Key Athletes and Events to Watch
by Kevin Shaw
Year 20!! Quite a milestone. It all started with the first “rubber” track at Spring Valley and a commitment by Coach Jones to make it a little bit better each year. No doubt he does make it better each year. What a palace Harry Parone stadium has become. Combine Coach Jones’ desire to put on a meet that athletes will remember at a high school facility that is second to none and you end up with some pretty rich tradition.
Last year’s meet had 137 teams and over 1700 athletes. Pretty big numbers for a meet that had a one year hiatus. This year’s meet has 142 teams and 1839 athletes from 14 states. States represented include SC, NC, TN, PA, MD, FL, AL, WV, CT, NY, VA, GA, KY and Washington DC. After last year’s meet I said ”After word of the new stadium and running surface gets out, I am scared to know how many might show up next year”. Without a quark in the calendar, it might have been a crazy year. Over in the Peach State, they have their State Championships one week earlier this year. The Classic normally has 50 plus Georgia schools, and as I have stated many times in past, the state of Georgia is top 5 nationally when it comes to track and field. If all of the Georgia schools could have come over as usual, we would have set records for number of teams and athletes. Thanks to the Georgia schools that did make it this year and we look forward to having the rest back next year. As I type this I am getting a little queasy in the stomach wondering what next year will bring, it could be epic.
Only one meet record last year. Now, that doesn’t mean performances were down, it speaks to the quality of the meet records previously set. The best the record is it happened right in front of Hall of Fame coach, Rick Crumpler. Rick has been the throws coach at Spring Valley forever and is sole owner and proprietor of Crump’s Corner. Cleveland Pinckney’s long standing discus mark, came off the books. Cleveland is a legend from Sumter (SC). Justin Osking traveled up I-95 from John Carroll (FL) and smashed the record by an amazing 15 feet. He also won the shot by over 4 feet. Courtland Clavette, AC Reynolds (NC) also broke the discus record and was never really in the race for the win.
This year’s meet brings out the stars as usual, from IAAF World Youth Championships participants, USATF National Champions to New Balance National Champions (NBIN or NBON). Jordan Moore from M.L. King in Atlanta GA is a Texas Christian University signee. He is also a USATF 110 m high hurdle Champion. The oldest meet record on the books is Norman Green’s, Sumter (SC) 13.80 high hurdle mark from 1991, the inaugural year of the Classic! Norman went on to be a star at the University of South Carolina. There is a picture of Norman on the last page of the Shakedown. Imani Brown, Reading (PA) is a University of Alabama signee. We can all her Joe Tomlin, Roll Tide. Imani is an IAAF World Youth Championships participant and New Balance National Champion. Sydney White is a 13’ 1.5” pole vaulter who placed 8th at the IAAF World Youth Championships. Jacob Burcham ran a 4:07.20 mile indoors at the Brooks PR Challenge. He was also a medalist at the NBIN in the mile. Tevin Hester, a Clemson signee, was a star in North Carolina this past indoor season and won the NBIN 60 m dash and was all-American in the 200 m.
When Harry Parone Stadium opens its gates the stars come out to shine. The 20th version of the Taco Bell Track & Field Classic should be one for the ages.
The boy’s sprints are led by Tevin Hester, Granville Central (NC). Tevin won a National Championship in the 60 m dash at the New Balance Indoor Nationals (NBIN) this past winter. Tevin comes in with big marks in the 100 m and 200 m. When he closes up shop at Granville Central this summer he is off to orange clad Tigger land next fall. Kedrick Davis of Berry Academy (NC) will be right with Tevin in both sprints. Berry Academy has more than just Kedrick, watch out for their relays as well. Tevin and the Berry boys will also battle it out in the NC 2A State Championships this May. Another guy that will bring some heat in the short sprints is Harvey McSwain II of Crest (NC). Harvey senior ran at NC State back in the day and has coached the boys at Crest to some big marks the past few years. Doubling in the long sprints is Ayrian Evans, Morrow (GA). Ayrian really put up some fast times last summer and has picked up right where he left off. If he can pull off the 200/400 double, he will have a leg up on one of the MVP races. Alexander Reese of Lassister (GA) is another sub 48 guy who will give Ayrian a run for his money.
The girl’s short sprints appear to be a 3 way race. Gabrielle Gray, High Point Central (NC) comes with in with some impressive credentials. First and foremost, she signed with the best university in SC, Go Gamecocks!! Gabrielle was 4th in the 60 m at NBIN. Tristie Johnson, Ed White (FL) has also blazed the track the last year. From the Bob Hayes Classic to the Florida Relays, Tristie has put up some big marks early this season. Last and not least is Tayla Carter of Walton (GA). Tayla was also at the Florida Relays last week. The girls 400 should come down to two girls, Kadeica Baird, Middle College (NY) and Aalayah Faulcon, Southern Durham (NC). Kadeica was 4th at NBIN in the 400 and Aalayah also enters the meet with a sub 55 second clocking. Also be on the lookout for sophomore Takeyra Jenkins-Dodd of Greer (SC).
