Five win national titles at Junior Olympic nationals in Kansas

results & athlete interviews

The 2017 USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships concluded on Sunday (30-Jul) in Lawrence, Kansas with 106 athletes from the Indiana association competing in the championships during the seven day competition held at Rock Chalk Park on the campus of the University of Kansas
The athletes from Indiana competed in a total of 154 events in near ideal conditions during most of the seven days of competition.  Heavy rain and strong winds did cause some delays on days 1 and 2 but the remainder of the meet was held under blue skies and temperatures that never went above ninety degrees.  8,152 athletes competed, making the 51th anniversary event the largest USATF Junior Olympics ever.   
A total 26 all-American performances were achieved by Indiana athletes with each earning a trip to the awards podium, a championship medal, and a Nike Junior Olympic All-American hat.
Five (5) athletes returned to Indiana with national titles as they won their events in Lawrence.  The national champions were Quinn Gallagher (Northside Saints), Ava Gilliana (Calumet Region Striders), JonAnthony Hall (Fishers Fire), Tucker Smith (Columbus Running Club), and Samuel Sommers (unattached).  
In one of the first events on day 1 Quinn Gallagher, a rising junior at Guerin Catholic High School, claimed the first national title for Indiana as he won the 15-16 boys 2000m steeplechase.  The win was his second in a row as he defending the title he won last year in Sacramento.  In Lawrence he stopped the clock at 6:21.49 for a career best by over three seconds.  His margin of victory was over six seconds ahead of runner-up Anthony Tirado of Pennsylvania.  Gallagher is now a four-time all-American in track & field and cross country.

Also making a return to the winner’s landing on the awards podium was Tucker Smith as he won the 13-14 boys shot put to add to his victory in 2015.  Smith who came into the competition with only the ninth best seed took the lead in round 1 with a throw of 16.23 (53-3) and never relinquished it; in fact in round 5 he extended it with the winning throw of 16.46m (54-0).  He had the three best throws in the competition that included 51 throwers.  Like Gallagher he is now a four-time all-American adding a third place in the shot put and sixth place in the javelin back in 2013 to his two victories.
Unlike Gallagher and Smith, Samuel Sommers had never won a national Junior Olympic title prior to arriving in Lawrence.  In his first national championships in 2011 he finished a close second in the 9-10 boys long jump and then in 2013 while competing in the 11-12 division he finished fourth in the high jump and sixth in the long jump.  And through the first five rounds of the long jump in Lawrence it looked as though history would hold true as he was in fifth place with a best mark of 6.65m (21-10) and struggling as he was coming off of a 5th round foul.  But that all changed on his last jump as he stormed down the runway and hit the board perfectly uncorking a huge jump of 7.11m (23-4) to clinch the win by over 1 foot and setting a lifetime best by 10.5 inches.  The mark is the fourth best by an Indiana prep in 2017. He also finished 12th in the triple jump with a best mark of 12.98m (42-7).  He is a rising junior at Oak Hill High School.

Ava Gilliana, a rising sophomore at Valparaiso High School, took the lead in the girls 15-16 1500m slightly after 300m.  Eventual runner Oriana Jalal of California latched on to her for the next 800m as they, along with a third girl, hit the bell lap together as a pack.   Gilliana, the third place finisher at the Indiana state high school 1600m in June, ran 1:10.90 over the final 400m to pull clear of Jalal down the final 100m.  She stopped the clock at 4:38.81 with Jalal .71 seconds back in 4:39.52.  She enters the cross county season looking to improve on her solid 31st place showing, as a freshman, at the Indiana high school championships last fall. 
JonAnthony Hall was the youngest champion for Indiana as he won the boys 9-10 long jump.  He came to Lawrence with the #2 entry mark of 4.94m (16-2½) from his region 7 win two weeks earlier.  He only trailed Jerald Evangelista of California by less than half an inch and the next best was over 6 inches back.  According to form the entire competition was a see-saw battle between Hall and Evangelista.  With the wind in the competitors face throughout it was not a matter of setting personal bests but rather out jumping the other competitors.  Hall took the lead in round one with a jump of 14-5¼ while Evangelista could only manage 13-8¼ and was in sixth place.  In round two Hall added 1¼ inches to his previous best which kept in the lead with Evangelista still in sixth.  It was in round three that things began to get interesting as Hall extended his best mark to 14-11¼ but Evangelista unleashed a jump of 15-4 to sling-shot himself into first place.  On the next jump Hall responded to Evangelista previous jump with the winning jump of 15-10¼.  Neither would improve in the subsequent two rounds and Hall earned the national title winning by 6¼ inches.
Double trouble for duo
Two locals earned not one but two all-American honors.  They were Jordyn Boyer (Calumet Region Striders) and Dustin Fillmore (unattached).  

