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The 2020 installment of the VA Showcase has us more excited than ever. Athletes from nearly a dozen states will be in attendance to help make this the most exciting meet in the nation this year. Highlighting those athletes are 20 events you absolutely cannot miss with a staggering 10 national records on the chopping block.
Those records look to join the meet's eight national records, three U20 world records, and 51 US #1 performances it has had over the last three years.
Things are a little different this year with two meets being held at the same time. This change and separate AAU meet has enabled an elite group of age-group athletes, private school athletes, and out-of-state athletes a chance to shine where they normally would not have. Though their times won't count towards VHSL State Standards or be recognized by the NFHS, they will still count towards records (T&F News) and New Balance Indoor National qualifying.
So enough of the technical stuff... here are 20 events that you cannot, under any circumstances, miss this year!
#1 The Race Where Time & Record Will Be An Afterthought
(AAU Girls 500)
Without a doubt this race is going to be the best of the 2020 installment. It could go down as the best high school race ever. Entered in this race is the NBNO 400 national champ, NBNO 800 national champ, NBNO 400mH national runner-up, NBNI 400 national champ, the American 600m record holder, and the Jamaican 400m national runner-up.
Simply put, this race should be faster than the 1:10.30 national record but the real story from it will be the race itself and not the time.
Leading the way up front in this race are co-favorites Athing Mu (NJ) and Kayla Davis (NC). Davis owns a personal best of 1:11.90 in 500 and 51.17 in the 400 while Mu has run 1:23 for 600 and 51.98 for the 400.
These two battled it out last year in the 400 at NBNO so this will be a very heated rematch between two of the nation's best athletes.
You can speculate what they will run all you want but don't forget the US #1 in this event, Aaliyah Pyatt of VA. She enters the race having run 1:13 solo and ready to lower that even more. She is also the US leader at 300m which means she has some speed as well. If she can get out strong she could really dictate the pace of this race. When she ran her US #1 time though she was even paced throughout with a strong kick.
Also in this race are Michaela Rose (VA) who just soloed a 2:50 1K for US #2 and a 1:13 500 for US #2 in that event. She should be able to run under 1:12 against this field.
You then have Garriel White of Hydel (Jamaica) who is a name to remember. Her teammate Charokee Young took home the title last year in 1:10.61. White has run 53.35 for the open 400 and 2:17 for the 800.
The fifth and final entry in this race is Aly Conyers of South Carolina who owns a personal best of 1:14 in the 500 from last year.
#2 He Split 43.7 (F.A.T.). So, Can He Run Under 32?
(AAU Boys 300)
Justin Robinson could seriously be USA's next quarter-mile-king. As just a JUNIOR in high school he already has run sub 45 in the open 400 a staggering three times. His personal best of 44.84 is also one of the best ever run in high school.
His craziest stat though is that he anchored Team USA last summer with a 43.7 (full automated timing) split! That is the fastest split by a high schooler ever recorded.
This indoor season it is safe to say no record is safe from him. He enters as the defending USATF outdoor champion and the New Balance Indoor champion with a personal best of 46.55 indoors.
At the VA Showcase he will be chasing history and will attempt to become the third guy in four years to break the national 300m dash record at this meet. Tyrese Cooper was the first back in 2017 with his 33.03 winning time. The following year Brian Herron lowered that and broke the U20 world record with his 32.64.
This year that record could fall once again. Robinson isn't alone though in this race, he is going to have to work for the record and the win.
Also entered in this race is Cameron Rose of North Carolina. He is currently ranked US #1 for 300 (33.79), US #1 for 200 (21.54), and US #2 for 60 (6.82). He is familiar with this track and honestly has not been pushed yet this season.
We aren't done yet though... Sean Burrell of Louisiana is also in this one. He owns personal bests of 45.74 in the 400 and 20.77 in the 200 so you know he is going to be bringing the heat in this one.
