Southern Track Classic Preview - Field Events

Attack of the Long Jump Chicks! 

Photos by John Herzog 


The seventh edition of the Southern Track Classic expects to be one of the best ever with roughly ten events to have their meet records tested with the outstanding fields that meet director Dan Ward has assembled for Friday night at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond, Virginia. Field events begin at 5:00 PM and the running events will start up at 6:15 PM with the sprint medley relays as a rolling time schedule follows. Better not stroll into Sports Backers after 6 or you will have missed some of the best action in the meet. 



The most exciting and spectacular event at the 2006 Classic was found in the girls’ triple jump with four girls over 40 feet and recording US top 10 marks. The best event at this year’s meet looks to be among the girls in the jumping events once again, but in the long jump instead in 2007. Returning this Friday night to STC will be the defending champion in Brittni Finch as the Centreville junior last year won in a meet record jump of 19’8”. A second win at Sports Backers will not be as easy with the likes of Bethel senior Shakia Forbes and Brooke Point senior April Sinkler. Forbes, a national champion and national runner-up at the two indoor national meets this past March, recently won the Penn Relays long jump title over Finch in 19’4.25 and has a state leading mark of 19’8” in the event. However, a state championship has eluded Forbes so far, which Finch has two AAA titles from indoors.


Meanwhile, Sinkler is coming into Southern Track still reeling high from her big day at the Dogwood Track Classic in which she set meet records in both the long jump and triple jump to accompany the meet record she had already held in a 2006 high jump win at Dogwood.  Her long jump performance was a breakthrough as she had never gone over 19 feet before, but ended up launching a mark of 19’7” at UVA. Both Finch and Forbes should have the slight edge having been consistent performers over 19 feet, but look out for Sinkler coming on strong as all three will look to pop their first 20 feet ever and break the meet record of 19’8” held by Finch.


Finch is not the lone meet record holder returning for 2007 as Natalie Baird is aiming to well exceed the standard she set for herself and future discus throwers at the Southern Track Classic with her winning mark of 144’2”. Baird is still chasing the Virginia high school state record of 159’9” set by Jackie Wallace of Lafayette High School in 1981. The conditions have been anything but ideal for Baird with her 157’7” best from last year as a sophomore as rain, wind, and cold temperatures have seemed to follow her every meet she’s attended so far. The Park View junior was able to overcome stormy conditions at the Penn Relays, which forced an over two hour delay of the discus, to win her second title in the prestigious mark two weeks ago. She is a class of her own from the other throwers in the state as her season best mark of 149’8” from the Apple Blossom Invite leads the next best in the state by over 20 feet.


Baird is capable of sweeping the throws, but she will have to get past AAA state indoor champion Samella Koroma of T.C. Williams, who also earned All-American honors indoors in the weight throw at Nike Indoor Nationals. Koroma threw for a season best and state leading mark at her home invitational last Saturday with a mark of 43’0.75”. Meanwhile, Baird put up a personal best throw of 42’9” at the Colonial Relays in early April, so expect a very close competition between AAA’s best in Koroma and AA’s best in Baird.



Brooke Point’s Sinkler will have a very busy evening in Richmond as she is set to compete in all three jumping events and will be in the running to win all three. The high jump competition will have two of three high jumpers from the epic event that it was at the AAA State Indoor Meet with three girls over 5’9” as indoor state champion Briana Hudson of Deep Run and indoor state runner-up Sinkler. Hudson has been a little banged up with injury this spring and has only been able to clear a best of 5’4”, while Sinkler has been more consistent with already a 5’8” clearance to her credit this season. Defending Southern Track Classic champion Ashley Gatling of Deep Creek will not be present to defend her title as well as meet record of 5’8”, which should definitely come under assault from both Sinkler and Hudson.


Rachel Butler is lone returning member of the 40 feet club, which was turned into  a not so exclusive club with four over 40 feet including Butler at last year’s Southern Track Classic. The Lee-Davis senior is the top seed and favorite in the event as she won her second state title in the event indoors and was an All-American in the event. Butler eclipsed 40 feet again during the indoor season with her 40 feet win at the state meet in an incredible display of consistency with all six of her attempts well over 39 feet. However, Brooke Point’s Sinkler has the top mark in the state this spring at 39’8.75” with Butler second in the state at 39’3.50”. Sinkler will look to use STC as the springboard she needs to get over 40 feet and she might need to in order to score a win over Butler.


