WHOOOOOOO ARE YOU? WHO! WHO! WHO! WHO! Inspired by attending Thursday night's amazing concert in DC by The Who, we take a look at "The Who" as in the Virginians who should make the biggest noise this weekend at the 2007 edition of the Nike Indoor Nationals. Virginia will have a large delegation of its top athletes and relays competing at NIN this weekend as the state hopes to bring in more than a handful of national champions as well as a countless number of All-American top six finishers. In particular, three individuals stand the best shots at being national champions in two events a piece with Sean Holston in the 200 and 400 meter dash, Axel Mostrag in the mile and 800 meter run, and Aurora Scott in the 5K and two mile run.
Holston is not going to leave anything on the track this weekend after a disappointing state meet last week in which he did with only one state championship of three that he had been hoping to win to show for himself. The Robert E. Lee senior had hoped to join Lashawn Merritt as the only other male athlete to win all three sprint events at the Virginia 3A State Meet in the 55, 300, and 500 meter dash. Holston had been having one of the best indoor seasons ever by a Virginian high schooler with a US #2 all-time performance in the 300 meter dash and US #7 all-time run of 1:03.45 in the 500 meter dash.
However, Holston was humbled at last weekend's state meet in being handed a head to head defeat by I.C. Norcom's Isaiah Gyasi in the 55 meter dash and then finished third overall in the 500 meter dash after taking for granted the times posted in the earlier sections of the event and cruising to a time of 1:05.16 in the final section.
He will be looking to finish out his indoor season on a much higher note at the 2007 Nike Indoor Nationals to be held Saturday and Sunday, March 10th and 11th at the Prince George County Sports & Learning Center in Landover, Maryland. Holston is one of the faovrites to win both the 200 and 400 meter dash as sits as the national leader in the 300 meter dash and 500 meter dash this year. Holston has the swiftest flat track time in the country for 400 meters as he posted in on the same track in which he will be competing on this weekend with a 47.90 clocking back in early January at the Montgomery County Invitational.
Holston will be hard pressed in the event as there will be three other entrants who have went under 48 seconds this season, but posted their best times on superior banked tracks. Meanwhile, in the 200 meter dash, Holston has yet to get a 200 meter time in this season, but his US #2 all-time performance for 300 meters with a 33.21 clocking should be a strong enough indication that he is capable of rolling out a fast time in the event.
While Holston will have to go through qualifying rounds on both races, Fork Union middle distance star Axel Mostrag will be quite busy himself this weekend as he is slated to compete in three events with his last two races just roughly ove an hour apart. Mostrag will be featured on the 1600 meter anchor leg for FUMA on Saturday night as he will return in the same race, which saw him nearly run down the entire field in the final leg for a near victory over 2005 Nike Team Nationals champions Saratoga Springs and the 2006 Nike Team Nationals individual champion Steve Murdock. Mostrag split a 4:13 on anchor leg last year and is certainly a lot stronger than last year as he has a 4:14 1600 meter solo run to his credit already this winter.
Mostrag should not be getting the baton so far behind and quite possibly could start his leg in the lead as Fork Union will feature two strong legs in their 1200 meter opener in Szymon Rola and 800 meter leg handing off to Mostrag in Jamie Reichlen. Rola had been performing as well as his fellow Polish pal in Mostrag since coming over to the States, but has experiencing his best running ever this indoor season as he has posted best times of 4:20 for 1600 meters and 2:30 for 1000 meters. Reichlen likewise is competing at a whole other level as he has ran 2:32 for 1000 meters on a flat track twice this season and split a 1:57 in January on Fork Union's 7:52 4x800 meter relay.
