The B-Side is back: There Are Levels To This

There Are Levels to This!

(New Balance Indoor High School Nationals)

The 2017 Indoor National Championship in New York City has arrived and yours truly, B-Side, will be in attendance.  My last visit to the Armory aka The Mecca of Indoor Track was in 2015, I tagged along with my brother Chris and his great high jumper Jaron Brooks, better known as "One Mo" (now at Auburn University) as he claimed the national title.  I also was the one, on a hunch, that knew Mt. Rushmore jumping great Jamari Ward of Cahokia would explode on his next long jump attempt for a national record and was the one who taped it.  Prior to that, I went with my own squad the Dominators in 2004 and 2005 with one of my sprinters "Shrek" and my 4x200 relay. You can read about that in the B-side archives.

I am always excited to go to New York because this is the ultimate indoor high school track meet.  Everyone is invited, but not everybody can come or reach the standards or qualifying times. Driving up to the meet and seeing the athletes walking towards the Armory with headphones on you start asking, "Are we ready?"  "Have we done everything to be ready? Will my athlete execute or will they get caught up in the atmosphere -- music playing in the background of races, athletes dancing in the hallways, the warm-ups on "the strip", or seeing athletes you've read about and seen on websites, TV or even the Olympics.

There are levels to this as I've written in the past.  No regular or school meet can prepare you for New Balance.  The banked curves can be a problem if you haven't run banked curves before.  In my personal opinion, you must be battle-tested by national competition to deal with New Balance. 

My squad from '04-'05 was battled-tested going to AAU/USA national championships but they didn't have the atmosphere or experience with banked curves.  So, this year's squad went to the University of Arkansas HS Invitational.  There was plenty of national competition mostly from the Midwest and South. They got their opportunity to deal with the curves.  It was a step up on every level.  It was also a serious wake-up call and rededication for the rest of the season.  If you really want to go to NY, this was the first step.

The University of Kentucky High School Invite in Lexington is what I call "the tune-up" meet for NBIN.  It's a different level than Arkansas because like New Balance, they have qualifying standards to get in and if you don't come through, well... you can watch it or read about it.  There are no banked curves at UK but the national competition you face is a lot tougher.  You begin to see some of the top high school stars perform that you've heard about and you begin to get some of that East Coast competition.  You pretty much know where you stand as far as New Balance goes after these first two levels and can now get lathered up for the big show.

One athlete who I know is lathered up is Plainfield North and Aurora Flyer track club member freshman sensation Marcellus Moore.  Marcellus has been in all the finals of the big meets this indoor season.  Now he must put everything he's learned from this indoor season and his club track career to the highest level. Why?  In his 60m prelim, heat 4, will be the fastest freshman in the US vs the best sprinter at the high school level from 60m-500m.  Lane 5 will feature superstar sophomore Tyrese Cooper of Miami. Cooper will be going for the jugular of his opponents and chasing national records in the process. Marcellus will learn so much from this one race and will use it the rest the indoor/outdoor season in which I believe will lead to future state titles. 

Illinois has athletes like Homewood Flossmoor's great, senior Jaimie Robinson in the triple jump.  She's a vet of New Balance finishing 4th in 2016 but there are two jumpers over 42' and two over 41'.  Jaimie won't get wrapped up in the atmosphere of the Armory as she's currently 8th in the U.S. Kathleen "KD" Young (Warrensburg) in the shot/weight throw took 5th in the shot in '16.  KD is rated US #2 with a whopping all-time best shot put 52-4 earlier this season. KD's biggest challenge will be from newly minted all-time leader Alyssa Wilson of New Jersey. So I'm sure she's ready.

In the Emerging Elite Division, Amira Young (Whitney Young) in the 60m looks ready. She has be Ronald Reed (Decatur MacArthur) is lathered up.  He just took 2nd last week against Moore at the Centennial Charger ABC Invite. In the process he defeated Cary Lockhart of Bloomington.  At the UK Invite he faced champion Eric Harrison from D.C.  In Arkansas he went head-to-head with Declan Rustay (Hoffman Estates) and beat him. Rustay is supposed to be the heir apparent to Josh Eiker's sprint crown.

There are definitely levels to this and certain things are necessary to perform at as high a level as New Balance.  Nothing is guaranteed but you should be better prepared.  Good luck to all Illinois athletes!