2015 Track & Field Season Preview -- Middle and Distance Events
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll take a shot (yes, that's a pun) at looking at all the Track & Field events and see who is at the top and the ones to you may want to keep an eye on during this season. And unlike cross-country, Track & Field is really an individual sport so we'll be focusing on individuals and not really take a look at teams as a total. Yes, I know, we score teams and have relays, but the bottom line with T&F is the individual efforts! So with that in mind, it would be great to talk about all the athletes that compete in Track & Field in this state, but that wouldn't be very practical either. I know each athlete in this sport is unique and has their own story -- whether it be racing at the national level or trying to PR at the next meet. So, since I can't imagine knowing all these stories, if you have one -- please send it to us so we can take a look and possibly post something on it too. And as I said, I'm not about to say I know about all the athletes in this state, so don't throw sticks because I left something out or said something you didn't agree with. If you do want to add something about an athlete -- or any comment, feel free to post something at the very bottom of the article in the comment section -- that's what it's there for and we would love to hear from you!
Anyways, on to the preview - This article focuses on the 800, 1600 and 3200 and later articles will be on the sprints & hurdles and field events. The Decathlon and Pentathlon will be mentioned but since these really identify the best overall athletes for this sport, we may just wait until prior to the state championships before digging deeper into those events. And speaking of the multi's... any chance someone will put on a meet and add those events this season... or next? We should think about that!
Let's start with the 3200M run. Unless you're doing a summer USATF or some other meet, the 3200M is the only real distance event that is contested in Tennessee Track & Field. It's eight laps around the oval and so as far as mentally being prepared, it doesn't require the concentration level you'd see with a track 5K, 10K or even the steeplechase. But if you're pushing yourself hard or just plain hurting, well, those eight laps could make for a very agonizing race. Some folks consider the Mile or 1600 as a distance event, but it's better categorized as a middle distance for most Track meets. And the 800, well, I've said it before, it's becoming more and more a sprint event. For now, I'm calling the 800M race a controlled sprint for a lack of a better term to describe it and I'm classifying it in a category by itself for now. Just like sprints and field events, there are a lot of cross-over runners in this group, but we are seeing a lot more specificity in the training plans as athletes get more proficient at each of these events. I don't mean to say I'm for it or against it, but you don't see a lot of great 800 runners running the 3200 and there's a reason for that.
I'll start by pointing out that of the top ten best performances in the boys 3200M last season, a total of eight were made by seniors. Out of that eight, four were from Brentwood High School alone. The other seniors in that list were Andrew Bull (D2, Brentwood Academy) and Aaron Templeton of Hardin Valley (and last year's state champion). So when you pull out the graduated athletes, that leaves Adam Barnard at the top of the D1 group with a mark that is very close to breaking 9 minutes (9:01.11). Josh Routh is a little ways behind him with a 9:19.72. Both these athletes are from Daniel Boone, which, not surprising, is the current reigning cross country team champ. These two marks, as well as five others in the top 10 of the state (both divisions) came from the KYA Post Season cross country time trial. I make this point because that time trial is right after the cross country season and so you would expect the athletes to be in shape, but more importantly, they are in "distance" shape. So, not a big surprise that the 3200 gets such good times set there and it's actually a nice time to see that race ran too.
So, continuing on with the D1 boys, the next best returner is Dartanian Oakley of Hardin Valley (9:21.24, and UT Commitment). Just a hundredth of a second behind Dartanian is Gavin Hasty who will be the leader for a re-building Brentwood High team I'm sure. On the D2 side, the top athletes will be Dylan Carmack (McCallie) with a bit of an overall lead in this division with his 9:29.98 (again, at the KYA time trial). Montgomery Bell's Will Peters is the runner up returning athlete with a 9:36.33 that is less than two seconds ahead of third runner Ben Weisel of Father Ryan. And two guys just barely outside the silver standard in mile split is MUS senior Pierce Rose at 9:40.73. Pierce continues to improve each year in the 3200, dropping his time from a 10:18 as a freshman to last year's 9:40. If that improvement continues, no guessing as to what Pierce will put up this year. Rounding out the top 5 best returners is Will Boling of Brentwood Academy. Will also has a mark very close to the silver standard at 9:41.13. Should be a very interesting race at state. Father Ryan's Ben Weisel might be the wild card here after having a very strong showing during the indoor season.
