Distance relays, Bowman, and McCoy best nation\'s best

LANDOVER, MD -- The state of Virginia surely made it\'s presence felt at the fifth annual Nike Indoor Championships, held at the Prince George County\'s Sports and Learning Complex. Over the two day contested national meet, seven national titles and dozens of All-American medals were brought home by Virginians.

A familiar strength for the state of Virginia on the national scene in track and field was found in the distance events and in particular, the boys\' distance relays. Virginians swept all three distance relays (4xmile, Distance Medley, and 4x800) as the squads from West Springfield and Midlothian teamed up to have exceptional performances.

Saturday afternoon, the Trojans from Midlothian won the 4xmile relay in a time of 18:09.45 with relay members Brandon Miles (4:31), Billy Berlin (4:31), Taylor Matthews (4:37), and Ryan Witt (4:28). Saturday night, the Spartans from West Springfield won the national title in the distance medley relay (10:22.15) with a 4:17 1600 meter anchor leg from Jeff Day and strong legs from John Cook (3:11 1200m), Joe McMahon (51 sec 400m), and Steve Tobin (2:00.9 800m). On Sunday, in the highly anticipated and loaded 4x800 meter relay race, both squads came through with impressive performances. West Springfield shattered the meet record in a winning time of 7:50.25 with the addition of Tim Kwak, and members of the winning distance medley relay team in McMahon, Cook, and Day. Day had yet another strong anchor leg for the Spartans with a 1:54.9 split to seal the national title win. Midlothian\'s 4x800 meter relay, running with only two members of their \"A\" team, managed to pull out a surprising thid place finish (7:55.08) with Andrew Baker, Miles, Berlin, and Matthews.

Three other All-American honors came out of the distance relays. The Thomas Jefferson boys finished top six in both the 4xmile relay (6th, 18:28.07) and distance medley relay (3rd, 10:31.01) to show why along with West Springfield and Midlothian, they are considered to have one of the finest distance programs in the state. Another great feat was accomplished in the distance medley relay with three Northern Region squads earning All-American honors as Oakton (4th, 10:31.22) joined West Springfield and Thomas Jefferson on the podium for the event.

Continuing with the successful meet for Northern Region distance runners, Chantilly\'s Brad Siragusa became a national champion with his victory in the freshmen mile run with a stellar clocking of 4:28.98. It was the second consecutive year a Virginian has won the event as Denbigh sophomore Derrick Robbins won the event last spring at the oudoor national meet, the adidas Outdoor Championships. Coach Gilchrist at Chantilly has to be feeling good about the direction his program is going in that for the next few years he gets to work with two All-American athletes with not only Siragusa, but Kristina Trevino as well as Trevino earned All-American honors with a sixth place finish in the girls\' freshmen mile run (5:24.43).

Going into her first true competitive mile race ever, many were not sure what to expect of AA state champion Sarah Bowman of Fauquier as she entered a field that included the likes of sub 4:50 miler Megan Kaltenbach and other top milers in the nation. However, it only took this one race for Bowman to show that she belongs to be ranked among the nation\'s best. The race went out relatively conservative as the field went through the first half mile in 2:31. At that point in the race, Bowman appeared to be out of it as she sat roughly in sixth place. Then with 400 meters left in the race, Bowman made an incredible surge that overwhelmed the entire field as she firmly moved out into the lead and began to break away with the field. Her sub 33 second seventh lap carried her over into the bell lap as she held off any challengers to come away with her first national title in a time of 4:49.67. Her time is the nation\'s fastest clocking for the year.

Virginia\'s other top miler, on the male side that is, Thomas Dale senior Alex Tatu raced up against one of the strongest mile fields every assembled for a high school indoor track meet. The race featured the likes of two-time defending champion Bobby Curtis of Kentucky and cast of other legit sub 4:20 milers this season. Curtis is notorious for his closing speed, which has helped him to win his past two national titles. Ironically, his two victims were Virginians as Curtis sprinted past Bobby Lockhart (formerly of John Handley High School, now at the University of Wisconsin) in his first national title in 2001, and Curtis did an almost identical last second leaning win over Tatu in last year\'s race to repeat. However, Curtis did not save the ending heroics till the last seconds this year. Oregon\'s Michael McGrath and fellow Oregon runner Joquain Chapa pushed the pace early on as the two went through the half mile in 2:03. After Chapa faded off the quick early pace shortly thereafter, McGrath still maintained the lead, but Tatu followed by Curtis had significantly closed the gap in the last half of the race. Heading into the bell lap, Tatu made a move to take the lead from McGrath as he came up on his side, but Tatu\'s move was countered by not McGrath, but Curtis instead. Curtis matched Tatu\'s move to catch McGrath and made a move that was more decisive and stronger than Tatu\'s as the two-time champion bolted to the lead on the bell lap. Curtis unleashed a furious kick in the final 200 meters that easily put away McGrath and Tatu en route to his third consecutive national title at 4:10.20. McGrath managed to still give Curtis a fight the last lap to take runner-up honors at 4:10.70. Tatu closed well following behind Curtis and McGrath to run a personal best time of 4:11.72 to finish third overall and earn All-Americans honors for the second year in a row.

