UK High School Invitational Meet Highlights

 Every year brings new and different talents to the University of Kentucky’s High School Invitational and this year was no different. With multiple national champions on hand, fans were able to witness the dominance of Kendall (Baisden) and Kendell (Williams), while also wondering what could have been with Dendy and Dandy. A record attempt in the pole vault turned into a no height for the meets best pole vaulter and a pair of aspiring stars took big steps towards achieving their goals. At the end, there were plenty of new performances affecting the national landscape, including two new US#1 performances and three new meet records.


As for Kendall Baisden, she lowered her US#1 in the 400 meters from 54.46 down to 54.43. She led from wire-to-wire in another impressive run, but the decision was made to leave her out of the 200 meters, which already US #4 Jada Martin went on to win in 24.68. While the intent was to not push her too much, due to the fact that she also was dealing with some illness recently, there were more than a few fans who were hoping to get two looks at the young stud out of Detroit Country Day. Baisden looks primed to battle in the MITS State Championships next weekend and will be the favorite to repeat in the 200 meters.


There was also a new US #1 in the boys’ 400 meters, as Sean Sutton (Our Lady of Good Counsel, MD) hit 47.63 just ahead of Michael Newton’s 47.67 (Sprayberry HS, GA), which will stand as the new US #2 time (Video). In what was billed as a very deep event, the athletes delivered as there were six sub-49 performances laid down on the Big Blue oval. Sutton and Newton came off the break well, along with 3rd-place finisher Antonio Blanks (Dunbar, OH), but Blanks would fade around the final curve and as the gap between Sutton and Newton shrunk all the way down the straightaway, it became clear not only that the athletes were lined up a for a great time, but for an incredible finish. Sutton leaned best at the line and earned the new national leader on a track that has been known to give up fast 400 meter times in the past.


The boys’ 200 meters was almost as impressive, but Sutton and Newton couldn’t hold off Torri Tillman (Peachtree Ridge HS, GA), who set a meet record with his new US #2 time of 21.38. Tillman, who clearly was stronger at the longer distance after placing 5th in the 60 meter final, had already been 21.53 this year at Knoxville, had a strong day in the long jump as well, reaching 23-03.25 to take the runner-up spot in that event behind Tyler Anderson’s 23-06.25 (Hillsboro, TN). Sutton was next across the line in the 200 meters, clicking off a US #4 time of 21.79, while Newton also added to his big day, hitting US #7 21.88 for 3rd.


Kendell Williams (Kell HS, GA) finishes an impressive triple, taking the long jump on her final jump with a new personal best and US#2 mark of 19-08.75. (Long jump favorite Amber Dandy of Red Bank HS, TN reached 18-10.50 early on, but scratched out her last few jumps citing an injury.) Williams’ 8.61 (US #6) win in the 60m hurdles was also a personal best for the sophomore, while she took down some strong competition in her high jump win and posted a US #3 mark in the process (5-08.50). Williams has been working with the multis for some time now and mentioned that she has big goals for the Heptathalon specifically, hoping to one day compete in the Olympics in that event. (Interview)


The biggest name coming in was definitely Marquise Dendy (Middletown, DE) and he brought his best jumping legs in the long jump. After posting a mediocre jump (for him) of 22-05.00 early on, Dendy started to unleash the big air, posting three jumps that each appeared long enough to win the competition. Unfortunately, though, no measurements were taken and no distances recorded as Dendy scratched on all three attempts. His last long jump was so strong that he landed past where the electronic measuring system appeared to reach, leaving the crowd in awe and wondering what could have been. Dendy responded by dominating the triple jump, winning by just over five feet, though he wasn’t able to match the incredible 52-foot performance he uncorked last weekend. This won’t be the last time Dendy leaps in this building, though, as the future Florida Gator will almost assuredly return to this launching pad during his collegiate career in the SEC and, hopefully, it will be with much stronger results.


