High-SchoolTrack-and-XC: Features

Former prep leapers take fast track to London Olympic medal stand

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
6:26
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Christian Taylor and Will ClayeCameron Spencer/GettyImagesFormer prep stars Christian Taylor and Will Claye celebrate their 1-2 finish in the Olympic triple jump.


When you saw the success of Team USA’s youth movement in the 2012 London Olympic jumps last week, accounting for five of the eight medals won in those four men’s and four women’s events, you knew Christian Taylor, Will Claye, Erik Kynard, and Brigetta Barrett were young. But did you know how young?

To wit: In August of 2008, during the last Olympiad, Taylor was finishing a fine senior year at Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) High School in the triple jump (US#1 52-8), long jump (US#2 25-6) and 400 (US#4 46.60), with a pair of top-eight finishes at the World Junior Championships in Poland. He had won the World Youth triple jump as a junior. Claye, just a junior at Mountain Pointe (Phoenix, Ariz.), was not far behind Taylor’s marks, including a US#2 52-4.75 TJ, and his post-season included wins at Great Southwest and USATF JOs.

Kynard, a Rogers (Toledo, Ohio) junior, had made the 2008 Olympic Trials off of a 7-3.75 indoors and while he didn’t make the final in Eugene that June, he did muster 7-0.5 in qualifying there. Barrett, yet another junior (Duncanville, Texas), had been one of three girls from her state over 6-0 at Great Southwest. Both Barrett and Kynard finished second at USATF Juniors, but Barrett didn’t compete in Poland while Kynard didn’t make the final.

Taylor, Claye, Kynard and Barrett. Three of them still had another year of high school, while Taylor was headed to University of Florida for his freshman year. No doubt all of them hoped for NCAA success and probably had Olympic dreams in the backs of their minds.

But the 2012 London Olympic team? And making the finals in their respective events and earning gold, silver and bronze medals, with none of them older than Taylor’s just-turned-22? With all of them already among the top 10 Americans in history, save for Kynard, who’s just a centimeter away from joining that elite group?

Wow.

In your dreams, folks might have said back then. But dreams sometimes come true much faster than expected, and so it was in London last week that Taylor and Claye gave Team USA a 1-2 finish in the men’s triple jump (with Claye also winning long jump bronze), and Kynard and Barrett both earned silver in their respective high jump events. It was clear that all of these athletes had a lot of talent and could possibly someday by national or international elites, but rarely have prep stars – beyond prodigies like Allyson Felix – risen up this fast. Each of the four were outstanding preps, but it’s not like they really threatened any high school records. All have improved tremendously during the past four years, however, going from being very good (if not truly great) preps to among the best collegians and young pros the U.S. has ever seen. And they each have many more years to get even better.

Gator power

It was Taylor and Claye who gave the quickest indication after high school that they had London medal potential. Claye skipped his final semester at Mountain Pointe and enrolled at Oklahoma in time for the 2009 indoor and outdoor seasons. He claimed a Big 12 title indoors as he began to improve dramatically, while Taylor was doing the same at Florida. Taylor topped Claye for the NCAA indoor title, 55-8.5 to 55-1.5, both three feet beyond what they’d done in 2008, but outdoors it was Claye turning the tables at NCAAs with an even-better U.S. Junior record 56-4.75. In what would have been his senior year in high school and as he was just turning 18, Claye won six major titles, including the Pan Am Juniors.

Claye had an injury-plagued off-year in 2010, while Taylor improved to 56-4.25 and won the NCAA outdoor title. Then Claye transferred to Florida, joining Taylor, and both exploded in 2011. They continued to dominate NCAAs and inch toward the 57-foot mark indoors. Then at the outdoor NCAAs, they soared to PRs of 58-4.75 (Taylor) and 57-9.75 (Claye), though both were wind-aided. They were now contenders for the 2011 World Championships podium and both turned pro. They were rewarded in Daegu, with Taylor (the youngest jumper in the final) nearly beating the American record and assuming the global yearly lead with a 58-11.25 gold-medal performance, and Claye taking bronze.

While the biggest breakthrough came in 2011, Taylor and Claye still had to elevate their games for the pressure of the Olympic cauldron. But throughout 2012, they never really left any doubt they’d be ready, going 1-2 in the World Indoor Champs (Claye winning) and Olympic Trials (Taylor winning) and building their resumes in other meets leading up to London.

Taylor and his coach never had anything less than high expectations. “When I was recruiting him (to Florida), I sat him down and told him, ‘In four years, the goal is to be an Olympic medalist,’” said Coach Rana Reider to The Dayton Beach News-Journal (Taylor trained at Daytona Beach’s Embry-Riddle U. this past year). “That is what you can do if you stay on task and learn how to compete under not the greatest circumstances (tough collegiate schedule).”

And while Claye was super talented as well, the decision to head to Gainesville a few years ago was a key factor in his success. “Me and Christian have been going 1-2 for a long time,” Claye told USATF after they won their TJ medals. “We have a brotherhood, and jumping against your brother, you go harder than you do with anyone else. It feels like it is just me and Christian out there sometimes, you know. It is an awesome rivalry, and we definitely push each other and help each other.”

** Christian wins World Youth triple jump gold in 2007, plus long jump bronze
** He comes back in 2008 with NSIC triple capped with TJ victory
** Will edges rival Bryce Lamb at 2008 AZ state with US#1 TJ
** Interval Session with Will in 2008


Raw talent

Erik Kynard
Adam Pretty/GettyImagesErik Kynard, a prep junior just four years ago, is now the Olympic men's high jump silver medalist.
Few athletes displayed as much talent and potential as did Kynard as a prep, but he still wasn’t quite at the level of, say, a Scott Sellers and Andra Manson. But his progress since has been special. After that Trials experience as a junior in 2008, Kynard followed with US#1 7-4.5 indoors and #2 7-3.5 outdoors as a senior, claiming Nike Nationals titles in both seasons. He did all that with form that at times looked less than polished and one wondered what heights he could ascend to at Kansas State.

In 2010, as a KSU frosh, Kynard stayed at the 7-3, 7-4 level, indoors and out. But in February, 2011, he had his big breakthrough with a 7-7.75, becoming the third-best indoor collegian ever. Outdoors, he won the Drake and Texas relays, then the NCAA outdoor title before earning his Daegu ticket. Then earlier this year, he won his second NCAA outdoor title with a PR of 7-8 and that set the stage for his making Team USA at the Trials.

As the London final unfolded, Kynard’s talent was on display for all the world to see, as well as some daring. He clinched the silver with 7-7.75 on his first attempt, then duked it out with eventual gold medalist Ivan Ukhov of Russia by twice passing after misses to the next height, finally bowing out at 7-10.5.

While still getting the “raw” talent tag from the likes of NBC Olympics field event analyst Dwight Stones, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist himself, it’s clear Kynard is well beyond the jumper he was in high school.

“I was probably most impressed with his attempts at 2.38 (7-9.75) and 2.40 (7-10.5) as much as anything,” said his Kansas State Coach Cliff Rovelto in a press release from the school. “He’s come an awful long way in a relatively short period of time. We should all be very proud of him and what he did today.”

While calling it “the best second-place I’ve ever had,” Kynard was clearly at home trying to win gold in the world’s biggest meet. “Pressure doesn’t burst my pipes,” he told USATF. “I have faith in my abilities. No stage is too big.”

To the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he added, “I'm young and I’ll be around for a while. I'm going home with some hardware, so I can’t complain. I’ll be back. I’ll see you all in Rio.”

U.S. HJ teammate Jamie Neito called Kynard “the future and the present for high-jumping. He’s going to have an amazing career.”

** Erik wins 2009 Nike Indoor high jump
** And then takes Nike Outdoor high jump three months later
** 2008 Interval Session with Erik



Unlimited potential

Brigetta Barrett
Cameron Spencer/GettyImagesBrigetta Barrett during her silver medal performance in the Olympic women's high jump.
Barrett was on a bit of a plateau in 2009, winning state and, in another meet, matching her 2008 season’s best with 6-0. But at the University of Arizona, improvement came immediately as she cleared 6-2.25 during her frosh indoor campaign in 2010, then 6-3.25 outdoors – placing third in both NCAA national meets. 2011 was even better, as she claimed both NCAA titles, won the World University Games with a PR 6-5, and took 10th in the IAAF World Champs.

To begin 2012, she repeated both NCAA titles, but she saved her first major PR for the best possible time, taking second in the Olympic Trials at 6-7. Now with her 6-8 in the Olympics, only one American in history, the aforementioned Lowe, has gone higher.

“I’m definitely thankful I have the medal, but it is really what comes with the medal that means a lot,” Barrett told USATF. “I know that God has brought me so far and I know where I started, so to be able to stand here and look back on the journey, that is what it really means for me. My mom is in the stands smiling and healthy, so it’s great.”

Said fellow American Chaunte Lowe, who was sixth in the Olympic HJ: “My performance was not great, but I am really proud of Brigetta. She is a really great talent and I am glad that she was able to stay poised on this type of a stage.”

NBC’s Stones has called Barrett’s potential “unlimited” and said she’s got what it takes to be the “next world-record holder.”

The same can be said of all four of these Team USA high-flyers.

** Brigetta part of elite trio over six feet at 2008 Great Southwest

Richards-Ross, Felix complete golden quest

August, 12, 2012
8/12/12
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Team USA 4x400 womenClive Brunskill/GettyImagesFormer prep sprint prodigies Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards (second and fourth from left) saw their decade long quests for individual Olympic Gold fulfilled this week, while also sweeping the relays.


There was joy, there was triumph, and there was exuberance when Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix each captured their first individual Olympic gold medals in the 400- and 200-meters, respectively, this past week.

But above all, perhaps, there was relief.

It was visible, after Richards-Ross saw the scoreboard finally confirm her victory in Sunday’s 400 final – as she heaved a big sigh and broke into a smile before raising her arms skyward – and she said as much afterward. Felix basically did the same thing Wednesday after she crossed the line first in the 200 final. They would go on to collect Team USA relay golds in the 4x100 (World record 40.82 Friday with Felix on third leg) and 4x400 (3:16.88 victory with Felix running second and Richards anchoring) by the time the action concluded on the track Saturday during these 30th Olympic Games in London.

“It's a huge weight off my shoulders,” Richards-Ross admitted to ESPN.

But if a decade ago, when they were prep sprint prodigies, you’d told Richards-Ross and Felix that it wouldn’t be until 2012 that they’d reach their ultimate goals in track and field, chances are that despite the perseverance each surely possessed even then, you would have gotten a classic impatient teenage reaction.

What? No waayyy. You’re kidding, right?

Sorry about that, girls.

Flash back to August, 2002: Richards-Ross was just 17 and had finished at St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. She had just won two medals (400 silver, 200 bronze) at
Allyson Felix
Alexander Haase/GettyImagesSanya Richards-Ross after winning her 400 gold.
the World Junior Championships in her hometown of Kingston. She owned the 400 meter prep USR at 50.69, set during her USATF Juniors double earlier at Stanford, which also included a dramatic victory over Felix in the 200. Richards would go on to University of Texas and the following two years make her first U.S. senior teams for the 2003 Worlds in Paris and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, winning 4x400 relay golds in each.

Felix, in 2002 a 16-year-old finishing her junior year at Los Angeles Baptist, had crumpled to the track after that Juniors 200 loss with a hamstring injury and would struggle somewhat in finishing fifth behind Richards-Ross in the World Junior 200. But the following spring she would break the 200 indoor and outdoor prep USRs before turning pro and also make the Paris WC team. At just 18 years old in 2004, Felix would win silver in the Olympic 200.

Yes, few, if any, preps had ever seemed more destined for greatness than Richards-Ross and Felix and there’s no question that nothing less than Olympic gold in their specialties would do – and sooner rather than later, thank you. But it can be a roller-coaster ride to the top, marred for many athletes by injury, illness, bad races, and close-but-not-quites.

Coming into 2012, Richards had the American record at 400 (48.70), two Olympic and four World Championships 4x400 golds, the 2005 silver and 2009 gold medals for the World Champs 400, and a pile of other titles and honors. Felix possessed three World Champs 200 titles, six relay golds in the combined global championships over the years, and much more among her achievements and accolades.

But it was the less-than-fond memories of the 2008 Beijing Olympics that haunted them, with Felix taking a second 200 silver and Richards-Ross a 400 bronze. It was hard not to be defined by that. 2008 was to be their time and to wait four more years was an eternity.

“I think about how I ended in Beijing, and kind of feeling discouraged there,” said Felix to USATF after Saturday’s relay triumphs, “and now for years later to have all of this happen and to really accomplish every goal that I set out, is just such a blessing.”

For Felix, the three World 200 titles she won in 2005, 2007 and 2009 certainly
Allyson Felix
Quinn Rooney/GettyImagesAllyson Felix after winning her 200 gold.
established that, at her best, no one in the world could top her. Yet the margin for error is slim and there have been other global stars to contend with, like Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown, who topped Felix for Olympic gold in both 2004 and 2008. In 2011, Felix went for a 400/200 double at Worlds, and had to settle for respective silver and bronze medals, breaking her threepeat Worlds streak in the shorter race.

So in 2012, Felix needed more speed, she decided, and she went instead for the 100/200 double. She would finish third in the Olympic Trials 100 and fifth in the final, and the speed she gained training for that was a big boost in her running a PR and meet record 21.69 for 200 in the Trials and then her 21.88 this week for London gold.

