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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Division I Preview

Beaumont will win the team title. The real fight is for second, where Bowsher, Collinwood, Walsh Jesuit and Shaker Heights are all basically even.

Individual picks:

Discus throw. Monica Howard, Wilmington.
High jump. Georgette Asfoura, Walsh Jesuit.
4x800 relay. Twinsburg.
Long jump. In a tossup between Audra Frimpong (Canfield) and Mikeal Roberts (Princeton), I’ll go with Frimpong.
Shot put. Johnna Zacari, Walsh Jesuit.
Pole vault. The obvious choice might be Courtney Siebenaller (Whitmer), who tied the state indoor record of 12’ while winning the state indoor championship. However, she just hasn’t been up to that standard since then, and I’m going with Kelsey Ahbe (Green).
100m hurdles. Kaylon Eppinger, Warrensville Heights.
100 meters. This should be a close race between Meshawn Graham (Bowsher), Aareon Payne (Beaumont), and Erika Schmidt (Anthony Wayne). I’m picking Graham, as she has the best top-end speed and is the least likely to run tight in a high-pressure situation.
4x200 relay. Collinwood.
1600 meters. Emily Infeld (Beaumont). She’s about 10 seconds better than anyone else in the race.
4x100. Withrow.
400 meters. This is the deepest race in the meet, but Jessica Beard (Euclid) is head and shoulders above the rest; she’s the best teenage quarter-miler in the western hemisphere.
300m hurdles. Hauna Dawkins, Franklin Heights.
800 meters. Again, Emily Infeld.
200 meters. The same cast as the 100 meters, but Graham will be a clear winner.
3200 meters. There’s no clear favorite here; Brooklyne Ridder (Oak Hills) ran a sparkling 10:34 at her district meet and then finished third in her region. I’m going with Claire Durkin (Kilbourne).
4x400 relay. This figures to be a three-way race between Walnut Hills, Westerville Central, and Shaker Heights. Shaker has a superior anchor leg in Shaniqua McGinnis, so they’re my pick.


The first time I added up points I got Glenville first, Cleveland Heights second. The second time I did it I got Cleveland Heights first, Glenville second. It will be close and no other team has a chance.

Shot put. Jimmie Pacifico (Vandalia-Butler) is #1 in the nation and should win by about 10 feet. I would be very surprised if he does not break the meet record.
Long jump. Jordan McPherson (Huber Heights Wayne) has been head and shoulders above the rest of the state all season long.
Pole vault. Mike Uhle, Olentangy Liberty.
4x800 relay. Cleveland Heights is the #1 team in the country.
Discus throw. Again, Jimmie Pacifico; his best this year is 195’ 1”.
High jump. Erik Kynard (Rogers) jumped 7’ in early January and has slowly but consistently gone downhill ever since. He was solidly beaten by Ronsae Harrison (Winton Woods) at the Roosevelt Relays. This is a four-way battle between those two, McPherson, and David Serrano (Pickerington Central). I’m going to pick Serrano in an upset.
110m hurdles. Ricardo Ross, Independence.
100 meters. The casual observer will see that Aeric Clay (Bowsher) was second in both of the last two years and had the fastest regional time, and pick him to win. But that would ignore the fact that Clay hasn’t been running all that well this year, and also the effect of wind on 100 meter times. Use this cool widget, and you’ll see the fastest from the regionals is actually Jordan McPherson.
4x200 relay. Glenville vs. Middletown; I’ll take Glenville.
1600 meters. Chris Lemon (St. John’s Jesuit) has run some great races over the last few weeks and he’s tough as nails. The one thing he doesn’t have is great finishing speed, which Jake Edwards (Delaware Hayes) does. Edwards in a thriller.
4x100 relay. Huber Heights Wayne vs. Middletown; their anchors will likely stage a rematch of the 100 meter final. Middletown won’t lose two sprint relays; take the Middies!
400 meters. Another very deep field in the 400 meters. I’m going to pick Kendall Gregory (Strongsville) in an upset.
300m hurdles. Sam Hogue (Toledo Central Catholic) has run sub-38 in each of his last six races; no one else in the state has done it even once. A no-brainer.
800 meters. Jake Edwards’ legs will be stuffed after the mile, so he won’t win. Daniel White (Brunswick) is the favorite, but if Jared Hall wins this he just might seal the team title for Cleveland Heights.
200 meters. Stuart Smith (Westerville Central), and it will not be close.
3200 meters. Emil Heineking (Chardon) is the obvious choice, but watch Bo Waggoner (Maumee) to give him a run at it.
4x400 relay. This should be the race of the day; four teams ran 3:16 or better at their regional meets and the overall team title will be up for grabs. Cleveland Heights will win.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