Age-group world record holder Mekhi Gammons (FL) will round out the field as a freshman in high school. He ran 47.86 in the 400 last year as an 8th grader.
#3 The First Sydney McLaughlin Record Could Fall
(AAU Girls 300)
You read the title right... one of THE Sydney McLaughlin's records could fall this year. That record is her 36.82 in the 300m dash ran back in 2017. This year though that record is within range of a few girls who are all squaring off down in Lynchburg.
This group includes Kayla Davis, Kimberly Harris, Athing Mu, Shawnti Jackson, Jonah Ross, Talitha Diggs, Michaela Rose, and Milan Fields.
These two sections are going to be so fast that 38.00 probably won't place you inside the top five. This is going to be a race with a bunch of 37's and hopefully a couple sub 37's too.
#4 Will We See A Sub 4:10 From This Stacked Field?
The Millrose Mile qualifier is going to be fast and exciting. Nothing quite beats a very fast mile from an excitement level and this year won't disappoint.
Leading the way on paper right now is Ohio star and 3rd place at NXN, Caleb Brown. He owns a personal best of 4:15.08 for the full mile and is looking to run well under that with his improved fitness and speed.
He will have to run faster too with the automatic bid to Millrose requiring a win and a sub 4:15 time.
Joining Brown in this race is Zack Truitt, Carson Williams, and Jack Rooney all under 4:17. They have another five guys seeded under 4:20 meaning the entire top section could be sub 4:20 guys.
This race also serves as quite the takeoff point for a big season in the Mile. Both the winner from the boys and girls race last year went on to finish second at Millrose and win the mile national title.
#5 The One 1K Where 2:48 Won't Be Fast Enough
(Girls Invitational 1K)
When the cutoff for an invitational 1K is sub-three minutes you know the race is going to be good. You know the race is going to be great when out of those girls are at least two who are looking for a sub 2:50 time. Finally, you know this race is going to be legendary when those top two seeds are rivals who went 4:39.045 to 4:39.048 in the full mile at New Balance Nationals.
That is exactly how this race stacks up. You have Marlee Starliper, Foot Locker national runner-up, facing off with her fellow PA superstar and national mile champion Taryn Parks.
Parks got the win last year at New Balance but Starliper won at Millrose and the Penn Relays. This one is going to be exciting and could potentially get close to that 2:40.72 national record.
Also entered in this race with a sub-three-minute performance is Caroline Bowe, Presley Miles, Gwen Parks, Maeve Stiles, and Shen sisters Jade Dennis and Jada Dennis.
#6 Team USA vs. Team Jamaica, SMR Edition
(Girls 1600m SMR)
It is almost certainly going to take a sub four-minute performance to take home the SMR title next weekend. That is because you have some of the best teams in the entire United States squaring off with Hydel of Jamaica who is a 4x8 and 4x4 powerhouse down in the Caribbean.
The top American team is Warwick Valley of NY. They went 4:01.68 at outdoor nationals last year and return their 400 and 800 legs as well as one of their 200m legs too. They are joined by fellow US teams Cuthbertson, Henry A Wise, Paul VI, and South County who are all currently seeded in the top section.
We won't know the exact lineup until Monday but right now that is how it looks for Team USA.
Team Jamaica though has Hydel and that should serve them well. Hydel may not have their 800 star back but they do have two girls who have run 53.03 and 53.3 in the open 400. They are also no slouch at 200 meters where they have a 23.90 and a 24.52 girl.
This race is going to start fast and be close, we aren't sure if it will come too close to the 3:52 national record but it certainly will be exciting to see Jamaica trying to get that first relay win.
#7 Time For Some Fast Times From These XC Greats
(Girls Invitational Two Mile)
The meet record (10:48) should be absolutely destroyed in just a few days. There are 10 girls already entered under 11 minutes and of those girls three current entries stand out in a big way. Those three girls are Jenna Hutchins (TN), Bethany Graham (VA), and Kelsey Harrington (VA). All three are capable of running sub 10:30 and should be in the 10:10's. Just look at their XC splits and you will agree.
