Dogwood Track Classic Preview

CHARLOTESVILLE, VA -- At one count there were 91 teams and around 1800 athletes entered for this year\'s Dogwood Track Classic. Those numbers may or may not have risen since then, but regardless, when a meet gathers that many teams and athletes, there is bound to be a day of track and field filled with outstanding performances as should be the case this Saturday at the University of Virginia\'s Lannigan field in Charlottesville. The meet kicks off bright and early with the ever popular morning sections of the 3200 meter runs at 8:30 AM. Queen Harrison, Rachel Butler, Kathy Howard, Ashley Early, Christi Harsha, Ashton Bishop, and Rachel Rose highlight the girls entered the meet. While Brandon Caleb, Sean Holston, Axel Mostrag, Alex Bowman, and Rashad Kelso are the big names among the boys on Saturday.

Woodbridge\'s Brittni Dixon is ranked second in the state currently in the long jump with a 18\'1\" season best, but will be hard pressed to win on Saturday if Miss Queen Harrison of Hermitage is on her \"A\" game with her 19\'1.25\" best. Gloucester\'s Jaleesa Osbourne has also jumped over 18 feet before as well as North Carolina\'s Christy Johnson. Over a dozen athletes are entered with marks 17 feet or better.

One of Virginia\'s top triple jumpers in Angela Jenkins, who has a personal best over 40 feet at 40\'2.75\", is strangely entered at a mark well below her best at 35\'6\". She was M.I.A. at the Nike Indoor Nationals as well after being scheduled to complete. If she is really back and ready to go, it would be pretty tough for anyone to beat her.

Nonetheless, Lee-Davis junior Rachel Butler has been jumping well this spring in the few chances she has gotten. At last weekend\'s Deep Run Invitational in wet conditions, Butler leaped to the state\'s second best mark at 38\'5.50\". J.R. Tucker freshmen Jasia Richardson also had a strong showing at the Deep Run Invite with a leap of 37\'2.25\" as she is also entered at Dogwood. Deep Run sophomore Ashley Orr has a best from indoors of 37\'7\".

It could be a Central Region 1-2-3 sweep if Jenkins is somehow not at top form, but Charlottesville\'s Rashanda James and Brooke Point\'s April Sinkler are no slouches either in the event. James actually has a personal best 38\'7.50\" from summer track, but only went 36\'8.50\" during the indoor season.

While Sinkler is competitive in the long jump and triple jump and is dominant in the events on the regional level, her bread-and-butter event that puts up as one of the state\'s best and a national caliber athlete is in the high jump. The Brooke Point junior currently owns the state lead in the event with a 5\'9\" clearance this spring and is favored to win on Saturday at Dogwood. However, Gate City junior Ashton Bishop, a Group A state champion in the event, has a respectable personal best clearance of 5\'6\" and will challenge Sinkler if she is not having a good day in the event. The meet record is 5\'8\" and could be broken by Sinkler.

Lee-Davis senior and defending Group AAA state champion Kathy Howard is the clear favorite in the shot put as she has thrown over 43 feet on several occassions during her high school career including a toss of 43\'1\" on Wednesday in a home quad meet. Robert E. Lee\'s Kristen Crawford (41\'4.50\") and Woodbridge\'s Ariene Jenkins (41\'4\") have both thrown over 40 feet in the past as Howard\'s two closest challengers this weekend.

The discus throw will not be as easy going for Howard to win as she will be encountering two of AA\'s best in Carley Morse of Liberty (Bealeton) and Geneva McCall of Bassett. Morse is currently ranked second in the state at 131\'9\", while McCall threw for 130\'1\" at last year\'s state meet. Howard has a season best of 123\'9\", but won last year\'s Dogwood Track Classic discus event with her personal best that still stands today at 131\'8\". She might need to rip another PR throw to take down Morse and McCall.