The 3200M girls has a very notable group that have cracked under the eleven minute barrier. For the D1 girls, Makenzie Jones stands alone with the only Mile Split Gold standard with her 10:50.54 that she set at her sectional meet on the way to a third place state finish. Makenzie also just won the TN State Indoor Championship meet 2-mile event in a 10:47 that puts her #4 in the nation! And considering the stores she has about working around (or in) the snow this winter to get that 2-mile mark, the spring season training is going to be like a vacation! The Morristown-West athlete is closely followed by Bailee Dean of Cane Ridge. Bailee had her best mark of 10:55.75 last season at the meet you want to get it in, the State championships. Bailee's 2nd place finish at the 3200 at State was just ahead of Makenzie and being a senior sometimes adds just a little more incentive to the race. And Bailee's 10:55.75 is just a quarter of a second from the Mile Split Gold standard, so yes, keep an eye on Bailee to see what this very efficient runner does this season!
Rebecca Story is the next D1 athlete at the 4th overall spot in the state and she competes in the A-AA class so holds that top spot. Then there's Nicole Gardner of Siegel who is the last competitor with a sub 11 time. Nicole recently ran the Vanderbilt indoor two mile race in 11:41.47 to get a 3rd place finish in that very competitive indoor meet. Obviously Nicole understands the indoor season benefits and determined to make her senior season a memorable one for sure! Taylor Cuneo (Central Magnet), ranked #8 in the nation for the indoor 2-mile should also be in the top mix for the 3200 in May. Taylor was the runner up at the indoor state championships at ETSU and so is in very good racing condition. And if that doesn't set up for some good races come the end of May this season, then you're probably not into this sport that much. But I know you are and so keep an eye on these girls this season.
Scanning the D2 class, Emma Sloan of Ensworth is hovering alone at the top with the only sub 11 mark (10:57.03) for the division and appears ready to make a huge mark in her senior season. She's going to have some company as she shares the MileSplit Silver standard (11:20) with three other talented athletes. Claire Cheeseman had a very strong cross country season and then capping it off with a top 20 finish at the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional (17th in 18:10.50). She is likely to be a good pick to run a fast 3200 this season and liable to challenge for the top spot with Emma. Peighton Meske is right behind Claire with the third best time in the state and knowing the success Webb School of Knoxville athlete has had recently, I wouldn't count her out of the race by any means. Peighton also ran a strong two mile recently at the Vanderbilt indoor (11:55.60) and appears to be making the indoor season a big springboard into her outdoor season. Peighton was runner up in the 3200 at state last year to Allison Cheeseman who has since graduated. That should have Peighton thinking strongly for a win in the race this year. Of course, if she can stay healthy, I would expect Laura Lys Shallow (4th in D2 with 11:08.5) to be a player in that outcome, along with Claire and Emma. Since these girls are just seconds apart, the 3200M D2 race looks like it is really going to be a fun one to watch. So... who do you think will have the edge in May?
Several years ago, I had the chance to meet one of my long time track idols, Mary Decker-Slaney, at an outdoor road mile in Fort Worth TX. If you don't know who she is, google it... then if you're not impressed - take up bowling or something. I had heard that she always liked the mile, so I remember asking her why it was one of her favorites. Of course, her husband was standing next to us when I asked, so I did it politely (he's an Olympic discus athlete... yea, the guy was huge!). I don't really remember the exact words, but the idea stuck with me... the mile has always been the purest of events in the purest of all sports. It's not exactly the mile, but if you're into racing the 1600, then you're in with some pretty good company.
