Shaw's Taco Bell Classic Shakedown: Key athletes and events to watch

scrunners.com will be onsite with team coverage from Chris Hunt of ArmoryTrack.com, a MileSplit.us affiliate.

By Kevin Shaw and Molly Ruble, with stats from Daniel Osborne

Entry list by event

We're baaaaaaack!!  And after looking at the changes to the stadium, better than ever.  It has been a long two years but worth the wait.  We all have heard the statement, "show me the money", look around and you will see it.  Richland District Two has made Harry Parone Stadium nicer than most small college stadiums.  

Here we are, two years after the Classic of 2009.  The memories are a little foggy, and I know a little something about fog, but I do remember that five girls' records went down.  Probably the most spectacular was Chalonda Goodman of Newnan (Ga.).  She was billed as a superstar and performed beyond what anybody could imagine.  She set 100-meter dash (11.30) and 200-meter dash (23.22) records that will stand the test of time.  She is now running for the Longhorns and made Big XII all conference as a freshman.  One other that was sad to see go was Monique Hennagan's record in the 400-meter dash.  Monique is a Spring Valley graduate and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist.  Yes that is not a misprint.  Her Olympic medals are a great feat but pale in comparison to her character.  She is a truly-special person.  The young lady that took down that record is Briana Nelson, J.L. Mann (S.C.).  From the time she was in the seventh grade, you knew the record was in trouble some day.  She finally got it with a great time of 53.71.  Briana is also an outstanding young lady who runs for the Texas Longhorns.  J.L. Mann took the girls team title in 2009 followed by Westlake (Ga.), Elizabeth Seton (Md.) and Butler (N.C.).

On the guys side, no records were broken, but many outstanding performances.  The meet is now to the point where records are hard to come by.  If you go look at them it is truly amazing the level high school athletes can achieve.  Andre Carter, Alexander (Ga.) put on a big time show in the 200-meter dash (21.42) and 400 (47.90).  Carter now runs for those Powder Blue boys over in Chapel Hill.  In the 200 he barely edged Dreher (S.C.) freshman Brandon Sanders.  Brandon is back this year after setting the S.C. running scene on fire last year.  The Lavong brothers from Methacton (Pa.)  almost won three field events.  Wesley almost took Reece Hoffa's (Lakeside, Ga.) shot put record and then came back to take the discus.  His "little" brother had a great battle in the long jump, but lost by four inches to Damar Forbes, M.L. King (Ga.).  Both went over the 24-foot barrier.
 
Bunches of big names with big marks are back this year.  We ended up with 137 teams and over 170 athletes.  Not bad after a one year hiatus.  After word of the new stadium and running surface get out, I am scared to know how many might show up next year.  With John and Donna Dye, founders of the now famous DyeStat onsite for the meet, I am sure the whole country will see this place.  

One of the athletes likely to be in those pictures is Kendall Kee, Crest (N.C.).  Kendall has been a star the past year at both the New Balance Indoor and Outdoor meets.  I saw him trot down the track at a local N.C. meet two weeks ago.  He is a big talent, but is only one of the powerful Crest sprint and hurdle group.  

They are led by coach McSwain, who was a sprinter back in the day for the Wolfpack of N.C. State.  Another guy making kicking up some sand and making a name for himself is C.J. Davidson of Daniel (S.C.).  Davidson won the Florida Relays triple jump last week.  Daisaun White of Asheville (N.C.) will push the future Clemson athlete well into the sand.  I have personal knowledge that the Asheville boys know how to roll off the mountain and take care of business.  There state medal count is quite large.  Vaulting to some fame this year is Chris Pillow of Atlee (Va.).  He finished sixth at New Balance Indoors this year.  The new pole vault format this year will make it conducive for the top vaulters to shoot for the sky.

