2015 Vanderbilt High School Indoor Meet Review
I'm a big fan of Track & Field and so when I write about it, it's usually with a fairly positive outlook. I just walked out the door of the Vanderbilt indoor facility after what I would have to say was one heck of an exciting Track & Field meet! There's a tendency these days to describe simple things amazing labels, even though they may not actually be that great. This meet, well, not in that category by any means. For the high school level, or any level for that matter, this was one powerful track meet!! All during the day when they announced the winners of the events, the words "US top 10", "US top 20", US #1 were boomed out of the loud speakers. I'll go over what I can or what I saw during the meet, and believe me when I tell you that I just can't talk about all the great performances... there were literally just way too many of them during this meet!
I knew from the entries in the meet that the throws would be one of the areas to watch at the very beginning. And so it was as the girls weight throw had 3 throws ranked in the top 12 nationally. But wait, there's more... Sabrina Gaitin and Kamryn Brinson, both of the Throw 1 Deep throwing club, are now the #2 and #3 best national weight throw girls! Oh yea and by the way, both broke the impressive record set last year at this meet and so now Sabrina will be the mark to beat next year. I did say this meet was impressive, that new record throw by Sabrina was 0.52 meters longer than last year's mark.
Then the women decided to dismantle the shot put record by throwing a full 1.31 meters farther. Actually, both 1st and 2nd place finishers bettered the mark. Kathleen Young threw 47-04.50 and Noelle Parker tossed a 2nd place throw of 43-01.75. Heck, the top seven at this meet had throws of 40 or better. Not bad for an "indoor" meet where the athletes are "getting into shape"... Did I say this already: this meet has assembled an impressive group of athletes! Very impressive!
On the boys side of the throws, Brett Neeley (Steel Throwers club) gave his best shot (yea, I know a pun) and tossed a new meet record of 58-10 in the shot. That was 2 ¾ of an inch ahead of second place thrower Isaiah Rogers. And the Throw 1 Deep club got their share of the records too with a 71-10.25 weight throw win by Charles Whitener. Charles' throw was a huge one over second place throw of 64-8.75 by teammate Isaiah Rogers. And then Brett took third in that event with a 63-5.5.
Christopher McBride took first in the meet for the long jump with a US top 20 mark of 23-00.75, which was also a new meet record. In case you're wondering, you're going to hear those three words a lot -- 'new meet record'. So enjoy! In the girls triple jump, and yep a new meet record of 40-02.5 was set by Bria Matthews of Quicksilver track club. That jump is a US top ten mark by the way. Bria also top the podium in the long jump -- with a new meet record of 18-4. Carson Dingler was scheduled to compete at this meet but was one of the late casualties (not sure if it was injury or sick) and she might wish she did show up -- Becky Arbiv of Pole Vault Atlanta vaulted 12-4 and took Carson's record she set last year. In the boy's high jump, Isaiah Kyle just barely got a new meet record with 6-6 leap which was 0.1M higher than last year's record.
Aside from some very powerful throws, the field events at this meet last year were weak compared to the running events. This year however, they improved considerably. And keep the term 'weak' in relative terms -- it's winter time and a difficult time to practice a lot of the jumps. But... this is an open invitation for everyone to take a closer look at the field events next year and if you're good, come on out and see what you can do at this facility.
Now onto the running events. The first of the day was the 60M hurdle prelims. Whether or not it was an omen or not, the girls started out with Sylvia Wilson blasting her way to a US top 10 prelim performance of 8.68. Then later took first in 8.80 (a US top 20). Kiara Rhodes also captured a US to 20 with an 8.85 run in the finals followed by Jameeka Middlebrooks with just over 9 with her 9.02 third place finish. Fourth was Bria Matthews with a 9.08. No doubt the finals was a close race. On the boy's side, George Patrick decided to make up for his race from last year where he hooked hands and got held out of the final. This year, no such issue. In the prelims, George took first in a new meet record of 8.21. So yes, nice way to start. And the next three finals qualifiers also broke the old meet record. Matrice Moore and Elijah McNairy both ran an 8.24. The finals qualifiers came out of heats 1,2,3,4 and 5. Nice. The 6th qualifier (Danzel Harper) ran an 8.38, Walter Pate 5th in 8.33 and Matthew Moore 4th with an 8.26. This goes to show, no matter what, you don't slow down because track is a sport of split second wins and losses! Now, the boys final had 1 US top 20 performance (8.12 by Matthew Moore), and two US top 10 performances by Walter Pate (8.10) and George Patrick (8.08). And get this: all three of these re-set the record that George set earlier in the prelims!
Having set two records in the same event at one meet is definitely a unique accomplishment and certainly should give George a lot of confidence to excel in the Decathlon this season. One note too, current state decathlon record holder Harrison Williams ran an 8.28 last year at this race and went on to set a new state record in the 300H and actually bettered the 110H state record but was considered wind added then. Hmm. Interesting.