Western Albemarle senior Ashley Early has been vaulting better than ever as of late as it seems like virtually every weekend she is notching up her state record in the pole vault an inch more. A few more inches and she will be clearing 13 feet as her current best this year now stands at 12\'10\". Early is the defending Dogwood champ and meet record holder at 12\'3\". A solid field is assembled behind her with six more vaulters having cleared 10 feet or higher previously. St. Catherine\'s sophomore Carrie Wortham is coming off a great meet at Deep Run where she cleared a best height of 10\'3\" to beat Butler of Lee-Davis, who has the better PR at 10\'6\" still. They will battle for second place behind Early as well will Charlottesville junior Callie Hlavin (10\'3\"), who could be in the driver seat to take over the reigns in AA in the event when Early graduates this spring.

Four legit jumpers over 23 feet are entered in the long jump with All-American Brandon Caleb of Fork Union leading the way at 23\'6\". Liberty\'s Matthias Meyer was the state leader in the event for much of the indoor season after his performance at the Virginia Tech Invitational and is not far behind Caleb with a 23\'5\" best. Bassett\'s Marcus Muse (23\'3.50\") and North Carolina\'s Derrick Trusdale (23\'1\") also have strong opportunties to take the event. Caleb ranks second and Muse ranks fourth in the state currently.

The All-American Caleb also is one of the top competitors entered in the triple jump with a 46\'9.25\" best. However, Halifax County\'s David Anderson has the better mark this season at 45\'9.25\" and better all-time jump of 47\'5.50\" from this past indoor season.

Two 6\'8 jumpers will pair off in the high jump with Albemarle\'s Anthony Bryant and Hickory\'s Kevin Nichols. The Dogwood Track Classic will have two of the top three finishers from the AAA State Indoor Meet as Bryant was a state runner-up and Nichols finished third in the event. Nichols has gone 6\'6\" this season as has Brookville sophomore Ethan Nixon, while Bryant sits at 6\'4\" so far this spring.

The up and coming throwing star in Oscar Smith sophomore Frede Spellman is the favorite in the shot put with his 55\'8.75\" best. Spellam really came on strong during the indoor season with a fine showing at the state meet in taking state runner-up honors. Four other throwers over 50 feet will also join him on Saturday with Manchester\'s Ryan Startis (52\'8.50\"), Massaponax\'s Dominique Smith (50\'7.50\"), Hermitage\'s Marvin Edison (50\'4\"), and Lee-Davis\' Cody Mohn (50\'3.50\").

Spellman will try to make it two wins on the day in throws, but the discus throw victory will be no cakewalk with Massaponax senior Dominique Smith as he owns a personal best mark of 160\'3\", which ranks him fifth in the state currently.

The 3200 meter run for the girls should be a very interesting race to see how it plays out. Forest Park senior Stefanie Slekis is the top seed as she has ran close to under 11 minutes on a few occassions including a 11:02 at the Virginia Invitational indoors, but has yet to run a true 3200 this spring. Then there is Rachel Rose, the Albemarle junior who had Slekis and everyone else\'s number in cross country as she went on to become the AAA state champion. However, Rose took off the indoor season and while she had a solid double at the Gus Lacy Track Classic, Her winning time of 11:20 in the 3200 there will not cut it to win with this deep field. There is also an outsider in North Carolina\'s Marley Burns of Carolina Day who is entered with a 11:19 best. A total of 19 girls are entered with times under 12 minutes.

There is no true stud or standout favorite in the boys 3200 meter run as the race appears to be up for grabs for anyone to take. Will Massie of Western Albemarle is listed as the top seed and is a former AA state champion in the event as in 2005, he won the indoor title in a personal best time of 9:46. Another AA state champion is featured in the event in Nottoway\'s Skeeter Morris. The William & Mary bound senior ran 9:41 indoors in his state title victory. However, the Brentsville duo of Adam Henken and Nick Gehlsen showed that a repeat performance in outdoors will be tough for Morris as both beat him in the eight lap event at the Gus Lacy Track Classic and are featured here as well.

Culpeper County senior Devin Cornwall had a subpar indoor season considering the level of running he was enjoying throughout much of the cross country season as the state\'s top ranked runner at one point. Perhaps the fresh air of spring and outdoor track will rejuvenate the Virginia Tech bound distance runner as he did post his top time during the indoor season for 3200 meters at his district meet which was held outdoors in a time of 9:35. Cornwall is the top returnee from last year\'s race at Dogwood as he ran his personal best of 9:33 here.

