RICHMOND, VA -- No one in the state of Virginia puts on a high school track and field meet like Southern Track Classic meet director Dan Ward. The King\'s Fork Principal has managed and run off Virginia\'s Southern Track Classic ever since its inception in 1999 and has continued to prove itself every year since then as the top meet for high school track and field in the state of Virginia. After a hiatus in 2004 and return in 2005 to a new venue at the University of Richmond, the 2006 edition of the Southern Track Classic will be contested this Friday evening, May 12th at the third venue in the meet\'s history. The meet will be held at one of the top track and field facilities in the state found at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond. The majority of the state\'s best athletes are entered in the meet as well as some national caliber competition making its way into the meet. High school 400 meter national record holder Francena McCorory of Bethel, Arcadia mile top 3 finishers Dan Roberts of Colorado and Rob Sorrell of Tennessee, US #1 400 meter hurdler Nicole Saunders of Menchville, and national champions Charles Clark of Bayside and Katie Doswell of St. Catherine\'s are just some of the big names who will be headlining the event. Field events will start at 5:00 PM on Friday night, while running events commence at 6:40 PM.
The least competitive events at Southern Track as far as having an easy determination of the probable winners are the girls 100, 200, and 400 meter dashes. The reason why is Francena McCorory. During the indoor season, the Bethel senior set national records for 300 and 400 meter meters, while also winning three individual state titles and a national championship in 400 meter national record race. McCorory has been virtually unbeaten against Virginia competition over the years, but one of her biggest scares came in this very meet last year as the unsung challenger Patrice Potts of Brunswick ran even with McCorory to the line in the 100 meter dash. While the finish line camera showed McCorory as the winner, some looking at even the finish lynx film could have sworn it was Potts who was the winner. McCorory will have to have a huge off day for anyone to give her a serious challenge this year though. She is after all the defending champion in the 100 and 200 meter dash and holds the meet record in both events.
Riverdale Baptist of Maryland\'s Krystin Lawson and Stonewall Jackson\'s Thelma Breezealt have put up some outstanding times this spring in the 100 and 200 meter dash as Lawson has best times of 12.00 in the 100 and 24.90 in the 200 meter dash, while Breezealt is the third seed at 12.07 in the 100 meter dash and is in the second position with a 24.76 clocking this spring.
Daniel Roberts of Colorado and Rob Sorrell of Tennessee came to Richmond for a fast mile and they are going to get one with the two of them facing off for the second time this season after their second and third place finishes at California\'s Arcadia Invite in early April. Add in some Virginia top distance studs including Alex Bowman of Hermitage, Abe Dagnachew of Herndon, and Griff Graves of Abingdon, this could be one of the hottest races of the night. Unfortunately, Virginia\'s top miler in Axel Mostrag of Fork Union will not be in attendance, but this race should be exciting to watch nonetheless. Bowman battled it out with Mostrag over 1600 meters at the Dogwood Track Classic where Bowman finished second in a time of 4:14 to Mostrag after leading through 1400 meters. Dagnachew recently posted an excellent 1200 leg at Penn Relays for Herndon with a 3:05 split and has ran well under 4:20 before. Group AA\'s state indoor champion for 1600 meters and cross country, Abingdon sophomore Griff Graves is coming off a 9:13 state leading 3200 meter performance in Illinois two weekends ago. Graves has ran a time of 4:18 this spring.
A race that many will keep an eye on is the girls 300 meter hurdles at Southern Track with two of the state\'s top hurdlers facing off in Menchville junior Nicole Saunders and Hermitage senior Queen Harrison. Saunders has really emerged as a national caliber hurdler this spring after only running around 47 seconds in the 300 meter hurdles last spring. She made a big statement at the Peninsula Relays when she ran a time of 41.39, which ranks herself as one of the fastest Virginians in the event all-time. Saunders then went onto finish second at the Penn Relays in the 400 meter hurdles as she was the top finishing American in the event, while also posting the fastest time in the nation this spring at 59.95.