“I was in tears in Beijing, and gosh, complete opposite tonight,” she said to USATF after her 200 victory. “For it all to come together is just extremely special … I knew if I went out and ran my race it would come together … I said ‘Thank you, Lord.’ It was relief, joy, just a flood of emotions.”

“The moments that motivated me the most were losing on the biggest stage and never forgetting that feeling,” she told ESPN’s Bonnie Ford. “Now I’m able to say that I embrace that journey, because that is what has pushed me all these years.”

The road for Richards-Ross has been even more challenging. Mixed in with her American 400 record in 2006 and the 2009 World title were years like 2007 and 2011, when she missed Team USA for the Worlds (in the individual 400, though she did win relay golds), and 2010 when she missed much of the year with an ankle injury.

She spent five years fighting an autoimmune disease called Behcet's syndrome, which almost certainly contributed to the Beijing bronze. After a visit to a different doctor, she thinks she's been misdiagnosed. Fighting her illness -- which causes fatigue, sores around her mouth and splotchy skin -- with a new treatment, Richards-Ross said she arrived in London feeling as good as she has in years.

“What I have learned is you don’t win the race until you win the race,” she said after the 400 victory in 49.55. “I knew I had to cross the finish line first to call myself the Olympic champion … “I kept telling myself, ‘You are the champ. You are the champ.’ To go out there and actually accomplish it is really fantastic.”

More long quests fulfilled - somewhat

Team USA Olympians who medaled in London this week also included this trio of “DyeStat Alums” – athletes who we followed prominently on DyeStat during their prep careers – who have also had their ups and downs during the years before their London accomplishments. Each has a different take on their silver medals and, no doubt, still have gold medal aspirations for the future.

Lashinda Demus, 400H Silver, 52.77 – Few Team USA stars yearned for a gold – and only gold – more than Lashinda Demus, who has been on the path to the top since
Lashinda Demus
Streeter Lecka/GettyImagesLashinda Demus, who ran the first and only sub-40 prep 300H in 2001, won Olympic 400H silver.
she became the first – and still only – prep to break 40 seconds in the 300H while at Long Beach Wilson CA in 2001. Somewhat similar to Richards and Felix, she’d experienced international championship success – a gold (2011) and two silvers (2005, 2009) in World Champs 400H finals – but her Olympic resume had been even more limited, as she bowed out in the 2004 semis, and then was fourth in the 2008 Trials after a year off to have children.

In Wednesday’s final, she battled for the gold all the way, gradually catching Russia’s Natalya Antyukh in the home straight, but falling .07 short. “I can’t explain how bad I wanted a gold,” she told USATF. “I have been dreaming about it for years … Number two in the world says a lot, but number one says a lot more, so I won’t stop till I get that.”

** Lashinda breaks the 300H HSR at 39.98 in the 2001 Southern Section Finals
** DNF in the 300H at Southern Section Masters
** Winning the 100H and running on USR-setting 4x4 at state
** #2 all-time 55.76 400H at USATF meet


Jason Richardson, 110H Silver, 13.04 – Jason Richardson’s high school career, which saw him ultimately move into the (then) top five all-time in the 110H (13.38) and
Jason Richardson
Quinn Rooney/GettyImagesJason Richardson, the top prep at 110H and 400H in 2004, has risen to Olympic silver medal status eight years later.
400H (49.79) in 2004, certainly portended a great collegiate and international career, but it took a while for the Cedar Hill TX product to get there. A 13.21 over the 42-inch barriers helped him get in the U.S. top 10 in 2008, and then he finally really broke through in 2011, when he appeared to get second in the World Championship 110H final and then was awarded gold after a disqualification for Cuban Dayron Robles.

Richardson took a 13.15 PR into 2012 and lowered it to 12.98 in the Trials while finishing second to Aries Merritt. He was again beaten by Merritt in the Olympic Final, despite a near-PR 13.04. The result seemed to leave him with mixed feelings while talking to USATF, saying he was happy for Merritt and that “the best man won here today,” but also wanting more. “You don’t train to get second … If I am satisfied with silver then there is no hope for gold, so I will keep that hunger.”

** Jason doubles at 2004 Texas state meet
** Follows with a super Great Southwest double
** Goes under 50 seconds for 400H at 2004 Adidas Outdoor


Leo Manzano, 1500 Silver, 3:34.79 - It’s unlikely that anyone would have pegged Leo Manzano as having a strong chance at an Olympic medal out of high school and, despite all of his accomplishments as a
Leo Manzano
Quinn Rooney/GettyImagesLeo Manzano, whose prep exploits included a Great Southwest 1500 win in 2003, had a "perfect storm" of a race to win Olympic 1500 silver.
collegian and a pro, few gave him a strong chance when he toed the line Tuesday for the 1500 final. Manzano has often been one of the USA’s better runners, and is blessed with perhaps the best kick of any American middle distance runner, but has also been maddeningly inconsistent. Four times he had made U.S. teams for the Worlds (2007, 2009, 2011) or Olympics (2008) and only once had made the final (12th at 2009 WC). On the other hand, he came into 2012 with PRs of 3:32.37 and 3:50.64 (mile), and enough instances in domestic or NCAA championships (or international invites) of winning with devastating kicks that it was not impossible to imagine him putting it all together at the right time for a really big result.

That perfect storm came Tuesday. In his two qualifying races, Manzano got it done, but hardly propelled his name into everyone’s medal predictions, but in the final he was always in the mix, positioned decently into the final 200 off a moderate pace, and his kick was at its very best. He passed four others in the final stretch with only Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi finishing ahead of him. Amazingly, his 3:34.79 is the fastest any American has ever run in an Olympic final, faster than Jim Ryun, Steve Scott, and all the rest.

“I’m really excited, so thrilled and so pumped,” he said to USATF. “It was an insane race. It was probably the toughest race physically and mentally that I’ve ever been in.”

In more detail to Letsrun.com, he explained that the pace felt faster than it really was and he had moments of doubt. Then, “Coming around the (final) turn I asked the big man for some help … My legs just felt like they were bricks, but something inside of me just said, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep pushing, keep pushing … I really prayed, ‘God give me the strength to push through' and I definitely felt a surge of energy just flow through my body and the next thing I know I’m in second.”

As a prep at Marble Falls TX, Class of 2004, Leo ran 4:16 and 9:18 for the 16/32 as a frosh, 4:11 and 9:06 as a soph, 4:06 plus 1:51 for 800 as a junior, then 1:50.48 (4th adidas outdoor) as a senior.

** Manzano wins 2003 Great Southwest 1,500

Next: Recent "DyeStat Alums" Christian Taylor and others take fast track to Olympic success

Rupp's 10K silver elicits jumps, shouts

August, 5, 2012
8/05/12
1:26
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Galen RuppLars Baron/GettyImagesGalen Rupp celebrates his 10000 meter silver.
Anthony Armstrong watched the Olympic final of the men’s 10,000 meters alone at home in Kennewick, Wash. on Saturday afternoon and by the end of the race he was bouncing up and down on the couch.

Surely Armstrong, who won last fall’s Washington 3A cross country championship, was not alone.

Galen Rupp, 26, raced to the silver medal in the 10K, punctured holes in the theory of East African long-distance superiority and became the first U.S. male to medal in the 6.2-mile race since Billy Mills in 1964.

“My heart was pounding like I was in the race with him,” Armstrong said. “It was very inspirational. I’m still a little bit shocked by how well he did, but his hard work paid off.”

As high school runners across the U.S. begin the process of getting ready for the upcoming cross country season, there is a new wellspring of inspiration to draw from in Rupp’s silver. He was half a second behind race winner Mo Farah of Great Britain, his training partner under long-time coach Alberto Salazar.

In the state of Oregon, where distance running has a proud history, Rupp’s achievement carried a little bit more significance. He is a product of Central Catholic High School in Southeast Portland and broke Steve Prefontaine’s hallowed state record in the 3,000 meters as a senior in 2004. Rupp finished 13th in the 10,000 at the 2008 Olympics.

Galen Rupp
Lars Baron/GettyImagesGalen Rupp celebrates his 10000 meter silver with training partner and gold medalist Mo Farah of Great Britain.
Pat Tyson, who has criss-crossed the country this summer to speak at numerous camps, was on an airplane to Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday during the race and missed seeing it live. He landed to find his cell phone filling up with messages and missed calls. Tyson coached the 1990s Mead dynasty in Spokane, Wash. and was the college roommate of Prefontaine. He also had a brief role overseeing Rupp at the University of Oregon in the spring of 2005.

“Frickin’ awesome!” Tyson typed into a text message that he sent to his contact list.

Reached over the phone, Tyson didn’t mince his words when he attempted to put Rupp’s performance into perspective for young U.S. runners.

“Rupp has always had hero status with kids,” Tyson said. “He’s now the living Prefontaine. I don’t mean that to put that pressure on him, but he is.”

Prefontaine was fourth at the 1972 Olympics in the 5,000 meters three years after he broke the high school two-mile record. And he was killed in an auto accident before he could try again in 1976.

In Portland on Saturday, Dr. John Howell, who operates an integrated health and chiropractic clinic, held an impromptu 10K watch party at his office with a group of 15-20 people.

“We’re all serious runners so we were a little bit frustrated by the commercials because it made it hard to get the splits,” Howell, a former college steeplechaser, explained. “People started getting excited on the last lap and the final kick. Everyone was yelling ‘Let’s go Rupp!’ Everyone was ecstatic when Rupp blew by (Tariku Bekele) and into second place.”

Howell said he thought Rupp could finish in the top five but wasn’t so sure about a medal.

“I thought if he had a great run he still might finish fourth or something and out of the medals,” he said.

Central Catholic cross country coach Dave Frank was at home with his family watching the race. He was there, along with Salazar, when Rupp was in high school.

“I was sort of just sitting there watching and being in awe of the whole journey,” Frank said. “This one day is fantastic but I think back on a skinny kid who came to school every day (as a freshman) wearing a soccer jersey (Manchester United). To go back and say ‘This kid’s going to medal at the Olympics someday’ … so many things had to go perfect along the way.”

Frank’s Central Catholic boys are the reigning state champs in Oregon 6A cross country. On Sunday, he will lead the team to a preseason camp in the Cascade Mountains and spend the week there getting ready for the season.

“It would be neat to say (Rupp’s medal) will foster some big spike in American running,” Frank said. “Lots of people watched it but I’m not sure a lot will change. But maybe a lot more young will have a reason to believe that no matter how high their goals are, they’re possible.”

Armstrong, who graduated from Kamiakin High this spring, said he can foresee a big impact. Rupp's success builds on recent distance medals by Shalane Flanagan (bronze in the 10K in 2008) and Jenny Simpson and Matthew Centrowitz (1,500 meters at the 2011 World Championships).

“People talk of Pre and what he did, but now (kids) have another now generation runner they can look up to,” he said. “(Rupp) shows everyone that hard work pays off.”
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McQuay Olympics DyestatDyeStat file photoTony McQuay (above) has risen quickly from high school star to 2012 Olympian. Check out the high school credentials for every member of the this year's U.S. team.
It usually begins with an "Olympic dream."

A young person watches the Olympic Games on TV and says "I want to do that." Dedication, sacrifice and daily reaffirming effort comes after that. Olympic-sized dreams come true for only a very few but for those athletes who will compete for the United States track team in London, high school competition is usually where the competitive fire was stoked.

Not everyone on this list was a high school track star. For some, the combination of dream and talent didn't combust until later. For others, it can be traced as far back as age-group track. Some trained with sophistication in high school. Others were lightly trained.

There are many paths to the Olympic team. High school stardom isn't required. NCAA championships aren't required. The dream, and the desire, are universal. It's the timeline that varies.

Yet, for almost everyone on this list, a state championship meet was an end-all, be-all event somewhere between the ages of 15 and 18. Before these athletes wore the colors of the country, they wore the colors of a high school.

We, at Dyestat, have been privileged over the years to witness talented athletes emerge and mature on the way to successful lives. And we're proud to recognize that a few of them have also become Olympians.

Here is an athlete-by-athlete breakdown of where the members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic track and field team come from (high school) and a brief rundown of their high school accomplishments.

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Tyson Gay (100), Lafayette (Lexington, Ky.): Broke the Kentucky state record in the 100 meters when he ran 10.46 in 2001 and he also placed second in the 200 meters (21.23). ... American record holder at 9.69 seconds.

Justin Gatlin (100), Woodham (Pensacola, Fla.): Won Florida state titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles as a senior before turning his focus to the flat sprints. Placed third in the 100 (10.36) at Outdoor Nationals. Four years later he won the Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters in Athens.

Ryan Bailey (100), McKay (Salem, Ore.): Made his initial mark as a high school senior, breaking out with Oregon records in the 100 (10.45) and 200 (21.11) and a second place finish at Nike Outdoor Nationals (10.48).

Wallace Spearmon, Jr. (200), Fayetteville (Fayetteville, Ark.): A top basketball player and wide receiver on the football team, Spearmon did a little bit of everything on the track, including long jump (23-5), triple jump (45-8.50) and high jump (6-6). He won the Arkansas Meet of Champions 200 in 21.51.

Maurice Mitchell (200), Raytown South (Raytown, Mo.): Won the 200-400 double at the Missouri state meet as a senior and concluded the 2008 season ranked US#5 in the 100 (10.24) and US#3 in the 200 (20.74). He won the Kansas Relays 100 as a junior and senior.

Isiah Young (200), Junction City (Junction City, Kan.): One of the more improbable stories on the team, he was a weight lifter in high school who finished last in the Kansas 6A 100 meters final, running 11.11 seconds. He never met the DyeStat Elite cutoff; four years later he's on the Olympic team.

