If you love track and field — and I do — the University of Kentucky’s Nutter Field House is a slice of Eden right now.
Coming next weekend, Feb. 27-March 1, the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships.
Just finished Saturday, the UK High School Invitational.
Entrants from 17 states. Winners from 10 states. Season-leading high school performances in seven events (although Nutter’s 291-meter track relegates marks made at distances over 200 meters to the “oversized track” category).
Kentucky had only one winner, Sacred Heart Academy sophomore Emma Brink in the mile. A strong finish enabled her to hold off the defending champion, Madeline Morgan of Alabama’s Mountain Brook Track Club, 4:55.75 to 4:57.28.
While Brink missed Morgan’s year-old meet record (4:52.70), she broke her personal best — set just three weeks earlier — by 14 seconds!
“Fast start. I know we did a 2:26 half,” Brink said in explaining her drop in time. “We had great leaders. I tried to just keep with the top group and then, with a lap-and-a-half to go, my coach said ‘surge!’ That’s his favorite word.
“So I knew just to push as hard as I can, opening my arms because that helps to open your stride. It was a great race to the end. Very close.”
A two-time Class 3A state cross country champion, Brink said it was “very exciting” to win one for the commonwealth Saturday.
As for those national-leading marks, four went to the girls:
* Jasmin Stowers, a junior from Pendleton, S.C., took her U.S.-leading time of 8.44 in the 60-meter hurdles down to 8.43.
* Another South Carolina junior, Briana Nelson of Greenville, zipped 400 meters in 54.34.
* Takeia Pinckney, a senior from Decatur, Ga., came in with a nation-leading 7.45. Saturday, she slashed her time to 7.33 to nudge out Chalonda Goodman (7.34). Stowers was fifth (7.65).
* Goodman, from Newnan, Ga., rebounded to defend her meet title in the 200 (23.79) and defeat both Nelson (second, 24.48) and Pinckney (fifth, 24.86).
Brittany Porter, another Decatur standout, didn’t get a nation-leading mark. However, she did sweep the long jump (meet-record 18-7.75) and triple jump (39-0.75).
Three nation-leading marks were set by the guys:
* Tavaris Tate, a senior from Starkville, Miss., took the 400 in 47.06. He also set a meet record of 21.41 in the 200.
* Wayne C. Davis II, a Texas A&M recruit from Raleigh, N.C., came in leading in the 60-meter hurdles at 7.79. He whacked a full tenth of a second off to 7.69.
* Zach Wills, a sophomore from Mason, Ohio, posted a meet-record 9:13.04. That’s the fastest two-mile this season, although there have been four better efforts registered when converting metric deuces to the imperial distance.
Wills outkicked University of Kentucky recruit Matthew Sonnenfeldt (9:15.56) of Knoxville, Tenn.
Another UK recruit, Patrick McGregor of Hoover, Ala., won the mile in 4:21.34 in sit-and-surge (with 500 meters left) fashion.
Comments from some of the winners:
Texas recruit Chalonda Goodman, after the 200, on where her training is now compared with a year ago: “I think that’ I’m kind of behind. But all my times are contrary to that because I’m running faster this year than I was at this time last year, especially in the 60. I PR’d today. So I’m happy.”
Briana Nelson, 400-meter winner (54.34): “I’m really satisfied with it. I was going for the (meet) record (54.07) but … I tried to put down a good time.”
Tavaris Tate, on his 200-meter strategy: “Get out strong, stay out in front and keep my pace.”
Tate on running the fastest 200 of the season: “I’ve been training for big events and I just thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to come up here and showcase my talents. It’s a blessing to be No. 1, and that’s what I strive to do.”
Wayne C. Davis II on the 60-meter hurdles: “I just think my rhythm’s getting better as I go along this season. I’m getting better and better. And I really like that after I lifted a lot of weights this week. I felt sore. I thought I was going to do terrible. I actually came out and did pretty good.”
Davis on his recent national record in the 55-meter hurdles (7.05): “After that race I was the most sore I’ve been in my life. I took myself to the limit, so it takes a little time to recover from that.”