Fork Union would like to prove it is the best DMR in the country and not just at Nike Indoor Nationals as certainly some strong times will be produced at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships in New York this weekend as well in the relay event. The current US #1 time is 10:18.15 by Collegiate of New York, but Fork Union will likely need to roll out a much faster time as several teams should go under the time at NSIC. Fork Union will also look to see how they historically will compare to past great Virginian indoor DMR teams as several find themselves on the US all-time list with the 2001 South Lakes squad ranked US #3 at 10:05.72, 1998 West Springfield squad ranked US #6 at 10:10.30, 1979 T.C. Williams squad ranked US #11 at 10:11.9, and the most recent in the 2003 Westfield squad ranked US #14 at 10:12.89. (Photo right of Mostrag by Don Rich)
Mostrag may be keeping in mind in his pending individual distance double in an hour and a half span on Saturday though as anchor leg and only run hard enough to secure the win for Fork Union. Mostrag is entered in both the mile run and 800 meter run and intends to compete in both. He could definitely pull off victories in both and especially if the mile run ends up being a strategic race, which only benefit a great finisher in Mostrag. Mostrag has yet to run under 4:10 in the mile or 1600 meters, while in the states (has a 1500 meter conversion time from Poland last summer that puts him under the time), but he is one of the most feared athletes in the field because of his well known finishing speed.
Sam Borchers of Ohio has a superior 1500 meter time than even Mostrag, but has raced sparingly during the indoor season, so it is tough to get a feel for his current shape as well as Georgia's Ben Hubers, who dipped under 4:10 for the mile last spring as a junior at Nike Outdoor Nationals.
Mostrag will need a strategic race to help him recover for the 800 meter run, which the gun will go off to start that race in roughly around an hour and a half after Mostrag completes his mile race. Alabama's Chris Bilbrew and California's Cory Primm have both ran under 1:52 this season, while Mostrag has the country's fastest time for 1000 meters at 2:26.11, which ranked him US #9 all-time. Mostrag is the top returnee from last year's race after closing late to take second to 2006 champ Karjuan Wiliams and has one of the fastest returning times in the country in the event at 1:50.
If Mostrag is able to win both events, it would the be the first time in meet history that an athlete has won the mile and 800 meter run as it is no easy task with a national caliber fields assembled in each race.
Aurora Scott was a late entry into the 5K and 3200 meter run as her name originally was not on the initial entry list for the meet. It was easy for meet management to welcome the Foot Locker South champion and course record holder as well as Foot Locker Nationals runner-up into the meet as she is one of the nation's best distance runners. The homeschooled junior stands a realistic shot at winning both races. In the 5K especially, Scott looks to be on her own in a solo effort up front to go after the national high school indoor record of 16:43.02. Scott ran under 16:30 for 5K on a cross country course in the fall.
However, Scott may conserve herself for the two mile run and cruise to a 5K victory as not only does she have another race to go at Nike Indoor Nationals, but also will be competing at the World Cross Country Championships in Kenya later this month. Security concerns and threats in Kenya have made some U.S. athletes reconsider attending Worlds and turn down their earned trips. 2005 Footlocker Nationals champion Jordan Hasay of California has decided to skip the World Championships after recent developments in security threats to the cross country meet have made many worry about the safety of the athletes at the event. We'll find out this weekend if Scott is brave enough to take on the tough 5K and two mile double as well as still make the trip to represent the USA in Kenya.
Scott will run the 5000 meter run on Saturday morning at 10:00 am and should have a decent amount of recovery time for Sunday's two mile run, which is scheduled for 2:12 pm. Scott is the top seed in the event as she posted an earlier US #1 performance for 3200 meters in 10:29.12 at the Asics Invite held at Liberty University. The Asics meet was actually Scott's first race indoors, so at least she will have shaken the rust off to prepare for this weekend's indoor nationals.