Others to look out for in the race include Fork Union\'s Szymon Rola who is making the jump up from his traditional middle distance events, North Stafford\'s Pat Quinn who made All-State honors in AAA for 3200 meters, and Jamestown\'s Andrew Mearns who is carrying the momentum from a big 1600 PR of 4:25 at Peninsual Relays two weekends ago.

The distance medley relays have high participation in both the boys and girls entries with 30 boys teams and 22 girls teams. Depending on how fresh coaches want their athletes to be for their individual events will determine the quality of the teams entered. Western Branch is listed as the top girls seed as they could potentially have a very strong team with the likes of Kenya Jones and Callen Powers comprising that relay team. Jones recently committed to Hampton University and has ran 2:15 for 800 meters and under 3 minutes for 1000 meters. Second seed Kellam could be running Ashley Kukura and third seed Woodbridge could be using Nike Indoor Nationals freshmen mile champion Michelle Britto.

It remains to be seen whether or not Fork Union will be loading up their national runner-up DMR that nearly gave Virginia a come from behind national champion in the event with a 4:13 1600 meter anchor leg from Axel Mostrag. Teams behind Fork Union include a possible Thomas Porter anchored Mountain View as Porter had one of the fastest freshmen mile times in the country this past indoor season. The Battlefield boys also have a legit DMR as shown by their strong run at Nike Indoor Nationals and great anchor leg from Jason Driscoll.

There will be only be final sections run of the 100 meter dash and 100 and 100 meter hurdles at Dogwood. Marie Fields of James Monroe is the top seed with 12.11 best. Fields is the defending Group A state champion in the event and was a state runner-up at Group AA the year before. Woodbridge\'s Brittni Dixon is top returnee after finishing third last year with a time of 12.64, but Freedom freshmen Assante Johnson has looked great this spring as she holds a victory over Dixon this season at the VA Runner Invitational.

The boys 100 meter dash will feature Robert E. Lee junior Sean Holston, who won the AAA state title indoors for 300 meters and earned All-American honors in the 60 meter dash. Holston ran a swift 10.74 in last weekend\'s Allen Johnson Invitational in his first race at 100 meters this spring.

Three of the top five finishers form last year are back with Patrick Henry\'s DJ Thomas (2nd, 11.08), Oscar Smith\'s Ervin Riddick (3rd, 11.15), and Halifax County\'s Patrick Terry (11.19). Terry got the benefit of a friendly tailwind to run his top seed time of 10.69, while Riddick was the state runner-up for 55 meters indoors. Thomas ran under 11 seconds for the first time with a 10.93 clocking, but was defeated there by Nottoway\'s Justin Stith, who brings his 10.83 best into Dogwood for a field that is loaded with sprinters under 11 seconds.

North Carolina\'s Jasmine Isley of Charlotte Latin is the top seed in the 100 meter hurdles at 14.80 as Lee-Davis junior Rachel Butler might be the best bet among Virginians to knock her off as she recently posted a 15.27 F.A.T. time in a home quad meet and has to compete in any hurdle event at an invitiational this spring.

State leader Mike Garel of Brooke Point is featured in the boys 110 meter hurdles with his best time of 14.36. While his time was posted in a March home invitational, Garel has posted several strong times since then with a 14.64 clocking at the VA Runner Invitational and 14.47 clocking in the rain-soakened and fierce-winded Wolverine Invitational. Garel is also the top returnee from last year\'s meet as he placed second a year ago with a time of 15.01.

Garel\'s greatest challengers appear to be from the AA ranks with 5 meter indoor state champion Ethan Nixon of Brookville and Les Bradley of Heritage (Lynchburg). Nixon finished fourth last year as a freshmen and has ran 14.75 this spring. Bradley is the defending Group AA state champion in this event from last outdoor season as he owns a best of 14.46. Bradley does not participate in the indoor season and this will be his first invitational this spring. However, the winner in the event stands a good chance in staying local with Fork Union star Brandon Caleb. Caleb is coming off a 14.61 win at this past weekend\'s Volunteer Track Classic.

