UK High School Invitational: Sprints Preview



Each year, some of the best high school athletes in the nation make their way to the Bluegrass State for the UK High School Invitational and this year is no different. The meet consistently yields some of the best performances in the nation as the oval in the University of Kentucky’s Nutter Fieldhouse is a friendly 290-meters, which means fewer curves in all the races 200 meters and up. Last year, Tavaris Tate (Starkville, MS) and Takeia Pinckney (Columbia, GA) both scored US #1 performances for the entire indoor season, with Tate running 47.06 for 400 meters and Pinckney running 7.33 for 60 meters. In all, there were close to 20 different performances that ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the entire indoor season during last year’s edition, continuing an impressive tradition that keeps the talent level high each year.While the meet has consistently brought in several athletes that were clearly the best in their event nationally (Wayne Davis, Chalonda Goodman, and Jacquelyn Coward to name a few), this year the entries don’t pack so much star power, but there is depth in almost every event that should make for nationally-ranked results in all but a few of the events on the day.


 Over the next three days, we will be releasing parts of our preview for this year's meet and tonight starts off with the sprints.



Here are a couple of sprint studs to talk about before we get down to the individual events.

Blake Heriot (Gahanna-Lincoln, OH) is no stranger to this track. The University of Florida signee tripled last year running 6.90 (60m), 21.71 (200m), and 47.53 (400m), but didn’t win a single event! Even with his US #7 performance in the 200 meters and his US #3 performance in the 400 meters, Heriot was overshadowed by the likes of Eric Harris, Kenneth Gilstrap, and the aforementioned Tavaris Tate. This year, Heriot comes in as the heralded athlete expected to blister some very fast times and has already set some impressive marks this year in the 300 (33.66) and 500 (1:05.20) meter distances, ranking US #2 in the former and US #1 in the latter.


Joining Heriot in returning from strong performances in last year’s edition is fellow Ohioan William Henry (Trotwood-Madison, OH). Henry ran a 47.91 (US #7) here last year in a race where he ended up 3rd, but turned around and repeated that performance at the OATCC Division 1 meet to take Ohio’s indoor state championship at 400 meters. Outdoors, the soon-to-be Arizona State Sun Devil, dropped down to 47.21 and added PR’s of 21.74 and 1:53.72 as well. Coming into the meet, Henry and Heriot have outdoor PR’s just a few ticks different (Heriot’s is 47.16), so the 400 should be a great race, but Henry’s ability in the 200 meters, should give him a chance to compete for the win there as well.



Here’s a breakdown of the entries in the sprint events:




Alycia Prior (Mt. Zion, GA) has been on a hot streak so far this year, winning the 55 meters at the LSU High School Classic before taking the 60 and 200 meter titles at the KTC High School Indoor Classic about a month ago. Prior, runner-up in the 100 meters at Georgia’s Class AAAA meet last year, enters with the same PR as Chesna Sykes (Bishop Hartley, OH), who took 8th at both the 100 and 200-meter distances at Nike Outdoor last summer. Add to this combination Breeana Coleman (Olathe East, KS), who took three individual titles at Kansas’ Class 6A State Championships last year including the 100 and 200-meters. Chidera Obasih (Brookfield Central, WI) comes in with the Wisconsin State Meet Class A record for 200 meters, but stacks up well against the crew assembled as well. With Sykes and Prior having already ripped off times among the top 15 in the nation this year, expect the rest of the group to be chasing them this weekend.


Justin Lord (Glenn Hills, GA) and Justin Emerson (Christian Academy of Knoxville, TN) won’t be shying away from a challenge as they have already battled once this year with Lord going 6.90 and Emerson 6.91, putting them on the edge of the top 10 times nationally to this point. There is plenty of other talent entered to take down Heriot, with Aaron Bailey (Woodhaven, MI), Shawn Smith (Olathe East, KS), and Dominique Lynch (Belleville, MI) all having hit 7.00 or better for 60 meters this season already. Heriot’s best distance is probably the 200 or 400 meters, so this is a chance for several guys to make a strong run at a big name recruit and the depth only makes things that much more interesting.