There will be eight Footlocker finalists in the race including 2005 finalists in fellow Virginian Catherine White, who just picked up more state titles to her growing total count in Group AA with a 4:55 1600 and 10:52 3200 double. White will be hoping to match her 2006 race at Nike Indoor Nationals in which she finished as a national runner-up and ran her personal best time of 10:32.27 for a full two miles (converts to 10:28.87 for 3200 meters). There is a very strong possibily that the state of Virginia can have a 1-2 finish in the race from Scott and White. We could be witnessing two of Virginia's three greatest two milers ever in the same race with Scott and White as only former national record holder Erin Keogh of Langley has ever ran faster indoors as she currently is ranked US #2 all-time with her 1987 best of 10:01.33. The cutoff time for both Scott and White to make it into the US top 20 all-time list is 10:26.2, which was run by Olympian Suzy Favor-Hamilton. Keogh is the only Virginian currently on the US all-time indoor list in the two mile run.
There a few other Virginians who should be in the hunt for national championships. With three girls from Virginia clearing 5'9" in the high jump at last weekend's historic competition for the event at the AAA State Meet, it is a no brainer to think Virginia's chances of picking up a national title in the event are pretty good. Patience Coleman of North Carolina returns as the defending champion, but only has a 5'8" best to her credit this season and was defeated by one of the three 5'9" Virginia jumpers earlier in the season in Deep Creek senior Ashley Gatling. Gatling is the most experienced among the three Virginia girls as she was a national runner-up at NIN last year to Coleman. Meanwhile, Deep Run sophomore Brianna Hudson seems to have the most upswing and potential after clearing a huge personal best of 5'9" to win the state title over Gatling and second place finisher April Sinkler of Brooke Point.
The 5000 meter run is a new event at Nike Indoor Nationals after the NSSF brought on the event last year for Nike Outdoor Nationals. At NON, Virginia had two All-Americans in Stefanie Slekis of Forest Park and Matt Kroetch of Oakton. At this year's NIN in the 5K, Virginian could sweep the national titles in the long distance event. While Aurora Scott will be a huge favorite in the girls' 5K, the future of Virginia distance running in Midlothian junior Jason Witt and Mountain View sophomore Thomas Porter will look to team up on Adam Lenz of Colorado in the boys' race.
Lenz was particular strong in the middle of the cross country season in high profile invitational races including Great American and the Manhattan Invitational, including finishing 24 seconds ahead of Witt (9th, 16:24) at Great American with a third place run of 15:56. However, Witt has improved greatly since the mid September race including a top ten finish to finish out his track season at Nike Indoor Nationals and most recently on the track won his first state championship for 3200 meters over two Footlocker finalists in Porter and West Springfield's Mike Spooner in a personal best time of 9:15.40. Witt's time is one of the faster times in the country on a flat track for two miles or 3200 meters. (Photo to left of Porter & Witt by John Herzog)
Meanwhile, Porter can never be counted at the end of any season to come through big as he has shown on countless occassions in the past. Porter was one of only three sophomores among the four qualifying regions to make it to Footlocker Nationals and has won at Nike Indoor Nationals in the past as he was last year's freshmen mile champion. Porter finished third in last week's exciting 3200 meter state race, which saw three runners under 9:20 with the Mountain View sophomore clocking a personal best time of 9:18. Porter ran his personal best 5K time of 15:13 in cross country at Footlocker South as he nabbed the final qualifying spot in 10th place.
The Midlothian girls have a better shot at earning All-American honors in three events than winning a national championship in one, which some would argue would be impressive considering how grueling a triple that could pose for even the most talented and deepest teams in the country. However as shown at last year's AAA State Meet in a shocking team championship for the Lady Trojans, they have the bodies to spread out their talent and maximize their potential.
Their best shot at a national championship will come in their first race of the meet in the 4xMile relay. Last year, Midlothian was a national runner-up in this event and should be much stronger than last year's group. Their lineup will include with the following season bests: M.C. Miller (4:59), Kathleen Lautzenheiser (5:01), Leia Lautzenheiser (5:15), and Samantha Dow (5:20). Both Leia Lautzenheiser and Dow should run much faster as their season bests both came at the Arthur Ashe Center, which is a 11 laps to a mile (160 yards) and no spikes allowed track. (Photo to right of Miller by Don Rich)
However, a win will not come easy with some of the nation's top distance programs found in the race including the perennial powers of Saratoga Springs from New York, who hold the national record in the relay event at 19:59.24. Saratoga Springs will be anxious to race against 2006 NTN squads such as Midlothian after feeling slighted in not being selected to this year's NTN. Tatnall of Delaware and Westfield of Indiana also had teams qualify for this past fall's Nike Team Nationals and should have very tough lineups to challenge Midlothian. Tatnall especially has a great team and had a handful of runners returning from last spring who had ran better 5:15 or better in the mile.
