Posted: Tuesday, July 27th 2010 at 10:31am
Lanier track stars taking on nation's best in California
By Morgan Lee Editor
Lanier Running Club athletes competing in the Junior Olympics national meet meet in Sacramento, Calif., include, clockwise from top, Ty McCormack, Paul Malquist and Erika Rucker.
Area track stars and Lanier Running Club members Paul Malquist, Ty McCormack, Erika Rucker, Kiara Woods and Kenny Slavik will compete with the best prep-level athletes in the nation this week when they take part in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Championships in Sacramento, Calif.
Malquist, McCormack and Woods have already graduated from high school but are taking this one last chance to compete at the prep level before each moves on to collegiate programs, while Flowery Branch teammates Slavik and Rucker are hoping to impress as they head into their senior campaigns with the Falcons.
"It's exciting; I've never been this far from home -- I've been to Colorado before," said Rucker, who will compete in the 800 and 400 meters at the event, which covers six days (July 27 to Aug. 1). "This is pretty significant for me because it's my last chance to really impress college coaches before the summer is over."
Rucker, who won the Class AAA 400 at the girls GHSA state meet, is hopeful of putting in medal-winning performances in both events, though she says she must improve her 800 time.
"I have room to improve in the 800," said Rucker, who qualified for the national meet at a regional meet in Greensboro, N.C. Her 800-winning time of 2:18.31 at the regional meet was just her third competitive attempt at the distance.
"Running 53 (seconds) in the 400 is my really big goal," she added. "There's a coach from Ole Miss coming out here to watch me, so I'd like to impress them."
Teammates Malquist, McCormack, Woods and Slavik also have high goals, and Malquist, McCormack and Woods each won events at the regional meet.
Malquist, a Gainesville High grad that will be competing for the University of Georgia next season, will take on the field in the decathlon and pole vault after winning both events in North Carolina. Malquist is also the state record holder in the pole vault -- though he bettered that mark by clearing 17-feet at the regional meet.
Meanwhile, McCormack, a North Hall grad that will run this fall for Clemson, will compete in the steeplechase and 5,000 meters in California. It will be McCormack's second trip to nationals and could cap a stellar final prep season in which the former Trojan won state titles in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
Woods, a Flowery Branch grad that will also run at Georgia, will also compete in the 3,000 meters at the national meet.
Slavik didn't win any events at regionals but qualified behind McCormack in the steeple chase in second place.
"It's going to be tough, but it should be a lot of fun too," Rucker said.
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