Leave it to the Eastern Region to give something to get excited about in a snowed out weekend from track meets for the majority of the state. Shakeela Saunders, Justin Hunter, and the Western Branch girls 4x200 had the leading performances on day two of the Atlantic Coast Invitational at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton on Saturday. Saunders stormed to a US #1 and VA #10 all-time 1:14.46 500, while Hunter cleared a US #2 height of 6'10" in his first high jump competition of the season. The Western Branch girls are capable of setting a state record later this season in the 4x200 after their US #2 1:40.72 performance this weekend.
All photos by Ryan Kelly
The Western Branch girls recorded the #6 all-time performance in Virginia high school indoor history with their dominating US #2 time of 1:40.72. Their flat track run is certainly a superior performance to the current US leading performance from a much faster banked track at the New York Armory. The Virginia state record of 1:39.52 by a Francena McCorory-anchored squad from Bethel in 2006 is in serious jeopardy when this quartet of girls under the guidance of Coach Claude Toukene steps on a banked track at the indoor nationals.
Not a bad season opener for Justin Hunter in his first high jump competition since last outdoor season. Hunter had only long and triple jumped in previous meets, so he had to shake off a little rust in his season debut for the high jump. With a personal best of 7'2 from last outdoor season, Hunter ended up clearing a height of 6'10" on Saturday at Boo Williams which ties him with several others nationally at US #2. Hunter matches his indoor best of 6'10" from 2009, which inserts him on the Virginia all-time top 25 list. Hunter also won the long jump on Saturday with a mark just under his season best, which would rank #6 in the country in his leap of 23'6.50".
Shakeela Saunders is simply sensational. The sophomore from Great Bridge did it again with another impressive performance as her 500 meter time of 1:14.46 earns her the US #1 ranking with room to spare on the second fastest time in the country. She has not even reached her upperclassmen years and is already attempting to cement herself as one of the all-time greats in Virginia high school history as her performance ranks #10 all-time in state history for the 500 meter dash. The state has not seen an athlete as dominant and fast as underclassmen since 300 and 400 national high school record holder Francena McCorory.
The Landstown boys 4x400 meter relay, featuring current US 55 meter dash leader Darrell Wesh, significantly lowered the previous state's fastest time by several seconds with their US #13 performance of 3:25.49. Their time ranks as the fastest in the country this season from a track which is not banked or oversized (over 200 meters). Their victory was decisive against some of the top 4x400 meter relays in the Eastern Region which are also the best in the state as four seconds separated them from both Landstown and Western Branch at 3:29.
Plenty of depth and talent was found in both boys and girls 300 meter dash events. Taylor Sykes, originally slated to compete today at the New Balance Collegiate Games in New York City had those plans marred by the snowstorm pounding the East Coast this weekend. Staying local, Sykes had to race from the slow section as a late entrant and ended up stealing first overall from a thrilling fast section with only four hundredths of a second separating Oscar Smith's Joel Coleman (35.90), Indian River's Kirk Spellman (35.92), and Landstown's Wesh (35.94). Sykes posted a time of 35.34 from section one.
Green Run senior Monica Williams recorded her second sub 40 second performance of the season at Boo Williams in the 300 meter dash with a new personal best and US #10 time of 39.83. Williams and state leader Shakeela Saunders (39.20) are the only two athletes among the US top 10 who recorded their times on a flat track versus a banked track.
Dominating 25+ second wins were produced by both 3200 meter winners Colin Mearns of Jamestown (US #11 9:21.16) and Stephanie Frenchik of Landstown (US #17 10:59.41). It was the first 3200 meter races of the season for both runners who easily achieved state meet automatic qualifiers. Mearns will be looking to win his first state title in Group AA after failing to win in cross country as the pre-meet favorite. Frenchik might consider the 3200 meter run as an event to compete in at the state meet, despite also being state qualified in the 1600 after posting her first sub 11 minute performance.
More to come from the Atlantic Coast Invitational...
Photo Gallery by Ryan Kelly - Photos to be added throughout Saturday and Sunday from both days of events.
Below are the performances entered for the meet that met the national silver standard.