UK High School Invitational: Distance Preview

***** Final Performance List ******

Last year's edition of this meet, gave great hope to the possibilities of this year as standouts Emma Brink (Sacred Heart, KY) and Zach Willis (Mason, OH) both won close decisions over seniors in impressive fashion. Both have returned along with a slew of other talented entries making this group of distance races the deepest and most impressive that I have seen in several years. With some very strong meet records out there and some even more impressive names attached to them, there is a great chance that this meet will end with more than a few nationally-ranked performances.

Girls' 800 meters

Cory McGee (Pass Christian, AL) was here last year sharpening up before taking 3rd at the Nike Indoor meet in the mile. This year, Ohio Indoor and Outdoor 800 meter champion Taneisha Cordell (New Albany, OH) is the headliner and will have last year's runner-up Marie Demedicis (Mountain Brook, AL) to battle. Kentucky's state meet record holder at 800 meters, Emma Brink (Sacred Heart, KY) will also make an appearance in this race, doubling back from the mile. Brink's record-breaking 2:13.14 came after she won the state championship in the 1600 meters last spring, so don't expect that the mile race will sap too much energy from her to be competitive. South Carolina's Tameka Jackson (Seneca, SC) and Ohio's Danielle Pfeifer (McAuley, OH) and Carly Hamilton (Springboro, OH) are the other entrants with PRs under 2:16, and will look to hang on to the group up front to put down a good time. Amelia Bannister's (MI) meet record of 2:10.18 is almost assuredly out of reach, but with only a handful of ladies under 2:15 this indoor season, this group has a chance to make an impact on the indoor lists.

Girls' Mile

Emma Brink and Madeline Morgan (Mountain Brook, AL) waged a fierce battle in this race last year with Brink getting the win in a US #7 time of 4:53.95, just off Morgan's meet record of 4:52.90 from the previous year. Brink rode that victory to a 5th-place finish at Nike Indoor, while Morgan, now at Duke, just finished 8th at the US Junior XC Championships. Brink is back for more and a few more talented athletes will make their way down to do battle as well. Carly Hamilton will start her day in the mile and the 7th-place finisher from Ohio's Division 1 state championships has been 5:14.08 already this year. Stephanie Strasser (Fernandina Beach, FL), a University of Florida signee, enters with 5:04.16 full mile under her belt this season and Waverly Neer (Culver Academy, IN), second place in the 1600 meters at Indiana's State Championships last spring, returns from last year's 4th-place finish here to bolster the group. One more sub-5 entry would be Michelle Moriset (Troy, MI) came off a 17th-place finish at Nike Cross Nationals before starting out with a 5:15.68 this indoor season.

Girls' Two Mile

Strasser and Hamilton are both entered in this race as well, though, it will be interesting to see which races Hamilton chooses to run with her entered in all three distance events. Neither of them are the athlete to watch for in this race, though, due to the fact that another entrant has already run 10:49.08 this year for 3200 meters. Gabrielle Anzalone (Grand Blanc, MI) was very impressive in her run on January 23rd at the Grand Valley State facility, though Megan Goethals US#1 (at the time) performance of 10:25.66 did appear to overshadow her a little bit. Cincinnati Glen Este's Michelle Thomas was 3rd in both the 1600 and 3200 meters at Ohio's Division 1 state meet last spring, while Claire Turner (Red Bank, TN) comes in after having won the Emerging Elite 2-mile at last summer's Nike Outdoor meet. A quartet of Kentucky athletes will add depth to the group as well as University of Kentucky commit Anna Bostrom (Woodford County, KY), Vanderbilt signee Liz Anderson (duPont Manual, KY), 5-time Class A state champion Kaitlin Snapp (Danville, KY), and freshman-phenom Cassidy Hale (duPont Manual, KY) all are entered.

Boys' 800 meters

Last year, Moise Frisch (Whitmer, OH) dropped a 1:54.94 to lead four runners under the 1:57 barrier at this meet, but I get the feeling from the entries that it may take more than that to get the win this weekend. The list starts with Nick Kaiser (Temperance Bedford, MI) who had a huge season at the 800-meter distance last spring and finished it off with a 2nd-place finish at Nike Outdoors, running 1:50.47. Kaiser will have his hands full with World Youth Championship team member Quincy Downing (Glenville, OH) who went 1:51.99 in qualifying to the World Youth Championships last summer. Robbie Scharold (Campbell County, KY), who was just outleaned and left off the World Youth team after running 1:52.43 at the trials, is here also running on the track that he will be calling home for the next four years after signing with the Wildcats just a few weeks ago. Toss in Spencer Hall (Detroit Catholic Central, MI), who is the highest returner from last year's race and brings a PR of 1:53.70 himself, and another 1:53 talent in Henry Stevens-Carty (Allatoona, GA), and you have a very strong field that will be looking to challenge Chris Bilbrew's 2007 meet and fieldhouse record of 1:51.08.

Boys' Mile

Ryan Eaton, (Greenwood, KY) a University of Kentucky signee, turned heads a few weeks ago on this same track running 4:13.40 for a full mile, which was five seconds faster than his previous 1600 meter PR. Coming to challenge Eaton, will be recent University of Oregon signee Colby Alexander (Strongsville, OH) who ran 4:14.30 for 1600 meters on his own last weekend. The more impressive aspect of this, though, is that neither of these two athletes might be considered among the top two competitors coming into this race! Zach Willis (Mason, OH) won the 3200 meters at this meet last year over now University of Kentucky athlete Matt Sonnefeldt, but returns to run the mile distance this year after a very impressive cross-country season that saw him finish 5th at NXN and an even more impressive showing at the World Youth Championships where he place 9th overall in the 3k. Not even Willis can put his name in front of Michael Atchoo (Troy, MI) at the mile distance, though, after Atchoo ran 4:11.14 for the mile indoors last year and 4:07.71 for the 1600 outdoors, ranking among the top three returners in the nation in both cases. Finally, there is Omar Kaddurah (Grand Blanc, MI) who will be looking to add a big invite win to his resume after a US #3 time of 4:14.95 1600 on January 8th at the University of Michigan. As long as the pace is kept honest early, this race has all the pieces necessary to be something special.

Boys' Two Mile

Clint McKelvey (Maryville, TN) headlines this group as the best returner from last year's races, as his 9:26.92 was good enough for 3rd-place. McKelvey turned around and dropped an 8th-place performance at Nike Indoors last year running 9:15.15, then dropped 9:07.27 for 3200 meters in winning the Tennessee 3A state title. Back also from last year's race, though, are Cory Puffett (Dematha Catholic, MD) and John Sharpe (Oak Ridge, TN) with 9:19 and 9:34 PRs in the two mile distance. There's also Tyler Anyan (Brookwood, TN) and his 9:21.75 (2-mile) PR to consider and the other FIVE entrants with times listed under 9:30, making the chase for Chad Balyo's 2006 record of 9:13.76 very interesting.