A total of 22 schools and over 750 athletes will be competing at North Stafford High School on Saturday for the Wolverine Invitational. The 11th annual event goes deep in its awards with the top 8 finishing individuals and members of top 4 placing relays receive medals. With a good mix of top athletes from Group AAA and Group AA schools in the Fredericksburg area as well as a sprinkle of squads from other parts of Northern Virginia, the Wolverine Invitational should produce some of the top performances of weekend in Virginia.
Michael Waller of Chancellor is the early season state leader in the 800 meter run at 1:58.60 and the returning Group AA state outdoor champion at 800 meters (1:56.06 800 last spring), but should be challenged at North Stafford to lower his state best time facing Stafford's Jake Brown and Catholic School state champion Michael Anderson of Bishop Ireton. Brown was an All-State performer and Northwest Region champion at 1000 meters this past indoor season.
J.R. Tucker's Nick Simmons and Colonial Forge's Jeremy Granderson are not only two of the state's best high jumpers, but happen to also be the top two seeds in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles at the Wolverine Invite. Both Simmons and Granderson are approaching times under 15 seconds in the 110 and under 40 seconds in the 300 hurdles. Granderson will not be high jumping this weekend, but the New Balance Indoor Nationals All-American Simmons will in a match-up with a familar rival for Granderson in Mountain View's Anthony Johnson, who cleared 6'6" last weekend at the Conn Madden Relays.
The Fredericksburg area's fastest two sprinters in Brooke Point's Roderque Gray and King George's Joseph Walton do not get the opportunity to race one another in championship season since Brooke Point is Group AAA and King George is Group AA. However, area track fans will get to enjoy a rare encounter between the two sub 11 second 100 meter dashers at the Wolverine Invite. Gray clocked the state's fastest time at 100 meters in this young outdoor season last Saturday at the Brian Watkins I-95 Invite with a 10.81 clocking. Gray is looking to bounce back from a disappointing end to his indoor season slowed by illness, while Walton is just starting his senior year of track after last competing and winning the Group AA state outdoor title in the 100 meter dash. Gray and Walton will face off twice at North Stafford as they are the top two entrants in the 200 meter dash also.
Two state champions are featured in the girls 1600 meter run with cross country state champ Hannah Lowery of Stafford and indoor 1000 meter dash champion Kimberley Ficenec. Saturday will be Ficenec's first major individual race since her improbable coming out-of-nowhere victory at the indoor season meet with a 2:54 1000 meter performance. Lowery is a more proven miler than Ficenec, but must not let Ficenec stay in the race late with her superior leg speed. Lowery and Ficenec will both be coming back in later events to potentially pull in two first place finishes as favorites in the 3200 (Lowery) and 800 (Ficenec).
South County senior Sarah Chandler ran a respectable time last week in the rarely contested 400 meter hurdles at the Conn-Madden Relays and this week will have the opportunity to run a top time in the 300 meter hurdles. Chandler had a great indoor season helping South County to a regional team title, a third place state finish, and swift relay times in the 4x200 (1:42) and 4x400 (3:54). The Group AAA state indoor long jump runner-up Chandler finally gets to compete in arguably her best event on Saturday in the 300 meter hurdles, which she has a personal best of 45 seconds in from last spring. Chandler will be in the long jump and triple jump with her equally talented teammate Loren Dyer having marks over 18 feet and 38 feet respectively.
The girls' triple jump will be a competitive event with the South County pair and 40 foot performer Amira Idris, who is the current state leader in the event. Idris can challenge for the Group AAA state title this spring with her personal best of 40'3" in the triple jump after being so dominant within the Northwest Region for the past year. While the clear-cut best in the jumps in her region, Idris has to contend with a speedy freshmen from Mountain View in Meshala Morton to be the region's best in the sprints. Morton at 12.34 and Idris at 12.39 are the top two seeds in the 100 meter dash as well as the 200 meter dash at the Wolverine Invite. Adding South County's Dyer makes for three girls in the fast section of the 200 meter dash with personal bests under 26 seconds.
The fierce competition will extend to the 400 meter dash with South County's Dyer and Felecia Majors boasting PR's under 57 seconds and Woodgrove's Audrey Houghton (57.35 400/2:16 800) looking to establish herself at her new school and classification of Group AA as one of the best in the 400 and 800. Majors is one of several versatile athletes at South County as she also excels in the pole vault as the top seed on Saturday with a 10'1" best in the event.