The meets first team from West Virginia brings in one of the best distance runners in the nation, Jacob Burcham of Cabell Midland. Jacob ran 4:07.20 for the full Mile, INDOORS!! He ran 3:46.55 for 1500 m at the IAAF world Youth Championships last summer. Jacob is only running the 3200 m, but it should be one heck of a race. David Adams, Hilton Head (SC) meet record is a likely candidate to go down. Right there with Jacob will be Mitchell Kun of Sheepshead Bay (NY). Mitchell had a great 5K/2 mile double at NBIN this winter. Hopefully the warm SC weather will help them get warmed up and ready to race. Colonial Forge (VA) has a top guy entered in all 3 distance events, Brian O'Loughlin (3200), David Pennesi (mile) and Richard Cappetta (800). Including the 4 X 800 m relay, Colonial could walk out of the meet with 4 top 3 finishes and a bus load of shoe bags. Also in the 800 and 1 Mile is former Fort Mill (SC) and now West Charlotte (NC) runner Mark Blackmon. Mark is never out of shape and has had a few weeks since basketball ended. Don’t be surprised to see him racing with the top group with 100 m to go.
While the 1 mile meet record of Catherine White, Northside (VA) doesn’t seem to be in danger, it looks like 4 girls can go sub 5:00 for the full mile. That would be a first for the Classic. Darby Middlebrook of Watuaga (NC) is a multiple time state champion with loads of ability and has the talent to lead this group. The rest of this Fantastic Four is Ashley Brubaker of Reagan (NC), Katilyn Kramer, Ardrey Kell (NC) and Frances Morales, Colonial Forge (VA). The 3 North Carolina stand outs will continue to battle well into May at the NC State Championships. The 3200 appears to be a two girl race, Sydney Foreman, Ardrey Kell (NC) has the top seed with Marcie Merriman of Lassiter (GA) right on her heels. In the 800 m Ashley is doubling back and has a good shot at double gold. Shelby Howell of New Hanover (NC) has raced up in distance so far this season. This will be her 1st big 800 of the season and with a 2:13 PR. She should be ready and excited to run fast.
Hard to top last year. Justin Osking of John Carroll (FL) took down the discus meet record and also won the shot put to earn himself field MVP. Griffie Low of Bishop England (SC) had a big meet two weeks ago with a 55/155 double. Hopefully the competition at the Classic will carry him to some new PR’s. David Sutton, Dutch Fork (SC) should be right on his heels in the shot. Matthew Zajack, EC Glass (VA) is a big time thrower who could put the discus back out towards the 180 foot mark for a 2nd year in a row. Desmond Venning, Wando (SC) also has a PR over 170 feet. Desmond definitely has the mutli in his future. He has some great marks over a range of events in the SC Runners database. Rusty Provins of Cumberland Gap (TN) will head over the mountains and bring nice PR’s to the throws and should be able to challenge for a medal.
The girl’s shot put is led by local SC talent Kristen Sansbury of Harstville. I don’t think Kristen has had lot a shot put competition this year; she should get some this weekend. She won last weekend and should be able to grab gold at two invitationals in a row. Also ready to jump on the awards stand are Casidy Callahan, Norcross (GA) and Imani Abraham of Dudley (NC). Imani is only a sophomore. In the disc the list leader is Aleisha Blackmon of West Charlotte (NC) closely followed by Danielle Travis of South Aiken (SC) and Victoria Elmore-Merriweather of JL Mann (SC). Make sure to take note of the throws while at the meet. Spring Valley’s facility put’s the throwers on equal ground with all other events. You don’t have that in most places you will go.
Boys Horizontal Jumps
The horizontal jumps are very deep. Fourteen guys over 22 feet in the long and eighteen guys over 44 feet in the triple. Leading the triple is Imani Brown of Reading (PA). Imani went over 50 feet last summer at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals (NBON). He was also the NBIN National Champion this year with a hop, step and jump over 48 feet. Greg Yeldell, North Rowan (NC) holds the meet record from 1997. I think 1997 was the year North Rowan had 3 guys over 50 feet. North Rowan has long been known as Jumps U. Imani should have that record in his sights. EJ Reddick, Mauldin (SC) and Bradley Gibson from host school Spring Valley hope to be right there with Imani in the outer reaches of the pit. Imani will have much stiffer competition in the long jump. Cameron Hudson, Berry Academy (NC) was 3rd at NBIN with a jump over 23 feet. There are at least 5 guys with a shot at the 23 feet barrier. Keep an eye on the pits. The long jump finals could bring fireworks.
Girls Horizontal Jumps
Dennisha Frazier, Dunbar (DC) will get way out in the sand this weekend. She comes in with a 19’ 8.5 PR. Two other 18’ + jumpers include Sharday Branch, Central Tuscaloosa (AL) and Jalilissa Marcus, St. Edmund’s (NY). Sharday looks to be another multi athlete coming to work on individual events. Three girls have cracked the 37 foot barrier in the triple. The list leader is sophomore Javonne Antoine, Elizabeth Seton (MD). She is followed closely by Shawnteza Sherman, JL Mann (SC) and RoShani Glover, Summerville (SC). The rhythm of the triple jump is fun to watch, and these ladies obviously have it.