Jenna Hutchins owns the best time with her 10:26 best but just like the other two has had the best year of her running career this year.
#8 The Overall World Record Is Seriously In Danger
(AAU Boys 500)
Doubling up here from the 300 on Friday is Justin Robinson of Missouri. He is a 400m specialist and last year broke 45 a staggering three times. The time he is chasing is 1:01.68 set back in 2012. Though the 500 is certainly longer than his normal races, his speed is going to be a huge help. Don't be surprised to see him cruise through the 400m mark in a blazing 46.
The overall world record though is 59.83.
He will be joined by Mekhi Gammons of Florida who is chasing the 500m national class record and Jayson Ward, one of the fastest 500m runners in the entire nation and began the year ranked US #1.
#9 The Most Exciting Event In Track Is Headed To VA Showcase
(Mixed 4x400m Relay)
Without a doubt, the most exciting event in track right now is the mixed 4x400m relay. It is a relay comprised of two girls and two boys, run in whatever order they want. The field is not finalized yet but we do know that Bullis is coming for that national record of 3:33. They will need two 50 splits and two 55 splits to take it down.
Here they have solid depth but also enough speed on the girls' side that one of their girls could walk down some guys. This one is going to be exciting.
#10 Four National Jumping Champions Square Off In Record Attempt
(AAU Girls Long Jump)
It's not every day you get the triple jump national champion jumping against the long jump USATF long jump national champion but that is what we get this year. Leading the competition on seed is Claire Bryant from Texas who owns a personal best of 21-2. She is chasing the record of 21-11 set back in 2017 by Tara Davis.
She is going to have company over 21' though with Morgan Smalls (NC) ready to really focus on the long jump this season. She is already the best triple jumper and high jumper in the nation with bests of 41 and 6-3 to her name.
They are then both joined by Shantae Foreman of Jamaica who also has cleared the 20' barrier. Then finally we also have Paige Floriea of Ohio who jumped 20-2.5 last outdoor season and was the outdoor state champion.
There has also been a late addition to the field, Elizabeth Deen, of NC. She enters the competition with an age-group world record of 20-00.5 jumped last outdoor season. She did that jump as a 12-year-old!
#11 Connecticut Returns To Defend Their Dominance At VA Showcase
(Boys Triple Jump)
Last year it was Justin Forde of Connecticut winning the triple jump with a US #1 mark of 51'. He would go on to win the national title as well but his toughest competition was at the VA Showcase where he led four guys over 49' and was part of a competition that had back-to-back US #1's.
This year it looks to be the same with seven guys entered seeded 46-4.5 or better. It is also the same again with a CT guy leading the way, this year it being Sean Dixon-Bodie at 51-6.5. His teammate Korey Steele is seeded third at 47-3.
Sandwiched between them is PA star Jaden Price-Whitehead who has jumped 47-10.25 already and is looking for the 50' mark.
#12 Taylor Ewert Returns For Another Record Attempt
(Girls 3K Race Walk)
Taylor Ewert was national runner-up in XC and makes her return to the VA Showcase for the 3K race walk national record. Of course, she already owns this record but as a senior she is looking to lower it one more time. Her time from last year was 13:24.76 and was also an American junior record.
Ewert currently holds the 1500, mile, and 3K race walk records.
#13 US #1 & #2 Get Rematch With Jamaican Hurdle Star
(Girls 55m Hurdles)
Last year Shadajah Ballard took home the VA Showcase title with Jamaican star Rosealee Cooper just inches behind in 7.90. Not bad for her first 55m hurdles race ever.
This year though she is no novice and once again will face off with tough competition. This time with Leah Phillips and Ashley Wallace from the Bullis School. Those two have run 7.82 and 7.84 already this season with hopes of breaking the meet record of 7.69.