The Midlothian girls in 2006 at Nike Indoor Nationals were able to pick up All-American honors twice in one day in the 4xMile relay and distance medley relay. The competition does not get any easier in the later Saturday event as a Southern Regional of New Jersey squad featuring one of the greatest high prep milers in Danielle Tauro as well as another tough runner in teammate and sub 4:50 miler in Jillian Smith. Meanwhile, the Eleanor Roosevelt girls of Maryland should also be very tough for Midlothian to take down as the two teams had a great race at the Virginia Tech Invitational with Eleanor Roosevelt as the winner with both teams just over 12 minutes in US top 5 performances. Midlothian will attempt to have two of their girls double back from the 4xMile earlier in M.C. Miller and Sammy Dow, while throw last weekend's 1000 meter state champ at 2:55 in Paige Johnston on anchor leg fresh. The Midlothian girls will look to become the first Virginian team ever to run under 12 minutes indoors in the event and become the fastest ever in state history.
The Midlothian girls already have the fastest time ever in the 4x800 meter relay in the state history after running a state meet record time of 9:07.27 at the AAA State Meet last weekend. It appears they will see what they have left in the tank for Saturday's relay and want to focus their attention other relays instead on Friday and individual events on Saturday. Midlothian will have the Lautzenheiser twins competing individually in the freshmen mile on Saturday and both should be up front with the leaders in the event. Kathleen Lautzenheiser, in particular, after running a personal best time of 5:01 at the state meet last weekend to finish third overall, should be one of the pre-race favorites and possibly give Virginian a champion in the event for the second year in a row after Woodbridge's Michelle Britto won last year.
Virginia has rolled out some fast relay times on flat tracks for the boys and this weekend will be the test to see if teams from other states with faster times on banked tracks benefited or not from racing on superior tracks. The Virginia boys relays seem to be overlooked coming in and it might be a bad mistake for the competition to sleep on what the state has to offer in the 4x200 and 4x400 meter relays.
State leaders and AAA state champs I.C. Norcom ran their best time of 1:30.18 out of a slower section of the 4x200 meter relay to win the state title on a flat track at George Mason. Meanwhile, Western Branch (1:30.67), Deep Creek (1:30.79), and Bethel (1:30.86) all ran their best times on flat tracks as well. Last year, Virginia had the top three finishing teams in the event with Deep Creek as the national champions at 1:29.46, Potomac in second at 1:31.19, and Western Branch in third at 1:31.25. (Photo to left of I.C. Norcom by John Herzog)
A top three sweep seems to be unlikely this year when you take into account a team like Camden of New Jersey as they have already ran in the 1:28s this season and also Westlake of Maryland, who have broken 1:30 on a flat track season, but look for the Virginia teams to surprise many in the race.
The 4x400 meter relay should have the same story with most focused on season best times instead of looking deeper as to where the times were recorded at. While Newburgh of New York has the fastest time coming in at 3:19.77 on a banked track at the Simplot Games, Virginia has three of the top five fastest flat track times in the country with Deep Creek as the fastest at 3:21.40, Manchester second at 3:22.44, Bethel fifth at 3:22.58, and Western Branch just outside of the top 5 with a 3:23.21 season best. One safe predictions is expect more than just one Virginian squad on the podium as an All-American top six finisher in the two sprint relay events.