LaShawn Merritt (400), Woodrow Wilson (Portsmouth, Va.): A supreme high school talent who was undefeated as a senior and won the gold medal in the 400 at the World Junior Championships (45.25). He won 2004 Virginia state titles in the 100, 200 and 400 and was US#1 in the 400, US#3 in the 200 (20.72) and US#12 in the 100 (10.47). ... 2008 Olympic champion in the 400 meters.

Tony McQuay (400), Suncoast Community (Riviera Beach, Fla.): He won Florida 2A titles in the 100 and 400 his senior year and was second in the 200. His best time of 46.84 in the 400 was good for US#14 in 2009.

Nellum Olympics
DyeStat file photoBryshon Nellum, former Long Beach Poly star, overcame a gunshot wound to his leg to make the 2012 Olympic team in the 400 meters.
Bryshon Nellum (400), Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.): Who can forget his stirring anchor leg on the 4x400 relay at the 2007 Penn Relays when he split 44.6 to hold off Jamaican Yohan Blake? Nellum won the 200-400 double two years in a row at the California state meet and was US#1 in 2007 in both events with 20.43 and 45.38.

Nick Symmonds (800), Bishop Kelly (Boise, Idaho): As a senior in 2002, Symmonds won the Idaho state title in the 800 with US#67 1:53.62. He was not recruited by a Division I school and settled on Division III Willamette University in Salem, Ore., where is career took off.

Duane Solomon (800), Cabrillo (Lompoc, Calif.): He was US#1 in the 800 as a senior in 2003, running 1:49.79 in the California state meet finals. He also won the Golden West Invitational and Arcadia Invitational that spring.

Khadevis Robinson (800), Trimble Tech (Fort Worth, Texas): Turned to track after he broke his wrist playing football as a junior. He ran 47.0 seconds on a relay leg of the 4x400 and placed fourth in the 800 at the 1994 Texas state championships.

Leo Manzano (1,500), Marble Falls (Marble Falls, Texas): Won four state titles in Texas, including back-to-back 800 meters titles as a junior and senior. He was fourth at the 2004 Outdoor nationals in the 800, running US#8 1:50.48.

Matthew Centrowitz (1,500), Broadneck (Annapolis, Md.): Son of Olympian Matt Centrowitz (1976 and 1980), those great genes were evident in high school. After finishing eighth at the 2006 Foot Locker XC championships, he ran 4:03.40 (mile) and 8:41.55 (two-mile) during a stellar senior track season. ... 2011 World bronze medalist in the 1,500.

Andrew Wheating (1,500), Kimball Union (Meriden, N.H.): A Vermonter who attended school across the river in New Hampshire, his enormous potential was almost completely untapped by the time he graduated. He ran US#10 3:54.28 and placed eighth at U.S. Juniors in June of 2006. Two years later, he made the Olympic team in the 800 as a University of Oregon sophomore. ... His PR, from 2010, is 3:30.90.

Jager Olympics
DyeStat file photoEvan Jager and Matthew Centrowitz (right) went head to head in 2007 in the two-mile and both of them will compete for the U.S. in London.
Evan Jager (3,000 steeplechase), Jacobs (Algonquin, Ill.): As a senior, he was 15th at Foot Locker Midwest but won the Illinois 2A title in the 3,200. At Outdoor Nationals, he was third in the mile (4:05.68) and fourth in the two-mile (8:47.59) -- behind Centrowitz.

Donn Cabrall (3,000 steeplechase), Glastonbury (Glastonbury, Ct.): A standout in New England, he was 21st in his only appearance at Foot Locker (junior year). On the track as a senior in 2008 he ran US#5 in the mile (4:09.80) and US#6 in the two-mile (8:56.35).

Kyle Alcorn (3,000 steeplechase), Buchanan (Clovis, Calif.): He was edged out by Tim Nelson in the California state finals of the 3,200 meters in 2003, running US#8 8:53.46. The year before, as a junior, he kicked to the win in 9:00.26. In cross country, he was second in the CIF finals as a senior, seventh as a junior.

Galen Rupp (5,000/10,000), Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.): Played one season of varsity soccer before turning his attention to running under the guidance of Alberto Salazar. He trained with a global perspective from the start and along the way won five state championships, including a breakthrough victory over Lauren Jespersen in the 2002 cross country meet. As a senior, Rupp was second at Foot Locker and in the spring of 2004 he broke national records in the (8:03.67) and 5,000 (13:37.91) and logged 4:01.8 in the mile. ... U.S. record holder in the 10,000 meters (26:48.00).

Bernard Lagat (5,000): Came to the U.S. from Kenya for college and became a citizen in 2004. ... Part of one of the greatest races in Olympic history.

Lopez Lomong (5,000), Tully (Tully, N.Y.): One of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," his harrowing life story took a turn for the better when he emigrated to the U.S. in 2001. He won indoor and outdoor New York state titles in the 1,600 meters in 2004 and had a best of US#8 4:10.12. ... U.S. flag-bearer in 2008.

Matt Tegenkamp (10,000), Lee's Summit (Lee's Summit, Mo.): He ran 8:52.9 for second place at the 2000 Golden West Invitational and doubled 4:11.53/8:57.23 for Missouri titles in the 1,600 and 3,200. In cross country, he broke the Missouri state championship course record and was fifth at the 1999 Foot Locker finals.

Dathan Ritzenhein (10,000), Rockford (Rockford, Mich.): One of the most celebrated high school runners of all-time, "Ritz" won back-to-back Foot Locker Cross Country finals (1999 and 2000) and helped usher in a new era for high school distance running along with fellow Class of 2001 grads Alan Webb and Ryan Hall. He ran 8:44.43 in the tw0-mile to win the national outdoor championship in 2001 and also clocked 13:44.70 in the 5,000.

Trevor Barron (20K racewalk), Bethel Park (Bethel Park, Pa.): Broke five U.S. junior race walking records in 2010.

John Nunn (50K racewalk), Harrison (West Lafayette, Ind.): Ran well enough at the 1995 Foot Locker Midwest Regional to gain the interest of coaches at Wisconsin-Parkside, who turned him into a race walker.

Meb Keflezighi (marathon), San Diego (San Diego, Calif.): Moved with his family to the U.S. from Eritrea when he was 12. He won three CIF titles as a senior, taking the 1993 cross country title as well as the 1,600 and 3,200 in the spring of 1994. He was second at the 1993 Foot Locker championship and won the mile at the national outdoor championships. ... 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon.

Ryan Hall (marathon), Big Bear (Big Bear Lake, Calif.): He ran 3:46.51 for 1,500 meters and won the California 3,200 championship as a junior in 2000. That set the stage for entrance into the "Big Three" along with Dathan Ritzenhein and Alan Webb when they became seniors together. Hall finished third behind those two in the 2000 Foot Locker finals and won the CIF title in the 1,600 meters 4:02.72 later that spring ... First U.S. man under one hour in the half marathon.

Abdi Abdirahman (marathon), Tucson (Tucson, Ariz.): Emigrated to the U.S. from Somalia during high school and graduated from Tucson but his running career didn't take off until he enrolled at Pima Community College. ... Four-time U.S. Olympian.

Aries Merritt (110 hurdles), Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.): He won state titles in the 110 and 300 hurdles at the Georgia state meet in 2003 and was US#3 in the 300s with 36.61. He was sixth at the outdoor national championships in the 110 hurdles but owned a wind-legal best of 13.92, good for US#10.

Jason Richardson (110 hurdles), Cedar Hill (Cedar Hill, Texas): An outstanding high school hurdler, he ranked US#1 in the 110 hurdles in 2003 and 2004, when he ran 13.38 as a senior. He also ran US#2 36.05 in the 300 hurdles at the Texas state meet. Richardson won a national outdoor title in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking US#1 49.79.

Jeff Porter (110 hurdles), Franklin (Somerset, N.J.): He tried several other events before finding a his niche with the hurdles and won the New Jersey Meet of Champions as a junior in 2002. That same spring he placed sixth at the national outdoor championships. He was US#1 in the indoor 55-meter hurdles in 2003.

Michael Tinsley (400 hurdles), Pulaski Robinson (Little Rock, Ark.): The same year (2003) Wallace Spearmon won the Arkansas Meet of Champions in the 200, Tinsley won the 300 hurdles in US#26 37.54 seconds.

Angelo Taylor (400 hurdles), Southwest DeKalb (Decatur, Ga.): A dominant high school athlete in Georgia, he won eight state titles (including relays) in 1995 and 1996. He earned a bronze medal at world juniors in the 400 hurdles with a PR of 50.18 seconds and also won National Scholastic and USA Junior titles as a senior. ... Four-time Olympian, owner of three gold medals.

Kerron Clement (400 hurdles), La Porte (La Porte, Texas): A supremely talented high school hurdler, he is No. 7 on the all-time list in the 300 hurdles at 35.42. He won three Texas 5A state titles in the hurdles, but lost the 2003 110-meter final to Jason Richardson 13.51 to 13.52. Clement ran 50.13 to win the Junior Olympic 400 hurdles in the summer of 2003.

Jamie Nieto (high jump), Valley (Sacramento, Calif.): Ten weeks after picking up the high jump as a high school junior, he made it to the CIF finals. Nieto was also a football and basketball player in high school but eventually he turned his full attention to track and field. He cleared seven feet for the first time after he got to Sacramento City College.

Erik Kynard (high jump), Rogers (Toledo, Ohio): He won national championships indoors and outdoors in the high jump in 2009, clearing a best of 7-4.50 indoors at the Huron Relays. He also won the indoor national meet as a junior. He competed at the 2008 Olympic Trials at the end of his junior year and placed 17th. As a senior, he also won Toledo city championships in the 110 and 300 hurdles.

Jesse Williams (high jump), Needham Broughton (Raleigh, N.C.): He won back-to-back North Carolina high jump titles in 2001 and 2002 and earned a silver medal at the 2002 World Juniors Championships when he cleared his high school best, 7-3. He won outdoor nationals but also lost three times as a senior to Andra Manson (including world juniors). ... 2011 world champion.

Brad Walker (pole vault), University (Spokane, Wash.): He placed second in the Washington 4A meet as a senior, clearing 15-6, in 1999. That was good for US#24, hardly what you might expect from someone who would become a world champion (2007).

Jeremy Scott (pole vault), Norfolk (Norfolk, Neb.): Like Walker, his high school achievements were relatively modest. He won the Nebraska Class A pole vault in 1999 with a clearance at 15-2. Like Symmonds, he went the Division III route on the way to fulfilling his Olympic dream.

Derek Miles (pole vault), Bella Vista (Fair Oaks, Calif.): Miles left high school (in 1991) with a modest personal best of 14-6 and went to Division II University of South Dakota, where he took his sweet time on the road to becoming world-class. Miles has made four Olympic teams and is less than two months from turning 40.

Marquise Goodwin (long jump), Rowlett (Rowlett, Texas): The national high school record holder at 26 feet, 10 inches (in 2009), he is an example of someone who has been sensational every step of the way. Goodwin leaped 25 feet as a sophomore and 26-1.50 as a junior. He won seven Texas 5A state championships (including relays) and also made his mark as a sprinter, triple jumper and football player.

Will Claye (long jump/triple jump), Mountain Pointe (Phoenix, Ariz.): He was the first jumper in Arizona history to break 50 feet in the triple jump and finished his high school career with a best of 52-4.75 in 2008. He's a two-time Arizona state champ in the triple jump and certainly would have made it a three-peat if he hadn't left school a semester early to enroll at the University of Oklahoma (where he promptly won the NCAA title with a U.S. Junior record 56-4.75).

George Kitchens Jr. (long jump), Glenn Hills (Augusta, Ga.): He finished second at the 2000 AAU Junior Olympics with a wind-aided 24-6.50 and won the Georgia state championship in the long jump as a senior in 2001 with 23-11.25.

Christian Taylor (triple jump), Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.): He produced one of the greatest performances in Georgia state meet history when he tripled with 46.60 (US#4) in the 400, 25-6 (US#2) in the long jump and 52-6.50 in the triple jump in 2008. He later went 52-8 for a US#1 in the triple jump. ... 2011 world champion.

Reese Hoffa (shot put), Lakeside (Evans, Ga.): Not much was expected of Hoffa as a junior when he barely advanced to the state meet, but he came up with a huge PR of 58-8 to win the first of two Georgia state meet titles. As a senior he improved to 64-3.50 at the state meet and he also placed fifth at the outdoor national championships.

Ryan Whiting (shot put), Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.): He was the national leader indoors and out as a senior in 2005 and hit a best of 70 feet even at the Pennsylvania 3A meet. He won the Arcadia Invitational, Golden West and was second at the outdoor national championships. He also won the state discus title with US#5 201-9.

Christian Cantwell (shot put), Eldon (Eldon, Mo.): He won the discus, but not the shot put, at the 1999 Missouri 3A championship meet. When a football scholarship didn't pan out, he studied videotapes of John Godina and determined to earn his way to college as a thrower. His high school PR was 60-1.50.

Lance Brooks (discus), New Berlin (New Berlin, Ill.): Split time between track and baseball in high school and won the the Class A title in the discus in 2002 with a toss of 173 feet, 9 inches.

Jarred Rome (discus), Marysville-Pilchuck (Marysville, Wash.): Gave throwing a try as a senior in high school after getting hurt playing football. He launched school records in 1995 that still stand: 178-11 in the discus and 58-6 in the shot put. He was the state meet runner-up in both events as a senior.