On day 1 of the meet Boyer finished fifth in the girls 15-16 2000m steeplechase running 7:32.43.   On Saturday she returned to the track to run 1000m future but this time without barriers and water pits to navigate and finished a strong second in the 3000m running 10:31.22.
Fillmore came to Lawrence with only the 25th best entry mark in the boys 11-12 high jump but scored a big career best as he cleared 1.55m (5-1) to place third in the event and win the bronze medal.  He actually cleared the same height as the winner of the event but had more misses as lower heights than the eventual gold and silver medalist, Miles Roberts of California and Michail Rose of Virginia, respectively.  On day 2 of the meet he finished a strong fourth in the pentathlon scoring 2202 points, 104 points more than he scored in winning the region 7 championships two weeks earlier.  He also finished 13th in the 80m hurdles running 13.17.
There is silver in that thing they call a silver lining
In addition to Boyer’s silver in the 3000m two young ladies, both competing in the 13-14 division, picked up silver medals for their second place finishes.
In the 400m Ramiah Elliott (Indiana Storm TC) ran 54.50 to finish second in one of the most competitive races of the meet.  She trailed the incredible 52.54 national record run by Kayla Davis of Florida.  Elliott’s time was her second best time in her career.  In June Elliott, who enters 8th grade this month, had run 53.69 at the USATF Youth Championship in Illinois; a time surpassed on the all-time Indiana prep list by only three other girls - Lynna Irby (51.39), Maicel Malone (52.42), and Shauntel Elcock (53.23).
At the region 7 championships in early July Abby Maesch (The Creek Club) cleared 1.54m (5-0½) to win the competition but that mark was only #15 on the entry list coming into Lawrence.  On paper Maesch had an outside chance of sneaking onto the podium to earn all-American honors.  Well she not only did she make it to the podium but her 1.60m (5-3) clearance landed her all the way up to 2nd place landing. Maesch will be a freshman at Avon High School in the fall.
They make statues out of bronze
Besides Fillmore’s bronze in the high jump, four other Hoosiers earned third place finishes - Tyler Davis (Fishers Fire), Peyton Haack (Trackmyspeed - Indiana), Brett Otterbacher (unattached) and Jalen Royal (Indiana Blast TC).  All four were coming off winning their events at the region 7 championships and looking for high podium finishes.  
Tyler Davis, the 2015 Indiana Youth 8u Athlete of the Year, finished third in the boys 9-10 high jump with a clearance of 1.35m (4-5).  He also finished 13th in the long jump.
At last year’s championships in Sacramento Peyton Haack a rising senior at Westfield High School, finished fourth in the boys 15-16 decathlon.   A year later and now in the 17-18 division he moved up one place to finish third in the field of 23 athletes.  His score of 6406 points was 850 points more than a year ago and 199 more than his region 7 championships score.  He had the highest clearance in the pole vault (13-5¼) and the second best mark  in the long jump (20-11¼)  
Newcomer Brett Otterbacher who was competing in his rookie year in the Junior Olympics finished third in the 13-14 400m running 51.08.  When the season started the rising freshman at Valparaiso High School had a career best of 52.92 seconds. 
On two previous occasions Jaylen Royal has earned all-American honors in the 800m.  In 2014 he finished sixth in the 13-14 division and then a year later in Jacksonville, Fla. he finished eighth in the 15-16 division.  Now in the 17-18 division Royal came to Lawrence with an eye on a top three finish.  During the qualifying rounds on Tuesday all the competitors had to deal with high winds and driving rain.  Royal survived the crazy Kansas weather and earned the eighth and final qualify spot for the finals by just .01 seconds.  In the finals he came through 400m in fifth place and used a strong final 200m to advance two places and secure his best finish ever at the nationals - third place.
Only at the Olympic Trials Is Fourth Place The Worst Place
Adding to the fourth place finish turned in by Fillmore were:
  • Spencer Gudgel (Trackmyspeed - Indiana) 17-18 boys 800m 17-18 boys
  • Luigi Rivas (Indiana BLAST TC) 13-14 boys 200m hurdles
  • Addie Wanner (Indiana BLAST TC) 17-18 girls High Jump
Making Their Way to the Podium
And our final lists of Junior Olympic All-Americans:

Fifth Place
  • Reece Torres (Fishers Fire) 7-8 boys 1500m
  • Jordyn Boyer (Calumet Reg. Striders) 15-16 girls 2000m steeplechase
  • Colton Shail (Unattached) 17-18 boys 2000m steeplechase
Sixth Place
  • Semira Killebrew (Indiana Storm TC) 15-16 girls 100m
  • Mikeisha Covington (Unattached) 15-16 girls 400m
Seventh Place
  • Jonathan Dodrill (Indiana TC) 17-18 boys Discus
Eighth Place
  • Noah McBride (Evansville Speedsters) 17-18 boys 200
  • Kenzie Crooke (Fishers Fire) 7-8 girls Long Jump
A complete set of Indiana performances along with athlete interviews can be viewed here.
Next year’s national championships are slated for North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina July 23-29.
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