One of the more interesting developments, though, was in the boys’ pole vault, where Sam Kendricks (Oxford, MS) won easily over the competition, reaching 15-06 for the win. Interestingly enough, though, Kendricks wasn't the only athlete left past 15-06 as Nikita Kirillov (St. Pius X, GA) handled his vaults in a very interesting way. Passing all the way up to 15-06, when only Kendricks was left, Kirillov came in and quickly missed on his first two attempts.  He then decided to pass on his final attempt at 15-06 and take the bar up to 16-0. Those familiar with the event will see this tactic used from time to time, but not usually when no height has yet been cleared by the individual. Kirillov made one run at the height, but wasn’t able to clear it and showed in the meet results as only a NH. Kendricks took his attempts at a new meet record of 16-01 before settling for the victory with his previous clearance.


Jennifer Madu (Plano East, TX) took the ladies 60m title with a time of 7.53, easily outdistancing the field with her US #5 mark.  She wasn’t done there, as Madu came back to claim the girls’ section of the triple jump, reaching 38-01.50. It wasn’t as strong as the 39+ leap that she uncorked at Texas A&M, but it was enough to defeat the entire field by a foot.


Jadon Short (Oak Ridge, TN) took the 60m title in a photo finish over Joe Fischer 6.86 to 6.87. It was a finish that had the whole field wondering who ended up with the victory as the first six athletes finished within one-tenth of a second of each other. Short and Fischer will move up into the 4th and 5th positions on our national leaderboards, while 3rd-place finisher John Patrome posts a 6.89, good for t-US #6.


Jordan Moore (Union Grove, GA) took a big step in his goals to reach down in the range of 7.6 seconds as he posted a 7.82 in the prelims of the 60 meter hurdles. Moore left the field standing still in the prelims, before having to work a bit in the finals and coming away with a less-satisfying 7.89 performance.  It was a big improvement over his 8th-place finish here last year and it puts him in great position to improve upon his 20th place finish at NIN last year. Moore’s performance places him at US #3 currently and firmly among the top tier of hurdlers vying for the top spot both indoors and out. (Interview)


Gabrielle Anzalone (Grand Blanc, MI) won the mile in 4:59.70 running alone for much of the race, while Tori Schoettmer of Center Grove, IN was 2nd in 5:05. The two mile was much the same for Anzalone, who broke the meet record in the process of claiming her 2nd victory of the day. While her two mile performance places her US #10 at this point, she is expecting to just run the mile at next weekend’s MITS Championships in Michigan. She is hoping to run her favorite event, the 5000 meters, in the postseason this year and after the 17:16.48 she laid down a few weeks ago, she will almost assuredly be the favorite. (Interview)


Matt Jablonski (Loyola Blakefield, MD) won the boys’ mile, running away from a solid field and leading from the quarter mile until the finish. Brannon Kidder (Lancaster, OH) is 2nd in 4:15.72. Jablonski would double back for victory in the two mile, claiming a 9:23.39 victory of Stuart Graham of St. Paul’s Episcopal, AL (9:25.59). The future Duck talked about the importance of getting a chance to run with the lead in the mile and the appeal of doing some of that this season. He was able to get a pair of wins after dealing with some earlier illness, while also claiming the second spot in the Millrose HS Mile. (Interview)


The girls’ 800 was an impressive battle as well (Video), with Ohio standouts Taneisha Cordell (New Albany, OH) and Danielle Pfeifer (McAuley, OH) battling at the front from the start. After a first half split of 60 seconds, Cordell continued to lead, as she had from the gun and pushed Pfeifer until a little past 600 meters. Pfeifer took the lead from there and never look back, motoring to a new US #2 of 2:08.84 and towing Cordell through in 2:10.15, good for US #4 at this point. Pfeifer wasn’t done either, as she took the stick for her McAuley team and pulled them from way back to win the 3200 meter relay in 9:51.11. Pfeifer split just under 2:15 in the relay to make it a double 800 day as boys’ 800 meter winner Thomas Tallerico also led his Our Lady of Good Counsel 4x8 squad to victory in 8:04.86.


It was another strong day at the annual event and Kentucky’s Big Blue Oval continued its streak of posting US #1 performances in each of the past several years. Athletes will now turn their attention to the different postseason events they have lined up in the coming weeks, starting this weekend with the Brooks PR Challenge (Jablonski is headed there). After a day of terrorizing the national lists, it appears that more than a few of the meet’s athletes are primed for runs at national titles in the weeks to come.