Mills Godwin senior Anne Marie Gordon has had to follow in the footsteps of Western Albemarle’s Ashley Early all year long. Early, the state record holder indoors and outdoors in the pole vault, graduated from Western Albemarle High School last spring, which left Gordon as the top returnee in the state. Early’s state records (12’10” outdoors) may be out of reach for Gordon, but her 12’0” meet record at Southern Track Classic is well within reach for the Duke recruit Gordon. Gordon has already cleared 12 feet on three occasions this spring including this past Wednesday at a home meet. She will need to match her personal best clearance of 12’1.50” from her All-American performance at the National Scholastic Indoor Champions though to have an outright ownership of the meet record.


The shot put record is for the taking for Oscar Smith junior Frede Spellman. The 2002 meet record of 57’1.75” is held by James Robinson’s Steve Huntzinger, which is a mark that Spellman has exceed this spring by a few inches with his 57’4” win at Doogwood. However, Spellman can simply shatter the record if he returns to his indoor form in which he had several marks over 60 feet including a 61’11.50” best at the Southeastern District Meet.


Dexter Fault of Woodside’s 2000 meet record of 24’5.25” could be in jeopardy with two athletes over 24 feet in the field including Nike Indoor Nationals runner-up and defending AAA state indoor champion Rashaad Cannon of Highland Springs. Cannon has a 24’0.50” best this spring, which puts him a quarter inch ahead of the second seed at Southern Track Classic in Mountain View’s Cedric Hudson, who finished second at Doogwood with a personal best jump of 24’0.25”. However, Western Branch sophomore Kelvin Griffin could steal the show from both of them and has a mark over 24 in him as he was very close to it last weekend at the Landstown Invite with a all-time best jump of 23’10”.


The triple jump will feature the defending AAA indoor state champion in Marcus Robinson of J.R. Tucker and defending AAA outdoor state champion in Antonio Miller of Manchester. Miller has the state leading mark this spring with his 47’11” from the Gus Lacy Track Classic, while Robinson went over 48 feet indoors in his state championship at George Mason. A darkhorse in the event is Lafayette’s Garrick Piggott, who defeated both Miller and Western Branch’s Kelvin Griffin as the top Virginian finisher at the Penn Relays in the triple jump with a personal best mark of 47’3.75”, which ranks second in the state currently behind Miller. Miller posted his all-time best of 48 feet last year at the Southern Track Classic with a win and will be looking have repeat results on Friday night.


It should be a great matchup in the boys’ discus throw between Liberty’s Erik Kuster and Thomas Jefferson’s Frank Nothaft. It will be the only matchup between the two throwers over 160 feet this season as Kuster competes in AA, while Nothaft reigns from AAA’s Northern Region. Kuster is the state leader after his 169’7” victory at Dogwood over a strong field, while Nothaft has faced very little competition in the Northern Region invitational circuit this spring with the state’s third best mark at 166’4” to his credit.


Southern Track Classic will see what the state’s top high jump boys are made of as they cut off for the event was 6’5” with nine participants over the mark led by current state leader Tony Brown of Brunswick Senior at 6’10” and AAA state indoor champion and Nike Indoor Nationals All-American Chris Copeland of Lakeland. Copeland has a bit more experience this year competing in big meets and performing well as shown by his state meet and national meet performances, but Brown has cleared a height this spring of 6’10”, which neither Copeland nor any other Virginian has thus far cleared in either indoor or outdoor.


Defending Southern Track champion Tim Beierle of Harrisonburg and Daniel Inge of E.C. Glass, the state’s top two vaulters, will face off for the third consecutive weekend this spring as right now the score tally is even between the two after Inge won at Dogwood two weeks ago and Beierle won this past weekend at VMI. It only took a clearance of 13’9” for Beierle to win last year at Southern Track, but the bar should go significant higher this year to determine a winner with five vaulters in the competition with personal bests of 14 feet or higher. Both Beierle and Inge have cleared heights over 15 feet several times with Beierle’s best at 15’6” from indoors.