The state hurdle and sprint scene has really been one of elite athletes and rivalries this past decade. You had Francena McCorory for four years unopposed and then Keilah Tyson and Christal Peterson until 2010. Following them was Brandee' Johnson and Carolyn Brown for another three years of great races. Then came masters of many events Lauryn Ghee, Amira Aduma, Naomi Whitaker, Syaira Richardson, and Faith Ross. Year after year the bar has been raised.
Since all of them are now in the collegiate ranks and really over the past two years the changing of guards has taken place again. These four athletes that have dominated since the start and all are entering their junior year campaigns are Adriana Shockley (6A 500m State Champion), Kori Carter (5A 500m State Champion), Shadajah Ballard (6A State 55m State Champion), and Britton Wilson (5A 200m State Champion and National Class Record Holder).
These girls total six state titles thru their sophomore years and will likely be favored for quite a few more considering athletes' junior year is the year for huge breakthroughs. Not to mention they no longer have to race Ghee, Aduma, or other the seniors who graduated.
All of that may be true but the great part about high school sports is the introduction of new athletes and the constant changing of guards. These athletes above did just the same to the group before them and this year they better bring it because VA has some freshmen stars who could steal the show and block them from winning more state titles.
The two athletes joining the ranks this year will be Western Branch frosh Na'Taja Ballard and Wonder Woman herself, Jahnelle Saunders. There would be a third but Michaela Rose will be competing as a homeschooled athlete at this point.
These two athletes who will be competing in 6A and 3A will not only be contenders but potentially favorites in some of the sprint, hurdle, and jumping events. Na'Taja, the little sister of Shadajah Ballard has long been touted as just as good if not better than her older sister in the hurdles and sprints. Not only faster but also taller and more centered around the 200/400 than just the 55/100.
Jahnelle might be in 3A this year but she certainly will be fighting for bigger titles both on the state and national scene. She owns some amazing personal bests and the scary part of it all is that she and Na'Taja are just getting started.
To the left side are Jahnelle's personal bests thru the completion of middle school. Once you read them you'll understand why she is called Wonder Woman.