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Spills, Thrills Highlight US High School Indoor Championships

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Fisher in a dramatic finish.

Thrills and Spills literally highlighted the 2015 edition of USA High School Indoor New Balance Nationals (High School Track and Field Championships) March 13 to 15.

Grant Fisher was running ahead of the field and the clock, and as he approached the final turn with only 20 meters to the finish line, he stepped on the inside rail, lost his balance momentarily as he staggered across the track to the outside lane. In an astonishing moment, the off-balance miler regained composure and finished the race in an impressive 4mins 03:54secs. That time is now ranked # 4 of all time.

Fisher, a senior at Grand Blanc High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan was running in the Boys mile finals and was on his way to joining the illustrious company of American Olympian Alan Webb (3:59.86) as the only high school boy to run sub 4:00-minute in that event in American high school track history.

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Rush Henrietta High sprint medley team.

And the Boys 400m final was a classic by many standards; even the big clash at the finish line was spectacular. One of the meet officials holding the tape at the line had to move onto the track to retrieve the tape that fell out of her hands as a result. Taylor McLaughlin of Union Catholic, who came from behind race leader Rai Benjamin of Mount Vernon, crashed into the official at full speed, landing her on her back as he fell on his face. Other athletes in the race fell all over one another, but no one was seriously hurt.

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Collision at the line.

In that race Benjamin blasted from the starting block as if trying to escape a bullet. At the 200m mark, he split 21 seconds and completed the next 100 meters in 10 seconds. However, with just about 15 meters to go, McLaughlin, who was trailing Benjamin, appeared to have switched to a higher gear and blew past Benjamin to stop the clock in what would be meet record of 46.50. However, on review, McLaughlin was disqualified for lane violation, and the race was awarded to Benjamin, who finished in 46.59secs.

The girls Sprint Medley Relays (SMR) was a thriller as Rush Henrietta High School of Rochester, New York (top photo) quartet of Lanae-Tava Thomas, (freshman), Tori Thompson, (junior), Ceara Watson, (senior) and her sister Sammy Watson, (sophomore) brought the New Balance Armory spectators their feet as they set a new American (National) High School record with a time of 3:52.68. According to their coach, Mike Demay, all the girls wanted to do it for Ceara, who hopes to continue her track and field career at University of South Carolina this September. When asked what was next for his team he said: “To defend our new national record at the 2015 edition of the Penn Relays.

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Another spill.

Fans had barely settled down when the boys took the track for their SMR, and just like the girls moments earlier, brought the fans to a frenzy as the squad of T. Willis, J. Scott, J. Brown and B. Bell from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School shattered the national record and rewrote the names as the new national record holder for high school boys SMR.

However, the real buzz in New Balance Armory came at the announcement of the girls 4x200m finals. This race was billed as one of epic proportion. Four of the six teams, who have become perennial arch rivals, had already run the top four times in the US for 2015 in that event.

New York City’s Medgar Evers Prep entered as prerace favorite with the # 1 time in the country, followed by Western Branch of Virginia, California’s Speed City and Long Beach Poly, but it was the girls from Parkland High School of North Carolina who took the gold in a time of 1min, 38.10secs. In the preliminary, Parland ran its “A” team of McKinley McNeill, Katlin Sherman, Miaysha Bryant and Ebony Williams for the first time this season and brought the noise level in the Armory to a crescendo with sheer speed and solid baton passes. They crossed the finish line with the fastest time in the country this year: 1:37.75. Medgar Evers finished second on both occasions.

Field Events

There were some really memorable field events. The Boys Pole Vault had Pablo Benarides (17’-8.50”) of El Passo Franklin High School (Texas) going up against Deakin Volz of Bloomington South High School. Volz eventually won the event, setting a new US High School record with 17’-11¼”.

In the girls long jump, Kate Hall of Lake Region High School (Maine) showed the crowd that her fame as the state of Maine’s greatest high school long jumper and the state record holder is real. She took home the gold medal with a leap of 20’-11.¼” or (6.38 m)

As if not to be out done the boys version of this event was equally memorable as Ja’mari Ward of Cohokia High School put on a show and at the end get himself a PR (personal record) and US # 1 with a jump of 25’-7.½” (7.65 m). He also won the triple Jump with a leap of 51’-7.½”, which is also a PR and a US # 1 for 2015.

Athlete to Watch

While there were many athletes who showed solid promise during the Championships, my Paris Peoples, a 15-year-old freshman from New York’s Benjamin Cardozo High School, is one to watch. She competed in three events, one individual and two relays. She dominated the Freshman Girls 400m from start to finish and stopped the clock in a meet record of 55.82secs.

Peoples also led the Benjamin Cardozo Girls 4×400 squad as prerace favorite coming into the meet with the fastest time in America for the 2015 Indoor season. In that Championship race, they were beaten at the tape by the experience and determination of Anna Jefferson, a junior at Oak Park High School in Detroit, who ran a split of 54.10 and a new US # 1. The times were Detroit, 3: 42.70 and Cardozo 3:42.82. The race was definitely a thrill.

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