Five super preps (all NBN champs) will battle elites at USATF Champs

by Steve Underwood

McLaughlin, Watson, Geist, Davis and Cooper will test the best

Five of our best current high school track and field athletes – who have won a combined 14 NBN titles this year and 32 in their careers – are contesting the “senior” events at the USATF Outdoor and Junior Outdoor Championships this weekend in Sacramento: Sydney McLaughlin, Sammy Watson, Jordan Geist, Tara Davis and Tyrese Cooper. All but Davis competed at NBNO last weekend and won a combined seven rings.

Three of the five – McLaughlin, Watson and Davis – have previously competed at the USATF Championship or Olympic Trials level before, with McLaughlin of course making Team USA for the Rio Games last summer. All but McLaughlin are also entered in Junior events here, giving them chances to make the Pan Am Junior team for Peru, as well as test themselves against the Olympians and other pros. McLaughlin, Watson and Davis have already combined for four IAAF World Youth and/or Junior golds, while Geist and Cooper are seeking their first Team USA bids.

Sydney McLaughlin – 400m Hurdles

2016 Olympian Sydney McLaughlin (Union Catholic, NJ senior), who made it to the Rio 400 hurdle semifinals while less than 100 percent, will try and make her second senior team in the event – this time for the London Worlds. She had set the high school record in the Olympic Trials while making the team last year, then broke it in early June this year with 54.03. Coming off her 4th straight NBNO title in the event (and 13th NBN ring overall), she has the best chance of any prep of placing in the top three. McLaughlin also won the ’15 World Youth 400H title and won the USA Junior 400H title last year.

Jordan Geist – Shot Put

Jordan Geist (Knoch, PA senior), the 3-time NBN shot put champ – now #2/#3 all-time indoor and out – is competing with both the junior and senior implements this weekend. A well-documented highlight of his senior year has been the national record 68-4 he threw with the 16-pound ball indoors, which was the American leader for the entire undercover season and exceeded the legendary Michael Carter’s ’79 outdoor mark of 67-9. Geist is also entered in the Junior shot, hoping to make Team USA there after missing the World Junior and World Youth teams the past two years.

Samantha Watson – 800m Run

Samantha Watson (Rush-Henrietta, NY / Rochester Running Rebels senior), whose legendary career at 800 includes the ’15 World Youth and ’16 World Junior titles – as well as the HS record indoors (2:01.78) – will race the pros again this weekend after taking 4th in the USATF Indoor Championship 1000m this past February. Although she hasn’t made a senior US team, like McLaughlin, she has competed vs. pros more often (7 times) than any other prep and raced in the Olympic Trials first round last summer. She is also entered in the Junior 800, for another chance to make her 3rd Team USA in three years. Watson is coming off an NBNO 800 title – her 8th ring overall, including four 800s, three SMRs and the ’17 NBNI mile.

Tara Davis – Long Jump and 100m Hurdles

Tara Davis (Agoura, CA / Plyo Fusion senior), who captured the NBNI long jump – after setting the indoor national record – and 60m hurdles this past March (plus 2nd in the TJ), will contest both the 100H and long jump vs. the pros this weekend. Previously, she jumped in the Olympic Trials and USATF Indoors (where she also hurdled). She has run 13.01 and 12.89w this spring while undefeated, and has long jumps just over 22 feet – both wind-aided and legal. Davis was the ’15 World Youth Champ, but missed making the World Junior Team USA last year. She’s also entered in both the Junior long jump and 100m hurdles; whether she does all four events will be determined as the meet unfolds.

Tyrese Cooper – 200m and 400m Dashes

Tyrese Cooper (Miami Norland, CA / MGX soph), who just completed his 2nd ’17 NBN 200/400 double – one indoors and one out – will contest both of those events at the senior level here. He has a 20.51 200 best and still carries his 45.23 400 PR from last year – which gives him a solid chance at the final in that event. Cooper is also entered in the Junior 200 and 400. Whether he will run all four events or adjust his plans as he goes along remains to be seen. Cooper is competing in USATF Championships (senior or junior) for the first time, and shooting for his first Team USA vest.

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