ATC Coaches Corner: The Wingfoot Mile

Photography Credit: Dan McCauley

Top runners from middle school to professional shared the Emory University track to compete in seven thrilling back-to-back performances at the 2018 Wingfoot Mile. With tight finishes and personal bests all night, not even the rain could put a damper on the evening. Mizuno celebrated the top middle and high school runners with Wingfoot Mile kits for all competitors.

Men’s Elite Mile

Featuring 10 runners with sub-4 minute miles, the elite men’s race was set up for blazing fast times and potential history, as Brodey Hasty vied to become just the 11th high schooler in U.S. history to break 4:00. Then it started to rain.

The downpour began with the starter’s pistol. Gusts of wind took away the shot at history, but the drama remained. A lead pack separated by 600m surged through the driving rain, led through the final lap by Ford Palmer of HOKA NJ-NY Track Club. Sampson Laari of Ghana made the first move with 250m to go, but Sam Mcentee, an Australian Olympian in the 5,000m, and Neil Gourley, representing Scotland and Virginia Tech Elite, countered. Gourley turned on the jets in the final stretch, but the Australian held him off to win by just 0.17s. Mcentee’s 3:58.26 set a meet record for the fastest mile time in All Comers history, and he took home $1250 for the win. Edward Kemboi of Atlanta Track Club Elite finished 11th in 4:06.50. His teammate and two-time Wingfoot Mile Champion, Brandon Lasater, capped off a big weekend of racing to finish 13th in 4:09.68.

Women’s Mile

Everyone expected this to be a battle between the two runners from NJ-NY TC, Heather Wilson, and Stephanie Schappert, but the rain slowed times and set expectations out the window. Agnes Abu, who graduated from Middle Tennessee State University just weeks before, took advantage of the conditions. The Ghanaian national record holder in the 800m hung behind the runners of NJ-NY TC and Atlanta Track Club Elite’s Yolanda Ngarambe, hoping for a chance to put her speed on display.

With 500m to go, Anna Connor of High Performance West made a move from the back to open up the race, but Abu made a thrilling counter, surging on the backstretch to take a commanding lead. She powered through the final turn, showing off her 800m closing speed and winning by more than two seconds with a 4:37.79.

For Abu, this race completes an undefeated two-week stretch in Georgia. First, she won the All Comers elite women’s 800m. She followed that by smashing her personal best, winning the USATF Georgia Meet of Champions Dream 800m in 2:00.87. She culminated the trip by setting her personal best in the Wingfoot Mile by an astonishing six seconds.

High School Boys

The boys’ high school race was set to be a battle for Georgian supremacy between East Coweta’s Kyle Harkabus and Trinity Christian’s Jacob McLeod, but a late entry from Scott Thompson of Brentwood High School (TN) changed all that, as Thompson’s best of 4:08 made him the new favorite.

The race went out remarkably fast through the first 800m, as the 16-runner field refused to separate from the pacer until McLeod, Harkabus, and Thompson opened up the race on the third lap. Harkabus, the state champion in the 800m and 1600m and the fastest miler in Georgia, was poised to take the race from the back, but McLeod simply would not let go.

Thompson fought McLeod’s every attack, but the Trinity Christian senior held on to win by less than half a second. His 4:10.95 smashed his previous PR of 4:14.92, made him the fastest boy in the state this year and gave him the fastest time in Wingfoot Mile history.

High School Girls

Everyone knew that Naima Turbes was the one to beat. After winning the GHSA 3A State Championship in the 1600m and 800m, the Westminster School junior was looking to break her personal best and sneak under 4:50. Jackie Addy of Holy Innocents and Brenda Ayuk of Alexander High School were ready for the chase, but it wasn’t enough. Turbes led the entire way, turning on the jets with 600m to drop a chasing Addy. Although Ayuk made a late push, there was too much ground to cover, and Turbes cruised for the win in 4:56.32. Ayuk’s 4:57.32 vaulted her past Addy, who finished third in 5:01.28.

Freshman Boys

The inaugural freshman mile was Kamari Miller’s to lose, as he headed into the race with a 4:25. Zack Truitt of Landmark Christian School stuck with Miller through 1200m, separating from the chase pack of Andrew Jones, Alex DeBoy, and Hayden Marshall.  In the final lap, Miller opened the gap, powering his way to win in 4:29.33. Truitt crossed second with 4:32.47, and Jones separated himself from the chase pack to finish third in 4:35.95.

Middle School Boys

The boys’ middle school mile went out fast, with Joey Voss of Alpha Crush Running Club leading a 71-second first lap. His previous PR of 4:44 made him the favorite, but Jared Fortenberry of Marietta Middle School, Andy Salgado of Shiloh Middle and the Blaha twins of Atlanta Track Club were undeterred. The fight began with 400m to go. George Blaha, trying to break 4:50 for the first time, pushed to the front at the final bell. Fortenberry matched and took the lead, cruising to win in 4:46.25, crushing his previous PR. Salgado passed Blaha to finish second in 4:49.24, and Blaha finished third in 4:50.4.

Middle School Girls

Luna McCauley of Paideia was the considerable favorite, having already run a 5:24 earlier in the year, but Haley Davis of the Dekalb Trailblazers matched her from the start, and Clara and Heidi Heppner of Atlanta Track Club lurked a few strides back. Clara made her move on lap three, and it was Davis, McCauley, and Heppner battling for the lead with 400m to go. In the end, McCauley wore them out, surging on the backstretch to set herself up for the win in 5:26.54. Heidi’s late move pushed her into third, and both sisters set personal bests: Clara in 5:32.97 and Heidi in 5:33.03.

View full results here. 

Published: June 2018