Jason Young (discus), Samuell (Dallas, Texas): He threw 197 feet even to place second in the discus at the 1999 Golden West Invitational, good for US#7 that spring. He was second in the Texas state meet.

Craig Kinsey (javelin), Fairfield Prep (Fairfield, Ct.): When he broke his hand playing baseball, Kinsey turned his attention to track and threw the javelin 185 feet while still in his cast. As a senior he improved to 193 feet and and also was a 6-5 high jumper and ran 15.1 seconds for the 110 hurdles.

Sean Furey (javelin), Methuen (Methuen, Mass.): An accomplished high school thrower, he won state titles as a junior and senior. In 2000, he threw US#1 227-3, won the outdoor national championship and was fourth at Golden West.

Cyrus Hostetler (javelin), Newberg (Newberg, Ore.): A late arrival to the javelin, he picked it up as a senior and placed third in the Oregon state meet (201-9) in 2005, but he was more than 10 feet behind his high school teammate, Alex Wolff. And Rachel Yurkovich, also from Newberg, broke the girls national high school record the same year.

Kibwe Johnson (hammer), North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.): Started out as a discus thrower. He ranked 25th nationally as a senior in 1999 and placed second at the Arcadia Invitational (185-10).

A.G. Kruger (hammer), Sheldon (Sheldon, Iowa): He was the runner-up in the Class 3A discus competition in 1997 with a best of 155-5. He didn't pick up a hammer until his junior year of college.

Ashton Eaton (decathlon), Mountain View (Bend, Ore.): In his senior year of high school, Eaton demonstrated some speed and long jump skills but no one could have predicted the breadth of his talents or his impact on the decathlon. In 2006, Eaton won Oregon titles in the 400 (48.69) and long jump (24-0.25) and was second in the 200. He never competed in decathlon until his freshman year at the University of Oregon in 2007. ... World record holder.

Trey Hardee (decathlon), Vestavia Hills (Birmingham, Ala.): Placed second in the pole vault (14-6) as a senior at the Alabama state championships and was also one of the top sprinters in the state. He vaulted 15-2 indoors and that's the event for which he was recruited to Mississippi State. In college, he gave the decathlon a try. ... Two-time world champion.

Jeff Demps (relay pool), South Lake (Groveland, Fla.): Ran a U.S. high school record 10.01 seconds in the 100 meters at the 2008 Olympic Trials, also matching the world junior record.

Jeremy Wariner (relay pool), Lamar (Arlington, Texas): Ran sensational high school times of 45.57 seconds in the 400 and 20.41 in the 200 as a senior in 2002. He won Texas 5A state titles in both events. ... Owns three Olympic gold medals, one silver.

Darvis Patton (relay pool), Lake Highlands (Richardson, Texas): A long and triple jumper in high school, he didn't make his school's relays teams. His sprinting improved in junior college.

Trell Kimmons (relay pool), Coldwater (Coldwater, Miss.): Was a double winner at the 2004 Mississippi Class 2A championships, winning the 100 and 200. Posted senior year bests of 10.24 in the 100, 20.90 in the 200 and 47.61 in the 400.

Ronell Mance (relay pool), Don Lugo (Chino, Calif.): Just two years ago as a senior, he won the California state title in the 400 (US#1 45.90).

Manteo Mitchell (relay pool), Crest (Shelby, N.C): Helped his school to a state championship in the 4x200 relay.
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Features, News

Barrett Olympics DyestatDyeStat file photoBrigetta Barrett (above) went from prep standout to Olympian in three years but the women of the U.S. track and field team made it to London in a wide variety of ways.
The women on the women's U.S. Olympic track and field team didn't follow the same blueprint. Some are high school record holders and many of them are state champions. Some were featured on Dyestat. Others didn't flourish until college, or even later.

They have arrived at one moment in time, at London, as teammates. But if this list is evidence of anything, it's that perseverance pays off. And in the case of Amy Acuff, a five-time Olympian, persistence.

Here is a closer look at the origins of this year's team.

WOMEN | MEN

Carmelita Jeter (100), Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.): She was a basketball player first (she's the younger sister of former NBA player Pooh Jeter) and barely scratched the surface of her potential as a sprinter in high school. Her long road to world-class stature didn't gain traction until she got to Division II Cal State-Dominguez Hills. ... Reigning world champion in the 100.

Tianna Madison (100), Elyria (Elyria, Ohio): She was one of the top athletes in the country as a senior in 2003. She was US#1 in the long jump at 20-7.25 and won the outdoor national title in that event. She also ran US#14 11.72 in the 100 and US#28 24.02 in the 200 at the Ohio state championships. She won six outdoor state titles in Ohio. ... In 2005, she was the world champion in the long jump.

Felix Olympics Dyestat
DyeStat file photoAllyson Felix broke the national high school record in the 200 meters before embarking on a Hall of Fame professional career.
Allyson Felix (100/200), Los Angeles Baptist (North Hollywood, Calif.): Simply put, she is one of the greatest high school sprinters in history. She ran a scorching 22.11 at a Grand Prix meet in Mexico City to set a all-time 200-meter record that still stands. She also ran a wind-aided (2.4w) 100 meters in 11.12 seconds at the Southern Section finals. And her 400 PR was 52.26. It's no wonder that she signed a pro contract straight out of high school. ... Owns eight gold medals from the World Championships.

Sanya Richards-Ross (200/400), St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): The Jamaican-born sprinter was a great high school athlete all four years and dominant as a senior in 2002, running US#1 11.39 to win the national outdoor title in the 100, US#2 23.03 to win the outdoor title in the 200 and US#1 50.69 in the 400 at U.S. Juniors. (She ran 11.61 in the 100 in the summer after ninth grade). ... She has five gold medals from World Championships, two from the Olympic Games.

Dee Dee Trotter (400), Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, Ga.): She was a standout in the 100 and 200 before finding global success in the 400. As a senior in 2001, she won the Georgia state title in the 200 (24.19), was second in the 100 (11.82) and ran anchor leg on her school's winning 4x400 relay.

Francena McCorory (400), Bethel (Hampton, Va.): She had impressive range in high school from 55 meters to 500. As a senior in 2006, she broke the indoor national record in the 300 meters (36.96) and the 400 (51.93) and was also US#1 that season in the 500 (1:11.97) and US#2 in the 55 (6.86).

Alysia Montano (800), Canyon (Canyon Country, Calif.): A rock-solid 800-meter runner all through high school, she ran 2:10.63 as a freshman. During her senior year, she won the California state title in the 800 in US#10 2:08.97.

Geena Gall (800), Grand Blanc Community (Grand Blanc, Mich.): She was US#6 as a junior (2:07.60) and US#2 as a senior (2:05.05) in the 800 meters. The 2005 graduate was also the national outdoor champion in the 800 meters. In Michigan, she doubled 2:09.60/4:51.44 (1,600) at the state meet.

Alice Schmidt (800), Elkhorn (Elkhorn, Neb.): One of the top 800-meter runners in the nation as a junior and senior in 1999 and 2000. Her junior year she won the national outdoor title in 2:09.49 and as a senior she was fourth in the same race in 2:08.85.

Morgan Uceny (1,500), Plymouth (Plymouth, Ind.): She won the Indiana state title in the 800 meters as a senior in 2002, running US#66 2:13.04 for the win. That result demonstrated some promise yet she didn't make the varsity lineup in her first year at Cornell. She's come a long way to earn the No. 1 ranking in the world for the 1,500 in 2011.

Jenny Simpson (1,500), Oviedo (Oviedo, Fla.): Her junior year was a little bit better than her senior year, but she was clearly one of the top prospects in the nation in high school. She had a pair of to-10 finishes at Foot Locker and had high school PRs of 4:49.01 (mile) and 10:28.82 (3,200 meters). ... 2011 world champion in the 1,500.

Shannon Rowbury (1,500), Sacred Heart Catholic (San Francisco, Calif.): A talented performer who won California state titles in the 800 (2001) and 1,600 (2002). She was US#4 in the 800 meters both years and finished her prep career with a PR of 2:08.52. She ran US#3 4:50.90 in the 1,600 as a senior.

Coburn Olympics 2012
DyeStat file photoEmma Coburn, left, didn't win the national high school title in the steeplechase, but she won the 2012 Olympic Trials and will compete for the U.S. in London.
Emma Coburn (3,000 steeplechase), Crested Butte (Crested Butte, Colo.): One of the few elite American distance runners who grew up at altitude. (Crested Butte is almost 9,000 feet high). She had a modest high school career by national elite standards, with a high school PR of 5:09 in the 1,600 meters. She was fourth in the Class 2A cross country meet as a junior (2006) and senior (2007). She was 29th at the 2007 Foot Locker Midwest regional. She was second in the 2,000 steeplechase at the national outdoor meet in 2008, fourth in 2007.

Bridget Franek (3,000 steeplechase), Crestwood (Mantua, Ohio): She was a well-rounded athlete who participated in softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer in addition to track. She was a top-10 caliber miler nationally as a junior and senior in 2005 and 2006 and a state champion in Ohio in the 800 and 1,600. Her high school PRs were 2:11.22 and 4:49.13 in the mile.

Shalaya Kipp (3,000 steeplechase), Skyline (Salt Lake City, Utah): A ski racer and basketball player, she used running to stay in shape before it became her focus. She never ran the steeplechase until she got the University of Colorado. She won the Utah cross country title as a sophomore and then as a senior had her third-place finish wiped away because an official disqualified her for rolling the waist band of her shorts. She was 28th at the 2008 Foot Locker finals. She was 11th in the mile at Arcadia in the spring of 2009.

Julie Culley (5,000), North Hunterdon (Annandale, N.J.): She finished seventh in the 1,600 meters at the New Jersey Meet of Champions as a senior in 1999 (won by 2008 Olympian Erin Donohue). Her 1,600 best of 5:05.83 was not earth-shattering, but her steady performances earned the attention of Rutgers University.

Molly Huddle (5,000), Notre Dame (Elmira, N.Y.): She had very strong credentials in high school and as a senior in 2002 was US#2 in the 1,500 (4:27.04), US#1 in the 3,000 (9:21.37) and set a national record in the two-mile (10:01.08). But, she also lost to eighth grader Nicole Blood at the Loucks Games. In cross country, she was a one-person team and broke 12 course records, and was fourth in the 2001 Foot Locker finals. ... U.S. record holder in the 5,000.

Kim Conley (5,000), Montgomery (San Diego, Calif.): She was not on the national radar in high school. One of her best performances was a third place finish in the Sacramento city championship in the 1,600 (4:56.20) as a senior in 2004. She went to UC-Davis but never qualified for the NCAA Championships.

Amy Hastings (10,000), Leavenworth (Leavenworth, Kan.): A strong performer in Kansas, she won three state titles on the track and also won a cross country title. At the end of her senior year she was eighth in the U.S. Juniors 3,000 (9:53.10) and seventh in the Golden West 3,200 (10:38.32).

Lisa Uhl (10,000), Fort Dodge (Fort Dodge, Iowa): Before she was a big deal at Iowa State, she was a good runner in high school, but not outstanding. She was eighth in the Iowa cross country championships as a senior and set the Fort Dodge school record in the 3,000 in the spring of 2005: 10:16.71.

Janet Cherobo-Bawcom (10,000). Born in Kenya and moved to the U.S. to attend college at Division II Harding University, she became eligible to run for her adopted country in 2011.

Maria Michta (20K race walk), Sachem North (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.): Her Olympic dream began in 1996 at the age of 10 and race walking became her thing in high school. She was 10th at the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2003 and 22nd at the IAAF World Juniors in 2004, her senior year.

Shalane Flanagan (marathon), Marblehead (Marblehead, Mass.): Great genetics, impeccable running form, competitive drive, all of the traits that went into forging one of the greatest careers in U.S. distance running were on display in high school. She was a three-time state champ in cross country (1997, 1998, 1999). She was second at the outdoor national meet in the mile (4:48.47), good for US#2 behind Wyoming's Alicia Craig, and she won the indoor title (4:46.91). ... 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 10,000.

Desiree Davila (marathon), Hilltop (Chula Vista, Calif.): She was fifth in the California state finals of the 1,600 as a junior and fourth in the 3,200 as a senior (2001). She ran 10:39.60 for US#23 at the Mt. Carmel Invitational and US#10 4:54.93 for second place in the mile at Golden West. She was a three-time league champion in cross country.

Kara Goucher (marathon), East (Duluth, Minn.): She was a two-time Foot Locker finalist who was perpetually motivated in high school by her rivalry with fellow Minnesota great Carrie Tollefson. In 1994, Tollefson beat Goucher by a second at the state cross country meet. Goucher graduated in 1996 with four Minnesota state titles.

Dawn Harper (100 hurdles), East St. Louis-Senior (East St. Louis, Ill.): She won the hurdles double three years at the Class 2A Championships in Illinois and had high school bests of 13.63 in the 100 hurdles and 42.70 in the 300. She concluded her senior season (2002) by winning the USATF Junior Olympics title in the 100 hurdles. ... 2008 Olympic gold medalist.

Kellie Wells (100 hurdles), James River (Midlothian, Va.): She endured a tumultuous high school career, the victim of abuse and endured the death of her mother in an auto accident. Through it all, she was a fixture at Virginia's state championships, but she only won once, in the 100 hurdles (14.7) as a senior in 2001. She was US#6 indoors in the 55 hurdles.