While Nicole Blood of Saratoga Springs (NY) ran away with the win from the gun in the girls\' two mile run with her winning time of 10:27.61, two Virginians finished among the top six in the race to come away with All-American honors. AAA state champion Jennifer Boyd had a gutsy run in managing to hold on from a hard early pace the field went at chasing after Blood to finish fourth overall in the race with a respectable time of 10:51.97. Boyd, who will be headed to North Carolina State University next fall, earned All-American honors for the first time as a senior.

Martinsville\'s Anna Chase will not have to wait as long to earn All-American honors as the sensational freshman finished sixth in the race with a breakthrough time of 11:00.14. Much attention was given prior to the race to home schooled Katie Albright of North Carolina as the top rising freshmen star in the nation as Albright won the freshmen and sophomore girls\' race at Foot Locker South cross country regional meet in a time which would have won have the seeded race. Chase finished second to Albright in that November race and by a good margin, so Chase defeating Albright (8th, 11:09.61) at Nike showed the huge strides of improvement Chase has made since then.

Addition to the collection of medals won by West Springfield athletes with their two winning distance relays, Huma Husain earn All-American honors with her strong sixth place finishing time of 2:16.53 in the 800 meter run.

Virginia\'s top two 4x800 meter relays on the female side finally got a chance to race off as AAA state champion Kellam and AA state champion Western Albemarle both raced off in a stacked fast heat in Maryland. Kellam ended up coming out on top with a third place finishing time of 9:26.29 as Western Albemarle finished fifth at 9:31.73. Nonetheless, putting all in-state rivalries aside as shown by the great comradery displayed between the West Springfield and Midlothian boys throughout the meet as each team reached the All-American podium twice at NIC, having two teams in Kellam and Western Albemarle bring home All-American honors back to the state is a great accomplishment for the two individual teams as well as the state they represented excellently.

While Kellam snabbed All-American honors on Sunday with the 4x800 meter relay, they had already had already collected four medals the night before with a strong showing in the distance medley relay with their fifth place finishing time of 12:21.72. Just an impressive was the Forest Park girls taking the final All-American spot of sixth in the event by winning the slow section of the distance medley relay in a time of 12:27.94.

Accomplishments and honors won by Virginians was not limited to just distance events as nearly every area of events had at least one Virginian placing among the nation\'s six finest.

William Fleming senior Ryan McCoy led a handful of amazing performances by field event stars from Virginia. McCoy came into this weekend\'s triple jump contest with lots of pressure considering he had the nation\'s leading mark coming and was the overwhelming favorite coming in. McCoy proved he is not one to cave under pressure as the AA state champion came through in a big way. McCoy was the early leader in the event with a leap of 48-1.25 on his first try. However, a challenger quickly emerged in the form of Michael Whitehead of Pennyslvania who topped McCoy\'s leap with one of his own at 48-2.75. Going into his final attempt in the final round, McCoy had still yet to top Whitehead\'s best. With the pressure on to either choke or win the nation title, McCoy chose the latter route as his final jump of 48-3.50 gave him the nail-bitting win over Whitehead. Excluding Siragusa\'s win in the freshmen mile, McCoy was the sole individual national champion winner from the state of Virginia. Quite an honor to have abtained for the William Fleming jumper.

Much like McCoy, James Robinson senior Steve Huntzinger had to deal with the same pressures of being billed as the pre-meet favorite as Huntzinger came in the nation\'s best throw in the shot put (63-7). It initially appeared that no one would be able to take down Huntzinger as his second throw of 61-1.50 placed him firmly in the lead. However, an unknown Joshua Fryman of Kentucky made himself known in hurling a toss of 64-5 to defeat Huntzinger for the national title. While Huntzinger may have been somewhat disappointed with a runner-up finish in regards to his hopes of winning a national title, his performances was outstanding nonetheless and exemplified what has been an excellent indoor campaign for the built thrower from Fairfax.