Boys sprints
The boys sprints are led by a stable of boys from Crest (N.C.).  Their school mascot has it right, a thoroughbred, aptly called the Chargers.  With Kendall  the leader in the 100-meter dash and 200 and backed up by Harvey McSwain II, the little school from Shelby, N.C. should put on a show.  In the long sprint, O'Neal Wanliss of Holy Innocent (Ga.) and Alexander Reese of Lassiter (Ga.) both have big time experiences and top light finishes at last year's Outdoor New Balance meet.  

Girls sprints
Dominique Weathers, Vance (N.C.) was here two years ago to witness Chalonda's overwhelming speed.  Now it is her turn to show the field what she has.  Niaja Griffin, Wekiva (Fla.) is sure to want the title as well.  Wekiva has some powerful sprinters they unleashed at the Florida State Meet last year.  Throw in Briana Vaughn of Union Grove (Ga.) and a new star could be born.  Sandrae Farquharson, Middle Colleg (N.Y.) and T'Shelia Mungo, Independence (N.C.), should battle to the final few meters.  A 53 clocking is not out of reach.  My sources tell me Farquharson,  originally from Jamaica, third in the 500-meter dash at the New Balance Games.

Boys distance
O'Neal is going to double back in the 800-meter run.  That is really tough to do, but since we don't run trials in the 400, it is much easier to pull off.  Let that be a lesson to those of you who run trials in the 400, it gets in the way and hurts performances.  Bryan Propst of Hoover (Ala.) is the three-time Class 4A-6A champion in Alabama.  My guess is the ‘Bama boy will roll to a victory.  Another guy well below the two-minute barrier is Brandon Dunford of Hopewell (N.C.).  Also keep your eyes out for Will Ivey of host Spring Valley.  Rumor has it he has run pretty fast recently.  The mile is led by Austin Carter of St. Xavier (Ky.) and Tim Tyler of Wando (S.C.).  

Both have big meet experience.  They will be challenged by teammates Steven Spevacek and Alex Klassen of Parkview (Ga.).  All the cross country coaches that even a pack of two can beat most lone wolves, so look for big finishes from these two Georgia boys.

Girls distance
The 800 is a test of endurance and speed, both of which will be put to the extreme with the top four entry times under 2:17. Jacoy Hutto, Wekiva (Fla.) is entering the race with a best time of 2:13, which places her right ahead of Margaret Leak, Mount Tabor (N.C.). Migrating down south all the way from Brooklyn, N.Y. are seniors Shakel Seaton and Nyanka Moise-Joseph of Middle College at Medgar Evers.  

They are hopefully bringing a bite of the big apple to make this race interesting. The top girls expected in the mile are just shy of the five minute barrier, as Anna Bowles, Lakeside (Ga.) takes the lead with a 5:01. There is a gaggle (SAT word) of girls under 5:10.  The race horses will be practically even at the gate, and only the final lap will tell who has the most guts. Watch out for the N.C. state cross country champion Darby Middlebrook, Watauga (N.C.).  Her fire runs deep and is strengthened by the mountain weather.  One runner sure to display her grit on the track, before running for Furman, is senior Sinead Haughey, Daniel (S.C.), the only runner with a time posted under 11:00 in the 3200.  I am sure she has her eyes on Kate Niehaus' 3200 state record.  Good luck.

Boys throws
Justin Osking of John Carroll (Fla.) has big personal records in both throws.  He recently went 187 feet.  That eclipses Cleveland Pinckney's, Sumter (S.C.) record by 10 feet.  With Courland Clavette, A.C. Reynolds (N.C.), who also has a personal record over 170 feet, we could be in for an epic battle.  

The last time this happened was 1997, Hoffa vs. Pinckney.  If you have never seen the big boys go toe to toe in the throws, don't miss this.  Throwers can exude huge amounts of energy and feed off each other like hungry sharks.  One of the best events I witnessed in track andfield was the shot put at the 2000 NCAA championships at Duke.  Throwers can rock the stadium.