Meanwhile, Harrison has been one of the state\'s best hurdlers over the last three years and has bounced back nicely this spring after suffering a season ending broken collar bone at her district meet last May in a 300 meter hurdles race. In fact, Harrison ran her fastest time ever in the event at the Dogwood Track Classic two weekends ago with a time of 42.15. Saunders has already taken down one of the best hurdles in 2004 state champion Tierra Brown of Hampton. Her next hurdle will be if she can beat Harrison. Harrison did win last year\'s race in a meet record time of 43.17.
Two national champions from Virginia in Charles Clark of Bayside and Katie Doswell of St. Catherine\'s certainly do not shy away from competition as they find themselves stuck in arguably the two deepest events in the meet with the boys 400 meter dash and girls 800 meter run.
Clark made a miraculous quick comeback in the indoor season as he suffered a serious hamstring injury at the Virginia Tech Invitational in late January to only turn around and win the state title in the 55 meter dash, finish as a national runner-up in the Nike Indoor Nationals 60 meter dash, and win the national title in the 200 meter dash at NIN. This outdoor season, Clark\'s racing outings have been rare, but they include a state leading 100 meter time of 10.65. However, the Bayside senior appears to be focusing his attention on the 400 meter dash this spring as he is entered in the event here at Southern Track. Clark has a personal best of 48.07, but did not look as strong in a 49 second win at this past weekend\'s Landstown Invitational. He will certainly have to pull out another unexpected race on Friday night as he did at the AAA State Indoor Meet and Nike Indoor Nationals with the field assembled for the 400 meter event.
The race features Randy Lee of Maryland\'s Archbishop Carroll with a personal best of 47.39 as the top seed. Appomattox County\'s Rashad Kelso is also entered as he has definitely been one of Virginia\'s most dominant sprinters at 200 and 400 meters this spring including a 47.59 clocking for the event. Dematha\'s Jeremy Samuels is also a threat with his 48.26 best.
Winning will not be any easier for Doswell in the 800 meter race with virtually all of the state\'s best half milers entered for Friday\'s race. Doswell put together an outstanding indoor season after falling off last spring from her breakthrough junior indoor track season, which included a US #3 all-time 1000 meter time of 2:47. The Duke University bound Doswell won the 800 meter national title at the Nike Indoor Nationals in March with a time of 2:10.
She is the top seed in the 800 meter event at Southern Track, but will need to be running at top form to take first as defending Group AAA state champion Christi Harsha with a lifetime best of 2:11 and season best of 2:14 is entered right behind her and appears to be working her way back down to her 2:11 form from last spring.
The small schools are also well represented in the event with state title favorites in Group A and AA in Ashton Bishop of Gate City (2:14 PR) and Ariel Burbey of Blacksburg (2:15 PR) set to compete.
Defending Eastern Region champion Kenya Jones is also entered as she challenged Harsha to the finish line at Southern Track and do not forget M.C. Miller of Midlothian, last year\'s AAA state runner-up to Harsha who is coming off a sensation 4:58 1600 and 2:17 800 double victory at this past Saturday\'s Nike Spring Invite at Oakton High School.
A rare appearance from a Deep Creek athlete at the Southern Track Classic, but Ashley Gatling\'s presence is certainly welcomed as the AAA State Indoor Meet record holder at 5\'9\" looks to duel with current state leader for outdoors and AAA state runner-up to Gatling in indoors, April Sinkler of Brooke Point, who also has a best of 5\'9\".
The boys high jump features three jumpers over 6\'8\" in AAA indoor state third place finisher Kevin Nichols of Hickory (6\'8\" best), AAA indoor state runner-up Anthony Bryant of Albemarle (6\'8\" best), and Dwan Jackson of Dinwiddie (6\'9\" best). All have struggled with consistency this spring, which should leave the door open for others to sneak in for a surprise win.
