Southern Track Classic Preview - Running Events

 Can White become the first 3-time STC champion?


Photo by John Herzog


Where does one begin in analyzing such a loaded meet as the 2007 Southern Track Classic. Sean Holston brings the most star power as the defending national champion indoors for 200 and 400 meters. The Robert E. Lee senior will be competing only in the 400 meter dash at Southern Track Classic as he looks to improve upon his US #3 time of 46.55 and go well under the 2002 meet record of 47.24. It is tough to find much competition to push Holston at 400 meters on this side of the country, so that is why he will be flying out to California next month to face off with national leader Bryshon Nellom of Long Beach Poly at Golden West.


The two mile races for both the boys and girls are highly anticipated events at STC. In the girls’ two mile run, Northside senior Catherine White will be doubling back from the mile earlier, which she will be highly favored in as Nike Outdoor Nationals All-American in the event. She will have to be ready to roll again in a relatively short time frame with the finals only meet format making the meet roll through quite quickly compared to other meets. In the two mile, White will be going up against two fresh sub 11 girls in Lia DiValentin of Chantilly and Courtlin LaReau of Deep Run. White is the state leader in the event as her time in the two mile at the Arcadia Invite in California converts her just under 10:40 for 3200 meters. Both DiValentin and LaReau recorded their all-time bests alongside White at Nike Indoor Nationals as the Chantilly sophomore DiValentin finished one spot off of All-American in seventh place at 10:43.22, while the Deep Run senior LaReau finished 10th in 10:48.60.


Also doubling back from the mile with White will be two-time AAA state 3200 meter champion Sarrah Hadiji of W.T. Woodson, who has a main focus this weekend of breaking five minutes for the mile. The William & Mary recruit has shown a drastic improvement in speed with her most recent performance two weeks ago with a 2:15 800 meter win at the Chantilly invite. White could runaway with the victory as the only proven sub 5 miler in the field with Midlothian’s M.C. Miller and her 4:53 1600 meter best as a scratch due to injury. Hadiji may start looking for a 1600 meter state title in AAA if she can pop a fast one at STC with top two finishers in the last two AAA state 1600 meter races in Kristy Tobin of Great Bridge and Midlothian’s Miller out with injuries.


Catherine White will not be looking to break the two mile meet record of 10:35.81 (Laura Stanley, Carolina Day NC, 2002), which eluded her by three seconds last year in her 10:35.81 win, but also accomplish something that no athlete has ever done at the Southern Track Classic in any event in becoming a three-time Southern Track Champion. White won the two mile in 2005 in 10:54.83 when the Southern Track Classic returned after a one year hiatus and was hosted at the University of Richmond. It would be quite an accomplishment considering how competitive the meet is year and year out. This year, White is going to attempt to win her third STC two mile title the hard way off a double.


Much like it is hard to bet against a runner as talented and more importantly tough as Catherine White, the same holds true to Mike Spooner for the late Friday night two mile as the West Springfield senior will be coming back from the 4x800 meter relay with his fellow Spartans earlier in the meet. Spooner has never shown any hesitation in the past to jump on any relays for his team and not concern himself with saving for any individual events. Especially at the state meets, Spooner has shown great toughness and resiliency in the 3200 meter run as third events of the meet as he won the 3200 meter state title last spring in such a fashion and took in a respectable second to Midlothian’s Jason Witt this past indoor state meet after running on the 4x800 meter relay and winning the 1600 meter run earlier.


Spooner will have to dig deep again though on Friday with a very talented front three in the field with him in Peter Dorrell of Blacksburg, Griff Graves of Abingdon, and Thomas Porter of Mountain View. The field is comprised of three Footlocker finalists from this past fall with Spooner, Graves, and Porter. Dorrell went under 9:10 indoors for 3200 meters with Spooner from their converted two mile times at Nike Indoor Nationals in which Spooner snagged an All-American spot in the event. Spooner holds the state’s fastest time this spring by a slim margin of Dorrell at 9:09.87 to 9:10.00. If anyone would be given the edge in this race it would be Dorrell with freshness edge over Spooner and his proven wheels with a 4:15 1600 meter time under his belt. However, Spooner has the best kick among the top four entrants, so it would ill advised for Dorrell, Graves, or Porter to allow Spooner to have enough energy in the tank to muster a final kick, because he could blow by all of them.


Graves is due for a big track race as he was less than pleased running over 9:20 at Arcadia in April with a stacked field to pull him along to a fast time if he was able to hold on. Graves had the fastest time coming into this year from last year after posting an impressive time of 9:14 as a sophomore. Meanwhile, Porter clocked a solid 9:20 solo effort this spring at Wednesday meet and would definitely like to post one of the faster two times in the nation among sophomores.


While the two mile has stolen many of the stars away from the mile and 800 meter races, both distance events for the boys should be exciting with the next tier of athletes fighting out to be the best among the rest.


The mile should be a very interesting race. Ermin Mujezinovic of Herndon is the top seed and split a 4:13 on a DMR 1600 meter leg last spring and clocked a 4:17 1600 meter time at the outdoor state meet, but has yet to take his running to the next level this past year as he had a 4:20 best during indoors and has gone 4:24 so far this spring for 1600 meters. A more positive sign that Mujezinovic is starting to take his running more seriously was a 9:22 PR effort for 3200 meters this past weekend at the Nike Spring Invite.


Meanwhile, Atlee’s Ben Dejarnette could possibly become the youngest mile champion at Southern Track Classic as very few juniors win at the Southern Track Classic and much less sophomores as is Dejarnette. Dejarnette ran an outstanding time for 10th grader at the Dogwood Track Classic with a third place time of 4:18.18.


