Why go to Penn, when you can go to Dogwood

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA -- While usually most of state\'s best athletes head off this particular weekend in April to the prestigous Penn Relays to compete against some of the nation\'s best, many are staying put to compete at what is building up to a be a pretty big meet itself in Virginia with the Dogwood Track Classic, which will be held at the University of Virginia\'s Lannigan Field this Saturday. The meet management has been more than generous in allowing many teams to come and compete and it is paying off as each event seems to have at least over a dozen athletes entered who could classify as some of the state\'s best in those events. In the distance races especially, you can find a load of talent entered with some interesting matchups to look forward to.

The boys\' 800 will be one of the more interesting races of the day with the three top seeds of Jamestown senior Bryce Ruiz (1:55), Louisa County senior Steve Carlson (1:55.84), and Mills Godwin\'s Matt Wolak (1:56.30) entered. It is interesting because of the fact that Carlson and Wolak are well established at the 800 meter distance, while Ruiz has always been considered more of a long distance runner but has made believers out of many that he can run at the shorter distances with some brillant early season races. Last weekend, Carlson split a 1:55 leg on the 4x800 at Gus Lacy Track Classic and Wolak topped that with a 1:54 leg at the Lee-Davis Invitational. Ruiz has split 1:57 last month at the Raleigh Relays and his most recent performance he showed he does have a kick as he closed in a 62 last 400 to run a 4:14 1600 at the CNU Captain Classic. While it is the only event Ruiz is running at Dogwood, he won\'t be fresh as he is running the 3K at the Penn Relays on Friday and traveling back to Virginia for the 800 at Dogwood on Saturday. But Carlson and Wolak will most likely both be competiting in prior events in the meet. Carlson will perhaps be on the Louisa DMR or 4x800, while Wolak is the top entrant in the 1600.

And moving onto the 1600 as Wolak is the top entry in the event with a seed time of 4:16. Wolak will be facing off with a familar rival in Maggie Walker senior John Piersol who is has the second fastest seed time of 4:19.80. Piersol will hope to do well at Dogwood since next year he\'ll call Lannigan Field home as he heads of to the University of Virginia.

Piersol will have to double up though later in the afternoon in a hotly contested 3200 meter race. Matt Keally enters as the pre-race favorite as he comes in boasting a 8:59 PR, which he ran indoors. Keally won last year\'s race. Joining Keally and Piersol in the hunt of things will be juniors Kippy Keino of Fork Union and Daniel Kane of Louisa. Both runners have went sub 9:20 before and will be looking to better their times at Dogwood and possibly challenge Keally.

The race favorite in the girls\' 1600 meter race appears to Hickory\'s Jennifer Boyd, who was an All-American in the mile this past indoor season. She will be in a competitive race that includes sub 5:10 runner Shannon Saunders of Jefferson Forest as well as many other notable names such as Herndon\'s Kristin Hart, Warren County\'s Emily Harrison, Stonewall Jackson\'s Kristin Milot, and Atlee\'s Tiffany Cross to name a few in a deep field.

Spotsylvania sophomore Kurstin Nelms is the top seed in the 800 at 2:14 but will face some stiff competition. One runner to look out for is fast improving freshmen Shylan Bumbrey of James Monroe. She isn\'t well known because of the fact that she attends a small single A school, but she is began to make people take notice of her, especially after clocking a 2:18 at the Obie Calhoun Invitational last weekend.

The 3200 meter race for the girls may be just as interesting as the boys\' 800 meter race. The top seed is Emily Harrison as she is recently comming off a 11:13 performance 2 weeks ago. However coming in with the top personal best is Jennifer Boyd as she went sub 11 during the indoor season and will also be the favorite in this race as well. Along with Harrison, challenging Boyd will be Jefferson Forest\'s Kristin Saunders and Forest Park\'s Beth Fahey.

The sprints and hurdles also have fielded a very strong list of athletes set to compete. Patrick Henry\'s Sherrod Lewis will be the man to beat in the boys\' 100 and 200 meter dash as enters the meet with the fastest times out of any of the competitors with season bests of 10.98 and 21.86. Myron Canton of Phoebus is the only athlete entered in the 400 who has gone sub 50 in the open 400 (49.94) this season and will expect to come out of the race as the victor. Dwight Porter comes into the 110 meter hurdles at Dogwood with the third fastest time in the state (14.64) and his closest competition in the race will most likely be Heritage\'s (Lynchbyrg) Nelson Dawson who has a clocked a 14.86 this season. Rhe 300 meter hurdles might come down to a close finish between Armstrong\'s Marlon Smith and Julius Talley\'s Spotsylvania as Smith has dipped just under 40 seconds this season (39.94) with Talley just off of a sub 40 performance (40.09).

Like Lewis in the boys\' 100 and 200 meter dash, Amherst County senior Jenea Brown will be tough to beat in both events as she comes in after already posting some quick times early in the season with 12.25 and 24.94. It will be hard for anyone to keep up with Jamestown\'s Ashley Gore in the 400 as she will be running her first open 400 in an invite this season, but ran a 1:15 500 during indoors and has split 56-57\'s already on relays this season. In the 100 hurdles, Shaunte Barber of Meadowbrook, Malaika Pettes of Armstrong, and Sarah Woody of Oakton will be battling it out as they all look to better their season bests in the low 15\'s. Kellam\'s Karen Simon has the fastest time going into the 300 meter hurdles (46.19), but expect Bonnie Meekins of Oakton who has ran well as of late (46.60 season best) and a few others to be in the mix

While the majority of those competing will be focusing primarily on their individual events in hopes of getting some regional, state, and even national qualifying performances, there will be some outstanding relays in action as well. The girls\' 4x800 will be one hotly contested race as there are five relays entered that have already gone sub 10 this season. The top seed and also coming in with the state\'s fastest time of the season is Kellam as they clocked a 9:37.24 at the CNU Captain Classic. The Herndon, Midlothian, Phoebus, and Oakton 4x800 squads all went under 10 last weekend, so the will look to keep that momentum going. Especially watch out for Oakton though as they will be loading down their squad as they possess a 2:12 leg in Keira Carlstrom. Carlstrom, like Bryce Ruiz, will be making the trip back down from Penn Relays where she will be competing in the mile on Friday.

The field events will also be very deep as were the running events. Forest Park\'s Reynold Smith will try to pull off a double win in the long and triple as he is the top seed in both. Smith was a state champion in the triple jump during the indoor season.

Imani Moorman maybe the top performer though in the meet in the horizontal jumps as she is the top seed in the triple jump with a season best of 39-02.75. She will try to get as close to 40 feet as she can.

Bonnie Meekins seems to beginning to regain that top form she had back in January in the high jump where she cleared 5-10 to rank her as one of the nation\'s best. Last weekend at the Allen Johnson Invitational, she cleared 5-7.

While the top pole vaulter in the state, David Sullivan of Centreville is not present, a near perfect field has been assembled here in Charlottesville for the boys\' pole vault with nearly all of the 13+ feet vaulters in the state competing as Great Bridge\'s Daniel Garrett leads the way as he was runner-up to Sullivan at the indoor state meet. Likewise, the girls\' side in the pole vault will be very competitive despite Centreville\'s Alicia LaRoche missing as it is wide open who will be the winner. However, Prince George\'s Rhian Jenks recently cleared 11 feet.

Expect some big airtime for the shots and discuses once the throws get underway. The girls\' shot put contains a large group of 35+ feet throwers and on the boys\' side there is that same great number of 50+ feet throwers.