In this state, the leader of that company for the girls across all divisions would be two Rizor's -- Jessica with 5:00.71 and Julia with 5:00.91. Although Julia seems to have an edge with her faster 800 time and the fact that she also won their head-to-head race at the TN State Indoor Mile recently. But these are two very fast 1600 runners and really too close to call who will be the best come the end of May. Makenzie Jones (the top 3200 runner) is the next closest AAA division athlete to these two Beech seniors and the way the schedule runs at State, might just be a pretty big factor there too. The A-AA division really has some heat up front with Mallory Young (Signal Mountain, 5:04.97) and Rebecca Story (Christian Academy, 5:06.15) topping this division with some very good 1600 times last year. Sometimes freshman have a tendency to do well despite the fact that they are inexperienced or just really don't know what to expect in races. Rebecca is a freshman, but like some other freshman this season, she doesn't seem to fit that mold -- she seems to be running with tons of experience and I doubt you'll be seeing her at the back of the pack come May this season.
Division 2 has really never had a shortage of talent, the depth of talent sometimes is not always there for every school. This year though, looking at the top few overall, there seems to be a fairly wide spread among the girls 1600 runners. Last year's state champion in the 1600 was Reagan Freeman (Harpeth Hall) with Emma Sloan (Ensworth) the runner up. But according to the standings, Emma holds the top spot having run a 5:06.16 are her sectional and Reagan is the runner up on the board with her 5:07.37. Emma also won the state cross country championships with Reagan the runner up at that distance. So... you following this so far? And for track all the D2 schools run together, so add in Peighton Meske of Webb and you have three girls under 5:10. Oh, newcomer to the area, Ruth Wiggins (Briarcrest) ran a 5:10 at the Vanderbilt indoor and would have run the Indoor State Championship meet if it weren't for the flu -- so you can expect her to be in the mix as well. Ruth hails from California so she is very familiar -- and comfortable -- running in strong packs and among the best competition. And two other athletes that you should never count out in a race will be Claire Cheeseman (Brentwood Academy) and Laura Lys Shallow (St. Agnes) -- both athletes are well coached and have no fear of competition. And out of those six girls, half will be returning next year, so it's a fairly young group at that.
And if you're a guy and you're into the 1600, then you should know who Roger Banister is. Anyways, when it comes to high school boys, getting under the 4:30 mark and maybe even as close to the 4 minute mark as possible is a goal that is so very hard to achieve but none the less, a goal a lot of milers have on their minds when they line up and hear the gun. For the D2 boys, Ben Weisel of Father Ryan and Dylan Groos of University School of Nashville are the top two with the Mile Split silver elite standard. Ben was runner up at state last year by less than half a second and won the UK Indoor mile recently so you know he is training hard and will be the top contender in May. Can't say if Dylan will run the 1600 this year at state or focus on the 800 where he does seem to be much stronger -- and that's tough to say with a 4:19.72 PR for the 1600! Right behind these is a group of runners with times either just under 4:30 or right at the low 4:30's. Reece Rose (Webb School of Knoxville, 4:26.58), Will Peters (MBA, 4:28.12), Carlton Orange (MUS, 4:30.62), Alex Sumida (Baylor, 4:30.64), Pierce Rose (MUS, 4:32.43), Tom Peters (MBA, 4:33.17) and rounding out the top 10 is Jackson Goodwin of Baylor coming back with a 4:34.35. So plenty of talent under 4:35 and likely looking to go faster this year as well.
Going back to the D1 boys, Adam Barnard holds the fastest returning time at 4:10.61 that got him into the spot of now saying he's the defending 1600 meter AAA champion. Not a bad tag to have for an athlete! That time also is almost seven seconds into the Mile Split Gold standard of 4:17.00. And right behind Adam is a slew of athletes having the Silver standard which is under 4:25. Zach Long of Grainger with 4:19.28 leads that pack with Luke Mead (4:20, Sullivan East), Joe Bindner (4:22.21, Knoxville Catholic), Dartanian Oakley (4:23.01, Hardin Valley), Matt Rainey (4:23.44, Ravenwood), Jonathan Helton (4:24.10, Centennial) and Javan Winders at 8th overall in the state with a still blistering 4:24.78 that rounds out this talented group. And looking even further down the list, there are a lot of athletes that could easily kick in by May and end up on that podium! For those fans of the this event, well, hold onto your shoes because I really think this season is going to show us some times in this event that we haven't seen for a while!