State Meet Division II Preview

In the team competition, Akron Buchtel is the overwhelming favorite. The fight for second should be between Kettering Alter and Mantua Crestwood. Crestwood’s Cassandra Schenk is attempting the impossible, a distance quadruple (it has been attempted only once; her former teammate Bridget Franek successfully pulled it off last year). Meet records in danger of being broken are the high jump (West Geauga’s Katelyn Williams) and the pole vault (Indian Valley’s Kayla Caldwell).

Heath is my pick to win the team title with Salem second. If either of these two falter, next in line are a couple of northwest Ohio teams—Eastwood and Sandusky Perkins. Several meet records could be broken; the 800 (Salem’s Patrick Gorby), the 4x800 relay (Woodridge), and the high jump (Napoleon’s Ryan Fleck).

Tommorrow: Event-by-event Division I picks.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ohio High School Championships - DIII Preview

There is no elite post-collegiate inviational in Ohio, and the major college scene is a train wreck. But high school track's popularity is deep and wide, and the best of it will be this weekend at Ohio State. It's nothing like it was back in Ohio Stadium (the Jesse Owens Stadium is a bit lacking) but it's still the best state meet in this part of the country.

Why? Organization and tradition. Two days, three divisions, a tight schedule. For a superfan it's an orgy of the sport while the casual viewer gets an entire meet (24 final running events) in two hours and fifteen minutes.

Over the remainder of the week I'll be putting up previews and stats and so forth. General info can be found at the OHSAA website and Gary Baumgartner's page.

Division III

The smallest of Ohio's divisions; some schools are downright tiny. (There are multiple high schools with enrollments of less than twenty students.)

The team competition will likely be between a couple of two-man squads and the stars of the meet. Columbus Grove (a rural town in the northwest, nowhere near Columbus) brings thrower Cory Meulman (57' 9" / 188' 4") and hurdler-vaulter Heath Nickles (39.6 / 15' 7"). Yellow Springs (a small town near Dayton best known as the residence of Dave Chappelle) brings Samuel Borchers, the defending USA Junior 1500m champ (4:10 / 1:52, both D-III state records), 2-miler Evan Firestone (9:33) and a 4x800 relay team (7:51, D-III state record). Muelman and Nickles could threaten state meet records, while Borchers & co. will almost certainly walk away with three meet records. But those don't score extra points. Columbus Grove will be done scoring after the 300m hurdles, leaving the penultimate event, the 3200, as the deciding race.

Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills (a ritzy Cleveland suburb) appears considerably better than the rest of the field. Distance runners Betta Simko (2:15 / 5:02) and Melanie Frank (2:15) plus a couple of relay teams (3:59, 9:31) will be tough to top. The top athletes to watch are Barnesville's Stephanie Morgan (4:54 / 11:11) and my personal pick for Ohio's Athlete of the Year regardless of division, Woodmore's Emily Pendleton (45' 8" / 183' 3") It's been 17 years since an Ohioan set a national high school record and 49 years since it's been done at the state meet; it's never been done by a girl from the Buckeye state. But Pendleton's best mark is just 5 feet and one inch from Suzy Powell's national record...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

High School Regionals

To most people, Memorial Day weekend is a road-trip time that signifies the beginning of summer. For me, it's a road-trip that starts the real track season.

