With only a day until the first gun is fired it is time to look towards and preview the VA boys who will be competing for national titles at the 2014 New Balance Indoor Nationals held at the Armory in New York, New York.
The 4x800 from Blacksburg will no doubt be a team to watch (photo by: Jon Fleming)
In one of Virginia's strongest years in recent history of track and field the state has athletes that lead the nation or rank highly in nearly every single event. The events that the state is strongest in, that are applicable for this meet, are the jumps, hurdles, and 4x800m relay. With all these superb athletes who lead the nation it is hard to pick a leader of the pack until you see the quartet from Blacksburg and their US #1 7:44.52 4x800m relay team. This team comprised of Kenneth Hagen, Michael Carter, Flip Bishop, and Jacob McCoy is not only favored to win the race but is also in the ballpark of being serious contenders to break Albemarle's US record of 7:36.99. To achieve this, each member would have to run 1.89 seconds quicker or a combination of someone picking up more time to average the time out to this. The leader of this group, Kenneth Hagen will likely anchor this squad and push the pace. Hagen was this years 1000 and 1600 individual champion. All three other legs are also very swift so the load should be well spread out. The interesting thing will be to see if Jacob McCoy runs 1st or 3rd. McCoy is their second strongest leg and it will be interesting to see if the strategy is to have him get them a lead early or use him later to get ahead of pace. Either way this event will be what all eyes are on come Saturday evening.
The Virginia Meet of Champions...Preview for Nationals? Holloway, Graham, and Lee pictured
Aside from that race, there also be many exciting races on the track, particularly the boys 60m hurdles. In this race will be the a showdown of the US#1, #3, and #4 in the 55m hurdles all representing Virginia. These athletes are in order Grassfield's Grant Holloway at 7.28, Lee Davis' Lee Warren at 7.33 and Phoebus' Charles Graham at 7.34. This event, as well as the 60m dash will feature a preliminary round Saturday, a semifinal round Sunday, and Final round Sunday evening. Both Holloway and Graham are seeded in the same section of prelims which should make for a good race. Warren is in the first section of prelims and will likely set the tone early. Warren of Lee Davis who has been in Holloway's shadow all season cannot be overlooked. Warren prefers the longer dashes and has improved on his times all season including a pr last weekend beating Holloway and Graham head to head.
Prince George's John Warren will look to hop, skip, and jump his way into the record books and onto the podium
In the jumps Virginia may be the strongest it has ever been in a single year across the board. This year each of the jumps has seen a new top five all time performance for the state of VA. Leading these jumps are Tallwood's Steven Dunbar who has clearned 7-1 in the high jump, John Warren of Prince George who has gone 51-3 in the triple and Mustaqeem Williams who has neared 25 ft in the long jump but will not be competing at nationals. Warren is favored to win his event as he is the national leader in it. Dunbar is US #2 in the event but is the favorite amongst entered competitors. Seeded at 6-10 directly behind him is Bradley Jones of Oscar Smith who has yet to win a serious competition this year. Jones has competed against either Holloway or Dunbar at all his major meets this year but with Dunbar recently struggling this could be Jones' time to shine and win a national title. Either way it should be an interesting competition with two of the best jumpers in the country being from Virginia.
Highland Spring's Marcus Taylor running his US #3 6.31 55m dash (photo by Mary Ann Magnant)
On the track will be numerous runners and teams who have a shot at the title. Starting from shortest to longest makes us start with the 60m dash. Leading the way for the Virginia contingent is Highland Springs Marcus Taylor who rank as US #3 with his time of 6.31, only .01 behind the US #2... Mustaqeem Williams is the US #1 and not entered. Next for Virginia will be US #5 Vincent Lowe of Grassfiled at 6.32 who is then followed by his teammate Isiah Harper at 6.36 good enough for US #9. This race will be something to watch to see how these athletes transfer their speed to a longer race. This event, just like the hurdles, features three rounds of competition.
Noah Lyles will look to drop down from the 300 to the 200 this weekend (photo by Mary Ann Magnant)
In the boys 200 it will be Noah Lyles from T.C. Williams representing Virginia. Lyles has run 33.90 in the 300 this year and ranks US #4 in that event. Lyles also has a favorable lane, lane 8 in his preliminary round. In the 200 the top 8 qualify to the final based on time. The prelims are on Saturday and the finals are on Sunday. Lyles has a pr of 21.23 in the 200 which he ran last outdoor season.
Derek Holdsworth winning the 3A 500m title in a US#2 time of 1:04.03 (photo by: Jon Fleming)
In the boys 400 Forest Park's Ricky Morgan will be attempting to win a national title. Morgan has run 1:04.96 in the 500 to rank himself #8 in the country, Morgan also has quick speed and should not be overlooked in this event. In the boys 800 Derek Holdsworth of Lafayette should be the athlete to watch. Holdsworth has run 1:04.03 in the 500 this year to rank US#2. Holdsworth is an interesting athlete to watch as he ranks highly in the 500 and 1000 nationally and even won the 300 at the 3A state meet. Blacksburg's Kenneth Hagen will also be competing in this event, both of these athletes have dueled head to head all season with each besting the other's state best marks.
Deep Run's Matthew Novak will attempt to place highly in the Mile (photo by Mary Ann Magnant)
In the distance races the individuals to watch are Deep Run's Matthew Novak and Oakton's John Stoney in the Mile, both of these individuals have run 4:14 and 4:15 this season in the 1600 but are eight seconds behind the leader in this event. In the 5000 Atlee's Nathaniel Hall will be an athlete to watch. Hall has been slowly coming back from injury the past few years and is looking to get back to his old form in the longer distance races.
Western Branch and Highland Springs will be two relay teams to watch closely
In the relay races it will be a small group of Virginia schools attempting to upset the faster seeded teams. In the 4x200 Western Branch and Highland Springs will be leading this front. Both of these teams have run 1:30.27 and 1:30.73 on Boo Williams' unbanked surface this season. The national leader is at 1:28.02 and was run at the Armory. With good handoffs and good races one or two Virginia schools could find themselves in the finals of this event, both have drawn lane 4 for their qualifying rounds. Western Branch also has a sprint medley team in the fast section of that event. Events such as that are hard to guage as they are not events run on a weekly basis, WB does have adequate runners at each position but the competition seems to stiff when looking back at last year's splits and who is returning.
Though this list is long, it is only a snapshot of all the athlete competing at Nationals for Virginia, there will be some that have not been mentioned who will run times or post marks of national significance.