There will be plenty of athletes present who are intent on culminating their season with personal best performances and also a number of schools in attendance looking to finish very well in the race for the team title.
On the girls side, Eastern Region team champion Bethel, a longtime power both within the state and nationally, once again brings an extremely strong squad to the George Mason Fieldhouse and appear to be the girls team to beat. The boys side also has a perennial power as one of the favorites in Eastern Region champ Deep Creek, but the Hornets should receive strong challenges from Northern Region team titleist Westfield, along with Woodrow Wilson and Great Bridge from the Eastern Region as well as Colonial Forge from the Northwest Region.
The Bethel girls have always counted on the speed events for the majority of their points and this year is no exception. The Bruins, last year's indoor team runnersup and the defending outdoor team champion, are led this year by senior Britni Spruill, junior Shakirra Pinnock and sophomore Francena McCorory. Spruill comes in with one the leading times in the 55 dash, has the top mark thus far this season in the long jump at 18 feet, 9.5 inches and is part of Bethel's 4x200 meter relay squad which has the top mark in the nation this season on a flat track of 1 minute, 40.77 seconds and the number four time in the country on a banked track at 1:39.82. Pinnock comes into the meet with the top entry time this season in the 500 dash at 1:16.37 and was the Eastern Region champ in that event two weeks ago. Pinnock is also part of Bethel's outstanding 4x200 relay team and a mainstay on their 4x400 relay squad which has a best this season of almost 10 seconds faster than their closest state competitors at 3:51.18.
McCorory, just a sophomore, already has a long list of accomplishments in her high school career. Last year as a freshman, McCorory won the 300 dash title and anchored the Bruins 4x200 relay to victory indoors and then came back in the outdoor season to win both the 100 and 200 meter dash crowns.
This season McCorory won the Eastern Region 55 dash at 7.08 and comes into the state meet with a best this season at a top seeded 7.05 in addition to winning the region 300 dash in 39.07, which is the fastest U.S. time on an unbanked track for that distance this indoor campaign.
Bethel's main competition could come from Salem, the Eastern Region runnerup. Salem has one of the top sprinters in the state in sophomore Shamika Kentish, who was narrowly defeated by McCorory in the 55 dash at their region meet; the number two seeded squad in the 4x200 relay; region champion and top seed Shayla Jemmott in the triple jump and expected points in the 500 dash from junior Alexandra McCoy.
Besides McCorory and Spruill of Bethel and Salem's Kentish, the 55 dash is a very strong event this year with defending champion Tosin Oluwole of Western Branch, Chante Sessoms from Deep Creek, Northern Region champ Murielle Ahoure of Hayfield and the Potomac twosome of juniors Kharya Brown and Candace Robinson also entered.
The girls 55 hurdles has Keshia Ashe of Kekoughtan and Lakeland's Andrea Wheeler very closely matched as the top two seeds along with Central Region winner Jasmine Major of Hermitage and Menchville's Victoria Faulkner, who was fourth indoors at the state meet last year and was also the Eastern Region champion in the shot put this year.
Others to watch in the girls sprint events include junior Kelly Keener of Manchester, the Central Region champ in the 500 dash and also as part of their region winning 4x200 relay; Octavia James of Heritage in the 300 dash, who was third in the 200 dash outdoors last year; Brown of Potomac and Hayfield's Ahoure in the 300 dash and Faraign Giles of Tallwood in the 300 and 500 meter dashes.
In field events, Sessoms of Deep Creek (18-5) edged Spruill of Bethel (18-2.5) for the Eastern Region long jump title with Heritage's Octavia James close behind at 18-1.5 and Central Region champ Queen Harrison of Hermitage should also be in the mix. In the triple jump, Northern Region winner Nakeisha Wineglass of Hayfield will look to challenge Jemmott of Salem while in the shot put close competition is expected among sophomore Central Region champ Kathy Howard of Lee-Davis, Northwest Region winner Antoinette Smith of E.C. Glass, Central runnerup Whitney Gordon of Highland Springs and Faulkner of Menchville.
The girls pole vault has Lake Braddock senior Nicole Graziano coming in as the top seed with Mills Godwin freshman Anne Marie Gordon also posting one of the top marks after claiming the Central Region vault, while the high jump has sophomores Jasmine Gates of Tallwood and Jonee Artis of Deep Creek hoping to challenge junior Ashley Haislip of Lake Braddock, the defending indoor champion who is ranked number five in the nation thus far this season off her best of 5-9.
The distance events have defending champion Kellam as one of the favorites in the 4x800 relay led by Natalie Sherbak and Audrey Hand up against Northwest winner Forest Park led by Beth Fahey and a trio of Northern Region schools in Herndon, Robinson and Oakton, anchored by Danielle Light.