Virginia\'s queen in the long jump will be decided on Friday as Buffalo Gap senior Angela Jenkins has held that honor before despite reigning from a small Group A school in the Staunton area. However, Centreville sophomore Brittni Finch has emerged this year as the girl to beat in the event as she launched herself into the spotlight at the AAA State Indoor Meet when she broke the state meet record on a final attempt with a mark of 19\'8.50\" to deny Hermitage senior Queen Harrison the state title. Finch then went on to garner national runner-up honors in the event at Nike Indoor Nationals.
Jenkins sat out the Nike Indoor Nationals meet to rest an injured ankle, but had an excellent showing at the Dogwood Track Classic as she nearly broke two meet records set by Olympian Sheena Johnson in the long jump and triple jump.
Menchville\'s Daniel Richmond and Indian River\'s Toriano Moody share the top seed in the boys' long jump at 23\'5\". Richmond has done well in the event this spring, while Moody was an All-American indoors in the event. Moody has been absent for much of the outdoor season dealing with injuries, so it will be interesting to see how he fares at Southern Track. Also keep tabs on Ed Baldwin of Thomas Edison who has pretty much dominated the competition in the jumps this spring in the Northern Region.
Three athletes seem to be in the running for the girls triple jump as Angela Jenkins has to be favored as the state leader, but two-time AAA state indoor champion Nakeisha Wineglass of Hayfield and Hermitage senior Queen Harrison also are capable of winning the event as well. Jenkins is the lone athlete between the three of them to go over 40 feet, but Southern Track could be the right meet for the two of them to join the club.
Halifax County senior David Anderson has the top seed for the boys triple jump at 47\'5.50\", but has really failed to come close to that jump he set in a mid-season indoor invitational at Liberty University. The two biggest favorites to win the event are Dominion District All-Americans Antonio Miller of Manchester (47\'4.25\") and Matu Bundy of Huguenot (46\'11.75\"). Both earned All-American honors indoors with top six finishes in the triple jump at the Nike Indoor Nationals.
Pay close attention to the infield area for the discus throw competition for both the boys and girls as they feature Penn Relays champions Natalie Baird of Park View and Mike Zajac of E.C. Glass. Baird threw a personal best throw of 144\'3\" at Penn Relays to only improve upon that mark just a few days later at the Apple Blossom Invite with a throw of 148\'10\". The defending Southern Track champion Zajac has a season best of 182\'7\" in the discus event and is also an All-American indoors in the weight throw. Zajac recently got his first attempt at the hammer throw last weekend in a home meet setup for the throwing events with a solid mark of 202\'1\".
Zajac and Baird could easily take down the meet records as the mark stands at 171\'0\" for the boys and 131\'6\" for the girls. Both Baird and Zajac have considerable distance between them and the next top seeds in the event with Liberty\'s Carly Morse (131\'9\") and Tazewell\'s Jarrod Burton (166\'9\") having the second best throws in the event.
The girls and boys shot put is probably the deepest fields ever in Southern Track history with only a few throwers under 40 feet among the girls and all throwers for the boys above 50 feet. Defending AAA state champion Kathy Howard of Lee-Davis leads the girls throwers with a best throw of 43\'4\", while Zajac of E.C. Glass is one again a top seed at 57\'10\". Howard won last year\'s shot put competition with a throw of 44\'11.25\".
The girls pole vault features state record holder and defending Southern Track champion Ashley Early, who finds herself in a whole other atmospheric level from the rest as she has a best height of 12\'10\". Early is also the meet record holder in the event at 11\'9\". It is not uncommon for Early to come in at a height after all the other athletes are out of the competition.
The state\'s next best vaulters are certainly assembed behind her. AAA state indoor champion Nicole Kazuba of Chantilly at 11\'0\" and 2005 AAA state indoor Anne Marie Gordon of Mills Godwin. Gordon has missed all of the outdoor season with a stress fracture as Southern Track will be her first meet back this spring.