Lolo Jones (100 hurdles), Roosevelt (Des Moines, Iowa): She overcame a rootless upbringing and a fractured home life with the help of track and field. As a senior in 2000, she won the Iowa state championship in the 100 hurdles in 14.03 and also the 100 meters in 12.24. She also won the hurdles title as a sophomore. She is credited as a state record holder in the 100 hurdles at 13.40, but Iowa used 30-inch hurdles until moving up the standard 33 inches in 2009.

Demus Olympics
DyeStat file photoLashinda Demus broke the national high school record in the 300-meter hurdles for Wilson High of Long Beach, Calif.
Lashinda Demus (400 hurdles), Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.): She was an exceptional athlete in high school and became the first girl to dip under 40 seconds in the 300 hurdles. Her 39.98 clocking as a senior in 2001 is still the national record. She ran 55.76 for fifth place at U.S. nationals coming out of her senior year, good for No. 2 all-time. She ran 13.39 (2.9 wind) to win the California state title in the 100 hurdles. She also ran 53.38 in the flat 400 indoors for a win at the Simplot Games. ... 2001 world champion.

Georganne Moline (400 hurdles), Thunderbird (Phoenix, Ariz.): She swept the hurdles events as a junior and senior at the Arizona state meet. Her winning time in the 300 hurdles as a senior in 2008 was the second-fastest in state history, 43.15 seconds, but was US#36 that spring.

T'Erea Brown (400 hurdles), Hampton (Hampton, Va.): A five-time outdoors state champion in the hurdles events in Virginia, she was also one of the top hurdlers nationally in the Class of 2007. She was US#3 in the 300 hurdles (41.62) and US#13 in the 100 hurdles (13.73) as a senior.

Chaunte Lowe (high jump), J.W. North (Riverside, Calif.): She made a steady year-by-year progression in the high jump. She cleared 5-6 as a freshman, 5-8 as a sophomore, 6-0.50 as a junior and 6-1.50 as a senior. She won the California state title as a junior but lost to Sharon Day as a senior, in 2002. She won the outdoor national championship twice. She also had bests of 20-4.50 in the long jump and 41-3 in the triple jump.

Brigetta Barrett (high jump), Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas): She won the 2009 Texas state meet in the high jump with a 5-9 clearance but had a best of US#2 6-0, a bar she made twice as a senior. She also cleared 6-0 as a junior, for US#3. In three years since then she has added seven inches to her PR.

Amy Acuff (high jump), Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas): She has been the high school record holder in the high jump for 19 years. It was 1993 when she cleared 6-4 and was Track and Field News' High School Athlete of the Year. She has a share, at least, of every class record. She cleared 6-0 as a freshman, 6-2.50 as a sophomore and 6-3 as a junior. ... Five-time Olympian.

Jenn Suhr (pole vault), Fredonia (Fredonia, N.Y.): She played a variety of sports -- golf, softball, basketball, soccer and track -- in high school. She didn't start pole vaulting until she was out of college, in 2004. As a senior at Fredonia, she won the state title in the pentathlon. ... 2008 Olympic silver medalist.

Becky Holliday (pole vault), Reed (Sparks, Nev.): A gymnast when she was younger, she took up pole vaulting in high school. She was fourth in the Nevada state meet as a junior, clearing 11-6. As a senior in 1998, she won the title with 12-3.

Lacy Janson (pole vault), Cardinal Mooney (Sarasota, Fla.): One of the nation's top vaulters as a senior in 2001, she was US#3 with a best clearance of 13-2. She won outdoor nationals, took gold at Pan Am Juniors, and was second at U.S. juniors as a senior.

Brittney Reese (long jump), Gulfport (Gulfport, Miss.): She won Mississippi state meet titles in the long jump, triple jump and high jump as a senior in 2004. She had bests of 5-10, 20-4.25 and 40-4.25 coming out of high school. ... World champion in the long jump.

Chelsea Hayes (long jump), Marion Abramson (New Orleans, La.): Had a best of 19-1 as a junior in 2005, prior to be displaced from her home by Hurricane Katrina. She attended multiple schools before returning to graduate at Marion Abramson. ... PR'd by 17 inches to make the Olympic team.

Janay DeLoach (long jump), Ben Eielson (Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska): Talent finds its way to the light no matter where it is located, even on an Air Force base in Alaska. She was a basketball player and also a standout in track. She won four straight Alaska titles in the long jump (was the first girl in state history over 18 feet) and had a best of 19-5 her senior year in 2003. She also won three state titles in the 100.

Amanda Smock (triple jump), Melrose (Melrose, Minn.): She dreamed of becoming an Olympian in gymnastics but found her talents in line with track and field. She won Class A Minnesota titles in the long jump (1999) and triple jump (2000) before going to Division II North Dakota State. It was a 12-year odyssey that took her from Melrose to London.

Jillian Camarena-Williams (shot put), Woodland (Woodland, Calif.): She has been a top thrower all the way back to her high school days. As a junior in 1999 she threw US#1 50-11.25 in the prelims of the California state meet and also won Pan Am Juniors. She didn't top her best mark as a senior, but still threw US#4 49-11.50 to win at Arcadia. She was third at the state meet in 2000.

Michelle Carter (shot put), Red Oak (Red Oak, Texas): Just like her father, she is the national high school record holder in the shot put. As a senior in 2003, she threw 54-10.75 at the Texas state championship meet. That was two weeks after she broke the record for the first time, at regionals. She also had US#5 169-3 in the discus. She also broke the indoor national record. As a freshman and sophomore she was US#5 both years. As a junior, she threw US#1 53-3.75.

Tia Brooks (shot put), East Kentwood (Kentwood, Mich.): Won indoor and outdoor shot put titles in Michigan as a senior in 2008, with a best of US#12 48-0.50. That mark was No. 2 all-time in Michigan. She was second in both the shot put and discus in the 2008 Midwest Meet of Champions.

Stephanie Brown Trafton (discus), Arroyo Grande (Arroyo Grande, Calif.): She played basketball in addition to track in high school and at 6-feet-4 she attracted Division I attention for hoops. She won California state titles in the shot put in 1996 and 1998 and was second in 1997. She added the discus crown as a senior, throwing 181-3, which is No. 11 all-time. ... Reigning Olympic champion.

Aretha Thurmond (discus), Renton (Renton, Wash.): She decided to play softball as a freshman but a P.E. coach interceded and offered a bet on a game of HORSE. If the coach won, she would go out for track and learn to throw the discus. Sure enough, the coach won. Thurmond took second at state as a freshman and won Washington state titles the next three years. As a senior in 1994 she broke the meet record with 160-9. ... Four-time Olympian.

Gia Lewis-Smallwood (discus), Centennial (Champaign, Ill.): She had modest throwing credentials in high school. As a senior in 1997, she was a state qualifier in the discus (127-4) but did not advance out of the prelims. It wasn't until she got to college that she got serious about throwing.

Brittany Borman (javelin), Festus (Festus, Mo.): A solid thrower throughout her high school career, she had high school bests of 47-11 (shot put), 150-5 (discus) and 155-1 (javelin). Because Missouri is one of the states that doesn't offer javelin, she had to hone her skills at out-of-state meets. Her best mark in high school came during her junior (2007) when she won the Great Southwest.

Kara Patterson (javelin), Skyview (Vancouver, Wash.): She won three Washington state titles, moving up progressively every year. As a senior in 2004 she was US#2 159-2, slightly ahead of her best junior mark 157-6. She capped her high school career by winning at Golden West. ... U.S. record holder.

Rachel Yurkovich (javelin), Newberg (Newberg, Ore.): A volleyball player who thrived under the high school coaching of Joe Boutin, she was US#3 as a sophomore (157-9), US#1 as a junior (161-11) and broke the national high school record as a senior in 2005 with 176-5. She surpassed 170 on two more occasions, setting an Oregon state meet record and also winning Pan Am Juniors. ... HS classmate Cyrus Hostetler is on the men's team.

Amber Campbell (hammer), Pike (Indianapolis, Ind.): She played volleyball and basketball in high school but also started throwing. She was third in the Indiana state meet in the discus as a senior in 1999 (147-6). She didn't pick up a hammer until she was at Coastal Carolina University.

Amanda Bingson (hammer), Silverado (Las Vegas, Nev.): Finished second at the Nevada state meet in the shot put as a senior in 2008 with a modest throw of 40-1.50. She tried hammer for the first time as a freshman at UNLV.

Jessica Cosby (hammer), Grover Cleveland (Reseda, Calif.): A strong high school shot putter, she was US#3 with 50-3.50 as a senior in 2000. She went back and forth that year with Karen Freberg (Arroyo Grande) and Jillian Camarena. She was second at Arcadia, second at the California state meet, second at Golden West and second at U.S. Juniors. ... U.S. record holder.

Hyleas Fountain (heptathlon), Central Dauphin East (Harrisburg, Pa.): She ran 11.84 in the 100, 24.79 in the 200, 14.34 in the 100 hurdles and cleared 5-11.50 in the high jump as a prep track athlete. She grew up idolizing Jackie Joyner-Kersee but didn't compete in the heptathlon until she got to college. ... Olympic silver medalist.

Sharon Day (heptathlon), Costa Mesa (Newport Beach, Calif.): Primarily a high jumper in high school and a very good one. She cleared US#1 6-2 at the Trubuco Hills Invitational as a senior in 2003. She won two California state high jump titles and even beat Chaunte Howard (Lowe) in 2002. She did track and played college soccer at Cal Poly-SLO. ... Turned her attention to heptathlon after making the 2008 Olympic team in high jump.

Chantae McMillan (heptathlon), Rolla (Rolla, Mo.): A two-time Missouri champion in the long jump (and runner-up two other times), she had a prep best of 19-11. She also jumped 40-0 in the triple jump as a senior in 2006. She began a transition to multis at the University of Nebraska.

Jeneba Tarmoh (relay pool), Mt. Pleasant (San Jose, Calif.): A top-flight sprinter in high school, she was US#2 as a junior (11.24) and senior (11.27). She swept the 100 and 200 at the California state meet in 2006 and 2007. She had a best of 23.14 seconds in the 200.

Bianca Knight (relay pool), Ridgeland (Ridgeland, Miss.): An outstanding high school sprinter, she ran US#2 22.94 in the 200 as a junior in 2006 at the U.S. Juniors. She also won the outdoor national title in the event. She also ran 11.26 in the 100. As a senior she was US#1 indoors with the 22.97 she ran at the Simplot Games.

Lauryn Williams (relay pool), Rochester Area (Rochester, Pa.): Broke the Pennsylvania state meet records in the 100 (11.78) and 200 (24.27) as a senior in 2001. ... 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters.

Diamond Dixon (relay pool), Westside (Houston, Texas): US#3 52.92 as a senior in 2010 and also ran 24.64 for 200 and 2:15.97 in the 800. She won the Texas 5A state meet 400 meters twice, was eighth at the outdoor national championships and third at U.S. Juniors.

Keshia Baker (relay pool), Fairfield (Fairfield, Calif.): Something of a late bloomer, she was a California state finalist in the 400 meters three straight years (2004-2006) and progressed from 55.37 (sophomore) to 55.25 (junior) to US#22 54.46 (senior).
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More than a decade later, Ritz still inspires

June, 10, 2012
6/10/12
6:35
AM ET
Portland Track Festival Ritzenhein Curt HawkinsonDathan Ritzenhein put on a show for fans at the Portland Track Festival, running two 5,000 meter races in 13:19 and 13:58 less than an hour apart.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's been almost 11 years since Dathan Ritzenhein capped his high school career by running 8:44.43 in the tw0-mile at AOC Outdoor Nationals.

The product of Rockford, Mich. helped launch a resurgence in American high school distance running (along with Alan Webb) and the feat he pulled off Saturday night at the Portland Track Festival showed he still has what it takes to inspire.

Ritzenhein ran a 5,000/5,000 double about a half hour apart (a women's 5,000 was held between the two races). He ran 13:19.76 in the A section race the turned around and ran 13:58.68 in the B section race.

Whether it was a race plus a workout, or the whole thing was a workout, was a matter of semantics. Ritz showed that he is ready for the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, where he will enter the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. And his star power has not diminished. After the first race a group of boys from North Central (Spokane, Wash.) edged closer to Ritzenhein as he pulled on his warmups, just to get an up-close look at him.

"The plan was to get in the fast 5K and run relaxed and then concentrate on the last lap," Ritzenhein said. "Then come back and run 14 minutes as a workout."

Ritzenhein said it was the first time he'd "doubled" since college -- and even then it wasn't back-to-back 5,000s.

Ritzenhein's real achievement over the past year has been overcoming adversity and having the patience and persistence to build back up again. In 2011, Ritzenhein underwent surgery on his Achilles tendon and then suffered a post-operative infection. The combination put his running career in jeopardy.

"Last year was a nightmare. It was awful," Ritzenhein said. "I've been healthy now for 11 months and I'm happy to be able to be back at it again."

But Ritzenhein healed and began training again. In January of this year he competed at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials and placed fourth, missing a slot for the London Games. This spring, everything is pointed toward making a third Olympic team in the 5,000, the 10,000 -- or both.

Alberto Salazar, Ritzenhein's coach, called the first race of the night "a tune-up" for the Trials, with an emphasis on accelerating at the end. The second race fell into place because of where it fit on the meet schedule. Rather than go do a five-mile tempo somewhere in the dark of night, the second 5K offered a chance to run a controlled effort.

"Coming back (from the marathon) the focus is on the track right now," Ritzenhein said. "I'm enjoying being out here competing."