Forest Park boys should have the best shot at earning All-American honors in the 4x800 meter relay. Typically at Nike Indoor Nationals, a sub eight minute performance will place you in the top six as the Forest Park boys went under the mark last weekend in AAA state title win of 7:59.16. Zach Williams was their top leg with a 1:57 split. Three of Virginia's top four ranked teams will be in the event excluding state leader Fork Union (7:52.73), who will only be focusing on the distance medley relay on Saturday. Thomas Jefferson (8:02) and Hermitage (8:03) finished second and third at the state meet to Forest Park and will look to try and knock off last week's champions as well as sneak into a top six All-American spot.
Hermitage will also be competing in the 4xMile relay and should field a very strong team in the event. Brentsville, the AA state cross country champions, will also be loading up a team with their best milers in what could be a revenge matchup between two teams that were contending for NTN spots earlier in the season as Hermitage dealt Brentsville a crushing blow to their hopes of making it out to Oregon in a victory at the Disney Classic in Orlando, Florida. Hermitage may have he edge on the track with superior leg speed from their top runners. John Vial leads Hermitage with a 4:22 1600 meter best, while Ben Hendrick (4:27), Kieran Lee (4:35), and Walter Kidd (4:38) give the Panthers a squad that can run close to 18 minutes flat, which is usually good enough for the win at Nike Indoor Nationals.
The two mile run will have three Virginians who have ran under 9:20 for 3200 meters this season including Blacksburg junior Peter Dorrell, who ran the state's fastest time and an earlier season US #1 time of 9:10 in a Virginia Tech Invite win over some of the state's best including Mike Spooner and Griff Graves. Maryland's Matt Centrowitz and New Jersey's Craig Forys will the favorites in the race and likely push for times under 9 minutes, but Dorrell and Spooner may get pulled along to big personal best times and into the top six in the process for All-American honors. Both runners have showed great wheels as of late as Dorrell doubled a 4:17 1600 and 2:31 1000 at the AA State Meet, while Spooner ran a personal best time of 9:13 for 3200 meters at the Northern Region Meet thanks to a 61 second last 400 meters.
I.C. Norcom's Isaiah Gyasi, who recently won the AAA state title for the 55 meter dash over Sean Holston, has the best shot at qualifying for the finals of the 60 meter dash on Sunday. It will be a tough ticket for anyone to earn though with the field assembled for this weekend. Gyasi ran a personal best 55 meter dash of 6.36 in last Saturday's state title, but this weekend's field will include US #1 performer Justin Murdock of Maryland with a 6.21 best. Meanwhile, Jeremy Rankin of Colorado comes in with the fastest 60 meter dash at 6.67.
Anthony Chesson will look to make into the finals again in the 200 meter dash as he is only returnee in the meet from last year. Chesson was a state runner-up to Holston in the 300 meter dash with a 34.70 clocking, which is a US #7 performance. Chesson will also be hoping his Manchester boys sprint medley relay can repeat their 2006 performance at nationals as the All-American relay returns three of their four members with Chesson on the 400 meter opening leg and Andrew Duty on anchor as their 800 meter guy.
Along with Mostrag as a national title contender in the 800 meter run, Virginia will have some solid half milers behind him including teammate Jamie Reichlen, who should finally get pushed individually for a quick time after running a 2:32 1000 meter time twice in virtually solo efforts. Also AA state 1000 meter champion Logan Collins of Orange County should also represent Central Virginia well as he is coming off the race of his life with a 2:30.98 victory in a state championship over Blacksburg's Dorrell.
Virginia's two 15 foot vaulters in state leader and AA state champion Tim Beierle of Harrisonburg at 15'6" and AAA state champion Daniel Inge of E.C. Glass will both be competing in Landover and will need even higher clearances than they have been putting up so far this season to have a shot at cracking into the top six as it is always a competitive event at NIN with many vaulters over 16 feet.