Sherbak of Kellam will also be one of the favorites in the 1,600 run but will be issued a strong challenge by Central Region champ Amanda Patterson of Midlothian. Patterson is also one of the top seeds in the 3,200 in what should be a very good race against Fahey of Forest Park and the Hayfield duo of Melissa Dewey and Morgan Phelan. The girls 1,000 run looks to go down to the wire with Kellam's Sherbak coming in as the top seed but in her third race in less than 24 hours with her main competition looking to come from a trio of juniors in Rebecca Ward of James River, Lake Braddock's Kelsey Snowden and Oakton's Danielle Light.
Although just about anything can and will happen at the state meet, such as expecting the unexpected; on the boys side of the ledger, many schools with team title aspirations are already factoring in that they will have to score in the 40 point range largely because of the capabilities of Lashawn Merritt of Woodrow Wilson. This indoor season has been nothing short of spectacular for the smooth striding Merritt as he comes into the state meet as the favorite in three events, and deservedly so. Merritt swept the 55 dash, 300 dash and 500 dash titles at the Eastern Region meet on February 23 and will be looking to triple up again this weekend. Merritt currently ranks number four in the nation in the 55 dash with his best this season of 6.33 and number two in the country in the 300 dash at 33.51; which is number five all time among high school performers. Merritt is also ranked number two in the U.S. in the 500 dash at 1:04.83 and certainly seems capable of challenging the 1992 state meet record of 1:03.70 by Darryl Gaines of Highland Springs, which would move him into the top ten all time performers. With Merritt's possible 30 points in those three events and a strong showing by his teammate Jamel Deans in the 55 dash, Wilson may put a number up for everyone to go for.
Colonial Forge can also put a good number on the board also largely due to one person in Jerome Miller. The senior currently ranks number three in the U.S. in the high jump at 7-1; is the top seed and ranked number six nationally in the triple jump and was the Northwest champ in the long jump. Jerome's twin brother Jason is also counted on for points in the triple jump and is the number two seed in the high jump at 6-8 as Colonial Forge also looks to get close to the 40 point mark.
Eastern Region champ Deep Creek will look for field event points from regional champ and top seeded Joe Cezard in the shot put and possible points in the pole vault with senior Steve Brickhouse. On the track Deep Creek looks to battle region rival Bayside for top honors in the 4x200 relay; have the top entry time in the 4x400 relay and will look for individual points in the 300 and 500 dash with John Hyman.
Great Bridge may just muster points in two field events but they will still be capable of a top five team finish with sophomore Joseph Jones having the number two mark in the shot put and having four of the top six entrants in the pole vault with defending outdoor state champion Daniel Magness; last year's state indoor and outdoor runnerup in Daniel Brennan, as well as talented sophomore Michael Morrison and senior Dominic Hunter.
Northern Region team champion Westfield will look to break up Great Bridge in the pole vault with region winner David Lewis and on the track the Bulldogs come in with the number two seeded 4x400 relay and the fastest 4x800 relay this season thus far in the nation at 7:53.22 with the team of Chris Courson, Chris Black, James Scheiner and David Groff.
Westfield also has Groff with the fastest entry time for the 1,000 run and Scheiner as one of the top seeds in both the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. Courson and Black will also be looking for points in the 500 dash as well as teaming up in the 4x400 relay with twins Alvin Tondereau and Philippe Tondereau, both of whom could add possible points in the hurdles.
In other field events, Thomas Dale junior Dennis Boone was the Central Region champ and last year's state indoor runnerup in the long jump and currently is number seven in the U.S. at 23-5.25 with Granby sophomore Chris Bell also expected to be a factor while the triple jump has seniors Delonte Wilson of G.W.-Danville and Jeremy Beal of West Potomac as challengers to Colonial Forge's Jerome Miller.
Boone of Thomas Dale and sophomore Devin Thompson of Osbourn Park, the Northwest champ, will be looking to challenge Merritt and Deans of Wilson in the 55 dash while the 55 hurdles could see a strong sophomore showing in Bell of Granby and Central Region winner Melvin Edison of Hermitage.
It looks like there will also be a sophomore lookout in the 300 dash in Bayside's Charles Clark and in the 500 dash with Northwest winner Carlton Phipps of E.C. Glass and Hayfield's Christopher Richardson, the Northern Region champ.
The 1,000 run could get under 2:30 with a solid early pace and a few mid-race moves with Groff of Westfield, Hayfield junior Brian Fussell, Warwick's Tona Amatu, Central Region titleist Billy Berlin of Midlothian and Herndon's Shane Young all running well late into the season.
The 1,600 run has Woodside's Derrick Robbins looking to move up one notch from his state indoor runnerup status of a year ago with Eastern Regon champ Steven Walters of Green Run also in the hunt while the 3,200 shapes up as a very good race among Robbins of Woodside, Green Run's Walters and Scheiner of Westfield along with Christo Landry of Jefferson and Albemarle's Hari Mix, neither of whom will let the pace dawdle for too long.