While there are no entries under ten minutes in the girls 4x800 meter relay as the distance medley earlier and being in close proximity to the girls 1600 meter run take away from the quality of the field, it should be an exciting and close race regardless with roughly 20 teams entered with times in a 25 second range from 10:05 to 10:20.

The boys 4x800 meter relay could shape up to be a barn burner between E.C. Glass (8:01) and Fort Defiance (8:03) if both teams load up their relays with the Hilltoppers possessing Carlton Phipps and Patterson Wilhelm and the Indians producing the three upperclassmen and a freshmen show with Matt Bailey, Daniel Alonso, Derek Hizer, and Alex Ott. However, both Wilhelm and Bailey are entered in the 1600 meter run less than 2 hours following the 4x800 meter relay, so their legs may be saved for that race.

E.C. Glass may like to defend their 8:01 at Dogwood from a year ago though. Also Fort Defiance could be motivated by the matchup not only with E.C. Glass, but AA rival Jefferson Forest entered as the fourth seed at 8:15.24. Jefferson Forest won the 4x800 state title last spring in outdoors with a two second victory over Fort Defiance at 8:01.

While the importance of the 4x200 meter relay at Dogwood may not be as important to other teams since it is not a state meet contested event outdoors as it is in indoors, several top teams may be wanting to see what they can do on an outdoor 400 meter track versus a 200 meter or shorter indoor track that they were accustomed to running the sprint relay on in the winter.

Woodbridge won both boys and girls races last year and are entered as well this year. Deep Run had the fastest time during indoor season among the girls entries at 1:45.55, but are entered here at 1:50 with possibly some form of a \"B\" team. Potomac Senior also went under 1:50 with a 1:49.93 clocking indoors. Top seed Louisa County had a 1:50 squad indoors.

Osbourn (1:32.33), North Stafford (1:32.58), and Charlottesville (1:32.65) have all posted solid 4x200 meter relay teams this spring in early season action and should be three to look out for. If Oscar Smith throws in Ervin Riddick and Fork Union puts Brandon Caleb on a leg, those two relay teams could be competitive as well.

The girls 1600 meter run is a loaded event with the race favorite looking to be Brooke Point junior Brittany Copeland with her 5:04 best from the indoor season. Copeland clocked the time in a AAA state runner-up performance this past March. Forest Park\'s Slekis has ran under five minutes and is the top seed, but the 3200 meter run in the morning should take a little something out of her legs. Oakton\'s Kayley Byrne is coming off a 2:17 PR run in the 800 meter run at the Allen Johnson Invite and ran under 11:20 for 3200 meters earlier in the season as well and looks to be Copeland\'s toughest competitor here. Though watch out for North Carolina\'s Callan Fike out of Athens Drive in Raleigh. She has ran a time of 5:06 this spring. It could be a three way battle between Copeland, Fike, and Byrnes and add in Slekis if she can pull off the tough double.

The fourth of July is going to come a few months early with the fireworks that are going to be set off in one of the featured races of the day and it is only fitting that the 1600 meter run is dedicated in the memorial of Kelly Watt, an Albemarle High School athlete who passed following a heat stroke on a training run last summer. These boys will be running all out not only to take down the meet record of 4:15.39 set by Daniel Howard, but for Kelly as well.

This race pits together the state\'s two best milers in Fork Union junior Axel Mostrag (4:14 PR) and Hermitage senior Alex Bowman (4:16 PR). Mostrag is the top returnee from last year\'s race where he finished second as a sophomore and Bowman had an outstanding run here two years ago where he clocked a time of 4:23 as a sophomore. Mostrag has gone undefeated against Virginia competition all year and his only defeat came to the nation\'s best in Karjuan Williams of North Carolina at Nike Indoor Nationals in the 800 meter run. Bowman may be his toughest in-state challenge yet as the AAA state indoor 1600 meter champion would like nothing better than to win on his future home track at UVA.