Sork backs up his breakthrough in the 800

June, 10, 2012
6/10/12
5:23
AM ET
Sork2 Portland Track Festival 2012Curt HawkinsonTanner Sork (left) surges to the finish line to take the victory in the 800 in 1:49.10 at the Portland Track Festival.
RESULTS | MEET SITE
PORTLAND -- Tanner Sork was just as interested as everyone else on Saturday at the Portland Track Festival to find out whether he could do it again.

Sork spent the week absorbing his sudden status as the top-ranked 800-meter runner in the U.S. after his stunning 1:48.74 on June 2 at the BorderDuel.

And the senior from Union (Camas, Wash.) delivered again, outrunning a field of strong collegians on the way to 1:49.10 -- the third-fastest performance in the U.S. this spring. He now owns the two fastest times in Washington state history.

"I just wanted to see some new competition and this was a good opportunity to do it," Sork said.

He settled in to a 53-second first lap, remained composed over the next 200 meters, and then unleashed a kick that pushed him to the lead. Sork edged Joe Abbott (1:49.19), runner-up at the Pac-12 Conference championships for the Washington State University a few weeks ago. He beat Ryan Foster, who won four Big Ten titles for Penn State before graduating in 2011. And he beat Oregon Ducks Travis Thompson and Chad Noelle.

It was big week for Sork, who shed four and a half seconds from his personal best on the same track and Lewis and Clark College seven days earlier. An hour after his big breakthrough he got a call from Brigham Young University coach Ed Eyestone, who informed Sork that he had been upgraded from "preferred walk-on" to full ride scholarship recipient.

At an end-of-the-year assembly at Union, a slideshow highlighting the senior class' accomplishments paused for a photo of Sork breaking the state record.

"It's been kind of surreal," he said. "All of a sudden everyone knows me now."

Sork never planned on running another step after the Washington state meet the last weekend of May. But second place finishes in the 400 and 800 in Class 4A meet were so encouraging that friends and family urged him to run at BorderDuel and take on Marcus Dickson of White River, another BYU recruit.

In the wake of his breakthrough, Sork's season has been prolonged. He is headed to the U.S. Junior Championships in Bloomington, Ind. with an eye on making the national team that will compete in Barcelona, Spain in July.

Sork's friend and teammate, Roman Kirkov, said the four-second PR was "hard to believe."

"It was really crazy," Kirkov said. "I didn't believe what I'd heard until I saw the time (in the results)."

So where did he come from? Two years ago, Sork couldn't break 63 seconds for the 400.

"I grew about a foot since then," Sork said.

He ran 1:55.91 as a junior before his season ended prematurely with a hip injury. He had a healthy cross country season, finishing 37th at the Washington Class 4A championships. Over the winter he trained smarter than he ever had, building a stronger conditioning base and also targeting his hip flexors with strength and flexibility exercises.

"He's been really jazzed for the last month," Union coach Scott Eschels said. "He's been gaining more and more confidence. Coming out of the state meet I knew he had it in him to go low 1:50s."

Sork admitted to some nerves before Saturday's race against older, more accomplished runners.

"I was nervous to say the least," he said. "I saw their times and knew they were fast. I just thought of it as a training opportunity."

In the final 200, Sork's kick carried him to the front, leaving no doubt that he's not a one-hit wonder.

Patrick Gibson of Squalicum (Wash.) won the boys high school mile in Washington#10 4:17.01.
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Haley CrouserCathy KeathleyThe USR-setting Crouser siblings (Haley shown) have made huge headlines the past few years, but Oregon state history is full of record-setting throwers that have created an amazing heritage of the event in the state.
Gary Stautz is sympathetic to the plight of Gresham (Ore.) High School’s future javelin throwers.

“You know in order to break the school record now, you have to break the national record, too,” said the school’s long-time throws coach.

It’s not a complaint, but a badge of honor. Sam Crouser and his little sister Haley, a junior who will compete at the OSAA Class 6A/5A/4A Track and Field Championships this weekend at Hayward Field in Eugene, have come along and re-set the standards for high school javelin throwing.

But the Crousers, talented as they are, didn’t arrive at those records out of the blue. In Oregon track and field, there is a mystique associated with the javelin that is built upon more than half a century of headline-makers in the event.

Coaching, the lure of college scholarships, and even the state’s climate, are factors in Oregonians’ continued fascination, and success, throwing the javelin.

This year’s national rankings show that 10 of the top 25 girls in the country come from Oregon. Meanwhile, six of the top 25 boys come from the state (Pennsylvania has nine).

There are certainly reasons for that, the biggest being that only 18 states participate in the javelin (although athletes from other states do occasionally get to throw it). California doesn’t throw it; Texas doesn’t throw it.

But Washington, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Kansas and others do.

In Oregon, there is lore associated with the event dating back to the 1930s. The first boy to throw 200 feet in the state meet was Warren Demaris back in 1931. And in 1934, Bob Parke became the first of the University of Oregon’s seven NCAA javelin champions. (The university’s influence on the high school scene can’t be understated. In 1964, Oregon went 1-2-3 in the javelin at the NCAA Championships).

In 1959, Glen Winningham of Grants Pass, Ore. broke the national scholastic record when he threw 225-6. Six years later another Oregon thrower, Ansten “Ole” Tretten of Clatskanie, set the national mark when he hit 231-7.

In 1971, a phenomenon named Russ Francis moved to Oregon from Hawaii halfway through his senior year of high school. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, the 18-year-old Francis was a star football prospect who signed with the University of Oregon. He had never seen a javelin before he saw one in a Eugene sporting goods store and wasn’t sure what it was for.

But a coach at Pleasant Hill High School taught Francis how to throw it and within a matter of weeks he became the best high school thrower in the country. He threw 253-1 to break Mark Murro’s (N.J.) 1967 national record. And then he broke it again with 259-9.

Francis went on to an NFL career playing tight end for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers and his high school javelin record remained on the books for 17 years.

In 1988, Art Skipper of Sandy, Ore. went after the Francis record. And at the Oregon state championships that year, he threw the javelin almost clear across the infield at Hayward Field in Eugene. The mark was measured at 259-10 – a new record by a single inch.

Skipper’s mark lasted until the slate was wiped clean by the “new rules” international javelin in 2002.

The international javelin record was traced back to a European exchange student attend school in New York, Tommy Viskari, from fall of 1988 (241-1).

But Sam Crouser, nephew of former Oregon state champion and one-time world record holder Brian Crouser, came along and smashed the record in 2010 with 255-4.

So what is it about Oregon?

“There’s been a foundation for that event that’s been laid down years ago,” Stautz said. “When I look around the state, I see quality coaches in abundance.”

Gary Reddaway, second in that 1964 Oregon javelin sweep, became an influential coach in the state for many years.

And Joe Boutin is in his fourth decade coaching the throwers at Newberg High School, where he has a long line of state champions, including 1984 Olympian Lynda Hughes (Suftin) and 2005 U.S. girls record-setter Rachel Yurkovich (and also 2012 U.S. men’s leader Cyrus Hostetler).

Boutin and other coaches also may have gotten an assist from Oregon’s rainy spring weather. The theory goes that some of the state’s baseball players get frustrated over the frequency of rained out games, and some are peeled off by savvy track coaches who teach them to throw.

The best girls’ javelin throwers in the state all seem to have one thing in common: Volleyball. Yurkovich and Haley Crouser are just two examples of girls who turned the spiking motion of their right arms into record-setting javelin launchers.

But javelin in Oregon is not isolated to just a few pockets. Successful throwers come from every part of the state.

“There is a high expectation of what it takes to win a state title,” said Hidden Valley (Grants Pass, Ore.) coach Josh Standley said. “In Oregon, it takes a farther throw. We laugh sometimes because a girl who takes fifth in our district meet (and doesn’t qualify for state) might be top-five in another state.”

Hidden Valley has a contender for the Class 4A title with Bailey Bars, who has thrown US#23 144-9 this year. Eight girls in Oregon have thrown farther, including Crouser, the reigning 6A champ.

Brianna Bain, fourth place in last year’s Oregon Class 6A championship meet, won the Pac-12 Conference championship two weeks ago as a freshman for Stanford.

Oregon coaches and parents have also picked up on the mathematics of scholarships. If only 18 states throw the javelin, and every college track team in the U.S. competes in the event, then the odds of throwing far enough to earn financial aid start to look pretty good compared to other sports.

“I’ve been saying that for 20 years,” Dean Crouser, father of Sam and Haley, said. “It’s the path of least resistance. If you can throw 150 (feet), that could mean a full-ride (scholarship) at a D1 school.”

With something close to her PR, Bars would have scored at the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 conference championships. She’d have been one place out of scoring at the Pac-12 meet.

Crouser, at 17 years old, is looking forward to the Olympic Trials. She could reasonably place in the top five or so there.

But another development in Oregon this spring may do even more to illustrate how outsized javelin has become to the state’s track identity. In the sparsely populated eastern side of the state a pair of small-school athletes dueled for Class 1A supremacy in the javelin.

First, Prairie City’s Brady Doty topped 200 feet when he went 200-3 (US#22).

Then at the state meet, rival Justin Larson of Dayville pulled in front and won the title with 201-3 (US#19).

Prairie City has an enrollment of 78 students.

Dayville has only 23.

“It was usually a toss up between us,” Larson said. “We’ve been to five or six of the same meets (this spring). He won about half and so did I. It was super close.”
Gabby WilliamsJohn Dixon, runnerspace.com/nvGabby Williams after winning state at 5-11.


Gabby Williams is still trying to process what it means to clear 6 feet, 1.50 inches in the high jump as a 15-year-old.

In the span of eight weeks, the sophomore from Reed (Sparks, Nev.) became Nevada’s state record holder, a state champion, and now she appears headed for a spot in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Heading into the NCAA Regional meets this weekend, only one woman in Division I has cleared a bar higher than Williams’ 6-1.50.

“I didn’t expect to get that high,” Williams said. “I thought maybe I could get to six feet by my senior year.”

But Williams, who stands about 5-foot-10, is well ahead of the curve. She is a standout basketball player from a hoop-centric family. Her father, Matt, played at the University of Nevada-Reno and also was a 6-10 high jumper for the track team there. Now, he is a central figure in Reno-area AAU basketball and this weekend is a big one. He runs the Jam On It Reno AAU Memorial Day Tournament, which will have 970 teams playing on 69 courts in the city this weekend.

The tournament will include Gabby, a point guard who was named Nevada’s player of the year in March, with her club teammates. An older sister, Kayla, plays professionally in Australia.

Gabby Williams
Maria HooftMore Gabby Williams at the bar.
Matt Williams said he noticed Gabby had “bounce” when he taught her the fundamentals of hurdling and high jumping back in the seventh grade. It’s a talent that comes in handy on the basketball court as well as the high jump apron. Her vertical leap has been measured at 34 inches and she can dunk a tennis ball.

Williams moved up gradually from a 5-4 clearance in the seventh grade to 5-6 in the eighth grade. As a freshman last year she made 5-8 and won the state championship and then during the summer improved to 5-10.

This spring, Williams cleared 5-11 in the third meet of the season and hasn’t finished with anything lower since then. She also competes in the hurdles, and won the Nevada Class 4A championship in the 100-meter (US#29 14.11) and 300-meter (42.85) events.

Williams spent most of her practice time on sprints and hurdles, and devoted the tail end of Thursday practices to high jumping.

“She has amazing jumping ability,” said Ryan Cotter, one of her Reed jumps coaches. “Her belly button placement is at 6-4. We’re not quite there yet with her technique, but her ultimate goal is to beat the all-time (prep) record of 6-4.”

Cotter believes she will go even higher in meets with better competition. At the Nevada state meet, Williams finished at 5-11 and won by seven inches. She bowed out trying to top 6-1.

“I was so mad (to miss),” Williams said. “I was getting over it and knocking the bar off with my feet.”

A week earlier, at her regional meet, Williams surprised herself when she cleared 6-1.50. But she also took three attempts at 6-2.50 – the national sophomore class record – and came close to making that as well.

“She had it on the second one,” Cotter said. “She didn’t move back her mark so she took off too close to the mat and got (the bar) with her thigh.”

Looking ahead, Williams is targeting Great Southwest and then the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. It’s a heady prospect for a 15-year-old.

“I’m really excited (about the Trials),” she said. “I didn’t expect that either. It’s surreal to even think that I could qualify.”

Forty years ago, a 15-year-old high jumper named Cindy Gilbert actually made the U.S. team and competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics (no one that young has made the U.S. Olympic track team since).

It’s a safe bet that Williams will make the cut. In 2008, six feet even was the cut-off for making the Trials field. As of this week, she is tied for seventh on a U.S. list that includes American record holder Chaunte Lowe and four-time Olympian Amy Acuff.

The opportunity to go and compete at Eugene’s Hayward Field in the Trials is worth re-arranging the summer basketball schedule, Matt Williams said.

“I’m unsure how things work with the Olympic Trials, but we will change our summer plans so that she can do it,” he said. “Just the chance to be around those (other high jumpers) and see how they handle themselves, I think Gabby’s looking forward to that.”

It’s the kind of opportunity that could lead to another quantum leap forward for Williams’ budding track career.

But basketball remains No. 1.

“No doubt,” she said. “The main thing I want to do in college is play basketball, but my goal is to play basketball some place where they let me high jump, too.”
Nick HartleMark FordneyHis blazing 400 speed kickstarted Nick Hartle's state meet quadruple last weekend.


Nick Hartle wants to run fast in the 800 meters and believes he can get a couple of seconds under 1:50.

But last weekend the senior from Centennial High School in Las Vegas was all about helping his team try to win its first Nevada boys track and field championship, which is why he was willing to try an ambitious four-event workload in the Class 4A battle that included the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200.