Anne Marie Gordon of Mills Godwin is in the same boat as she is very dominant on the state level and recently cleared a state meet record height of 12 feet, but the national level is a whole new ballpark and Gordon will need some of the top seeds to have rough days or she will need to take her specialty event to an entirely new height. AAA state runner-up Annie Powell of Patrick Henry also should do well in the event, but could be in the outside and looking in to a top six All-American finish.
AAA long jump state champion Rashaad Cannon of Highland Springs is coming off a 23'7.50" at the state meet, which was a best mark for him. Cannon has had a handful of performances over 23 feet this season to show a fair amount of consistency, which looks to make him a likely top six All-American finisher in the event.
Four of the top five triple jumpers in Virginia will be competing at Nike Indoor Nationals and the top three are all non-seniors in Manchester junior Antonio Miller (47'11.25") and Western Branch sophomores Kelvin Griffin (47'8.50") and Jeffrey Artis (46'8"). Miller has earned All-American honors in the past at Nike Indoors as he finished fourth last year with a mark of 47'00.25". Griffin looks to follow up Miller as an All-American as a sophomore in the triple jump as he was a state runner-up last weekend and ahead of Miller in state competition.
Frede Spellman has been the class of the field in the shot put this year in Virginia as he joined only a small group of past Virginians to have thrown over 60 feet in the high school in the event. The competition that the Oscar Smith junior will face this weekend will be something entirely new to him as he will be only one of nine throwers who have went over 60 feet this season. Spellman's season best of 61'11.50" ranks him sixth in the country as national leader Jimmie Pacifico of Ohio will be favored with his US #1 65'5.50" best. Nonetheless, a top six All-American finish from Spellman is expected.
After clocking a personal best for 55 meters in a 7.05 clocking to the claim the AA state title in the short sprint event, Matoaca's Shanneka Claiborne appears to be fine tuned and sharp to make it into the finals of the 60 meter dash at Nike Indoor Nationals. With several of the nation's top sprinters missing due to various injuries including injury to US #1 Kya Bookins of South Carolina, Claiborne may have the opening to sneak into the finals and become an All-American.
Woodside's Dominique Jordan has experience racing in a sprints finals at Nike Indoor Nationals last year as she qualified for the 400 meter dash finals in 2006 as a sophomore. Jordan is coming off an outstanding AAA State Meet in which she ran a season best of 39.84 for 300 meters for a state title and also won the 500 meter dash in 1:15.82. At last year's NIN, Jordan earned All-American honors with a third place finishing time of 55.96 as her great performance as a sophomore went unnoticed with Francena McCorory stealing the show and meet with a national record breaking run. However, Jordan will have a tough time taking third again with the field assembled with the likes of 2006 US #1 performer Jessica Beard of Ohio and one of the nation's top returning sprinters in Bianca Knight of Mississippi.
The 800 meter run is going to be such a loaded field that it would be considered a long shot for any of the Virginian girls coming in to slip into a top six with Pennsylvania's Chanelle Price leading the way with an amazing 2:04 best this season. However, look for some great times nonethless from the Virginia contingency with two state championsAA state 1000 meter champion Cate Berenato and 2006 AAA state 1000 meter champion Andrea Oaxaca of Yorktown. Berenato has ran 2:58 for 1000 meters this year and Oaxaca clocked one a 2:57 in a regional win, but was missing at the state meet with reasons unknown. The Potomac School pair of Samantha Adelberg and Michaeline Nelson both went under 2:15 last spring with Adelberg at 2:13 and Nelson at 2:14.
W.T. Woodson senior Sarrah Hadiji had a personal best day in the 3200 meter run at last Saturday's AAA State Meet to pick up her second straight state championship indoors in the event in 10:46. Her goal this weekend will be to break five minutes for the first time in the mile as she is the lone entrant in the event with 3-time AAA state champion Kristy Tobin of Great Bridge scratching from the event. Hadiji has ran 5:05 for 1600 meters this season. Like Mostrag, Hadiji will also be doing a distance double on Sunday with the two mile run less than three hours later.
