New Balance Nationals Outdoor Preview: Athletes, Events To Watch

By Gary Martin

June 13, 2023

With June well underway and the weather taking on an unmistakably soupy quality to it, we’ve officially reached my favorite time of the year: postseason track and field.

On the high school level, that means the nation’s top talents will be heading to my neck of the woods – Greater Philly – and competing at Franklin Field for New Balance Outdoor Nationals. I’m super excited in general to cover the meet with CITIUS MAG this weekend. You’ll be able to watch all of the action for free on the New Balance YouTube channel starting on Thursday.

Here are a few events that I’m especially eager to see.

Boys Discus Championship: Friday, June 16th, 12:00 p.m.

Names to watch: Fabian Gonzalez (203-2.5), Benjamin Shue (200-10), Junior Payton-Kimble (198-7)

Preview: Featuring three of the nation’s ten best discus throwers, this one looks to be the premier event on the throws side of things. Gonzalez and Shue are the only two guys in the field who have thrown over 200’ this season and as Garden Staters, both will look to bring the title home to New Jersey. They’ve only faced off once this season, when Gonzalez got the better of Shue at Penn Relays.

The other top entry in the field, Junior Payton-Kimble, will be leaving his home state of North Carolina and facing a national caliber field for the first time this season. Payton-Kimble has gone undefeated across both the discus and shot put all season and will look to keep that streak going at Nationals.

Boys Championship 2 Mile: Friday, June 16th, 7:27pm

Names to watch: Daniel Simmons (8:37.12*), Kole Mathison (8:47.11), Noah Jenkins (8:46.23*), Drew Griffith (8:48.01)

Preview: Daniel Simmons enters as the favorite after cementing himself as one of the best two-milers in the nation through his 8:34.14 3200m showing at Arcadia earlier this season. For Simmons, I think his best bet is to use his strength to his advantage by trying to break away from the pack with three or four laps to go. He doesn’t have the speed of some of the guys in this field, but he certainly is the strongest runner.

Kole Mathison and Drew Griffith were both top finishers at New Balance Nationals Indoors and will look to back that up with a top finish at the Outdoor Championship. Noah Jenkins is another runner with a similar profile to Daniel Simmons; he’s got a huge aerobic engine and the longer the distance the better for him. Arcadia was a breakout meet for him as well – he went 8:43.19 for 3200m there.

Kole MathisonKole Mathison

Johnny Zhang/@jzsnapz

Girls Championship 2 Mile: Friday, June 16th, 7:38pm

Names to watch: Leah Stephens (10:02.26*), Allie Zealand (10:09.68*), Abby Faith Cheeseman (10:10.15*), Mary Bonner Dalton (10:12.17*)

Preview: Leah Stephens is the name to watch here, as she looks to back up her 9:58.79 3200m with a win at Nationals. It’s worth pointing out that when Stephens ran her PR, she did it in the hardest way possible: completely solo! She could be due for a new PR if she can get some help from the field early in the race. Look for names such as Allie Zealand, Abby Faith Cheeseman, and Mary Bonner Dalton to challenge her early and try to pull off an upset.

Boys Championship 100m: Saturday, June 17th, 12:30pm

Names to watch: Isaam Asinga (9.83*), Brody Buffington (10.15), Nyckoles Harbor (10.20)

Preview: Truthfully, the Boys 100m may be THE event of the weekend, simply because of one name: Isaam Asinga. Asinga has been a must-watch every time he’s stepped on the track this season, and he’s delivered a jaw-dropping performance practically every time!

Though none have been wind legal, he’s run under 10.0 for the 100m FOUR times this season. But even more impressively, he’s defeated multiple top pros over the distance, including world 200m champion Noah Lyles. Asinga doesn’t have anything left to prove at the high school level, but it will be exciting to see what he can pull off in front of the crowd at Franklin Field. There are also multiple top talents in this field besides Asinga, including Brody Buffington and Nyckoles Harbor. With these fellas headlining the field, we could see one of the fastest 100m races in high school history at New Balance Nationals on Saturday.