In Ohio, it's regional weekend. This is a do-or-die format in every event. The top four in each of four regionals qualify to the state meet. No wild cards, no at-large bids, nothing.

Now, my hometown of Toledo is not what you'd call a track hotbed. Track isn't ignored, either, but we don't tend to dominate at the regional or state level very often. Even though "northwest Ohio" sounds like one-fourth of the state, the truth is that the Toledo area (one dying industrial city surrounded by a dozen counties of farmland) only has about 10% of the state's Division I schools. This year we seem to have more than our share of top runners.

Yesterday's Region 2 meet at Amherst Steele High School drew from Toledo and its suburbs, a handful of outlying schools, and western Cleveland and its suburbs. Jamie Farr would have been proud. Not only did Toledo claim both team titles and a runner-up, we took 8 of 17 boys' events and 11 of 17 girls' events.

Athletes of the day? Chris Lemon of St. John's Jesuit won the 1600 in 4:11.23 and the 3200 in 9:09.19, both meet records. Lemon was chased to the finish line by teammate Joe Miller (4:14.59) and cross-town rival Bo Waggoner (9:09.52) and twin brother Matt (9:14.80); all three broke the 3200 meet record. Central Catholic's Sam Hogue ran his sixth 37-second race of the year in the 300m hurdles (no one else in Ohio has broken 38.00) and then in the 4x400 relay he proved he was the second-best 400m man in the meet.

On the girl's side, a great duel has developed. Meshawn Graham of Bowsher is a known quantity; two years ago she set the Ohio freshman-class record in the 400m and won the state title in the 200m, and won last year's USATF 15-16 age group Junior Olympics in the event. Sophomore Erica Schmidt of Anthony Wayne (a mixed farming/suburban area west of Toledo) has been improving week after week after week. Well, yesterday we had a doozy.

100 meters: Schmidt led Graham until the last ten meters. Graham 11.80, Schmidt 11.87 (wind +1.8 m/s). Far and away the fastest in Ohio this year; their times rank them 10th and 16th in Ohio history.

400 meters: Schmidt is not in this event, but Graham was led by Sandusky's Jasmunn Ritchie until the final straightaway. Graham ran 53.47, which was announced as tieing the official state record...but at the exact same moment over in Youngstown, Jessica Beard ran 53.03. In a foreshadowing of the next race, Schmidt anchored her winning 4x200m relay with a 23.5 split.

200 meters: Schmidt had a great start and split about 11.8 for the first 100m (around the turn!). Graham was well back until the very end, finally passing in the last 20 meters. Graham 23.80, Schmidt 24.08. Unfortunately, the wind-gauge operator fell asleep at the switch, otherwise these two would be nationally-ranked in their events.

On to the state meet!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cleveland 10k in Chaos

From (via Let's Run):
A wrong turn sent between 200 to 300 runners off course in today's Rite Aid Cleveland 10K race. So instead of running 6.1 miles some of them ran close to 9 miles. And now the results of the 10K race are in chaos.

According to racers and race officials, a police officer at the two-mile mark of the race (see a map of the route) diverted the lead car guiding 10K competitors through the course. Highway cones had been misplaced in the area, and some racers in the Cleveland marathon who were walking the area had also created a bottleneck.

So instead of going onto the Shoreway, the car's navigator sent runners through the Flats, tacking on as much as 2.7 miles to the race.

Reports have it that the elite men's runners, who didn't come in until about 32:00, were on sub-28:00 pace.

I had scheduled myself to run the Cleveland Marathon a while back, but it became obvious to me that I was not going to get a Boston qualifier out of it so I bailed. I'd also read some poor reviews at which reported minor problems like misplaced mile markers, so I wasn't too broken up about it. Mile markers are a small thing, but it does indicate a certain level of carelessness that is typical of professional race management companies which "amateur" road runners clubs find absolutely unacceptable. So I can hardly say I'm surprised something went wrong, just that it went wrong so badly.