Last year\'s Southern Track champion and indoor national champion Mike Morrison of Great Bridge will be absent from this year\'s meet due to prom as the field is wide open without the 17 foot vaulter. Harrisonburg\'s Tim Bierle leads all entries at 14\"5, while Atlee\'s Jordan Cole will try to win one for the home crowd as he is the next best at 14\'3\".
The 4x800 meter relays usually suffer at Southern Track due to the close proximity to individual distance races with the one section only finals found at Southern Track, but this year in both the boys and girls races, there could be some very quick times.
Six girls teams are entered with times faster than 9:40 as the event features Midlothian, who have won the past two AAA state indoor titles in the 4x800 meter relay as well as Westfield, who earned All-American honors in March\'s Nike Indoor Nationals. Oakton and Thomas Jefferson also possess strong teams out of the Northern Region and St. Catherine\'s ran a quick time of 9:36 without Katie Doswell at Penn Relays.
Hermitage recently ran a state leading time of 7:58 at last weekend\'s Nike Spring Invite as they joined James Robinson (7:59) as the only two teams in the state to go under eight minutes this spring. Robinson is entered in the event here with a loaded squad. Alex Bowman, who ran a 1:52 leg for Hermitage\'s squad at Oakton is listed as a relay member, but it remains to be seen if he\'ll be featured on the relay as he is also entered in the mile race, which is not too far after the relay event. With or without Bowman in the event, Fort Defiance will give Robinson all the push they need regardless as they recently ran a time of 8:01 in almost solo effort at Dogwood.
Kali Watkins of Menchville has the meet record of 14.26 set by Lauren Taylor in 2002 in her sights for the 100 meter hurdles as she comes in with a season best of 14.06. Watkins is the defending Group AAA state champion in the event and earned All-American honors in the 60 meter hurdles during the indoor season.
Defending Southern Track champion in the 110 meter hurdles, Geoffrey Daley of DeMatha Catholic is back as he won last year\'s event with a 14.69 clocking. Winning for a second time will be no easy task for Daley with a field filled with proven sub 15 second hurdlers. State leader Michael Garel of Brooke Point leads all seed times at 14.36. Lakeland\'s Predist Walker (14.38), Huguenot\'s McArthur Henley (14.50), and Matoaca\'s Aramis Massenburg (14.50) all have best times close to defending champ Daley\'s all-time best of 14.45.
AAA state indoor 55 meter champion Sean Holston of Robert E. Lee has the top time of 10.65 in the 100 meter dash, but is beatable as shown with his defeat at the hands of Oscar Smith\'s Ervin Riddick at the Dogwood Track Classic.
Look out for small school kids as the field is comprised of four talented sprinters not from Group AAA in the Middlesex duo of Jerry Jones (10.71) and James Harris (10.79), Justin Stith of Nottoway (10.80), and DeAngelo Wilson of Prince Edward County (10.85). Jones and Harris are Group A\'s two best sprinters and Wilson was the Group AA state champion indoors in the 55 meter dash.
AAA state indoor champion Kristy Tobin of Great Bridge leads all entries in the girls' mile run as she posted a time of 5 flat for a full mile to win the slow heat and finish seventh overall at the Nike Indoor Nationals. While the conversion puts her under five minutes for 1600 meters, she would like to break five minutes for the full mile here at Southern Track.
She should have several runners in the race to push her and challenge her for the win including Brooke Point\'s Brittany Copeland, who finished second to Tobin in the AAA state indoor race and has a personal best of 5:04. James River sophomore Kristen Wolfe, a state champion at 1000 meters in her freshmen year, is the wildcard in the race as Friday will be her first invitational race this spring after focusing on the dual meet circuit this spring. This race will have great depth with 22 entrants under 5:20 in the mile.