“I tried a quad last year, but I did the 4x4 (relay) instead of the open 400,” Hartle said.

In Nevada, regional meets whittle the fields down so that the state championships are a finals-only meet.

At Damonte Ranch High School in Reno last Friday, Hartle won the 1,600 meters in 4:18.03 (at 4,500 feet elevation) and then 50 minutes later turned the 400 in a track record 47.79 seconds – an amazing turn of speed for someone whose range goes up to 5,000 meters, where he is a two-time state cross-country champ.

Hartle figured that the 400 would be the most difficult race to win. State leader Arnold Carrillo of McQueen had run 47.43 at the Arcadia Invitational on April 7. But when Carrillo suffered an injury at the regional meet, Hartle knew he’d have a chance to sweep all four races.

Hartle had dipped below 48 seconds on a relay split, but never in an open 400. For a mid-distance runner, Hartle’s US#58 time felt like his best performance of the weekend.

“It was a huge PR,” he said. “After that I was positive that I could win all four.”

On Saturday, Hartle ran 1:52.53 to take the 800 and 9:28.27 in the 3,200, where he won by 20 seconds.

Hartle’s 40 points gave Centennial a huge boost. The school totaled 79 points and won the state crown by 18.

The UCLA-bound Hartle is Centennial’s salutatorian and also won the school’s outstanding male athlete award at a ceremony earlier this week. He concluded his prep career in Nevada with two cross country titles, six individual track titles and one relay victory.

Earlier this season, Hartle was the anchor for two huge relay efforts. At Arcadia, Centennial won the 4x800 relay in 7:44.00 (US#6). A couple weeks later, at the Mt. SAC Relays, Centennial put together a US#1 distance medley relay (10.05.84). In that race, Hartle split 4:12.8 in the 1,600.

Hartle is the state record holder in the 800 (1:49.91) and 1,600 (4:10.23) and has left a significant imprint on Nevada high school running.

“Because we are one of the smaller states, in terms of numbers (of people), in the past we haven’t seen a whole lot of talent. Nevada has been on the back burner,” he said.

High jumper Gabby Williams and throwers Ashlie Blake and Avione Allgood have also contributed to putting Nevada on the front burner this spring. Hartle would like to do his part to keep it there and plans to run at Great Southwest and New Balance Nationals with hopes of driving his 800 meter time down even lower and perhaps winning a national title.

“I’d like to get as low as I can get, under 1:50 again, and hopefully down to 1:47 or 1:46,” he said.

With 47.79 speed in the 400 meters, Hartle has renewed confidence that he has what it take to move into the all-time list in the 800.

He’ll take a couple more shots at it.

“I kind of just want to go for one more month and then relax before going to college,” he said.
Bernie MontoyaJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSBernie Montoya (Ieft) leapt into everyone's national radar with his 8:48.25 for second at the Arcadia 3200.
ARIZONA STATE MEET
It was 100 degrees in Yuma, Ariz. on Thursday, where Cibola High junior Bernie Montoya was preparing for the Arizona state championships this weekend.

On Friday, he’ll run in the 1,600 and 800 at Mesa Community College. On Saturday, he has a leg on the 4x800 relay, and finally, the 3,200 meters.

This spring, Montoya has emerged as one of the standout members of a junior class of distance runners that includes Edward Cheserek, Jake Leingang, Jacob Burcham and Andrew Gardner.

A month after taking the lead on the last lap and finishing second in the blockbuster Arcadia 3,200 meters, in an Arizona record 8:48.25, Montoya is still coming to grips with his sudden rise to the prep distance ultra-elite.

“Honestly, I never thought I’d be at this level,” he said.

At Arcadia, he went to the starting line unsure whether he could break nine minutes.

“I was just hoping to survive,” Montoya said. “It gives me goose bumps and chills just thinking about (what happened). To challenge Futsum (Zeinasellassie), I didn’t think I’d be a contender for the gold. But with two laps left I thought, ‘I’ve gone this far. No reason to quit now. Why not go for it?’”

Montoya has the U.S. lead in the 3,000 meters, 8:18.81, because he was leading the race when the runners hit that point and timed en route to the finish line.

Since then, he has run 4:07.72 in the 1,600 meters and 1:53.22 in the 800.

In 2011, Montoya made news in Arizona when he won the 1,600 at the state championships despite losing his shoe midway through the race. He ran 4:12.01, crossing the finish line and then limping off the track because of torn skin on the bottom of his foot.

He didn’t race again on the track last spring, though Arizona’s state meet is in mid-May.

“The reality is, we saw it coming,” Cibola coach Kris Norton said of Montoya’s improvement. “His sophomore year, at a dual meet, he ran 9:22 goofing around and smiling. There was no way he couldn’t have run nine flat, but he only had one good chance with Billy Orman. But that state race got tactical. They were running together and came through the mile in 4:50.”

So Norton said he was thinking 8:55 at Arcadia – great, but not the eye-popping 8:48 that broke Orman’s state record.

But the most noticeable change in Montoya might be his physique. He came out of his sophomore year looking like a high school kid. He emerged from Yuma’s furnace of a summer this past September with a physique more typical of a college runner. That led to a fall campaign that included a state title and, eventually, a 12th-place finish at Nike Cross Nationals. But it seems the fruition of that summer work has truly come this spring on the flat, fast ovals of California and Arizona.

“I think it’s just more experience,” Montoya said. “My sophomore year, I was barely entering the sport. With a year of solid summer training and winter training, and resistance training that I’ve done, it defined and toned the body.”

Montoya was already blessed with impeccable running form. With a bigger base, natural maturation and repeated exposure to Yuma’s tough running conditions, he has moved to the forefront.

Over the summer, Montoya trained with Norton and his college-aged son, Ryan, on the flat paths that follow the Colorado River and assorted canals.

They would rise at 4:30 or 5 a.m. to get up and go run 10-12 miles early in the morning when the temperatures were still cool. Norton and three other coaches were in charge of transporting water to them at checkpoints on the route.

“We just need to be careful with training because the heat is really dangerous,” Montoya said. “It could toughen you up a little bit.”

In July, the average daily high temperature in Yuma is 107 degrees; in August, it’s 106 but there is more humidity.

Montoya also has easy access to sand dunes, which he runs in early in the season for a challenging leg-strengthening workout.

“It’s mostly very dry and scorching hot,” he said. “I’ve always been able to manage (the heat). You learn to adapt here. You have to drink a lot of water and stay out of the sun. For training, we find a way around (the challenges) and get our workouts in.”

After this weekend, Montoya will begin to focus on the Dream Mile at the Adidas Grand Prix. Beyond that, the schedule is still up in the air. He has also been invited to the Nike Elite Camp in July.

Norton and Montoya are still getting used to the opportunities that come from being a national caliber elite.

“It’s a little strange,” Norton said. “You’ve been doing the coaching, and doing all the training, and then you get a kid like this. You want to make sure you are doing everything you can for the kid to make sure he fulfills his potential. That’s the main thing, taking little extra steps to challenge a kid at this level.”

A select few have Olympic Trials in sights

May, 7, 2012
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Aldrich BaileyBert Richardson/ESPNHSAldrich Bailey, shown here at the Texas Relays, ran a US#1 45.19 400 meters and could test himself against the nation's best at the Olympic Trials in June in Eugene, Ore.


The Olympic Trials, which will decide which U.S. track and field athletes make it to the 2012 London Games, are just six weeks away.

As the high school season moves toward state championships from coast to coast, we have an eye on which preps may crash the party in Eugene and go head to head with professionals and collegians in competition for a spot in the U.S. Olympic team.

Making it to the Olympics as a high school student (or recent graduate) is exceedingly rare in modern track and field. Dwayne Evans made the team in 200 in 1976, shortly after graduating from Arizona’s South Mountain High School. The same year, Johnny "Lam" Jones, a legend from Lampassas High (Texas) made it in the 100 meters and won a gold medal in the 4x100 relay.

No high school male has competed in the Olympic Games in a U.S. uniform since then.

Sisters Sherri and Denean Howard of Kennedy High (Los Angeles) went 1-2 in the 400 meters at the 1980 Olympic Trials, but that year’s U.S. team didn’t get compete in Moscow, Russia because of a boycott. Denean was just 15 at the time, coming out of her sophomore year. (She would go on to make three more Olympic teams).

Before Title IX became law in the 1970s it was common for teenagers to make the U.S. women’s Olympic team. But the advent of college scholarships, plus professional opportunities, has made it exceedingly difficult for a high school athlete to make the team ever again.

However, the very best prep athletes do make it into the Trials on occasion, soaking up the experience of being one step away from their dream. The starts lists usually include 24-32 athletes per event.

Here is a closer look at where some of this year’s top high school athletes stand. Some of these athletes may choose not to do the Trials for scheduling reasons. The U.S. Junior Championships, which is the qualifying meet for World Juniors (and a trip to Barcelona) is just days before the Trials start at Eugene, Oregon's Hayward Field.

Olympic Trials Qualifying Standards

2012 US High School Leaders

BOYS
Marvin Bracy, Boone (Florida): A report in Monday’s Orlando Sentinel stated that there is hope that Bracy will be able to be at full strength for the Golden South Invitational on May 26. Bracy, who has a wind-legal best of 10.25 seconds (and 10.05 wind-aided), won the Florida state title in the 100 over the weekend, but had to pull out of the 200 with a slight hamstring strain. If he can get back to his best, Bracy should make the cut-off for the Trials. He would be a longshot to make the finals there.

Aldrich Bailey, Timberview (Texas): Based on the sizzling 45.19 he ran a little over a week ago, Bailey is a shoo-in to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the 400 meters. And if he can bring the time down even further, as he has suggested that he will, he could have a realistic chance of advancing beyond the first round. Arman Hall (Florida) and Najee Glass (N.J.) could potentially make it into the Trials, too, but both of them would need to PR and dip below 46 seconds.

Sean Keller, Heritage (Vancouver, Wash.): With the US #2 all-time throw of 244-1 at the end of April, Keller moved into the top 10 nationally (including pros and collegians). His place in the Trials is probably secure, but if he chooses to throw at the U.S Junior Championships the preceding week he may not have a rested arm.

Jacob Blankenship (Ohio), Shawn Barber (Texas), Reese Watson (Texas): During the indoor season, there was a lot of momentum happening for the top boys pole vaulters. But outdoors, not one of them has made 17 feet since April 1. And time is running out. The standard to make the Trials is 18-0.50, which none of them has made yet. However, Barber is eligible to compete for Canada and will likely compete in that nation's trials.

Devin Field (Texas) and Jarrion Lawson (Texas): Field was not allowed to compete this spring in varsity events for DeSoto because of the UIL’s residency issues, but his goal for the spring was 26 feet in the long jump. If he can get close to that number, he could make the Trials field (it takes 25-7 to qualify). Lawson, of Liberty-Eylau, has a wind-aided best of 25-10.75. If he can go big at the Texas state championships (without the wind), then he has a chance of making the cut.

Tyler Sorenson (California): The record-breaking junior racewalker earned a spot in the 20-kilometer even last year as a 17-year-old, making him one of the youngest Trials qualifiers ever for this event.

GIRLS

Haley Crouser, Gresham (Ore.): Only a high school junior, Crouser joined her older brother Sam and cousin Ryan as a national record holder this spring when she threw her javelin 181-2. She is a lock to make it into the Trials (along with Sam and Ryan), but she would need a huge PR in order to make it to London. (The Olympic A standard is 200-1). She has a realistic chance to finish in the top five at the Trials. Avione Allgood (Nev.) has been hoping all spring that her surgically repaired shoulder heals in time to throw at the Trials. She threw 176-8 for fourth at the U.S. Championships last year and competed at the Pan Am Games last fall.

Shelbi Vaughan, Legacy (Mansfield, Texas): She is consistently in the 180s with her discus and hit a best of 191-6 for a new U.S. high school record. That puts her squarely inside the top 10 nationally. On a good day, she could even make the finals at the Olympic Trials. But in 2008, the three who made the U.S. team all threw farther than 205 feet.

Gabrielle Williams, Reed (Sparks, Nev.): Still a little shy of the Trials standard (6-0.50), the U.S. leader has cleared six feet once and has a little more time to make an improvement that could put her into the field. It’s a lot to ask of a high school sophomore.

Shayla Sanders, Boyd H. Anderson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.): She has been the dominant high school sprinter this spring in the 100 (11.33) and 200 (23.25), but these are extremely competitive events in the U.S. What will it take for her lineup against the likes of Carmelita Jeter or Allyson Felix? Sanders has met the qualifying standard for the 100, but if a bunch of women run fast at the NCAA championships, it could bump her down the list. If she can improve her time by even a few hundredths, she’d have a good chance of making the field. In 2008, it took 23.12 to make the field in the 200, so that might be out of reach.

Robin Reynolds, Jackson (Miami): The US leader in the 400 (52.19) has the B standard for the Trials, but that’s not a guarantee of making the cut. In 2008, 52.58 was the last accepted entry (out of 27 in the field). Reynolds’ best time would have made the field (22nd). Reynolds also has a long jump best of 20-6.25, about eight inches short of the Trials qualifying mark.

Ajee Wilson, Neptune (N.J.), Mary Cain, Bronxville (N.Y.) and Amy Weissenbach, Harvard-Westlake (Calif.): These are three of the all-time best prep 800-meter runners and all three of them have credentials that could put them into the Trials. In 2008, the slowest woman in the field made it in with 2:04.90. This is becoming a deeper even in the U.S., so it could take something a little faster this time. Wilson ran 2:02.64 last July and has a best so far this spring of 2:05.28. Cain, who is only a sophomore, is coming on strong and has a best of 2:05.90, but split 2:03.7 on a relay last year. She is also very close to the Trials B standard in the 1,500 (4:17.00). Weissenbach, the California state champion, has a PR of 2:02.04, although she has not run a fast one yet this spring.

