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WCAC Outdoor Track Preview
By: Rob Bock

For most of the track and field world in the Washington-Metropolitan area, champions were made weeks ago on the indoor track circuit as competitors fought their way through the postseason on their way to Regional and State Championships. However, for schools in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), no indoor conference championship exists, which makes this May's outdoor track WCAC Championship all the more meaningful and exciting. Just like always, athletes in the metro area's premier private school athletic conference will grab headlines and compete with the some of the best Washington has to offer.

The league's bitter team rivalries will once again be renewed as the team battle looks to be much closer than last year on the men's side. Just like always, DeMatha looks to be on its way to its fourth straight championship. Though its short sprints are a bit lacking compared to in years past, senior standout Rodney McLeod should be a key contributor, as he has posted some of the league's best 200m and 400m times. DeMatha's key to winning, however, lies in the great potential of its distance squad.

Seniors Chad Rogers and Lloyd Foster should both finish in the top 3 in the 800 at the championship meet, junior Brian Benkhadra is one of the league's best milers, and distance aces Robert Patterson and Cory Puffett should dominate the 3200 just as they dominated the WCAC Cross Country Championship for the past two years. Throw in the league's best shot-putter in Aaron Brooks and last year's discus champion Charles Kelley and DeMatha should be very close to winning four championships in a row. Dematha plans to go to several big meets this year including the Norfolk State High School Invitational, the Penn Relays, and Nike Outdoor Nationals.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Good Counsel looks to have a legitimate shot at winning the WCAC track championship. After tasting success by winning the Cross Country Championship, the boys at Good Counsel realize that this year is their best chance at an upset thanks to an extremely balanced team led by sprinter Caleb Porzel. Porzel holds the league's fastest 55m indoor and 100m outdoor times by a wide margin, and is Good Counsel's best shot at a gold medal at the championship. Other top performers should be senior Chris Brown in the 400, senior Pat Vaughan in the 800, senior Ian McDermott (Good Counsel's lone gold medal returnee from last year) in the 1600 and 3200, senior hurdler Brandon Clark in both the 110 and 300 hurdles, and senior shot-putter Cory Boatman. Good Counsel is currently on spring break training in Florida where they will compete at the Florida State University Relays this weekend. Good Counsel also plans to compete at the Penn Relays and host a private school championship track meet after the WCAC Championship.

Another perennial powerhouse who should be competitive with Dematha and Good Counsel is Gonzaga which, like last year, is powered not by depth but by several key outstanding individuals in the distance, jumps, and hurdle events. Sophomores Stacey Robinson and Aaron Sheppard held the two fastest 55m hurdle times of the league this winter, and should both easily place in the top three in both the 110 and 300 hurdle races at the WCAC Championship. In addition, they can both jump, and should do very well in the triple jump. Gonzaga's other key performers will likely be senior middle-distance runner Carter Ward in the 800 and sophomore Bill Ledder in the mile.

With those teams likely rounding out the top tier, Bishop McNamara and Archbishop Carroll should make up the next tier. Both teams have put together outstanding sprint relays, and should compete with the league's best in that aspect. However, lack of depth in areas other than sprints is the biggest downfall for these two teams. Bishop McNamara holds the league's fastest indoor 4x200 relay time with a 1:32.85 clocking at Virginia Tech Invitational in January. Members of their sprint core include Darrian Carmichael, Christopher Burke, Cameron Chism, and Jyrell McNeil. Additionally, Chad Buckner should do well in the triple jump, as he currently holds the league's farthest jump. Archbishop Carroll's short sprinter Daryn Higgs should be its biggest individual scorer at the championship along with sophomore 400m ace Karrie Butler.

The next few teams in the league (Bishop O'Connell, Paul VI, St. John's, Bishop Ireton, and St. Mary's Ryken) aren't as strong as some of the league's other teams, but still hold a few key athletes. Mark Chauteh and George Llames' excellent efforts in the high and long jump should earn O'Connell key points to put it ahead of its competitors. Distance runners Charles Horne, Ian McGinn, and Blaize Johnson are Paul VI's most likely to impress, and St. John's has the league's best high jumper, Steve Brown, to help score a gold medal. At this point, there isn't enough information about Ireton and Ryken to make an assessment, as neither school fielded an indoor team.