Andrew Mearns is also another racer in the field who has had a great spring of track as the Jamestown senior ran a sub 9:20 3200 equivalent in the 3K at the Colonial Relays with a 8:39 win. In March, Mearns split a 4:22 1600 meter leg on a distance medley relay for Jamestown at Sports Backers Stadium for the All-American Track Classic.


800 meter state leader Blake Arnold of Colonial Forge is entered in both the mile and 800 meter run. If he is competing in the mile, he will be a force as he is a faster closer with his 1:55 open 800 meter speed. However, if he is just focusing on the 800 meter run, it should be a great between himself and Aaron Taylor of Gonzaga (DC) with both having season bests coming in at 1:55.


Look for a race between AAA state 1000 meter champion Paige Johnston of Midlothian and AA state 1000 meter state champion Cate Berenato of Blacksburg in the 800 meter run. Both Johnston and Berenato have ran right at 2:16 this season, but both are looking to possibly go under 2:15 for the first time on Friday night. Johnston’s 2:54 1000 meter time indoors in her 1000 meter state championship certainly indicates such an 800 meter time in her and Berenato recorded her 2:16 PR last weekend at VMI doubling back from a 1600 PR win of 5:03.


The Southern Track Classic has had the winning formula in the past of bringing the best in Virginia together at the same meet with a sprinkle of national caliber out of state talent. This year’s big catch for meet director Dan Ward is Terrell Wilks from James Hillhouse High School in Connecticut. Wilks was one of the nation’s fastest at 55 meters indoors as he clocked a 6.29 best, which ranked as  US #3 in the event. So far this spring, Wilks has recorded bests of 21.26 in the 200 meter dash and went 10.68 for 100 meters.


With defending STC 200 meter champion and record holder Anthony Chesson of Manchester done for the season with a hamstring injury that was reaggravated last week, Wilks should roll through the 200 meter dash and challenge Chesson’s 2006 record of 21.36. Meanwhile, a win in the 100 meter dash will be no walk in the park with the likes of I.C. Norcom’s Isiah Gyasi, who defeated Sean Holston indoors for the Group AAA state title in the 55 meter dash. Gyasi will make it a close contest with Wilks in the 100 meter dash with his 10.67 season best, which he posted just this past weekend at Suffolk Invite.


Matoaca’s Shanneka Claiborne will be aiming to take a sprint double win in the 100 and 200 meter dash as the defending AAA 100 meter state champion is the top seed in both and could make a run at the year old meet record of 11.77 in the 100 meter dash as she ran under the time last summer and posted a 11.91 clocking early in the season in March. Wilks’ teammate from Connecticut in Shaniqua Burgess should challenge Claiborne coming back from the 100 though as she also has gone under 25 seconds before.


Without the likes of Hampton’s Tierra Brown nor the Menchville pair of Kali Watkins and Nicole Saunders, the girls’ hurdles should be a bit more wide open as far as the favorites. The 100 meter hurdles in particular should be a fight among several as while James Hillhouse of Connecticut’s Anne Marie Clarke is the top seed at 14.60, three hurdlers entered from Virginia actually have equal or faster times than Clarke’s in Rachel Butler of Lee-Davis (14.36), Wanetta Kirby of Huguenot (14.50), and Trish Friederich of West Springfield (14.60).


Friederich will be coming back in the 300 meter hurdles and the West Springfield senior is coming off a big race last Saturday night at the Nike Spring Invite with her first sub 44 clocking at 43.82, which ranks her second in the state currently behind Hampton’s Brown. Her lone challenger in the event will be Osbourn Park’s Brittany Hyter with her 44.31 best puts the junior as the only competitor relatively close to Friederich’s top time coming in.


Aramis Massenburg of Matoaca and Ethan Nixon of Brookville had a thrilling race two Saturdays ago at Dogwood in which the top two times in Virginia for the boys’ 110 meter hurdles were produced with Massenburg as the winner at 14.20 and Nixon in second at 14.24. Another 1-2 finish from them at Southern Track Classic will not be easy to repeat with several other outstanding hurdles in the competition including indoor AAA state 55 meter hurdles champion Adams Abdulrazaaq of Highland Springs.


The 300 meter hurdles look to be a threeway race with Abdulrazaaq, I.C. Norcom’s Mario Briscoe, and Stonewall Jackson’s Damien Thigpen. Briscoe is the state leader from an early season time at the Conn Madden Relays of 38.59, while he recently competed in the 400 meter hurdles at the Penn Relays. Abdulrazaaq went under 39 seconds in a Wednesday meet with F.A.T. timing at Douglas Freeman, while Thigpen had one of the more impressive runs in the event this past weekend at Gar-Field in the rain with a 39.05 win, which ranks him third in the state behind Briscoe and Abdulrazaaq.


It is anyone’s guess who will come out on top of the girls 400 meter dash with many of the state’s top quarter milers having up and down years. The Deep Creek pair of Myesha Barr (56.51) and Keshia Rudolph (56.55) have the top two times in the 400 meter dash this spring in Virginia, but there are several others in the field who have the potential to run much faster than they have shown so far this season. Woodside’s Dominique Jordan, the indoor AAA state champion for 500 and 300 meters, certainly has ran much faster than her lone invitational 400 meter effort this season of 57.65 at the Norview Invite. She possibly gave a hint that she is near her sub 55 quarter form from last year as a sophomore last weekend at the Landstown Invite when she posted the state’s fastest clocking for 200 meters at 24.29.


Preview on relay events to come Friday morning