Girls throws
The outcome of the girl's throws will be a toss up between Sequoia Watkins, TC Roberson and Alisha Bradshaw, Salisbury, both of whom will be joining us from North Carolina. Watkins is a multiple time state champion.  Bradshaw won the discus throw at New Balance Outdoor's Emerging Elite division last year.  Either way, the competition will explode on Saturday as the two champions battle for the win.
 
Boys jumps
The vertical jumps are led by Chris Pillow, Atlee (Va.) in the pole vault.  He is followed closely by five other guys at 15 feet or better.  The high jump doesn't have a big name star.  That leaves ample room for one of these guys to make a name for himself.  The top two entries are Wesley Edwards of Hillcrest (S.C.) and Aaron Noble of Ridge View (S.C.).  C.J. Davidson is the clear leader in the triple and a sure bet to contend in the long.  Also pushing for points in the sand will be Diavnte Smith, Redan (Ga.) and Daisaun White of Asheville (N.C.).

Girls jumps
The high jump has three girls with huge potential.  Taina LaPorte of Dutch Fork (S.C.) jumped 5'8" just two weeks ago.  Cierra Burdick of Butler (N.C.) has also gone 5'8."  Cierra is off to play basketball for coach Pat Summit next year.  Wish she would have gone to SEC East rival, The Gamecocks!!!!!! Oh well, glad to have her in S.C. for a little while.  Also in the high jump is Sydney Cook of Watauga (N.C.).  She went 5'6" at the N.C. "Winter Championships."  She also is a top prospect in the pole vault. She recently went 11'9."  Good luck Snow Leopard.  The pole vault will clearly be led by Cameron Overstreet of Atlee (Va.).  Atlee high school could leave the meet with both vaulting gold medals.  The horizontal jumps are led by a couple of Wekiva girls, Niaja Griffin and Carmelia Stewart.  Wekiva will definitely be in the hunt for the team title.  

Boys hurdles
There is going to be plastic flying all over the place in the high hurdles.  Five guys have legitimate sub 14.50 times.  They might well end of bloody, battered and bruised, but is should be a heck of a race.  Jordan Moore of Union Grove (Ga.) and Sancho Barrett of Amityville (N.Y.) are the pre-race favorites.  The 400 hurdles are hard to read.  Most states are still running the 300 hurdles.  Converting times for these races is not an easy thing to do.  Two extra hurdles might not sound like much, but is killer if you have never done it.

Girls hurdles
Mollie Williams, Clayton (N.C.) and Morgan Snow, SW Dekalb (Ga.) should be high stepping down the track and leading the way.  Mollie is a quality hurdler who I have to battle each year in N.C..  The 400 hurdles are led by Amber Bryant-Brock of McEachern (Ga.).  McEachern has been sending great athletes to the Classic for years.

Boys relays
Crest!!  These boys can boogie.  Their favorite event is the 4x200-meter relay.  That is not offered here but they will be happy to run the two relays surrounding the 4x200.  Also with a deep rooted passion for passing the baton is Vance (N.C.).  They have already put together some great relays this year.  Brookwood (Ga.) has the only sub 8-minute time in the 4x800-meter relay.  There time is good enough to go after Ridge View's (S.C.) record.

Girls relays
I can still see those girls from Therrell two years ago.  What a nightmare they must have caused coaches in Georgia.  

Middle College (N.Y.) hopes to big apple bash to the relay races, but my money is on the girls who live each day with good training weather.  I know you won't believe this, but Therrell's 4x100 and 4x400 relay record are in danger.  The 4x800 should be led by Watauga (N.C.).  They want to go 9:15 this year.  Hopefully Friday evening will give them a good start towards that goal.  

Back in the meet this year after a few years off is Collins Hill (Ga.).  Coach Hudson always has a quality group.  Don't be surprised to see them up front pushing for the lead.

scrunners.com will be onsite with team coverage from Chris Hunt of ArmoryTrack.com, a MileSplit.us affiliate.

Shaw is a former Spring Valley coach and continues to help direct the Taco Bell Classic.

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