Virginia will be well represented in the event with not only Scott, White, and Hadiji in the event, but two other sub 11 minute 3200 meter girls this season in Lia DiValentin of Chantilly and Courtlin LaReau of Deep Run. Out of the top 11 seeds in the race, five of them happen to be Virginians. It would be quite an amazing feat to see all five of them under 11 minutes in the same race. It is quite possible if Hadiji can hold up doubling back from the mile.
District and regional rivals in Tierra Brown of Hampton and Kali Watkins of Menchville will look to pick Virginia up a pair of All-American honors in the 60 meter hurdles as both are highly ranked in the country in the closely similar 55 meter hurdles event. Brown is currently US #4 in the 55 meter hurdles after winning the state title last weekend over 2006 champion Watkins in a 7.92 best clocking. Meanwhile, Watkins is one of the few All-American returnees from last year's finals at NIN as she finished sixth in 2006 with a 8.73 clocking. Two of Virginia's greatest hurdlers ever in the event will be put in awe though by national record holder Jackie Coward from Tennessee, who has clocked a 8.36 best for 60 meter hurdles this season.
Osbourn Park and Landstown in the girls 4x400 meter relay stand the best chance out of any of the Virginian squads in earning All-American honors in the sprint relays. Osbourn Park earned national runner-up honors in the 2006 at Nike Indoors and returns the entire crew of four and more depth to put together an even stronger team. Osbourn Park has a season best of 3:53 this season at Virginia Tech, while Landstown has a 3:57 best on a flat track. Osbourn Park ran 3:56 in the 2006 NIN to finish second to Eleanor Roosevelt of Maryland, who should be heavy favorites again their US leading time of 3:44.34. Osbourn Park's 3:53 ranks them as the second fastest team coming into the meet.
Midlothian may not end up being the top team in the girls' 4x800 meter relay on Sunday from Virginia. They do have more depth than last year's team, but it would not be a surprise if they scratched the event again as they did in 2006 at Nike Indoor Nationals as it was too much to ask their girls to run two relays on Saturday and come back on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Westfield girls and Blacksburg girls should represent the state well. Westfield had a US #1 time earlier in the season at 9:19 and were state runners-up to Midlothian last week in 9:23. Meanwhile, Blacksburg has yet to load up their relay against top competition, but the state cross country champions should have a team go well under 9:30. Blacksburg also will have a strong 4xMile relay on Saturday in the same race with Midlothian.
Virginia has two US top 5 performers in the long jump with two-time AAA indoor state champion Brittni Finch of Centreville and AAA state runner-up Shakia Forbes of Bethel. There will be two 20 plus foot jumpers from this season in the competition to make a national championship from either an upset, but both are expected to finish in the top six as Finch has a season best of 19'7.25" and Forbes is just a foot behind her at 19'6.25".
Lee-Davis senior Rachel Butler finds herself in the same congestion with some great national caliber athletes in the triple jump as her 40 foot season best last weekend in her second state title in the event puts her near the front, but not at the top with three other competitors in front of her with better marks including a 42 footer Arantxa King of Massachussetts. However, Butler showed great consistency at her state meet with no fouls and her worst jump of six attempts at 39'5". If she can be as consistent in Landover, a surprise national title is within leaping distance.
The more exciting news out of the throwing events in the return of Park View junior Natalie Baird as the All-American discus thrower gets back into action for the first time this season as her AA school does not have a sanctioned indoor season or team for her compete for up until this point. Baird is in the shot put and weight throw, which might be an event that best suits her as she is more of a technical than power thrower as shown her performances last spring in the discus including a 157'2" best. However, she can hold her own in the shot put as the smaller thrower won the AA state title last spring with a 42'8" best.
However, T.C. Williams senior and AAA state champion Samella Koroma should be the top thrower for Virginia in the shot put with her state leading 43'4.50" best this season. After a disappointing loss at the Northern Region Meet, Koroma bounced back to defeat regional rival Allison Jones of Lake Braddock with a throw of 42'6.50" at George Mason.