The strongest teams on the women's side look to be Prince George's County powerhouses Elizabeth Seton and Bishop McNamara. PG County is a national-class sprinting hotbed, so it's not too surprising that these two sprint-based schools return some indoor track All-Americans to assist them in their quest for the WCAC team title.

Seton was last year's winner and returns nearly all of their key members of last year's squad, in addition to acquiring key McDonough transfer Jameice DeCoster, so this year's championship looks to be a near certainty. DeCoster, along with short sprinters Dionna Hayes, Adenike Pedro, Ashley Ajayi, 400 ace Ambrosia Iwugo, all-state long jumper Chantel Lipkins, hurdlers Asha Roper and Candace Bond, and shot-putter Kayla Tucker make up one of the strongest teams the WCAC has ever seen. These girls also put together some of the state's best relays this winter, highlighted by the 4x200 meter relay which placed 3rd at Nike Indoor Nationals.

If it weren't for Seton, the Lady Mustangs of McNamara would have this championship in the bag. McNamara holds perhaps the most talented individual athlete of the conference, Saniel Atkinson, who is fresh off an eye-popping second place performance in the high jump at Nike Indoor Nationals, as well as eighth place in the pentathlon (an event which isn't contested at the WCAC Championship). Atkinson is joined by several other very talented team members, such as triple jumper Taylor Butler, sprinter Monica Mason, shot-putter Margaret Ngami, and long sprinters Deiona and Nsia Frenche. McNamara has big plans this year with the Penn Relays and Nike Outdoor Nationals on its schedule.

There is quite a large drop-off between these two teams and the rest of the WCAC. Of the other schools, Good Counsel looks to be most in contention, thanks to balance among sprints, distance, and field. Despite not having any particular superstars, it should have enough depth to place it above the next few teams at the championship.

St. John's College was more of a mystery this winter, but sprinter Denesha Jiles appeared on a few occasions and showed that she has what it takes to compete with the league's best. Additionally, soccer phenom Tiffany McCarty walked away with four medals at last year's championship meet in jumps and hurdles, and should be one of the conferences most outstanding athletes in her final year of high school track.

Bishop O'Connell should also have a good season thanks to distance runners Megan Fitzpatrick and Katie Walls. Fitzpatrick was among Virginia's best last cross country season, and should post some blazing times in the 1600 and 3200.

Photo by John Herzog
However, she won't be untested, thanks to Holy Cross's one-girl team of Chiny Asher. Asher is the best candidate to dethrone Fitzpatrick in the 3200 after posting blazing times in the 3200 this winter, in addition to an All-American finish in the freshman mile at Nike Indoor Nationals.

Fitzpatrick and Asher might face trouble from another talented distance runner in Archbishop Carroll's Ashley Seymour. Seymour is the top returnee in both the 800 and 1600 from last year's championship meet, and is easily the league's best 800 runner after blazing a 2:15 800 at Nike Indoor Nationals.

Paul VI, like Good Counsel, should be competitive thanks to its depth, but is lacking the star power necessary to propel it high in the team standings. Solid relays, along with thrower Cynthia Abi Somra, distance runner Lizzie Greene, and sprinter Caroline Kew, should be the biggest impact athletes for Paul VI this season.

One of the league's most underrated sprinters, Colleen McFadden, looks to climb to the top ranks of the conference for Bishop Ireton after a second place performance in the 55m dash at the Virginia Independent School state championship. She will be joined by hurdler Natalie Stier in an effort to push Ireton to the top.


2008-03-27 11:11:12

Great article, Rob!

STA Runner
2008-03-27 17:04:44

Nice article. Any chance of an IAC preview?

2008-03-28 09:16:58

At this time, there is no plan to preview the IAC/ISL/MAC seasons, but I do plan to follow these conferences throughout the spring and give them coverage wherever possible.

2008-04-21 08:48:06

And where is ryken?

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