A local Toledo runner wrote the following:
I knew when I was crossing a 4 lane highway without anyone stopping traffic (or even around for that matter) and then running down an exit ramp with cars whizzing by that we were off course. I had to jump a fence in the downtown construction area as well.
My BS meter is going off, but I'm going to double-check to see if she's actually joking or not.

adidas Track Classic

Random thoughts about the meet and its TV coverage...

Larry Rawson says some wierd things every now and then, but saying no one in the NFL can beat Allyson Felix at 200m is probably the wierdest.

Did it infuriate you the same way it did me to see the first few laps of the men's 3000m going on in the background while they talking-headed Stacy Dragila? What, are they embarrassed to have an actual track meet on screen during a track meet?

I don't think I've ever seen three running events in a row without a commercial in a domestic elite meet. They did back-to-back events another time, too. Whoever is scheduling the meet has finally gotten their head out of the stone age.

Whoever covers the field events is stuck back in it, though.

What's the deal with Lisa Barber? I can accept the makeup, the manicure, the glamorous hair weave, even the size-too-small racing briefs. But putting a hip numbers right on each butt cheek takes the whole thing a bit over the top.

Wouldn't it be nice to see an entire world record from beginning to end? I mean, there are boys watching it who will be state champions in a few weeks who know she just kicked their butts.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Barry Bonds, track & field

It seems as though everyone is talking about Barry Bonds and the home run record this week. He's on the cover of Sports Illustrated ("What San Franciscans Think of Bonds"), George F. Will wrote a rare two-page column about the subject in Newsweek, and NPR's On The Media aired a piece on it this morning.

The SI story is based on the deep sense of loyalty fans have for their teams. A classic example: a friend who is an Indians fan was very defensive about Albert Belle when he played for Cleveland, but once he left the team she said "Thank God I don't have to be an apologist for that jackass anymore". (One can glean a deep understanding of political attitudes amongst ordinary Americans by observing this type of behavior; in this perspective, Fox News finally makes sense.) Bonds is so distasteful a character that quite a few Giants fans still won't stick up for him.

Will more or less laments tho whole situation of drugs and sport and almost goes so far as to reject his own libertarian views towards this one subject...but never can quite admit that doping requires a strict level of regulation. The biggest thing you get out of the column is that Will loves baseball only because he, an unathletic nerd, can blandly intellectualize it.

NPR talked with San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto, who got to the heart of the matter. He said the steroid thing cheapens every great achievement in baseball over the last 15 years, and this is the ultimate expression of that cheapness--the most revered record is going to be broken by a total jackass who cheated better than anyone else and may go to prison because of it.

Couple all of this with the wierdness of the Landis hearing, and you might just say that all professional sports are dirty and corrupt to the core...but I challenge you to find me a self-regulating and highly competitive enterprise that isn't. Baseball and track share a certain peculiarity that set them apart: a reverence for records and numbers, which doping totally screws up--maybe forever.

Baseball is experiencing a profound sense of dread as Bonds' home run total approaches 755; the nature of the game requires months or years for a new record to be set and traditionally the excitement mounts. This will not be the last anticlimax for baseball, but one of many. Contrast this to track, where our records are set in a matter of moments, and then they are looked back on with great regularoty until they are broken by another record. But we now realize that the record book is literally riddled with fake and unapproachable marks. Our sense of dread is much more muted, but it happens every time Sanya Richards improves her PR.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Track Etymology Debate

Over at the Track & Field News forums, a discussion has arisen about the origin of the term "thinclads". It's a passe term, but considering what people like Isinbayeva are wearing these days it might be more descriptive than ever.

