Going Out Fast: the 2011 New Balance Indoor Nationals
For three days, last weekend in New York City, we welcomed more than 3000 of the nation's top high school track and field athletes to The Armory as they competed for All-American honors (and t-shirts) at the 2011 New Balance Indoor Nationals. In front of a packed audience, both in the stands and to thousands of viewers around the world watching our live video stream on Facebook, these boys and girls gathered not only to race, jump, and throw against one another, but also to share a laugh at our Smilebooth and learn from top coaches at our on-site clinics.
It was an event clearly defined by dominant performances. In a field of the best track and field athletes in the country, there were a handful of names on everybody's mind - and in a weekend of spectacular performances, they exceeded even our wildest expectations:
Waverly Neer of Russiaville, Indiana set the first of several National Records at the meet with a surprise victory in the Girls 5000m on Friday night. With less than a thousand meters to race, Waverly surged past Kathryn Fluehr to shatter the high school record by nearly eight seconds, turning a time of 16:35.15. She punctuated her victory by announcing to the crowd in a post-race interview that she'll be running for Columbia University this Fall.
Marquis Dendy, in no surprise to followers of the sport, dominated both Saturday's Long Jump and Sunday's Triple Jump events, winning the former by eight inches with a leap of 25'-3 1/4" and the latter by more than a full foot, jumping 51'-3 3/4". The Middletown, Delaware Senior will jump for the University of Florida this Fall.
Atlanta, Georgia's Shelby Ashe - no stranger to the Indoor Nationals after setting National Records in the Shot Put and Weight Throw here last year - broke her own National Record in the Weight Throw, with a toss of 68'-2 1/2", and was named Female Trackster of the meet. She is the only girl in the country ever to have thrown more than 20 meters. She's now done it three times.
In an event comprised of five disciplines, defending Boys Pentathlon champion Gunnar Nixon demonstrated the breadth and scale of his dominance by breaking Donovan Kilmartin's national high school record, with the highest score in both the hurdles and the long jump and a second place score in the shot put along the way. The Edmund, Oklahoma native will attend the University of Arkansas this Fall.
Aisling Cuffe, straight off a 3000m win in the New York State Championships the weekend before, owned the Girls 2-Mile, finishing in 9:56.85 - less than a second off the national record and a staggering twenty-eight seconds ahead of her next-closest competitor. The senior will compete at this week's IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain and attend Stanford University in the Fall.
The one name on seemingly everybody's mind, though, was Lukas Verzbicas. The senior from Orland Hills, Illinois turned in one of the all-time great performances in US high school track, winning the so-called 'distance triple' with victories in the Boys 5000m, 2-Mile and Mile. His victory in Friday's 5000m saw Verzbicas lap the entire field en route to a new national record of 14:06.78, in which he was 43 seconds faster than his nearest competitor. The Oregon-bound senior added to his legend by deciding to re-enter the Mile - an event he had previously decided to scratch - immediately following his 2 Mile victory over a competitive field headlined by Edward Cheserek, and a mere fifty minutes before the start of the race. Most impressive of all, Lukas scored enough points (running as Carl Sandburg TC) to win the Team trophy all by himself, and took home the title of Male Trackster, as well.
There were several other outstanding achievements recorded over the weekend: The Girls of Speed City took the Girls Team Title home to California, edging out Western Branch (VA) and Shenendehowa (NY). Sean Sutton's come-from-behind 0.01 second victory over Najee Glass in the Boys 400m brought the house down on Sunday afternoon. Hanna Meier, despite being seeded in the second of three sections of the Girls Mile, turned in a 4:48.50 for the victory. And no one in the Armory for Saturday's 4x800m final will forget the girls of Red Bank Catholic recording a blazing 8:56.94, anchored by Molly McNamara's 2:10.50 split.
So, after three days, more than one hundred races and events, these dominant performances stand out in our minds. For now, at least, these are the names we'll be talking about until July, when several thousand athletes - many of them competitors this past weekend - will converge on Greensboro, North Carolina for the 2011 New Balance Outdoor Nationals. Be sure to visit the New Balance Nationals Facebook page for full video archives and results, and 'like' us to follow the lead-up to Outdoors.
Awesome photography... moment captured. Mess with the levels in Photoshop a bit and those are wall-worthy.