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Published: Thursday, 7/28/2005

Graham in national Junior Olympics

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Meshawn Graham sprinted all the way to a state title during her first track season at Bowsher last spring.

She didn't stop and rest after her impressive high school

debut at the state meet.

Graham is looking to add to her winning ways when she competes in the 39th USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships starting today in Indianapolis.

Graham, who claimed an Ohio Division I title in the 200 meters along with a third in the 400 in June, is competing in the 200 and 400-meter Intermediate Girls (ages 15-16) competition in the four-day meet.

"I'm going to try and go out and do my best," said Graham, who qualified for Indianapolis by placing first in the 400 and second in the 200 in regional competition recently.

The USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships is recognized as the largest and best known youth athlete development program in the world. Graham is competing in one of five age divisions, which also includes Bantam (10 and under), Midget (11-12), Youth (13-14) and Young Men/Women (17-18).

Courtney Siebenaller of Whitmer (100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, pole vault) and Jasmine Branch of Central Catholic (800) are also representing Toledo in the Intermediate Girls division.

Graham and approximately 30 other athletes spent much of the summer running as members of her father's summer track team, High Velocity, which she is representing at the USATF championships. She was the only member of the team to advance to the meet that includes competitors from across the nation.

"A national track meet is

eally high profile," said Mark Graham, who also served as one of Meshawn's coaches at Bowsher. "These are the top track and field athletes in the country. Her performance in that setting makes a state meet back home easier."

At the USATF regionals, Meshawn ran a 56.42 in the 400 and a 25.06 in the 200. She posted a winning time of 24.5 in the 200 at the USATF state competition, which bettered her 24.69 when she won the Division I state title in the spring.

The elder Graham likes her chances to hold her own against the national competition this week.

"I think she can win the 400 and I think she can do darn good in that 200," Mark said. "She knows what she can do if she's got it all together mentally and steps on that track happy."

Graham will run in the 400 preliminaries today and 200 preliminaries tomorrow.

"It's a little bit of the same thing, but a different kind of competition level," she said. "I think the competition is a lot more serious when you get to the nationals.''

The competition, which is expected to draw more than 10,000, concludes on Sunday.

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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