E.C. Glass senior Patterson Wilhelm is also featured in the race and should add the depth of a field that could see a few more runners joing Mostrag, Bowman, and Wilhelm under 4:20 in the race.

Charlotte Latin of North Carolina looks to run away with the girls 4x100 meter relay as they are one of the top teams in the Tarheel state with their 46.80 best. They unfortunately will not face the best the state has to offer in the event with those teams competing at Penn Relays this weekend, but Brooke Point (49.82) and Deep Run (50.02) have formidable squads.

Appomattox County (43.29) and Fork Union (42.29) look to tie up again in the 4x100 meter relay as the Appomattox County boys have the upper hand now after winning at Fork Union\'s Gus Lacy Track Classic several weekends ago. Fork Union posted the second fastest time in the state at Bradford Relays earlier in the season. However, the two teams find themselves seeded eighth and tenth respectively in the event, so either some of these teams ahead of them have not shown their full potential yet or are telling some fibs.

The 400 meter dash for the girls will be a showdown with one of North Carolina\'s top quarter milers in Christy Johnson of Athens Drive (56.60) and Rachel Butler of Lee-Davis (56.86). Butler split a 56 indoors at the Liberty Invite in the 4x400 meter relay, which was moved indoors due to inclement weather.

Albemarle\'s Christopher Best will look to be the hometown hero and keep the 400 meter race title in Charlottesville as he is the top seed, but actually only has an open 400 meter PR of 51.38 from his Gus Lacy win.

Rustburg\'s Charles Ramey has ran a legit time under 51 seconds this spring of 50.91 at the Appomattox Invitational, while J.R. Tucker\'s Marcus Harper owns a 50.30 best from last spring.

Finally Queen Harrison will get a chance to run the 300 meter hurdles this spring in a big meet after being washed out from a revival of the 2004 state meet battle between herself and Tierra Brown of Hampton at last weekend\'s Deep Run Invite. Harrison has a personal best of 43.17 and with the competition getting better in the state with Nicole Saunders of Menchville running under 42 seconds in the event and a US #1 400 meter hurdle time yesterday at Penn Relays, Harrison will need to start to step it up here to keep up.

Mike Garel will be hoping to make the 300 meter hurdles the second win of his day as he has the top time coming in at 39.79, but will be hard pressed with the field assembled in the hurdle event. Cox\'s Curtis Mayfield, a winner at the CNU Captains Classic, has ran 40.05 this season and Allen Johnson Invite winner Jake O\'Connor of Douglas Freeman has a 40.20 best. However, the athlete with the fastest PR in the field is Les Bradley of Heritage, who posted a 39.23 clocking at his regional meet last spring. Ethan Nixon of Brookville and Brandon Caleb of Fork Union also are outside threats though are better suited for the 110 meter hurdles.

Brooke Point could certainly put together a strong sprint medley relay with several options on their 800 meter anchor leg in either Jarryd Mushatt-Valrie (2:19 800) or Brittany Copeland. Mushatt-Valrie could also run a solid 400 leg with her 58.71 personal best. Could Miss Katie Doswell be making a guest appearance of the sprint medley relay for St. Catherine\'s? Regardless if she does, the St. Catherine\'s girls showed they can be competitive without her in relay action as they ran a 9:36 4x800 at Penn without their star runner on Thursday. E.C. Glass with Sallie Ford on anchor and Oakton with Kayley Byrne or Meredith Tighe as their 800 meter leg also could be a factor in this race.

No Carlton Phipps entered in the 400 or 800 meter races. Hmm. There could be another gigantic matchup possibly brewing for Axel Mostrag in the sprint medley relay as the Fork Union boys will most likely use their 1:53 800 meter runner Mostrag as the probable anchor against a fresh Phipps for E.C. Glass if being used with his 1:53 personal best as well.

Another two lap showdwon will be found in the girls 800 meter run with defending AAA state champion Christi Harsha of Douglas Freeman, defending Group A state champion Ashton Bishop of Gate City, and defending Eastern Region champion Kenya Jones of Western Branch all featured in this event with personal best times of 2:15 or faster.