Kenneth Gilstrap, who nipped Titans Elite (Ga.) teammate Eric Harris in the 60, 6.86 to 6.87: “I didn’t run like I was supposed to. Bad drive phase. Bad finish. I tightened up. So I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Gilstrap, a Middle Tennessee State football recruit (likely cornerback but possibly running back or receiver), on racing Harris: “We’re good friends. Competitors. He work(s) hard, I work hard. Just like to run against each other, have fun.”
Patrick McGregor, on his move from fifth place to first near the halfway point of the mile: “Just sit back for a little bit and try and find a gap. Because I was slowing down a lot, so I figured I’d get boxed in if I didn’t move soon. So I did.”
McGregor, on his time (4:21.34): “I’ve been sick all week, so expectations were not as high as they were a couple weeks ago in Boston (where he ran 4:09.41). I didn’t really have any expectations at Boston, but it’s going to be hard to try and repeat something like that. So I’m just trying to keep working hard. It’s all about finding the right race, run against good guys with that mindset and just try to compete and win. And the time is irrelevant.”
Top three finishers, plus Kentuckians placing among top six. Race distances in meters unless noted. No team scoring.
High jump — Alexandra Morgan (Mtn. Brook, Ala.) 5 feet, 8 inches; Alyssa Hall (Withrow, Ohio) 5-8; Mary Seward (Cobb, Ga., TC) 5-6.
Long jump — Brittany Porter (Triple Action, Ga.) 18-9 (breaks meet record of 18-7 3/4 set by Whitney Marsh, Mtn. Brook TC, Ala., 2003); Kawanna Brooks (Kenwood Academy, Ill.) 18-6; Hannah Cox (Tenn. Elite TC) 17-5. Also: 5. Samantha Smith (Mt. Vernon, Ky.) 17-0.
Triple jump — Brittany Porter (Triple Action, Ga.) 39-0 3/4; Kawanna Brooks (Kenwood Acad., Ill.) 36-1; Lexie Burley (Slipstream TC, Tenn.) 36-0 1/2. Also: 5. Samantha Smith (Mt. Vernon, Ky.) 35-1 1/2; 6. Michaela Hunter (Mt. Vernon, Ky.) 34-1 1/4).
Pole vault — Alyson Hasty (Precision TC, Tenn.) 11-0; (Tie) Laura Bedsole (Hoover, Ala., TC), Alex Metzger (Indianapolis), Sandi Morris (Quick Striders, S.C.) and Leigh Allen (Lexington) 10-6.
Shot put — Brittany Wilson (Harrison, Ohio) 39-7 1/4; Jessie Harrison (Houston TC, Tenn.) 35-11 1/2; Courtney Kruger (Cordova TC, Tenn.) 34-4 1/4.
Mile — Emma Brink (Louisville) 4:55.75; Madeline Morgan (Mtn. Brook, Ala.) 4:57.28; Allie Scalf (Johnson City, Tenn.) 5:06.27.
60 hurdles — Jasmin Stowers (Quick Striders, S.C.) 8.43; Christienne Linton (Mich. Accelerators) 8.67; DanHeisha Harding (Chaminade Juli., Ohio) 9.10. Fastest qualifier: Stowers, 8.56.
60 — Takeia Pinckney (Titans Elite, Ga.) 7.33; Chalonda Goodman (New Horizon TC, Ga.) 7.34; Mahagony Jones (Rhodes Rams, Ohio) 7.59. Fastest qualifiers: Goodman (7.4483) and Pinckney (7.4500), 7.45.
400 — Briana Nelson (Quick Striders, S.C.) 54.34; Lauren Ellis (Quick Striders) 56.88; Ashley Liverpool (Walnut Hills, Ohio) 57.24.
800 — Cory McGee (Pass Christian, Miss.) 2:14.74; Marie Demedicis (Mtn. Brook, Ala.) 2:17.46; Cristin Gonzales (Quiet Storm, Va.) 2:17.81.
200 — Chalonda Goodman (New Horizon TC, Ga.) 23.79; Briana Nelson (Quick Striders, S.C.) 24.48; Mahagony Jones (Rhodes Rams, Ohio) 24.74.
Two-mile — Amber Zimmerman (Knoxville, Tenn., TC) 11:15.35; Claire Turner (Red Bank TC, Tenn.) 11:25.84; Mary Cumbee (Wildrbeast TC, Tenn.) 11:32.88. Also: 4. Emme McAtee (Louisville) 11:45.18; 6. Tenny Ostrem (Campton, Ky.) 11:50.34.