NCAA Regionals

A few weeks ago E. Garry Hill proposed some changes to the NCAA championships in his Track & Field News column. In short, he favored fields of 12 t0 16 athletes per event, with Regionals being a do-or-die qualifier. This would make the NCAA meet a much shorter and tighter affair (good for TV) and make the regional meets actually important. I think it's a great idea.

What Hill unknowingly described to a T is the Ohio high school state championships, except that we have two rounds of qualifying (districts and regionals). There are four regions and each region has four districts; the top four in each meet go on to the next round, creating fields of 16.

The superfans get a full day at the state championships, as there are three enrollment-based divisions and Saturday starts early and ends late. The normal spectator gets a good meet, as each division gets its 24 final running events done on Saturday in about two hours. It should come as no surprise that these championships have large and loyal attendance. Since Ohio Stadium's track was taken out and the meet moved to the Jesse Owens Stadium, if you don't get there early you won't get to sit down.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Anti-Doping News's been almost two weeks since I've posted.

Today's arbitration hearing for Floyd Landis took a strange turn today. It appears that the defense has been involved in witness tampering.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Best College Teams

Who are the four best men's dual-meet teams in the country? Find out over at my Trackshark blog.

Bluffton University May Day 4-Miler

This week's Sports Illustrated has a great article on Bluffton University, its baseball team, and the deadly bus crash. Its emphasis is on how the university community dealt with the tragedy (extremely well) and how people all over the country came to their aid. Throughout there is a strong implication of "why can't we all act like this?"

The article underplays the importance of Bluffton's Mennonite identity. Partly, this is because Mennonites get no attention. Even among the "peace churches", the Amish are a cultural icon and the Quakers won a Nobel peace prize, but the Mennonites simply and quietly go about their lives. These days Christians in mass media are the type who try to fix others and help themselves, but Bluffton's mission has it the other way around.

Nor are they full of themselves; a friend who worked there told me the big social event among administrators is a weekly gathering at Arby's. Many D-III schools are populated by the children of privelege, but people like that are generally not attracted to this kind of place. Even the architecture is simple and understated, taking effort to leave the beauty of nature undisturbed. Fawns run through campus because they can.

Mind you, if you're looking for excitement this is not the place to be. But these people always recognized just how much of a curse it is to live in exciting times, and they know it more now. I guess what I'm trying to say is Bluffton University is a group of people who value understanding, love, community, and a simple life. Like the Nickel Mines School shootings, it would only be surprising if the community didn't deal with the tragedy in a positive way.

I'd planned to do this race months before Bluffton became famous. I was going to use it as a tune-up for the Cleveland Marathon, but I bailed on that race once it became obvious that I wasn't going to get a Boston qualifier. I also thought I'd have a shot at winning this thing when I saw last year's times, but the size of the field increased at least threefold. I did beat last year's winning time but only ended up third in my age group ("male, mildly old").

The race is part of May Day which is a really big thing at Bluffton, owing to its strong German heritage. It's graduation, too, but the whole weekend appears to have an unusually large alumni involvement in an average year, and this one is anything but normal. I expected some sort of mention of the baseball team and probably a moment of silence before the race, but there was nothing. They've accepted it and moved on.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

News & Notes

Two bits of news from around Ohio...

Sounds Important, But Isn't:
OSU gridders to run 4x100 at Owens Classic
The Buckeyes had this brilliant idea to put a bunch of their fastest footballers on the 4x100. Problem: most of them have never run track in their entire lives. At Drake, they got seriously waxed. 41.57 is pretty good for a high school team, but it should be damn embarrassing for the midwest's premier collegiate athletic program. My prediction: these guys will continue to suck, and the experiment won't even get to the Big Ten championships before being withdrawn.

Big News That Was More Or Less Expected:
Brandon Saine quits his high school team
The two-time defending D-1 champ and state record-holder (10.38) had a bad spring. He started training late, got hurt, and didn't enjoy it anymore. The prediction a year ago was that he wouldn't run this spring due to his status as All-Everything Running Back who signed with...yep, the historically track-apathetic Ohio State University.