Kendell Williams (Kell, GA) and Breeana Coleman will look to show their multiple talents in the hurdles as they enter with the two fastest times. Both enter with times ranked among the top 15 in the nation with the freshman Williams having run 8.72 in Tennessee and Coleman having hit 8.79 in Texas.  Just a bit faster thus far this season, though, is 3rd-ranked Bridgette Owens (Oak Park, MI) who hit 8.71 at meet in Michigan over a month ago. Add in just one more early season standout, Kasha McDougald (Junction City, KS), who hit 8.80 in Colorado already this year, and you have a field that is already sharp this season. Owens ended up 8th at Nike Indoor last year and posted the 10th fastest time in the nation en route, so her big race experience may serve her well here.


Jordan Moore (Union Grove, GA) doesn't enter as the top-ranked athlete in the boys’ hurdles, but has done the most damage at 60 meters thus far this indoor season. His time of 8.08 last weekend has him among the top 10 nationally at this point in the season, but with #1-ranked Marquis Woodyard (Thomas Johnson, MD) having hit the #5-ranked time in the nation at the 55-meter hurdle distance, don’t count him out either. Three other rising stars in this event include Michael Jordan (Trotwood-Madison, OH), Courtney Edwards (Fort Knox, KY), and Brandon Bagley (John Hardin, KY), each of whom have shown potential, but will really have to step up to match Moore and Woodyard.




Obasih, Sykes, and Prior are doubling back from the 60 meters and with Obasih and Sykes already having posted 24.76 and 24.82 respectively this season, the race should be moving early. Jawanda King (Therett, GA) enters with the #1 seed and with good reason as her 23.79 PR placed her among the 20 fastest ladies in the nation last spring. Laquiesha Jackson (Howard School of Academics and Technology, TN) and Jamilah Middlebrooks (Richwood International Charter School, GA) add even more depth with both having placed in the top four at 200 meters in Junior Olympic National Championships last summer.


Henry will look to do big things in this race and comes in as the prohibitive favorite, but James Harris (Lanett, AL) is a great athlete who will look to challenge. Harris comes in with the fastest entry time, and he has run even faster than that, hitting 21.20 (NWI) last spring, as well as claiming state titles in the 200, 400, and HJ in Alabama’s Class 2A state meet.  George Chambers (Archbishop Curley, MD) has been putting down some impressive times in the 300 meters this spring, hitting 34.88 this past weekend, and should be able to carry that to a fast clocking at 200 meters. DeMario Johnson (Junction City, KS), Chisom Omenyinma (Male, KY), Charles Robinson (Lithia Springs, GA), Robbie Graham (Male, KY), and Maudrecus Humphrey (Hoover, AL) will add depth to the event with all of them having been under 22 flat last outdoor season. All of this together with standouts Lord, Emerson, and Smith coming back from the 60, and the first two heats should be smoking fast.


400 meters


South Carolina 4A state champion, Lauren Ellis (West Florence, SC) is the top seed among this group and Ellis has been through this before, running 56.88 here on her way to placing 2nd behind Briana Nelson. Ellis’ 54.29 PR is one of only two entries under 55.5, along with Ashley Liverpool (Walnut Hills, OH). Liverpool was the runner-up at Ohio’s 1A state championships at 400 meters before placing 16th at Nike Outdoor last summer. 3rd-seeded Jordan Lavender (University School, TN) was Tennessee’s Division 2 state champion at 400 meters, while 4th-seeded Julia Petree (Maryville, TN) was the first across the line in Tennesee’s Class AAA meet. Counting Jawanda King, doubling back from the 200 meters, there are 8 young women in this race with times under 56 seconds, so with the size of this oval, there is a great chance for a fast performance coming in.


Heriot and Henry will be ready to push this race with the friendly facility allowing for fast times, but look for USATF Junior Olympic national champion James Harris to be geared up for this one. Harris blistered a 46.55 to win the title last summer in North Carolina and is among the top five fastest returners in the nation at 400 meters. Chambers and Johnson will be getting in on the action in the 400 along with their effort in the 200, as will the other sub-49 second entrant Kevin Gary (South Gwinnett, GA). With such a very strong field, this race has the potential to post the first sub-48 time in the nation this indoor season