4-by-400 relay — Mich. Accelerators 3:53.95; Withrow, Ohio 4:00.60; Mountain Brook, Ala. 4:04.97.
4-by-800 relay — Mountain Brook, Ala., 9:45.75; Mich. Accelerators 9:46.79; Action TC, W.Va., 9:55.90.
High jump — Anthony May (Hoover, Ala., TC) 6-10 1/2; J.R. Leonard (Mtn. Brook, Ala.) 6-4; Justin Meyer (Elder, Ohio) 6-4. Also: 6. Bud Fancer (Hebron Skywalker) 6-0.
Long jump — Damar Forbes (Sprint Athletics, Ga.) 24-7 1/2; Tyler Anderson (21-9) Tyler Anderson (Antioch, Tenn.) 21-9; Reggie Mitchell (Elder, Ohio) 21-8. Also: 5. Dylan Millay (Owensboro) 21-5.
Triple jump — C.J. Davidson (Carolina Rdrn, S.C.) 46-11 1/2; Tyler Anderson (Antioch, Tenn.) 45-7 1/2; J’Don Short (Knoxville, Tenn., TC) 42-8.
Pole vault — Ryan Cook (Precision TC, Tenn.) 15-0; John Greenlee (St. Xavier, Ohio) 15-0; Cory Duggan (Mnsgr Farrell, N.Y.) 15-0.
Shot put — Bruck Brucker (Purple-Gold TC, Tenn.) 57-4 3/4; Cameron Frazier (Owensboro) 55-5; Brandon Turner (Indy Elite TC, Ind.) 52-8 3/4. Also: 5. Tony Pogue (FRSI TC, Ky.) 51-7; 6. Patrick Stuart (American Big Guys, Ky.) 51-1.
Mile — Patrick McGregor (Hoover TC, Ala.) 4:21.34; Scott Lasiter (Flashes TC, Ind.) 4:23.52; Ryan Eaton (Team Gator TC, Ky.) 4:24.49. Also: 4. Robbie Scharold (Northern Ky. TC) 4:25.25.
60 hurdles — Wayne C. Davis III (SE Raleigh, N.C.) 7.69 (breaks meet record of 7.73 set by William Wynne, Titans Elite, 2008); Renaldo Powell (Mich. Accelerators) 8.04; Damar Forbes (Sprint Athletics, Ga.) 8.13 Fastest qualifier: Davis, 7.85.
60 — Kenneth Gilstrap (Titans Elite, Ga.) 6.86; Eric Harris (Titans Elite) 6.87; Blake Heriot (Pacesetter, Ohio) 6.90. Fastest qualifier: Gilstrap, 6.84.
400 — Tavaris Tate (Starkville, Miss.) 47.06; Blake Heriot (Pacesetter, Ohio) 47.53; Will Henry (Trotwood, Ohio) 47.91.
800 — Moise Frisch (Toledo Whitmer, Ohio) 1:54.94; Geoff Spencer (Louisville) 1:56.86; Jordan Cheney (Knoxville, Tenn., TC) 1:56.89. Also: Thomas Canary (Lexington) 1:57.03.
200 — Tavaris Tate (Starkville, Miss.) 21.41 (equals meet record set by Mike Lloyd, unattached N.C., 2002); Eric Harris (Titans Elite, Ga.) 21.54; Blake Heriot (Pacesetter, Ohio) 21.71. Also: 4. Ben Mason (Lexington) 21.90.
Two-mile — Zach Wills (Mason, Ohio,TC) 9:13.04 (breaks meet record of 9:13.76 set by Chad Balyo, Springboro, Ohio, 2006); Matthew Sonnenfeldt (Knoxville, Tenn. TC) 9:15.56; Clint McKelvey (Knoxville TC) 9:26.92. Also: 5. Jackson Carnes (Louisville) 9:36.57.
4-by-400 relay — Trotwood, Ohio 3:20.66; Monsgr Farrell, N.Y., 3:22.34; Mich. Accelerators 3:24.03. Also: 4. Radcliff, Ky., 3:27.72.
4-by-800 relay — Monsgr Farrell, N.Y., 8:05.29; Zip Express, Ky., 8:14.35; Wilderbeast TC, Tenn., 8:15.95. Also: 4. Louisville 8:17.76.