Now to the 800M sprint. Ok... not a sprint. Not yet. But then.... Watch some of these races and you may end up agreeing with me on this point. Anyways, off the soap box and to the athletes. The boys 800 in TN this season is going to be really heated up! And there clearly is something in the water over at the Memphis University School! Three of the top 10 athletes in the 800M for all divisions hail from MUS. Carlton Orange, Terrell Jackson and Clayton Turner are all under the 1:55 Mile Split Gold Standard! Terrell currently is the #2 National indoor 800M runner (held #1 for a long time until a Pennsylvania athlete upped him by less than half a second last week) having run 1:50.63 at the Vanderbilt Indoor Invitational. That a... well... that's Fast!! Carlton ran a 1:50.97 in July at the USATF Junior Nationals and Clayton ran 1:54.52 at the state championships. Add in Dylan Groos of USN with his 1:53.56 last season, and it makes these the obvious leaders in the D2 class this season. It's going to be interesting to see who runs what in May this year!
The D1 leader is Bryce Ailshie of Dobyns Bennett who ran 1:52.42 at the New Balance Outdoors in the middle of June last season. We are really seeing a lot more Tennessee athletes making the rounds at these National meets which certainly says a lot about the quality of athletes we have in this state! Great going! The next best D1 athletes with the Gold Standard are Matt Rainey of Ravenwood (1:53.74) and Adam Barnard of Daniel Boone (1:53.74). Between the D2 and D1 boys, there are a lot of Gold Standard athletes this year. Actually, we have 26 boys that have broken under the 2 minute barrier last season! That is pretty darn impressive and something that is also impressive... you can't get them all on the track for one race... we need a bigger track! And for Tennessee Track & Field -- it's very nice to see!
The girls 800M is topped off by a sprinter (yea... I just had to say that!). Lydia Witty (Harpeth Hall) has the fastest girl's time in the state and she didn't run the event at the state championships last year, she ran the 200M and ran the 400 at her sectional. Wonder what she'll shoot for this season? Since Lydia is in D2, we'll stay in that division and finish the review. Fellow Harpeth Hall teammates are the next best in this event with Reagan Freeman (2:15.82) and Sophie Pilkinton (2:16.59) with both making the Silver Standard. Next up would have to be St. Benedicts Meghan Underwood. Meghan ran at the Vanderbilt invitational coming in with a PR of 2:25 and ran a superb race in the 3rd heat to clock a 2:17.45. That put her in as the #4 freshman in the nation for the indoor 800. She certainly is one of the top contenders for this event. And also, Ruth Wiggins (BCS), the California transplant has a pretty strong time of 2:13.51 at a meet in Corona CA last May as well as a handful under 2:20 that should make her a strong challenger if she runs the 800 in May (and I'd have to say that she likely will run that considering those times).
Moving over to the D1 girls, there are several that met the Silver standard last season leading off with defending state champion in the event, Julia Rizor (Beech). She ran that best to win the event at state last year, so you know she understands the importance of peaking at the right time. Julia's another girl that has been doing some of the indoor circuit this winter so she'll be entering the outdoor season in shape and ready to hit the floor running! Not surprising another athlete with some recent indoor experience holds the runner up spot for the D1 girls, Emily Lord of Morristown-West is a half second behind Julia with a 2:15.65. And really, there is no shortage of talent in this group with a total of eight athletes having run sub 2:20's last season. Out of that group, three are seniors and five are juniors -- so we're talking a lot of experience. Holding up the 8th spot is Hannah Caldwell of Brentwood (2:19.82), seventh is Amelia Thiesing (Centennial, 2:19.51), sixth is Shian Mallory (Houston, 2:17.95), fifth is Carmella Cole (Maryville, 2:17.86), two Brentwood athletes hold the fourth and third with Rosie Lobelson (2:17.68) and Hailey Hendry (2:16.21). And I can't leave out Celine Rone (Arlington) who ran 2:16.84 at the Vanderbilt indoor, so she could be in the group this outdoor season too. The last couple of years, the D1 group has seen 2:17/2:16 take the win at state. Based on this group of talented girls, I would have to say that this year's race at state will be a burner for sure! I wonder if we might see something close to a 2:10. Let's keep an eye on the meets this season as we build up to the meet in May... no doubt, we're in for some exciting races!
See you on the Track,