Bethel is the top seed in the girls 4x100 meter relay as they are coming off posting a state leading 46.74 time in the Championships of America finals in the event at the Penn Relays two weekends ago, but the squad at Southern Track will not feature top leg McCorory, who will be competing in three individual events. However, these Bethel girls would like to show as they have in the past that they can put together a formidable relay team without McCorory and a win at Southern Track would certainly reinforce. Matoaca has the next fastest time this spring at 49.45 as they are led by Shanneka Claiborne, who has ran under 12 seconds in the open 100 meter dash.
The boys' version of the 4x100 meter relay finds a cluster of teams in top section that can take the win. Out of state squads Archbishop Carroll (42.30) and DeMatha Catholic (42.32) always seem to have strong squads, but Virginia is well represented as well with the likes of AAA Indoor State 4x200 champions Indian River (42.50), Penn Relays small school finals qualifier Manchester (42.55), and Group A\'s best in Middlesex (42.75). All three teams have two legs that can run under 11 seconds in the open 100 with Anthony Chesson and Reginald Hill at Manchester, Toriano Moody and Thomas Speller at Indian River, and James Harris and Jerry Jones at Middlesex.
Huguenot is featured in the slower section and recently beat Middlesex at the Caroline Invitational with a 42.55 clocking to showcase the depth in this event that extends beyond one section.
What the clock will read when McCorory crosses the line and the race for second are the two big questions for the girls' 400 meter dash as McCorory\'s 51.93 national record best put her nearly five seconds ahead of the next fastest time by any competitor coming in. The meet record of 54.75 set by Faraign Giles in 2003 is of course in serious jeopardy and might be put out of reach for future Southern Track meets. Crystal Roscoe of Oscar Smith is the defending Group AAA champion in the event and finished second in the 2005 Southern Track Classic with a time of 56.46.
DeMatha\'s Geoffrey Daley is the lone returnee from last year\'s 300 meter hurdles for the boys as he finished third in 2005. Daley would like to sweep the hurdles at Southern Track, but the task will be difficult with the entries in the 300 meter hurdle event including Culpeper junior Jeff Ferris, who had an excellent run at Dogwood with his 39.40 clocking and Heritage\'s Cameron Pannell, who posted a personal best time of 39.28 at this past Saturday\'s Landstown Invitational. Brookville sophomore Ethan Nixon has the fastest time this season among all entries at 39.25, but was beaten by Ferris and two others at the Dogwood Track Classic two weekends ago.
Blake Arnold\'s 1:55.47 season best ranks the Colonial Forge junior third in the state and gives him the fastest time this spring among all entries in the Southern Track Classic for the 800 meter run. However, E.C. Glass senior Carlton Phipps sits right behind him in the state rankings with a time of 1:56.13 and has the fastest all-time performance among all entries with a 1:53.36 carrying over from last spring. Phipps is the top returnee as he finished second in last year\'s Southern Track race with a time of 1:57.97.
In the 2005 race, the competitors showed a lack of brain cells that evening as they forget they were not racing for a strategic state title and instead for a fast time as they ran a pedestrian first 600 meters. Hopefully, someone in this year\'s field will reinforce a fast pace early on and not agitate their coaches and the meet spectators.
Colorado distance star Daniel Roberts will be attempting to make a quick and tough double back from what should be a fast mile, while James Robinson\'s Mark Hussa will be featured on the Robinson 4x800 meter relay earlier in the event. Two 1000 meter state champions are entered in the race as well with AAA\'s Taylor Bostick of Thomas Jefferson and AA\'s Ryan Gaul of Lafayette.
The boys 200 meter dash should be a down to the wire finish with likely a first at Southern Track in having all the entries having bests under 22 seconds to showcase what has been a great spring in the sprints. Manchester junior Anthony Chesson has the fastest time in the field at 21.44, but is by no means considered a favorite as several athletes are in strong contention in the field.
All-American at 200 meters indoors, Rashad Kelso has gone undefeated so far this spring in the event and has a 21.88 best this spring. Familar Group AA rival for Kelso, Prince Edward County\'s DeAngelo Wilson is the top returnee from last year as he finished second with a time of 22.17.
