With several ranked among the upper echelon of the national rankings, Massachusetts' athletes have a great opportunity of earning a number of top finishes in the Championship events at the New Balance Nationals. How many are capable of an All-American (or top six) placement? You might be surprised.
Returning to an event she placed eighth overall last year is Norton's Brooke-Lynn Williams in the 60-meter dash. Williams was just .08 from a top-six finish in 2016 with her time of 7.48. The speedy senior will be going into this weekend's race with a little momentum after winning the New England title with a season best 6.94. Williams was pushed at the NE meet by Bloomfield's Cassidy Palmer, another sub seven-second runner. There's no doubt she'll have plenty to push her this weekend to solidify All-American status in her final high school meet on the indoor surface.
Woburn's Avery Leydon is our lone competitor in the 400m dash. Leydon captured the 600m title at the All-State Meet with a mild upset over top-seed Samantha Friborg of Acton Boxborough. Leydon has a best of 56.89 for the 400m, which she did to place fourth at the outdoor state meet.
Friborg and Newton South's Clare Martin will toe the line in the 800m. Both middle distance stars will be competing in the second of three heats. Friborg, who recently placed second in the 600m at the New England Championships, had a PR of 2:10. Martin has a best of 2:09. Don't be surprised if you see these two MA runners working the pace up front together with hopes of knocking some runners off from the seeded section.
Natick's Grace Connolly scratched from her two races (mile and two mile) at the New England's this past weekend, no doubt to prepare for the upcoming nationals where she'll be looking to make things happen in the second of two heats, one that includes recent 600m, 800m and 1,000m national record-holder Sammy Watson of Rush Henrietta (NY). Watson, who has done 4:22 for 1,500m, is capable of winning it all and should win this heat fairly comfortable. Connolly has proven often that she elevates her game when the competition is fierce. Look for her to improve on her current indoor best of 4:56 with a time in the low 4:50 range, possibly high 4:40s.
Milton's gifted sophomore Smith Charles is entered in two Championship events, the long jump and the 60m dash. In the short sprint, he'll be bringing his 6.4 speed for 55m, which equals a sub seven-second clocking for 60m. That's a time that would have advanced him into the finals of last year's race.
The 400m race is always loaded at the nationals, and this year is no different with the four top runners in the country competing this weekend, including sophomore national record-holder Tyrese Cooper of Florida, who owns the fastest time from coast-to-coast of 46.01. This race features New England 600m record-holder Rodney Agyare-May of Burncoat and Theo Burba of Newton North, who are 1-2 nationally in their specialty. Agyare-May was seventh at last year's meet where he was timed in an all-time best of 48.49. Burba, who is only a sophomore, has run it just a few times and owns a top time of 51.53. He's certainly capable of a sub 50-second 400m with a chance to run in the 48-second range.
In the mile, Jack Carleo of Newburyport and Ben Kovacs of St. John's Shrewsbury are entered. Kovac, who is scheduled to compete in the first of three heats, had a nearly four-second PR at the All State Meet where he finished third in 4:16.19. Carleo is in the seeded section, He ran a best of 4:13.19, which he did the last time he was at The Armory when he was fourth in the high school race at the NYRR Millrose Mile last month. To place in this event a time close to 4:10 would appear to be the magic number. Although last year's event was more tactical and the winning time was 4:09.96 with the next five finishers under 4:11. You never know.
...MORE COMING SOON
NBNI CHAMPIONSHIP EVENTS' ENTRIES
Brooke-Lynn Williams, Norton
Avery Leydon, Woburn
Samanatha Friborg, Acton-Boxborough
Clare Martin, Newton South
Grace Connolly, Natick
Katie Collins, Newton South
Caroline Barry, Newton South
Smith Charles, Milton
Davonte Burnett, Needham
Ricky Francois, Brighton
Nikolas Smith, Northampton
Rodney Agyare-May, Burncoat
Theo Burba, Newton North
Joseph DeSantos, Sudbury
John Gove, Leominster
Colin Grip, Acton-Boxborough
Thomas Lingard, Lexington
Ben Kovacs, St. John Shrewsbury
Andrew Mah, Newton North
Benjamin Matejka, Wellesley
Ryan Oosting, Arlington