter, perhaps not with a sub-9:00 this year but 3-5 teams finishing within three seconds. Garden City NY and Emma Gallagher could win a close battle of New York and New Jersey teams. And with Cardozo out of the SMR, a sub-4:00 will be tough to come by but the top four teams should be within a couple ticks.