Tail winds can greatly influence the accuracy of times, but regardless if they benefited from a little gust, Thomas Speller\'s 21.55 at the Norview Invite and Sean Holston\'s 21.57 at Radford are outstanding performances nonetheless and give them just as a strong shot at winning as the others. Consistently running under 22 seconds certainly helps validify times as Chesson posted a time of 21.88 this past weekend at Five Forks, while Speller went 21.89 in a win at Suffolk. Holston earned All-American honors during indoors in the 60 meter dash and was a surprise state champion in the 300 meter dash.
Northside junior Catherine White has looked unstoppable since the cross country season on the track as her lone defeat at her best distance in the 3200 meter or two mile run came in a national runner-up performance at the Nike Indoor Nationals. She recently led and did the majority of the pace work at the Penn Relays in the high school 3K, where she finished third in an excellent time of 9:49.
The AA state champion has a 3200 meter best of 10:28, which only one entrant finds herself within a 30 second range to her and that is AAA state cross country champion Rachel Rose of Albemarle. Rose was missing in action all of the outdoor season after a breakthrough cross country season which was capped off a sub 18 minute 5K performance in her state title win. However, she certainly has came back in outstanding shape as indicated by her performance at the Dogwood Track Classic when she won the 3200 meter run in a time of 10:43 off a hot early pace that included a 5:15 1600 meter split. Well under an hour later, Rose was anchoring her Albemarle girls\' distance medley relay team to victory with a 5:06 1600 meter split.
White has had to travel out of state to find quality competition in the two mile event, but she may not have do much traveling anymore with Rose coming on strong this spring.
Chantilly senior and Foot Locker finalist Brad Siragusa is to be favored in the two mile run as he is also the top returnee from last year. However, Griff Graves is the top seed as he ran an amazing time for a sophomore or any graduation year at 9:13 two weekends ago, but will be competing in the mile run earlier. Very rarely do distance doubles work out at Southern Track Classic for even the most talented runners given its quick meet format. Ask Alex Tatu in 2003 when he attempted to run the two mile after running a fast mile earlier in the event. Tatu had to deal with the bragging rights and embarrassment on a Saturday morning run the next day earned by this webmaster of MileStat.com and average high school runner beating his national caliber friend in the process of running a lifetime two mile personal best. However, if Graves can pull it off then more power to him.
It will be tough to do though with the way Siragusa has been running as of late. Siragusa has been on fire this spring. At the Allen Johnson Invite, he hunted down West Springfield\'s Mike Spooner in the final 1600 meters to pull away with a 9:18 3200 win. Spooner was originally entered in this event and his front running ability and AAA state indoor championship in the event would certainly make him as strong as a favorite as Siragusa, but he may be making a late switch into the hot mile race.
Wild card pick for the race is Patterson Wilhelm of E.C. Glass who will be running with a heavy, but possibly inspired heart as his grandfather recently passed away forcing him to miss the Dogwood Track Classic. Wilhelm has a lifetime best of 9:17 from 2004.
The Menchville girls could possibly run away with the 4x400 meter relay without McCorory on the Bethel squad. Menchville posted a time of 3:51 indoors and have ran 3:53 this spring. Having one leg in the Nicole Saunders who can run under 60 seconds for 400 meters with hurdles to jump over certainly solidifies their chances.
The boys 4x400 meter relay should be a fitting finale for the Southern Track Classic as race features three teams who have ran under 3:20 in DeMatha Catholic (3:16.39), Archbishop Carroll (3:17), and Virginia\'s own James Robinson (3:18.79) with two other teams sneaking a peek at going under 3:20 as well in Heritage (3:20.66) and Huguenot (3:21.04). The James Robinson squad has an interesting group as three of the four members also comprise their 4x800 meter relay squad as well. Huguenot earned All-American honors indoors in the event.
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