#14 Could These Boys Break The 50m National Record En Route?
The boys 50m dash record of 5.69 is one of the oldest on the books. It equates to a 6.25 in the 55m dash. With cameras set up at the 50, 55, and 60 for this final we could see something special. The top seed right now is Jaylen Wright (NC) at 6.29 with 100m national runner-up, Javonte' Harding, seeded right behind him at 6.31.
Daiyaan Hawkins, Alonzo McBryde, and Malcolm Johnson Jr. are all in this one and have run 6.40 or faster meaning this one is going to be fast and close!
#15 Just Call It The National Championship 4x2 Preview
Nothing previews NBNI and the 4x2 final quite like the VA Showcase. In 2019 the VA Showcase winner won nationals and the finals had four VA Showcase teams. In 2018 the VA Showcase winner won nationals and the finals had five VA Showcase teams. And finally, back in 2017, the VA Showcase teams went 1-2 in record fashion at nationals.
This year should be the same with all of the nation's best sprint quartets headed to Lynchburg. The only difference is that St. Jago of Jamaica could be the best team on paper this year. They have won some individual events but have yet to break thru in a relay and this could be their year.
#16 Could We See VA's First Sub 9 Since Drew Hunter?
(Boys Invitational Two Mile)
16 laps is never going to be as good as next weekend with the boys two-mile run. Here we will see three Foot Locker finalists and some NXN names squaring off in what could be a sub-9-minute performance.
Leading the way on paper is Dan O'Brien at 9:07 but Massachusetts star Aidan Puffer is close behind at 9:11. Then just a second behind him is Ian Harrison. Add in Carlos Shultz and you have quite the race.
If that wasn't interesting enough, it also could be Virginia's first sub 9-minute two-mile since Drew Hunter. Both O'Brien and Shultz have a strong chance to do that.
#17 The Shenendehowa (NY) Is Looking For School's 1st Sub 9
New York powerhouse, Shenendehowa, is looking for their school's first sub 9 minute 4x8 indoors. Their current record is 9:00.3 but with their top three runners returning from last year it looks like they could finally break thru.
They won't be the only strong team in this race with Weddington of NC and Ocean Lakes of VA already entered. This one is going to have a lot of school records and potentially a new national leading time too.
#18 The US Leaderboard Isn't Ready For This Race
It has been a slow start for the 4x2 this year but things are about to heat up at the VA Showcase. Right now the US has five teams under 1:30 and no teams under 1:29. Next weekend we may see two or even three teams under 1:28 at the VA Showcase. The entire US leaderboard is not ready for these relays.
The national leaders, Freedom (VA), will be in this one and will get to see some other tough teams. As you can see above, they ran away with their last race and didn't even have great exchanges. When they are pushed here at the VA Showcase and if they have great handoffs they could put down a very fast time.
#19 This Stacked Shot Put Field Is Ready To Put On A Show
The current entries in the shot put are scary good. There are five girls entered over 40' and meet management expects a few more to enter. Leading the way is Megan Mann who enters with a personal best of 44-4 and won the EE shot put a year ago. She is even better this season and that means potentially a US top-three performance.
She is joined by Lacey Stringer of Ohio, Sydney Freeman of North Carolina, Autumn Judd of North Carolina, and Trinity Franklin of Maryland. All of these ladies have already thrown over 40' and expect to be closer to 45' at the VA Showcase.
#20 Seriously, The Girls 50 and 55 National Records Are In Danger
(AAU Girls 60)
The records of 6.28 (50) and 6.68 (55) are one perfect start away from history. Entered in this AAU 60m dash with cameras at the 50 and 55 are frosh superstar Shawnti Jackson, national runner-up Talitha Diggs, Jonah Ross, Milan Fields, and Kimberly Harris. All five of these girls could break that 50 record which equates to a 6.89 55m dash.
They will have two shots at it with semi-finals and finals but they really only need one perfect start to take them both down.