Janel Pate came to this meet with some desire, that's for sure. She was the best qualifier in the prelim 60M dash with a 7.69 and then came out in the finals to garner a US top 10 with 7.57! Looks to me like Janel is going to want to stand on the top podium in the sprints at the TN state championships this season. Should be interesting to track the progress and watch come May.
In my preview article, I said I was really surprised when I saw so many 56's in the girls 400M dash last year. I also said to keep an eye out this year. Seems I actually was right! Let's see... not 1, not 2 but three girls broke into the US top 10 mark with sub 56 times. Third was Serenity Douglas with 55.96, then in second was Chelsea Zoller with a 55.43 and top of this very talented sprint group was MaKenzie Dunmore with a 55.19 mark. MaKenzie now holds the #2 US 400M indoor mark, Chelsea at 5th and Serenity at 8th. Now that was a fast race. There were 16 girls breaking under the 1 minute mark in this meet. On the boy's side, the race was fast but not with any top US marks this time. A 49.74 was the top mark Saturday by Marquise Cooper of Velocity Suns. There were however, 13 athletes under 52 seconds and so a lot of fast sprinters. Oh yea, forgot to mention -- the top 3 girls in the 400 set a new meet record (yep, there's that saying again!).
The mile -- yes, of the "Bring Back The Mile" fame was up next. The girls were first, but before I get to them, I'll make some notes on the boy's race. Every boy ran under 4:54. Seven went under 4:30. The winner was Robby Keough with a 4:21.91. With those time so close, and the lead pack pretty tight, it really came down to the last few meters for Robby to take the win.
Sometimes you go to meets and they have girls on one day and boys on another. When they do that, you see there might be a bit of a difference between the numbers of spectators attending each. Well, I think it's time for everyone to recognize that we have some very talented lady's across this country taking up track and field. The Girls Mile at this meet was certainly an explanation point on that very topic! The top 9 girls broke under 5:12, with the 9th place finisher getting a 5:11.47 and she is a freshman (Ella Baran of Houston). Two ran in the 5:10 range -- Makenzie Jones (5:10.45) and Ruth Wiggins (5:10.05). Not too bad. But then the top six girls ran under 5:06. The six place girl was Jessica Rizor with a 5:05.54 that was less than a quarter of a second out of the US top 20 mark. And next is very impressive as the top 5 girls all ran US top 20 marks. That's FIVE girls! And one came out of the 2nd heat (considered the slower heat in this meet... and slower is relative, remember). From fifth to first were Annika SLeenhof (5:05.21), Julia Rizor (5:04.47), Hailey Hendry (5:04.28), and second was Lindsay Billings with a 5:03.45 and in the top spot -- and with a very close race - with a 5:03.43 -- was Virginia Hutton. I had to look at that list over a couple of times before it sank it. Not a bad race. And with Annika coming out of the second heat, just goes to show that this meet is filled with impressive -- and yes fast -- athletes. Top twelve girls went sub 5:13, from both heats.
After the mile was the 60H and 60Dash finals but we'll move to the 800 since I already talked about them earlier. The girls started out and had 3 full heats. Caitie Faust was the pre-meet favorite to come out and take this race and likely set a fast time. She didn't disappoint as she ran to a US top 10 mark of 2:12.07 that put her at the 2nd best this season in the nation. That was a new meet record, with the previous set by another Katie (only with a "K"). That was a blistering pace Caitie ran and it never did seem to slow down. That was the top mark. Here's something just as impressive as Caitie's time and race. The top six girls were sub 2:20. Maddie Fulmer ran 2:17.67 and got sixth place! The old meet record was 2:17.03. Shian Mallory of Houston was fifth in 5:17.64. Fourth was Meghan Underwood with a 2:17.45. Third in 2:17.27 was Marielle Lewis and second overall was Celine Rone with 2:16.84 (a top TN mark). Second through fourth made it into the US top 20 mark. Here's another note that is very interesting. Meghan ran in the third heat. Yep. Third out of three heats and PR'd by over seven seconds to leapfrog a lot of very talented athletes, gain a US top 20 mark, and put her in the 2nd overall spot for TN in the 800. And yes, this freshman gained that spot out of the third heat. As I said before, this meet is totally stacked with talented athletes and anything can happen!
Now as remarkable as the girls 800 race was, the boys... well, let me just lay out the numbers. Terrell Jackson ran so fast he just threw out all the talk that the 800 is turning into a sprint race... it IS a sprint race with him in the mix. A US # 1 mark of 1:50.63 and new meet record. He was almost five seconds ahead of second place finisher Matthew Rainey who ran a 1:55.20 and stepped into the US top 10. Yep. He ran a 1:55 and got second by almost five seconds! Is your blood racing yet! Third place was another 1:55 with Dylan Groos running 1:55.27 and also a US top 10 performance. Fourth was another with Zach Long in 1:55.63. In fifth was Dustan Davidson who ran a 1:56.43. In sixth was Courtland White in 1:56.76. In seventh was Montgomery Tavares in 1:56.94. Zach, Dustan, Courtland and Montgomery all ran US top 20 marks. Just wait, I'm not done yet. There were 24 talented athletes that ran sub 2 minute 800 times. Zach and Montgomery came out of the 2nd heat (of three). There were 7 athletes running sub 2 minutes out of the third heat at this meet!
