Junior Women's Preview: First Cain-Chapus showdown tops meet storylines

1500 METERS: CAIN, CHAPUS CLASH FOR FIRST TIME -- Amazing, isn't it? It makes you want to look through their resumes to be sure. But no, middle-distance queens Mary Cain and Cami Chapus, for all of their great success over the mile, 1,500, and other events the past two years, have never faced each other on the track. Cain has not been able to contest either of the Dream Miles Chapus has won due to her state meets. At New Balance Outdoor Nationals last spring, Cain was in the fast heat of the mile while Chapus ran an earlier heat just to get a World Youth 1,500 qualifier and be fresher for the DMR. Then both went separate routes, Cain to Juniors and Chapus to the World Youth Trials. Chapus has never raced indoor on the East Coast, nor has Cain come to the West Coast.

So here we are in Bloomington with the Bronxville (N.Y.) soph Cain ranked US#1 in the mile and 1,500, and Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) senior Chapus ranked #2 and #3 – after the latter finished #1 in both last year. They seeded #1 and #2 here, with no collegians ranked ahead of them. But the big advantage Cain should have is her speed: her 2:03.34 800 chops and ability to close in at least 62 seconds (in Penn Relays mile win) is her trump card unless Chapus can somehow run the kick out of her. With temperatures in the 80s, it will be hard to push the pace. But whoever wins, this is the distance matchup fans have been waiting for.

As compelling as the Cain-Chapus matchup is, they are hardly the only super high school 1,500 runners entered. Watch out for Andover Academy (Mass.) senior phenom (featured in 5k item below) Cayla Hatton, who is top seeded in the 5k (see below), but also is US#2 in the 1,500 this year. Then there's Grosse Pointe South (Mich.) junior Hannah Meier, who represented Team USA at the World Youth Champs last year and was NBNI mile champ in March. Then there's Aptos (Ca.) state 1,600 champ Nikki Hiltz, who beat Chapus in that meet, but was last in the Dream Mile while dealing with some health issues, and amazing Shawnee Mission (Ks.) star Alli Cash, who was a stunning third in the Dream Mile. Bottom line: there are six prep girls here who are 4:42 1,600 runners or better.

SHORT SPRINTS: SANDERS LEADS SUPER DEEP FIELDS -- Although this hasn't proven to be a year in the girls sprint ranks with national record chasers or anyone yet pushing the top end of the all-time list, it IS a very deep year and there IS a formidable favorite, among preps anyway, in Boyd Anderson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.) senior Shayla Sanders. From January, when she ripped a 6.85 55 indoors, to February – when she hit US#1 7.21 at Brooks PR – she's been unbeaten in finals against preps and has put up US leaders of 11.33 (-0.1w) and 23.25 (-1.1w). She was concerned about the recent quality of her times until she blasted a winning 11.34 (+1.2w) in the Dream 100 last week.

But Sanders can't really be called the favorite to win the events, with "DyeStat Alum" and Clemson frosh Dezerea Bryant in the field, with PRs of 11.29 and a formidable 22.97. Nebraska frosh Dominique Kimpel (11.30), Barton CC frosh Kandace Thomas (11.37), and very accomplished former prep Olivia Ekpone of Texas A&M (23.28) are other collegians who will make it a challenge for Sanders to make it to Barcelona. Bryant was on Team USA for World Jrs in 2010.

Then there's the other high schoolers, starting with Sanders' own teammate, Kali Davis-White, who was third behind Sanders in the Dream 100. In fact, the first six finishers from that Dream 100 will be in Bloomington, so making the final will be tough for a lot of good sub-11.70 types. Should Sanders or one of the top collegians falter, the door could be open for the likes of 2011 World Youth champ Jennifer Madu (Texas), California stars Ariana Washington and Jasmine Gibbs, Illinois star Aaliyah Brown and more. In the 200, longer sprint talents like preps Kyra Jefferson (Mich.) and Felicia Brown (Ga.), as well as collegians Cierra White and Khadija Suleman will be formidable. The prelims will be very interesting in these events as talented women vie for the eight finals spots.

LONG JUMP: SEVEN 20-FOOTERS -- At the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March, we celebrated the fact that four 20-foot preps were going to clash in the girls' long jump and how big a deal that was. In Bloomington, it will be similar, but now we're talking – brace yourself – seven girls who have leapt 20 feet or better (four wind-legal at 20-3 or better). This should be the most competitive women's field event at Juniors. Among preps at least, the favorite has to be Fayetteville (Ark.) senior Sydney Conley, who not only put together the best all-conditions leap of the year to top a deep Great Southwest field two weeks ago (21-2w), but also won the New Balance Nationals Indoor title in March.

But as was mentioned, this will be even better than NBNI, because all-around superstar Kendell Williams (Kell, Marietta, Ga. junior) will be there (20-8.5 nwi, 20-6w, US#3 20-3.5 legal), and so will Miami Jackson senior Robin Reynolds (US#1 20-6.25), making a rare non-JO championship LJ appearance. Then there's Oceanside (Calif.) senior Jasmine Gibbs (20-11 nwi), UCLA frosh Kylie Price (20-10.75w), and Colorado super soph Chyna Ries – who has been steadily coming back from injury after her titanic 20-5.75 indoors. It could take very close to 21 feet to make Team USA.