Boys Vertical Jumps
The high jump is led by Wesley Edwards, Hillcrest (SC) at 6’ 8. Wesley went 6’ 8 three weeks ago at a meet at Spring Valley. He is obviously comfortable with the HJ area and will hopefully be leaping to new territory. He will be pressed by Jalen Frazier, Cross (SC) and Cole Finch, Weddington (NC) who both come in with PR’s just below Wesley. The pole vault is led by Jeffrey Linta, North Myrtle Beach (SC). Both Jeffrey and Brett Squibbs, South Pointe (SC) are 16 foot vaulters. They might not be alone at 16 feet this weekend. Austin Vegas, North Forsyth (NC) is hoping to improve on his 15’ 7 PR. Look out for Reid Harris, Watauga (NC), he has the speed and strength to bust a big won and shake up the top 3.
Girls Vertical Jumps
The girls vault is one of the premier events at this year’s classic. It is headlined by Sydney White, East Forsyth (NC). Sydney is a 13’+ vaulter. She doesn’t have this event locked up though. Three other girls have done 12’ or better, led by Sage Proffitt, North Buncombe (NC). Don’t be fooled by Sage’s stature, she has marks on the track that will compete with just about anybody, including 56 second 400 speed. The other 12 footers are Madeline Aune, Beaufort (SC) who is only a sophomore and Sarah Lee, Wando (SC). The meet record is 12’ 7. With four girls at this level the old meet record is in grave danger. In the girl’s high jump, Julisa Tindall, Northwestern (NC) is 6 inches clear of her closest competitor. The meet record of 5’ 11 is within reach. Lindsey Taylor of Watauga (NC) has held the record since 1997.
Last year’s high hurdle champ is back, and men can he 3 step. Jordan Moore, M.L. King (GA) ran 14.05 to win last year but ran a 13.65 two weeks ago at the DeKalb County Championships. In the finals Jordan won’t be able to clear the crowd very quickly though, Demonte Wilson, Crest (NC) was 5th at last year’s Classic. Demonte is coming off of a big win last weekend. Jordan’s teammate, Byron Burney is also likely to make the finals along with Jose Farley of Sheepshead Bay (NY). The intermediates are a little harder to figure out. Most states still run the 300 hurdles. The last 100 m is a lot farther than you might think. But the top guy is an easy pick, Erik Jenkins, Z.B. Vance (NC) last year’s champion is back. Demonte Wilson didn’t run the intermediates last year, but will take a shot at them this time around.
The girl’s high hurdles are highlighted by 11 girls who have gone sub 15 seconds. The list is led by Sydney Griffin of Walton (GA) who placed high at the Florida Relays last week. Hunter Roberts, Southwest Guilford (NC) and Cheyenne Hutchinson, Hopewell (NC) are two of the best from the Tar Heel state and should contend for medals. Kiah Seymour, Archbishop Carroll (DC) placed 4th at NBIN in the 400 m and has run a fast early season 300 hurdle time. Taylor Tucker, Elizabeth Seton (MD) ran a fast hurdle time at NBON last summer. At last year’s South Carolina State Championships, Alexia Neal, Beaufort (SC) ran a sub 65 second time. Also in the mix should be Megan McDonald of TC Roberson (NC).
Sheepshead Bay (NY) is a strong contender in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. Smart money might be on the Summerville (NC) 4x100. Rumor has it they picked up a baseball player that runs one heck of a leg. The other big player is Berry Academy (NC). Coach Jenkins has been talking about their exploits for 2 years. I am excited to finally see them run. Morrow (GA) should challenge for 4x400 gold as well. Host school Spring Valley has made a habit of running some really fast 4x400 and 4x800 relays the last 5 years. I know Coach Jones’ relay teams are ready for the challenge. Ridge View’s 4x800 record could get broken by multiple teams. Reagan (NC) is the top seed followed closely by Lexington (SC) and Colonial Forge (VA). Don’t forget about Cabell Midland (WV), any team that has a 4:07 miler has a leg that can catch about anybody.
Middle College, (Medgar Evers, NY) is back to take another run at the 4x100 and 4x400 records. They just missed the 4x100 record last year with a 46.96 clocking that won by a second. Winning by a second won’t happen this year. Walton (GA) ran 47.00 just a few weeks back. West Mecklenburg (NC) has also gone sub 48 early this season. Those same three teams will battle in the 4x400 as well. Middle College has a great shot at both Therrell relay records. The 4x800 relay should be a great 5 team race. Oakton (VA) ran 9:20 at NBIN, Watauga (NC) ran 9:27 indoors, Colonial Forge (VA) ran 9:33 indoors, Ardrey Kell (NC) has four great girls in the distance events, and of course Middle College will challenge in the distance relay as well.