Ok, before my heart rate slows down at all, the 200M dash was after these incredible boys and girls 800 races. These were section vs time races, so as Chris Kane announced on the loudspeakers, you better run fast! Well, McKenzie Dunmore of McEachern Track did run fast and set a new meet record and US top 20 performance with her 24.62 race. In second was Kiara Rhodes of Memphis Mustangs with another US top 20 mark of 24.76 and in third, and yes with another US top 20 mark was New Horizon member Serenity Douglas in 24.91. That's right, three girls in this race under 25 seconds. And believe me, when they ran by, I could feel the wind moving! The boys was also just as fast, although no top 20 marks, but there were 8 boys running in the 22's coming from all different heats. The winner was Marquise Cooper with 22.14 and runner up was Lorenzo Burton with a 22.42. Rounding out the top three was Chris Davis in 22.54.
Just when I thought I could rest my heart rate, the 2 mile comes up. I didn't count, but that's a lot of laps on this 300M oval and if you want to win this race you have to be mentally prepared for it for sure. On the girls side, Makenzie Jones took the lead from the very start and, all by herself, set a new meet record (there's that saying again!) and US Top 20 (there's that saying again!) by running a really unbelievable 10:56.83 on this beautiful track! Runner up was Anna Hayden in 11:31.57 and in third was Nicole Gardner in 11:41.47. And actually, third place was a real race to the finish and Nicole had to really buckle down to get that third position here.
On the boys side, the first mile was a tightly packed race for the most part. After the mile mark, eventual winner, Luke Meade started to take the lead and pulled ahead of everyone with a decent lead. But that first mile wasn't record breaking pace. But the second mile, Luke started kicking in the after burners and I didn't get his splits, but I'm guessing there was a huge difference in the two mile splits. He kicked it in and nailed a US #1 time of 9:16.34. That also was.... A new meet record! Actually, the top 4 athletes broke the old record for this race. In 4th place was John Payne in 9:39.10. Third place, and a US top 20 mark, was Johnathan Chavez in 9:35.0. And in second, and also a US top 10 mark at 9:24.87 was Reilly Friedman. Well, there goes that feeling the heart rate was going to relax a bit, it didn't happen during these races.
All that was left after these events were the two final relays. 4x400 and Distance Medley. The girls 4x400 stepped up -- and it is so strange to watch a 4x400 relay on a 300M track... exchange zones all over the place! That however, did nothing to slow the girls down. Two teams broke the old record with New Horizon Track Club getting second overall in 3:54.57 and Gazelle Track Club taking the top spot only two seconds ahead with a time of 3:52.57. Both these were US Top 10 marks by the way. On the boys side, well, the buzz was to look out for the Memphis Mustangs. Last year they set a US #2 mark with a 3:20. This year... well, they did it again and got the US #2 spot and missed holding onto #1 by less than a second. Watching that race was purely amazing and there's no way I can explain how exciting it was to watch that race... Great time on paper but you really had to be there to experience that kind of excitement watching four athletes race around the track!
Closing out the afternoon (evening) was the Distance Medley Relay. There were three teams that really looked like they had their teams stacked. Houston Track Club, Bulldog Track Club and Memphis Jaguars. The Houston team took it in 12:42.70 just missing the meet record but really putting a push to finish their night on a really high note. It was fun to watch and they had to really buckle down to get out to the lead and hold it. The Bulldog Track and Memphis Jaguars battled it out to so tight a race it was something to watch. Bulldogs got the 2nd spot in 12:48.23 and Jaguars third in less than a quarter second behind in 12:48.46. Wow... right down to the end the races were tight and exciting! In the boys DMR, the Brentwood Track Club decided to end the night with a -- yep, you guess it -- new meet record -- time of 10:32.82. That time was also a US top 20 mark. Also breaking last years record was second place team of Oak Ridge Track Club in 10:48.38. Boys race was spread out a bit more than the girls, but ended with a common theme throughout the day -- meet records, US top performances, and exciting races to watch.
Coaches will tell you that every single race maters and this meet, well, it proved that point ten times over... and then over again! Thanks to Marty Sonnenfeldt, Chris Kane, Vanderbilt Track & Field, and all the volunteers and officials for organizing a meet of this caliber. Wow... this meet had so many story lines and so many fantastic performances I just can't see how next year will top it. But guess what, if I were to make a bet, I'd put my money on this meet next year! Whew... What a Track and Field meet!!
See you on the track,