2011 WORLD YOUTH CHAMPS: CAN THEY MAKE ANOTHER TEAM? -- Only Arman Hall comes to Bloomington on the men's side with a 2011 World Youth individual championship in hand, hoping to wear the Team USA colors again and go for it in Barcelona. But four – count 'em four – American girls won Gold last summer in France and all will be here trying to earn another international meet ticket.

DISCUS/JAV: USR-HOLDERS PREPARE FOR WORLDS -- If you see anyone else besides Shelbi Vaughan and Haley Crouser leading the prep charge in the discus and javelin, respectively, hold everything and check your surroundings very carefully for any other signs of an apocalypse. The chances of that happening are slightly greater than that of either of these high school record holders not qualifying for Barcelona.

Seriously, the two throws queens are making serious cases for themselves as DyeStat Girls' Athlete of the Year, especially Vaughan. The Legacy (Mansfield, Texas) senior has twice reset the national record, including her 193-11 at Golden West last weekend. She has four meets at 187 feet or better and (of course) is unbeaten. Her closest competition is University of Akron frosh Alexis Cooks, who's improved more than 20 feet from her prep best to 179-10. US#2 Maggie Ewen (St. Francis, Minn. junior) also has a good chance to make the team (172-7 PR). USC frosh Alex Collatz, a 2009 World Youth medalist as a prep, is also a contender.

The only reason why the first sentence of this "storyline" reads "leading the prep charge" instead of "winning," is because Crouser, the Gresham (Ore.) junior is a much less obvious choice to win. That's because Stanford frosh Brianna Bain, an Aloha (Ore.) grad with a best of 164 feet in 2011, has improved to 180-2. She and Crouser should have a great battle for the win. And obviously, despite the major injury she sustained this spring, it would be folly to count out former prep record-holder Avione Allgood, who set the previous 176-8 USR in the USATF senior meet last year.

5000 METERS: LONG DISTANCE QUEENS BATTLE -- How often can you look at a pair of ultra elite high school distance girls and say they are truly specialists in – not the mile or two mile – but the 5,000 on the track? Erin Finn and Cayla Hatton can clean up against a whole lot of girls in the tradition prep distances on the oval. But put them in a 5,000 meters and watch how naturally they click off sub 80-second laps.

Honestly, it's not clear what distance is Hatton's best at this juncture, since she's racked up eye-popping bests of US#2 4:18.65 for 1,500, US#1 9:27.23 for 3,000, and US#1 16:14.99 for 5,000 outdoors after coming from seeming nowhere in the late winter. Oh, and don't forget the 33:17 10,000 she ran, too, #2 all-time among preps. The thing is, she hasn't raced against any elite high schoolers since taking second in that New Balance Boston Indoor Mile.

Well, now she will. Hatton, meet West Bloomfield (Mich.) junior Finn. Her creds include 2011 Foot Locker runner-up, a US#5 10:17.86 3,200, and a great new 4:47.08 mile PR in the Dream Mile. But of course her crowning achievement was a jaw-dropping 16:19.69 USR to win the NBNI 5,000 in March. How often do you have two prep girls who've already broken 16:20 then lining up against each other?

A scheduling note: The 5,000 is Saturday night. Hatton is also running the 1,500 prelims Friday and finals on Sunday (assuming she qualifies), while Finn is entered in Sunday's 3,000. Both should be relatively fresh for the 5,000.

NOTES: Besides battling in the 100 hurdles and long jump, Kell (Marietta, Ga.) junior Kendell Williams will be (of course) contesting the heptathlon, where she set the junior class USR with 5,383 points at Great Southwest. The formidible hept field, however, includes Mississippi State frosh Erica Bougard, the US#1 last year who now has a 5,537 best, and Northern Iowa frosh Paige Knodle (5,392) ... Georgian Tori Owers, a World Youth finalist last year from Throw 1 Deep, is the top prep (US#1 52-1) in the shot, which also includes Indiana prep standout Cassie Wertman (51-0.5). But the collegiate ranks includes Iowa State's Christina Hillman (53-11.25) and Temple's Margo Britton (51-6.5) ... Don't be surprised if California prep and double state champ Sasha Wallace, seeded high in both the 100H and TJ, makes the team in both ... The above-mentioned Robin Reynolds and Michigan prep Kendell Baisden were both World Youth team members in the 400 last year. Reynolds is US#1 again this year, and is seeded second behind U. of Illinois frosh phenom Ashley Spencer. Spencer didn't even run the 400 in high school last year (she was a 42-second 300 hurdler), but is now the new NCAA champ at 50.95 ... The 3,000 steeplechase features two Team USA members from World Youths: Brianna Nerud (N.Y.) and Maddie Meyers, the two top preps in history at 2,000. Nerud is US#1 this spring in both the 2k and 3k events, while Meyers has run the 3k version just once.