At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Jeremy Wariner was considered the
heavy favorite to defend his gold medal in the 400 meters. But LaShawn Merritt
didn't care what all the pundits were saying. Instead, he went out and not
only won the gold medal but dominated in the process. Merritt clocked a personal-
best time of 43.75 to shock the world — as well as Wariner, who garnered
the silver in 44.74. Merritt later teamed with Wariner to help the U.S. take gold
in the 4x400 relay. Merritt's double-gold performance may have been surprising
to some, but it was no shock to those who've followed his career since he
starred in high school at Woodrow Wilson (Portsmouth, Va.).
As a senior in 2004,
he posted the nation's top 400-meter time (45.25) and captured state titles in
the 100, 200 and 400. Like Merritt at the Olympics, Starkville (Starkville, Miss.)
senior Tavaris Tate surprised many last season by posting the nation's top nonsenior
and No. 2 overall time in the 400 with a 46.39 in an AAU regional meet.
Earlier in the year, Tate picked up his first individual state titles with victories in
the 400 (46.41) and 200 (21.53) as Starkville won the Class 5A
team state championship. Tate also guided the 4x400 relay to a
first-place finish for the second straight year and was selected to
the USA TODAY All-USA team. "He's one of those dedicated, hard
workers," says Starkville head coach Cleveland Hudson. "It paid
off for him last year." Sounds a lot like LaShawn Merritt.
HITS AND MISSES FROM OUR PAST NEXT PICKS
ALLYSON FELIX TO MARION JONES
Felix has already won a relay Olympic gold and two
individual silvers in the 200 meters. And unlike the now
infamous Jones, Felix saves all of her headlines for
what she does on the track.
EBONY COLLINS TO GAIL DEVERS
Collins' star has fallen since she was a national prep recordholder.
Originally bound for LSU, she performed well at
West Los Angeles College last spring but has a long way to
go to catch the legendary Devers.
next IN line
MORE HIGH SCHOOL TRACK COMPARISONS
THE NEXT WALTER DIX:
THE LONG JUMP IS GOODWIN'S BEST EVENT, BUT HIS 10.09 TIME
IN THE 100 MAKES HIM AS DANGEROUS IN THE SPRINTS AS DIX,
THE OLYMPIC DOUBLE-BRONZE MEDALIST.
THE NEXT JENNIFER STUCZYNSKI:
WEYGANDT IS WITHIN REACH OF THE PREP POLE VAULT RECORD.
IF SHE CLEARS IT, THE NEXT GOAL MAY BE THE AMERICAN
RECORD, HELD BY — YOU GUESSED IT — STUCZYNSKI.
THE NEXT ALLYSON FELIX:
IT'LL BE TOUGH TO CATCH THREE-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST AND
200-METER PREP RECORD-HOLDER FELIX, BUT GOODMAN
COULD ECLIPSE A FEW RECORDS OF HER OWN THIS SEASON.