Photo Credit: USA Today Network/Trials of Miles/Montverde Academy
BEGINS AIRING ON JANUARY 13 ON MILESPLIT
If you're a track and field fan, you can always find a great race or a close finish at a meet ... something to enjoy.
This year's VA Showcase will certainly have plenty of those.
But what it also will have is a race to remember. Dare we say it ... Could it become the greatest girls race in high school history?
The invitational section of the girls 500m will take place on the first day of the event, Friday the 13th.
The record they are chasing is both the meet and national record of 1:10.22, which was set by Athing Mu back in 2020.
Now that you know the record they are chasing, let's meet the athletes.
Akala Garrett, Charlotte Albemarle (NC): A North Carolina native, she enters the meet as the world U20 champion over the 400mH distance. To win that gold medal, she ran a blistering 56.16 seconds over the 10 barriers. She also owns personal bests of 38.60 in the 300m dash and 1:14.03 in the 500 (run in 2021). Garrett is also racing the hurdles. She has run 8.33 already this year in the 60mH and is U.S. No. 1.
Sophia Gorriaran, Moses Brown (RI): A Rhode Island native, she enters as one of, if not the, best middle-distance runners we have ever seen. Her personal bests are 54.10 in the 400, 1:11.26 in the 500, 1:25.22 in the 600, 2:00.58 in the 800, and 4:37 in the Mile. She is already U.S. No. 1 in three events and has not even opened up in three other events that she inevitably will dominate. Sophia is also the defending champion in this race and already ran 1:11.45 as a season opener without speed work. She will be doubling back with the 800m run.
Shawnti Jackson, Raleigh Wakefield (NC): A North Carolina native, she enters the meet as the world U20 bronze medalist in the 100m dash, the national record holder in the 50m, 55m, and 60m dashes, and ranks second all-time in the 300m dash with her 36.95 personal best run at last year's VA Showcase. She has run 52.32 for the open 400m and owns a personal best of 1:13.04 in the 500. Shawnti will be doubling back the 300m on Saturday.
Michelle Smith, Montverde Academy (FL): A Florida native, she enters the meet after finishing fifth in the world over 400mH. She ran a personal best of 57.83 this past summer but also owns personal bests of 2:10 in the 800 and 1:14.10 in the 500. Her season-over-season progression is staggering and moves her well within contention.
The race itself will be a tactical one. To chase that 1:10 record, the athletes will need to come through the 400m in 56 or in other terms, they will need to run a U.S. No. 1 400m on the season en route to the 500m finish.
We expect someone to push the pace early and maybe even come through the 300 right around 40 seconds.
What happens in the final 200m will be anyone's guess. Garrett and Smith are both used to this type of rhythm with the 400mH and powering past "the wall" down the homestretch.
Sophia is definitely used to the longer races and will only get stronger as the race progresses, but the athlete that will shock a lot of track fans is Shawnti, who without a doubt is the fastest of them all over the sprint distances.
What this race will come down to is experience (400m hurdlers) vs distance prowess vs killer speed.