The stories and athletes who achieve all-American status on Friday at the 2006 Nike Outdoor Nationals at North Carolina A&T University, Greensboro, NC. (STORIES ON THE KARLEE MCQUILLEN AND LORRAINE HILL, PLUS ALLYN LAUGHLIN POSTED 6/21)
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McQuillen overcomes nerves, announcers and all competitors to win her first US title
PA has depth when it comes to the throws. Over Friday and Saturday, PA prep athletes earned nine of a possible 18 all-American honors in the Javelin, Discus and Shot Put. And that was with a few having off days, just missing the finals.
Admittedly, only 11 states permit the Javelin. But from those that do, it was easily PA's top event. And it began on Friday morning with PA AA State Champ Karlee McQuillen of Westmont Hilltop. Earlier this season she had become the best thrower with the new implement since the change to the international Javelin in 2002 with a throw of 161-05 at the West Central Coaches Association meet in early May in Altoona. Then, at the state meet, she improved that mark to 162-04.
She came into the meet with #1 seed to go with her US#1 ranking. As an athlete who has experienced the finals of the state championships two years in a row as her basketball team's starting point guard, McQuillen thought she knew pressure. But imagine lining up for your final throw. You've just been passed by another athlete. Nuf pressure already, right. But then you add the Nike Outdoor Nationals announcer. "He kept making me nervous talking about how I need to throw big. And with all these girls watching you, and you're number one in the nation and a lot of people are expecting big things, it's pressure."
Her event didn't start as planned. She threw 42.81 her first throw after state rival Lorraine Hill of Chambersburg had thrown a 43.75. "Her (Hill's) 2nd was only a 36, and my 3rd was just a centimeter further than her best (43.76), so I was ahead until Brieanna (Kennedy of Delaware) put out a 45.72 to take the lead on her final throw in the finals."
Kennedy's mark of 150-00 was a PR by 15 feet. But to Hill and McQuillen, it was better than they had thrown to that point. Hill said the hardest adjustment was throwing off the carpet and the slight uphill that was in front of the throwers at the end of the runway. "It was a high pressure meet and a lot of changes, but no excuses" Hill said. "I had really good days at Penn, Districts and States, and you just can't expect to have good days at every meet."
Hill's arm was bothering her a little, so she may have held back on her first three throws, afraid an injury would end her day. She was comfortably in 3rd as she prepared for her final throw. Two shortened run-ups signaled she was feeling the pressure.
Only McQuillen now had the opportunity to pass Kennedy. She went through her routine. All eyes were on her. The other competitors. The officials. The fans in the stands. The cameras. The national audience on the webcast. Her image dominated the jumbotron. And the announcer, who politely pointed out that she needed a big throw to win. No pressure.
She too stopped short on her first run-up. Uh-oh. Maybe the pressure was getting to this strong-willed athlete.
But McQuillen gathered herself. Returned to the end of the runway. "At first, I couldn't get my steps down, so I went back an thought about my steps and then just threw."
45.76. 150-01. A national title by an inch.
The lesson she learned from the meet is pretty simple... "get your good throw first and then you won't be behind. I was nervous the whole meet because I was behind."
As for the pressure... "I think I handled the pressure well. A little pressure never hurt anybody."
McQuillen competes at the USATF Juniors this week, and then on July 8th at the inaugural Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in Puerto Rico on July 8th.
Hill's year and prep career are complete. And her state meet throw of 157-04 followed by her 143-06 at NON, far exceeded her season's expectations. "I just wanted to break 130." She'll compete for Syracuse University in 2007.
Also earning all-American status from PA were 2005 Nike Outdoor Champion Meghan Briggs, a Palmyra senior, who was 5th with a throw of 140-02, a season best and her 2nd best ever... and freshman Amber Troxell of William Allen High School, whose 136-07 PR was good enough for 6th.
Laughlin is 2nd again to Hayes. She has at least one more shot at her prep rival
Laughlin is 2nd again to Hayes. She has at least one more shot at her prep rival.
Allyn Laughlin launched her first salvo in the ongoing battle with North Carolina junior Kamorean Hayes by wasting no time, throwing 50-04 on her very first attempt of the competition. And Hayes, in true competitive spirit, wasted no time in responding. Her 2nd throw went 50-10, and eventually, won the competition. Only Laughlin went over 15 meters in the finals. "You can't take anything away from her. All you need is one."
Laughlin likes to think she brings out the best in Hayes, and was looking forward to facing her again at Junior Nationals..."I'm excited to see her and compete against her next weekend."
And if she gains one of the two coveted spots on the US Junior team traveling to China later this summer, she's ready. And if not, she's ready for a rest before joining one of the top programs in the US at Florida State. "There's only one NCAA Champ (FSU men) and only one ACC and NCAA D1 men's Shot Put champ (FSU's Garrett Johnson, a junior), so to be going to a program like that is awesome."
Laughlin was also impressed with the way PA throwers performed at NON, especially friend and rival Karen Shump of Penncrest, who finished 5th with a throw of 44-02.50. "It's nice having their families and friends and fans her cheering for you because you're from PA." Western PA's Natalie Clickett also made the finals of the Shot Put, and then earned her all-American certificate on Saturday, getting 4th with a throw of 151-00.
100 Meter Dash
Girls' 1600 Sprint Medley Relay
Boys' 1600 Sprint Medley Relay
4x800 Meter Relay