Parkland sprinter impresses in winter season

Parkland sprinter impresses in winter season
February 12
00:00 2015

A year ago, Parkland sprinter McKinley McNeill opted to run indoor track with her club team, Platinum Sports. This year, she joined her high school team for the winter season and the results have been impressive.

McNeill, a junior, has turned in eye-catching performances in the 500-meter dash. Right after the start of the New Year, she clocked 1 minute, 14.27 seconds in a local competition, then ran 1 minute, 14.04 seconds at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational two weeks ago.

At this juncture, McNeill has the second-fastest time in the U.S. and she’s No. 1 in the state. McNeill seeks to lower her time again on Saturday, Feb. 14 at the Class 4-A State Indoor Track Championships at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem.

Aside from the 500, McNeill will run on the Mustangs’ 4×200 and 4×400 relay teams.

“I’ve been working full-time with Jarrell Elliott (assistant coach) in my training and that’s made a huge difference,” said McNeill. “I no longer have to wonder if I’m ready to run my very best in every race. I can go out at a fast pace and know that there’s enough kick left for me to finish strong. What I’ve been able to do up to now is great, but I realize that others are capable of running faster. That means I have to work even harder than I did before I ran those fast times.”

McNeill’s emergence as a budding indoor performer is a carryover from the 2014 outdoor season. She placed third in the 400 at the state meet and ran a leg on Parkland’s title-winning 4×400 relay. Antwan Hughes, Parkland’s head coach, isn’t surprised that McNeill has posted fast times so soon.

“We knew that once she made the year-round commitment to her high school program that she’d run very fast times,” Hughes said. “McKinley has adjusted well to Coach Elliott’s training methods. Now, she has a chance to run even faster at the state championships and the New Balance nationals in March. Had she chosen to run cross-country in the fall, she’d be even farther along than she is now.”

Elliott believes that McNeill, who has a 4.4 weighted grade-point average, is just beginning to tap into her full potential. The way in which she has responded to early-season conditioning, he explained, bodes well for what’s possible for the remainder of this indoor season as well as the upcoming outdoor season.

“Keep in mind that McKinley is still getting used to running the 500,” said Elliott. “Not only is this her first full year of training, but it’s the first time that she’s been able to build a strong (endurance) base. As a result, she’s reaping the rewards of all the hard work that she’s put in. I feel like she can lower her (500) time to around 1 minute, 13.5 seconds this season. That’s a realistic goal for her.”

Mustangs’ state meet outlook

Because of injuries to key personnel, Parkland’s girls could be hard pressed to repeat as the Class 4-A state indoor team champs in 2015.

Sprinter Erin Morrison (500, 4×400 relay) is out indefinitely with an Achilles injury. At last year’s state meet, Morrison was fourth in the 500 and ran with McNeill on the 4×400 relay. The Mustangs won that relay, but due to a questionable ruling by race officials, they were disqualified after crossing the finish line.

Parkland jumper Ila Mumford, who has been sidelined for two weeks with an ankle injury, returns to compete on Saturday. Mumford scored valuable points in last year’s state indoor championships with a runner-up finish in the triple jump and fourth place in the long jump.

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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