Harsha has the fastest time this spring among the entries with her 2:17.16 run to finish second at last weekend\'s Allen Johnson Invitational. Harsha (2:15.95) was second here a year ago and is the top returnee. This will be Bishop\'s first race outside of Southwest Virginia as she also is entered in the Southern Track Classic as well in this event, so this meet will be good exposure for her in races to come. Jones has yet to get an 800 meter time in this spring but is coming off a great indoor season which included a third place finishing time of 2:58 at the AAA State Meet 1000 meter run. Jones finished fifth (2:17.21) in last year\'s race and is the number two returnee behind Harsha.

Watch out again for the relatively out of state unknown in Callan Fike from Raleigh, North Carolina as she is entered in at 2:18. Also, Woodbridge freshmen and Nike Indoor Nationals freshmen mile winner Michelle Britto is entered as well.

Hermitage\'s Alex Bowman will be doubling back from his battle in the 800 meter run as the top seed. Bowman proved his capability of doubling during the indoor season as he nearly won another state title in the 1000 meter run after his 1600 meter run, despite running the majority of the race without one of his racing spikes.

It will take a great race from next top seeds to knock off Bowman (1:56.91 PR) even with tired legs from the 1600 earlier. Tucker\'s Tanner Seese was a big part of a fairly surprising 8:11 effort from his 4x800 meter relay at last weekend\'s Deep Run Invite when they figured to be written off this year after the graduations of Thuom Mathaing and Michael Chapa. Gus Lacy Track Classic 800 meter winner Zach Williams of Forest Park has one of the best shots to win outside of Bowman. Fork Union\'s Jamie Reichlen will be pulling another tough 400 and 800 meter double, but has shown he can do it in the past. AA half milers Derek Hizer of Fort Defiance and Kyle Resendes of Jeferson Forest also figure to be in the mix.

Rachel Butler of Lee-Davis has the fastest time this season among the entries at 25.75 as she will to attempt to win both the 400 and 200 meter dashes, but defending Group A state champion Marie Fields of James Monroe is also entered and owns a 25.16 best. However, Field\'s only time to her credit this season is a 26.95 win in poor conditions at the Wolverine Invitational. The North Carolina girls of Christy Johnson (25.10) and Charlotte Latin (25.20) must not be overlooked.

The talent in the field does not stop there as Potomac Senior\'s Yvonne Amegashie (25.76 season best) and Hermitage\'s Queen Harrison also are more than capable in taking the win. Harrison actually has the fastest all-time best among all participants as she clocked a swift 24.67 as a sophomore. This could be a photo finish in the 200 meter dash.

The sprint event of the day belongs to the 200 meter dash as the 300 meter indoor state champions from AAA and AA go to war with one another with 60 meter dash All-American Sean Holston of Robert E. Lee and 200 meter dash All-American Rashad Kelso of Appomattox. Holston has the faster time right now at 21.57 from Radford with Kelso\'s 21.73 coming from last June\'s AA State Meet. However, Kelso ran faster and faired better than Holston at Nike Indoor Nationals in the event, which he went onto earn All-American honors in.

The E.C. Glass girls have the top time this spring among all relays in the 4x400 at 4:06.20, but Deep Run ran 4:03.78 during the indoor season and St. Catherine\'s and Oakton both ran 4:06 indoors also.

Bethel is the favorite and top seed in the final event of the day in the boys 4x400 meter relay with their 3:22.56 clocking at last weekend\'s Tidewater Invitational. While their female counterparts will be competing in the Championships of America finals in a roaring crowd of thousands, these Bruins could get their own glory as well in a Dogwood title. Look out for a possible rematch from the Appomattox Invitational 400 meter dash with Rashad Kelso of Appomattox County and Carlton Phipps of E.C. Glass as probable anchors for both of their teams, which are seeded as two of the top four teams.

The depth of this article showcases the depth of this meet. Enjoy your Saturday at the Dogwood Track Classic!