Trinity Wilson, St. Mary’s College (Calif.), Dior Hall, George Washington (Colo.), Traci Hicks, Long Beach Poly (Calif.): In 2008, Jacqueline Coward (Tenn.) was a prep elite who made the field, qualifying with her best time of 13.20. At the Trials, she ran 13.69 and was last in her prelim, demonstrating how massive the leap is to this level of competition. Wilson ran 13.41 on April 7, but also suffered a hairline fracture of her big toe and hasn’t competed since. If she can return in time to compete in the California state meet, and get back to her PR of 13.15, she could land in the Trials. Hall, a sophomore, is the indoor national champion and has a PR of 13.18 from last year. Hicks has a wind-aided best of 13.22 and could also be on the bubble for a berth. (In 2008, it took 13.24 to make it into the meet).

Brianna Nerud, North Shore (Glen Head, N.Y.): The senior has run a couple of 3,000-meter steeplechase races in order to see if she can make the Trials B standard of 10:15, but has a best so far of 10:24.95. It would take a startling improvement in order to make the field. In 2008, it took 10:09 to make it and this year will probably take something a few seconds faster.

Cayla Hatton, Phillips Academy (Andover, Mass.): She ran an eye-popping 10,000 meters time of 33:17.28 at a low-key college meet – second-fastest in U.S. high school history. At the time, it seemed like she might be a lock for the Trials. Now, it appears that time won’t make the cut. In 2008, 33:24.10 secured the last spot in the field. This time around, it is much more competitive thanks to a couple of fast races this spring at Stanford (April 6 and 27). Twenty-nine women broke 33 minutes in those two races.

Kendell Williams, Kell (Marietta, Ga.): Has she gotten well-rounded enough to score 5,600 points in the heptathlon? That’s what it takes to make it into the Trials (at a minimum), and last year as a sophomore Williams was an age-group record-breaker with 5,170. Williams can compete with the best in the hurdles, high jump and long jump. She was reportedly working on her throws with the Throw1Deep Club in Georgia and that was a smart move. If her shot put and javelin are consistently superior to where they were a year ago, 5,600 is within her range.

First stop Buckley, next stop New York City

May, 4, 2012
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Marcus Dickson White River WashingtonAdam LeahyMarcus Dickson of White River (Wash.) leaves the competition behind during an 800 meters race on March 30.
There are just three stop lights in Buckley, Wash., the small town located in the foothills halfway between the city of Seattle and the summit of Mt. Rainier. There’s just one restaurant, Wally’s, a drive-in that’s popular with the high school kids.

It’s the kind of place where the high school’s sports are a big deal.

Last week, word spread like wildfire that Marcus Dickson was going after the White River High School record in the 1,600 meters in a dual meet against Sumner, right there in Buckley.

Dickson encouraged the buzz in town and then put on a show for the people who came to watch him run in his final home meet. He ran a US#1 4:05.83, helped by a teammate willing to run the first 800 in 2:02 and coaches positioned strategically around the track to keep him up to date on his split times.

“It was my last meet ever in a small town where people always ask me how I’m doing,” Dickson said. “A lot of people came out. We’d spread the word, ‘Come watch the mile.’ A lot of classmates and community members showed up. I knew it was going to be hard to run 4:05 in a league meet, but I also knew I had it in me.”

The school record was not soft. Andy Maris ran 4:06.61 in 1989. Dickson could see the name and time on a wall at the school every day and had long ago decided he wanted to take it down.

He got into position to do it with an ambitious 50-mile per week training regimen logged during a very wet Northwest winter and early spring. Dickson was the last athlete invited to join the field for the mile at the Brooks PR Invitational on Feb. 26 and then he ran 4:07.18 for the win in his only indoor meet.

“That broke me out of my shell a little bit,” Dickson said. “I had never run in a major race before. I’d read about those guys and found out when I met them that they were all regular kids like me. It told me I can run with anyone right now.”

In mid-March, when a late winter blast of snow and ice made the track at White River unusable, Dickson drove to nearby schools at lower elevations to scout for a track that was clear. He found one at Auburn-Riverside, waited until the school’s track teams were done using it, and then completed his workout under the cloak of darkness.

When the weather is at its worst – and the rain is colder at Buckley’s 700 feet – Dickson turns it to his advantage.

“No one else is running right now, so let’s run,” he said.

Dickson escaped the drizzle to run at the Arcadia Invitational on April 7 in California, finishing second in the mile to Brad Nye (Kaysville, Utah) in 4:09.41.

“Brad’s an amazing runner and it’s hard to beat him,” Dickson said of his future BYU teammate. “I was happy with what I did, it was an outdoor PR at the time, but I hate losing. I think (Arcadia) was a turning point for me. After Brooks I felt invincible. At Arcadia, I was expecting to win that race. It was a little wake-up.”

Motivation comes easy to Dickson, the youngest of five kids. He grew up wanting to surpass the achievements of his two older brothers, who both ran at Auburn High, one of the big Class 4A schools downhill from Buckley. Even within Washington, Dickson didn't gain widespread recognition until this year because of the exploits of runners like Andrew Gardner, Nathan Weitz and Anthony Armstrong.

"Those guys are the real deal, in track and cross," Dickson said. "They always beat me in cross country. I was hoping for a big year in track but wasn’t always sure because they always beat me. They motivated me to work harder. I thought of each one of those guys and wanted to be with them in track."

On April 26, at Buckley, there was a burst of hail at the track 20 minutes before the 1,600. But the people who came to watch had just enough time to close their umbrellas and find a good place to stand or sit. The sun came out. And Dickson got ready to run.

“He had a plan,” White River coach Jerry Scheidt said. “He wanted to break that record. He’s been chasing that thing for four years.”

Teammate Kody Gould, a 4:16 1,600-meter runner, helped him get to 2:02 for two laps.

By the end, Dickson was lapping runners, which caused a brief mix-up for the timing system. But the hand times all confirmed that it was under 4:06 and the automatic timing verified it. The townspeople cheered. Classmates greeted him with hugs.

With the months of May and June still to go, Dickson has a lot to look forward to on the track. He’d like to help White River win the Class 2A championship, running as many races as he needs to make that happen.

He certainly feels like he’s got a shot at the state record in the 800 (1:49.41 by John Cote of Lindbergh in 1997), mostly likely when he runs at the Oregon-Washington BorderDuel in Portland on June 2 against Nick Boersma (1:51.78) and Izaic Yorks (1:51.75). Two days after the 4:05, at the Shoreline Invitational, he just missed that 800 mark, running US#2 1:49.45.

And he’ll get another shot at Nye and the rest of the nation’s top milers when he makes his first trip to New York City for the June 9 Jim Ryun Dream Mile.

“I’m excited,” Dickson said. “There’s a lot left to do.”
2012 Penn Relays McTaggartJohn Nepolitan/ESPNHSStarter Tom McTaggart is one of the many officials who bring experience and expertise to the Penn Relays.
When Tom McTaggart was invited to his own induction into the Rockland County, N.Y., Sports Hall of Fame last year, he had to inform the event’s organizers that he couldn’t make it. The date conflicted with the Penn Relays.

This year, the banquet has been moved to Sunday.

McTaggart and three other starters will engage in the weekend’s longest relay at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field (a fifth starter will handle the multi events and Thursday night’s races). There are more than 640 races this weekend at the Penn Relays and each one of them will begin with start commands and the pop of a starter’s pistol.

McTaggart has served as the starter at the Olympic Games (1996), numerous Olympic Trials, and almost every significant domestic track and field event. He works throughout the winter indoor season and then allows himself just two weekends off each spring. He will be the coordinator of the timing crew at the 2012 Olympic Trials in June. Even the handle of his email address is "MrStarter."

He began at Penn Relays – an event he calls “a well-oiled chainsaw” – in 1989.

At Penn Relays, the starters are like traffic cops. When the gun sounds, it’s time to go.

And with McTaggart, and the other veteran members of the starters’ crew, athletes at the Penn Relays are in expert hands.

McTaggart will enter the above-mentioned hall of fame not only for his status as a starter, but also for a long career at Suffern High School, where he taught and coached for 36 years (retiring in 2009). He started his first race in 1970, on a day when the regular starter failed to show up. He became one of the best in the business under the wing of Frank Bailey, the official starter of the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

What makes a great starter?

“Patience, confidence, and knowing what you’re doing,” McTaggart said. “An understanding of what athletes are going through, and an ultimate sense of fairness.”

McTaggart says each races begins with “the palpable moment of stillness,” a poetic description of the 1.5 to two seconds between “Set!” and the shot.

Last year, the starter’s crew kept track of the number of shells that were fired, including recalls: 659. Each starter does five races in a row (keeping one extra shell in case a re-start is required) and then rotates out to join the recall crew and reload.

For the 4x200s, with the enormous stagger, starters crack a .38 caliber gun (shooting blanks) for a louder sound that every competitor can hear above the din of the crowd. For the rest of the events, it’s a .32 caliber starter’s pistol.

The Penn Relays has remarkably few false starts. In 2011, McTaggart said there were only six.

“If a kid wiggles, we stand them up,” he said.

What advice does McTaggart have for this week’s newcomers to Penn? He ponders the question and the coach in him comes back to the surface.

  • “On the 4x1s, hopefully you run a good turn, because you are almost running into the next one, so get used to handing off on a turn,” he said.
  • “In any other race, run with your elbows wide. If you think you’re out and about to go down, fall before you get to the clock (for a re-start). I used to have my team practice a tuck-and-roll.”
  • “The big thing is, don’t be afraid. It’s just another meet. Kids get nervous because of the crowd. Treat it like it’s just another meet.”
Carmen CarlosJohn Dye/ESPNHSCarmen Carlos (right) tops Rachel Paul in the NBNI 2-mile as the two get tangled at the finish.


MOBILE INDEX



Sometimes, all it takes is just one race to rise to national prominence.

Such is the case with McGill-Toolen Catholic (Mobile, Ala.) junior Carmen Carlos. She won last Saturday’s Mobile Challenge of Champions 2-mile for the third consecutive year. The city is best known for producing five members of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, but the versatile distance runner is on her way to being Hall of Fame material herself.

Carlos had in the past three years become a dominant state and strong regional-class performer in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs, as well as cross country, and one figured it was just a matter of time before she made a breakthrough on the national level.

That breakthrough came in March at the New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York City.

Carlos was up against some of the best distance runners in the country in the 2-mile run, including Sachem East (Farmville, N.Y.) senior Rachel Paul and Bernards (Bernardsville, N.J.) senior Dana Giordano, who was at that time the nation’s 3,200 leader (10:24.73 from the New Jersey Meet of Champs.

Carmen Carlos
Walter Pinion/ESPNHSCarmen Carlos winning the Mobile 2-mile.
It was a hotly contested race from start to finish, and it culminated with Carlos nearly colliding with Paul at the finish line. Carlos won with a time of 10:25.30. It was 18 seconds than her previous best (outdoors) for the deuce and the equivalent of a 12-second PR over her 10:34.02 3,200 best set in February.

VIDEO OF LAST LAP OF NBNI 2-MILE

Some felt that Carlos should have been disqualified because it appeared she impeded Paul’s progress. Carlos’ coach, Drew Bentley, had a different take.

“Carmen had the inside lane,” he said. “The other runner (Paul) came out of the straightaway in lane two and literally stopped running, and then cut across to hold her back. If you watch the video, (it shows that) the other girl tried to obstruct Carmen. In fact, the third-place runner (Giordano) said the second-place runner tried to cut her off.”

Bentley said that despite the last few moments of the race, Carlos never lost focus.

“Carmen never changed her running style,” he said. “The other girl (Paul) put her hand back. But I thought it was a great finish, because when you get in a championship race, that’s what you want to see, and if anything, the other girl was in jeopardy of being disqualified.”

“I was sure that I wasn’t disqualified, but I thought about it some,” Carlos said. “I felt bad that she (Paul) fell down, but what happens, happens.”

Just like that, Carlos wound up in the national spotlight, and with that, the challenge to find enough quality competition to keep progressing and prepare for possible outdoor nationals.

“Her season has to be catered to where she can get personal bests and competition,” said Bentley. “There are so few opportunities locally for her to be challenged.”

Saturday’s Challenge 2-mile loomed as one such opportunity. Carlos was primed to challenge the meet record of 10:23.05, set by Laura Zeigle of Bingham High in South Jordan, Utah in 2002. Despite a solid field, Carlos was unchallenged for most of the race, and managed to run ‘only’ 10:44.71.

Still, she won by a substantial margin. The time was not all bad—it was just a second slower than she ran here last year and a current U.S. leader for the full two miles.

“I felt that I wasn’t at my best, but I was still determined to stay on pace,” Carlos said. “I ended up falling off the pace, but I’m happy that I won.”

“You can be up only so many times,” said Bentley. “But even in the elite field at the Challenge, she almost lapped a runner. People have to realize now that she’s at a level where you have to train and be in select meets where she can have strong performances.”

Carlos hopes she will have some more opportunities to run in more elite meets.

“Hopefully, I can go to other meets at other states and run some fast times,” she said. “Of course, I’m also looking forward to meets like the Mobile County championships and the state meet to help my team win.”

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