When most people on the nation scene and even on the state scene for track and field hear the school Thomas Dale, they immediately think of the All-American miler Alex Tatu. However, after what long jumper Dennis Boone did this past weekend in Landover, people sure enough better start mentioning his name along with Tatu\'s. Merely a sophomore, Boone, got his first taste of what it is like to be an All-American after his breakthrough performance in the long jump at the Nike event. Boone, who was a state runner-up in the event this past indoor season and had a previous best of 22-10.50 coming into the contest, shocked many including himself as he leaped to amazing national runner-up finish with a mark of 23-10.25. The leap nearly eclipsed his previous best by a remarkable full foot and earned him All-American honors with the nation\'s second best mark for the season. With this year\'s national champion, Michael Morrison of New Jersey (24-0.75) graduating, the door is wide open for Boone in the next two years to follow up with a national title of his own.

New Jersey\'s Michael Morrison was also a national champion in another field event where many Virginians excelled at as Morrison nearly broke the national record in the high jump with his clearance of 7-4.25. A trio of Virginians earned All-American honors as AA state champion Adam Linkenauger (3rd, 6-10.75), and Colonial Forge brothers Jerome Miller (4th, 6-8.75) and Jason Miller (5th, 6-6.75) made for a clear dominance of state superiority of Virginia in this vertical leaping event.

Also grabbing All-American honors out of the field events on the boys\' side was Reynold Smith of Forest Park with his sixth place finish (47-3) in the triple jump.

On the girls\' side of the coin in the field events, two individuals from Virginia were able to prove they are among the nation\'s best. Gar-Field\'s Tiffany Evans certainly proved herself in the shot put. The AAA state champion Evans, finished fourth in the field with a throw of 44-10.75.

Birthday girl Yvette Lewis of Menchville, who had her 18th birthday on Sunday at the meet, earned herself three birthday gifts in the form of two All-American medals and one national title. The multi-event star earned All-American honors in both the long jump (5th, 18-6) and triple jump (4th, 40-7) and was a key member of the national championship winning 4x55 meter shuttle hurdle relay squad from Mencvhille (33.75).

Menchville\'s win in the shuttle hurdle relay early Saturday afternoon set the tone for other Eastern Region relay squads to step it up against the nation\'s best and that they did. In the sprint medley relay held late Saturday Night, familiar foes Western Branch and Bethel battled it out in a tightly contested race. While Eleanor Roosevelt of Maryland ran away with the win (4:03.74) early on in the race, the race for second was not decided till near the finish line. On the final leg, the 800 meter portion of the relay, a fast closing Leslie Treherne of Western Branch overtook Charisse Bullock of Bethel right before the line to give Western Branch (4:08.02) runner-up honors over Bethel (4:08.76) in third as the two teams both came away with All-American honors in the exciting relay event.

On Sunday, in a rematch between the two Eastern Region powers in the 4x200 meter relay, it was Bethel (3rd, 1:42.51) getting the better of Western Branch (4th, 1:43.38) the second time around. The Lady Bruins closed out an impressive weekend of relay action as they went three for three in earning All-American honors with their 4x400 meter relay taking a fourth place finishing time of 3:55.54.

Two vital members of the Western Branch\'s All-American relay, Treherne and Marquita Allen, also earned individual honors for themselves as Treherne (4th, 56.85) and Allen (6th, 58.12) were part of a trio of Virginians placing in the 400 meter run. The Virginian leading that group was none other than 500 meter state champion Faraign Giles who had an exceptional race in the finals to pull out a runner-up finish (56.02) to defending champion Tiandra Ponteen of Maryland (55.00).

As for the boys\' sprints, Virginia had some viable representation by two indiviuals and one relay team. In the 60 meter hurdles, AAA state champion in the 55 meter hurdles, Terry Thornton of Petersburg made good use of yet another falling finish to get across the line as quickest as possible. At the AAA State Meet, Thornton defeated Lake Braddock\'s Craig Gallimore thanks to falling across the line after clipping the last hurdle. Coincidentally, yet another similar fall in semi-finals helped Thornton advance onto the finals of the 60 meter hurdles at Nike. In the finals, Thornton proved there was no fallacy that he indeed belonged in the finals as he earned All-American honors with a fifth place clocking of 8.01.

George Marshall\'s Anthony Weaver had a breakthrough performance in the 400 meter dash as he left the meet on Sunday as an All-American with his 49.97 clocking to garner him a fifth place finish.

The nation\'s leader at 55 meters and a state champion at the distance as well, Potomac\'s Joe Robinson earned All-American honors for the first time with a fifth place finish in a hotly contested 60 meter dash (6.86).

Westfield took full advantage of their strong hurdler depth to compete in the 4x55 meter shuttle hurdle relay and compete well as they took All-American honors as they finished sixth overall (31.32) in the rarely contested event.