By Chris Lotsbom
June 15, 2014
GREENSBORO, NC — New Balance Nationals Outdoor 2014 came to a thrilling close here in Greensboro, North Carolina, with three meet records set on the final day of competition. South Carolina’s Raven Saunders, Louisiana’s Devin King, and New Jersey’s Keturah Orji each bettered meet records in the shot put, pole vault, and long jump, making for a memorable day in the field events. More than 4,500 athletes competed over the course of three days at Aggie Stadium, vying for All-American honors.
Coming into today’s competition, Saunders was the overwhelming favorite in the girls shot put. At New Balance Nationals Indoor, Saunders set a national indoor record of 56 feet, 7.5 inches. In April, she established a new outdoor national record of 56 feet, 8.25 inches, becoming the best high school shot putter in history. Here at New Balance Nationals Outdoor 2014, Saunders wanted even more.
With one throw, Saunders would break Olympian Michelle Carter’s meet record of 54 feet, 5.25 inches. Stepping into the ring for her first attempt, Saunders reached an eye-popping 56 feet, 7.5 inches (17.26 meters), less than one inch shy of her national record.
“I came out really ready to throw and ready to hit it,” said Saunders, who was competing in her first New Balance Nationals Outdoor. “I always try to push myself to hit that mark [56 feet] or try to surpass it to better myself.”
That was all Saunders needed, claiming the title by more than nine feet over Pennsylvania’s Courtney McCartney. Breaking Carter’s meet record was extra meaningful for Saunders.
“It really means a lot, seeing where she is now,” she said, paying homage to one of the best throwers in history. “It really gives me a good look at where I can be in the next six to ten years.”
In the boy’s pole vault, senior Devin King was the class of the field, clearing 17 feet, 7 inches for a new meet record. Battling Illinois’s Luke Winder and Texas’s Paulo Benavides, King was able to advance on thanks to consistent vaults and confidence.
“All in all it feels good. You work hard and it pays off,” said King, who sported Team USA colors today. “I came out on top so that’s all I can ask for.”
With his meet record, King now holds both the New Balance Nationals Indoor and Outdoor meet bests.
New Jersey’s Keturah Orji has long been one of the premier jumpers in America, winning multiple national titles both indoors and out. On Sunday, Orji was a bit worried after fouling her first and second long jump attempts. Frustrated with the fouls, Orji took a step back and focused extra hard for her third leap.
“After the prelims I was really mad because I had fouled two and then I had to jump from way behind the board,” Orji said. “I guess that anger helped me in the finals because I equaled my personal best.”
Her fourth jump turned out to be the winner, a 20 feet, 11.75 inch mark (6.39m).
“I let it all out in the finals,” Orji said with a smile. With the victory, Orji swept both of the horizontal jumps here, as she won the triple jump on Saturday. Orji will attend the University of Georgia next fall.
On the track, freshman Candace Hill of Georgia pulled off a phenomenal double, winning the 200 meters in 23.14 seconds to go with her 100 meter title from Saturday. Also earning a pair of victories over the weekend was fellow Georgian Daniel Haugh. Haugh finished first in the boys discus (197 feet, 2 inches) and in the hammer throw on Saturday (224 feet, 1 inch).
The third race was the charm for North Carolina’s own Ryen Frazier, who earned the girls mile win in 4:46.39. Frazier completed the tough distance triple, finishing ninth in Friday’s 5000m, fourth in Saturday’s two mile, and first in the mile on Sunday. It is the second year in a row that a Frazier girl has completed the grueling triple; Ryen’s older sister Wesley won all three events in 2013.
A pair of national leading marks were set in the 400m hurdles, as freshman Sydney McLaughlin and senior Kenny Selmon won in 56.89 and 50.48 seconds. McLaughlin bettered her freshman national record in the process; she was on the winning Swedish relay team on Friday.
The boys and girls 4x400m came down to the wire, as Union Catholic (NJ) and Western Branch (VA) prevailed in close finishes. Other relay champions from Saturday included the boys of Spirit of Pre (MI) and girls of West Springfield (VA) in the distance medley relay.
Trentavis Friday was the boys 200m champion (20.41), and Christian Alvarado won the boys mile out of the unseeded section in a blistering time of 4:06.88. Northport TC (NY) took the boys 4xMile in 17:21.16.
For full recaps, race replays, video interviews, results, photos and more, be sure to visit NBNationals.com.
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