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NIN 2008 Meet Notes
By: Kevin Milsted
Photos by John Herzog,

Olivia Ekpone has run in national championship meets before, but none was a stressful as the 2008 Nike Indoor Nationals Championship Meet. This was her debut on the national high school scene. She was no longer running in her age group. This was the real thing - the best athletes in grades 9-12 in the United States.

It was these thoughts that raced through her mind as she lay awake in bed at 3am Saturday night. Despite the nerves, she had little trouble convincing herself that she belonged with the best of the best on the national stage. She had qualified for the finals in both the 200 and 400 on Saturday. She knew that her competitors were more worried about her than she was about them.

She might have been drowsy when she entered the field house the next day, but her strength was with her when she toed the line for the 60 meter trials. She won both her preliminary heat and semi-final heat in the morning, posting the second fastest time of the semi finals at 7.56.

Later in the afternoon, she set up her blocks for the 400 meter dash in lane six. After a good start, she hit the break just a few steps behind Briana Nelson and Doris Anyanwu. She was able to stay close to the front runners over the next lap before charging past Anyanwu for second place in a personal best 55.86. Nelson pulled away for the win in 55.33.

Then Ekpone was asked to do the impossible. She jogged down to the other end of the field house and prepared to run the 60 meter dash finals. In a matter of minutes, she was in the blocks again. When the gun went off, the other five girls in the final section darted out in front of her. With her legs drained from the 400, she was not recovered enough to run at her best. She settled for sixth place with a time of 7.90.

Redemption would be hers in the 200 meter dash. Two hours later she was in the blocks again, now a veteran at the process after running six previous races already that weekend.

There was one scratch in her final heat, but the three remaining girls bolted out of the blocks. Both Marlena Wesh and Dominique Booker sprinted by Ekpone on the second curve. Ekpone found the strength in the last twenty meters to edge out Booker for second place overall 24.95 to 25.00. Wesh finished first in 24.46.

She has no regrets from her first Nike Indoor National Championship Meet. She is happy with earning All-American in three events and is looking forward to a good night's rest and an eventful outdoor season with more meets and more races than she ran indoors.

It was like déjà vu. The rematch between Solomon Haile and Neal Darmody proceeded as if the rest of the national class field was not even there. Darmody took the early lead in the fast section of the 5k accompanied by Haile and another local runner in Johns Ross from Potomac School. As the race developed, the two pulled away from the rest of the field. A mile and a half into the race, Haile felt that Darmody was slowing down and put in a surge. Darmody woke up and hung on, but a lap later, the same thing occurred. The continuous surges exhausted Darmody. Haile opened up a gap and never looked back. He ran to a victory in 14:53. Darmody faded to fourth before waking up and surging back into third place. He nearly came back and took second place but could not close the gap. He finished third in 15:13.41.

The girls' freshman mile was exciting for MoCo fans. Chiny Asher of Holy Cross and Alex Doll of B-CC were among the top competitors in the field, but they would be up against star athletes from Texas, Michigan, and Alabama.

Chelsey Sveinsson of Dallas, Texas took it out hard from the start. Shannon Osika of Michigan and Alex Doll of Bethesda, Maryland tried to hang on. Sveinsson proved to be in a league of her own, running an incredible time of 4:49, the second fastest time in the country for any grade. Her time would hold up to be faster than the elite mile run the next day. Doll was passed by Catherine Diethelm of Alabama, but finished 4th in a personal best time of 5:02.53. A large gap between 5th and 6th place allowed Asher to finish in 6th place in 5:15.72, earning All-American status.

Asher would go on to place fourth in the slower section of the girls two mile in a time of 11:07.01.

Later Doll came back to help her 4x800m relay to run a season best time of 9:34.78. Doll led off and handed off to Paige Donnelly with a slim lead over Notre Dame High School. Donnelley held onto the lead for 400 meters before Notre Dame opened up a 5 second gap. Addie Tousley maintained that 5 second gap and handed off to Hannah Richardson. It looked like B-CC would settle for second place, but Richardson made up almost the entire gap as she charged down the final 100 meters. Her effort was not enough, as they finished in second place in 9:34.78, barely getting edged out by Notre Dame by 0.22 seconds.

John Jones of Paint Branch was the pleasant surprise of the weekend. Of the four MoCo sprinters signed up to compete in the 400, Jones seemed like the least likely to come away with the fastest time due to a season riddled with illness and time off. Jones had an excellent run to finish the prelims in 50.09. He came back on Sunday and ran even more aggressively in the finals, taking the lead by the break and holding on. He was passed by Tayler Sykes of Great Bridge, formerly of Dematha, and finished second in the heat in 49.66. By finishing second, he guaranteed himself All-American status. His time held up for sixth overall.

Katie Wolf of Churchill continues to improve as shown by her 25.76 preliminary run in the 200 on Saturday. She finished third in her heat, but was beat by two of the eight girls who qualified for the finals. She ran nearly a half second faster than she did at this meet last year.

She came back later on Saturday to help her team's Distance Medley Relay stay in the race. The Churchill girls earned All-American status with a fourth place finish in 12:12.80. Erin McManus set the tone with a 3:43 1200 meter leg. She stayed in 5th place for most of her run, but passed Eleanor Roosevelt's Dominique Lockhart into 4th at the very end.

As is their signature, Eleanor Roosevelt made up a lot of ground on the 400 leg, quickly moving from fifth to second, and eventually first. After falling to fifth, Wolf ran a patient leg and moved into third in the final 100 meters of her 400 meter leg.

After losing some ground from a weak 400-meter leg, the Mountain Brook girls quickly worked their way up to Maryam Fikri during the 800-meter leg. Fikri latched on and used the Mountain Brook runner to move up as well. Her 2:19 split brought them within striking distance of Midlothian.

Louis Hannallah trailed the Midlothian athlete for a half mile. When she was passed by the miler from Garden TC, she used that to also move past Midlothian. Hannallah latched on to the Garden TC runner until there was only one lap remaining. Meanwhile, Mountain Brook's Madeline Morgane ran an incredible sub-5 anchor leg to blow by Eleanor Roosevelt's Amirah Johnson who would fade badly. The Garden TC runner blew by Roosevelt with an incredible burst of speed. Hannallah came within one second of Roosevelt, but finished in fourth in 12:12.80. Hannallah ran an indoor personal best 1600 in 5:09.

The Churchill ladies again earned All-American in the 4x800, this time placing sixth in a season best time of 9:24.40. Fikri led off in 2:20. Owoade Ayorinde and Louise Hannallah each split 2:22, and Erin McManus brought it home in 2:19, passing in-state rival Eleanor Roosevelt in the last few feet.

Immediately following the girls DMR was a combined section of the boys DMR. QO's Josh Joson held back in the pack for the first 800 meters. As many of the competitors in the field faded in the final 400 meters, Joson moved up in the pack. He handed off to Laratta in good position. Laratta lost one place, but still held enough ground to give Wayne Bartholomew good position for the 800 leg. Bartholomew took off and captured the lead for his team. Neal Darmody had a slim lead on Western Albermarle's Tyler Stutzman. The two battled it out for 1200 meters before Darmody was broken. Similar to the 5k, Darmody faded mid-race, but woke up and finished hard. Meanwhile, Haile from Sherwood was about 9 seconds back and nearly caught Darmody at the line. Both teams earned All-American.


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