Boys Championship Mile: Saturday, June 17th, 6:40pm

Names to watch: Tinoda Matsatsa (3:58.70), Devan Kipyego (4:00.64), Brian DiCola (4:04.14), Aaron Sahlman (4:00.30)

Preview: After his breakout performance and win in the 800m at New Balance Indoor Nationals, I wrote about how Tinoda Matsatsa is an athlete to watch for the outdoor season. Since then, he has lowered his mile PR from 4:10 to 3:58 to make himself one of the fastest milers in high school history. He’ll have a target on his back on Saturday as multiple athletes in the field look to track him down and nab their own first sub-four.

Two of those guys are Devan Kipyego and Aaron Sahlman, who have both run 4:00. Kipyego’s season best is 4:03 and he’s been a bit inconsistent at times, but he clearly has the talent to break through and go under four minutes on the right day. Sahlman has both the strength and speed needed to go under 4:00, but there are questions surrounding his health. He was a DNF at HOKA Festival of Miles after announcing he had an IT band tear a few weeks ago.

Another guy to watch is my fellow PA native Brian DiCola. DiCola won the Penn Relays on this track and brought his mile PR down to 4:04.14 in the process. He’s showcased an elite kick in championship races, specifically New Balance Indoor Nationals, and could certainly mix it up with the top guys.

Devan KipyegoDevan Kipyego

Johnny Zhang/@jznapz

Girls Championship Mile: Saturday, June 17th, 6:58pm

Names to watch: Sadie Engelhardt (4:35.04*), Sophia Gorriaran (4:37.54), Charlotte Bell (4:41.33), Leah Stephens (4:42.19), Stella Kermes (4:42.90)

Preview: The mile may be the premier girls distance event of the weekend. At the top of the entries, we’re getting treated to a battle between two of the nation’s absolute best distance talents. Gorriaran is mostly an 800m specialist, but she can step up to the mile and lay down an elite performance, as showcased by her impressive 4:37.54 PR.

Engelhardt, on the other hand, is a pure miler and has run 4:33.45 for 1600m (converted to 4:35.04 for a full mile.) If these two can push each other and look to go after a fast time, we could see something special! The national record for the mile is 4:33.87 from Katelyn Tuohy; that’s well within reach!

Aside from the two girls at the front, there’s a lot of depth in the rest of the field as well. Highlighting the pack are Charlotte Bell, Leah Stephens, and Stella Kermes. Bell and Kermes, teammates from Cuthbertson High School in North Carolina, and Stephens all picked up their PRs at the HOKA Festival of Miles and will look to break through the 4:40 barrier at New Balance Nationals.

Girls Championship 200m: Sunday, June 18th, 11:07am

Names to watch: Adaejah Hodge (22.33), Shawnti Jackson (22.70)

Preview: The 200m looks primed for some serious fireworks Sunday morning, headlined by all-time greats Adajah Hodge and Shawnti Jackson. Hodge has the faster PR over 200m after she defeated Jackson at New Balance Indoor Nationals and took over HALF A SECOND off the previous national record!

Hodge saved her best race for last during the indoor season, could she do it again at New Balance Outdoor Nationals? It certainly won’t be easy. Shawnti Jackson has raised herself to a whole new level this outdoor season. Jackson smashed the national record in the 100m by running 10.89 and has also run 52.13 for 400m to go with her 22.70 in the 200m.

Jackon’s PR in the 200m may trail Hodge’s by a bit, but with the breakthroughs we’ve seen from her recently, I think another huge performance could be due. I’m not sure whose way I think this race will go, but no matter what happens, I know that jaws will be left on the floor.

Boys Championship 800m: Sunday, June 18th, 12:19pm

Names to watch: Tinoda Matsatsa (1:48.27), Patrick Hilby (1:48.81), Drew Regnier (1:49.35), Aaron Sahlman (1:48.91), Xai Ricks (1:49.19)

After being treated to watching Cade Flatt and Will Sumner rewrite the history books last year, it was hard to imagine this year’s crop of top 800m runners matching the hype.

Although I doubt that a 1:46 is in the cards for any of these boys this season, the depth of the event makes it arguably just as exciting. The event is highlighted by newly minted sub-four-minute miler, Tinoda Matsatsa, who I think has a great chance of going well under 1:48. He’ll receive a challenge from the field though; Patrick Hilby is coming off a big PR at HOKA Festival of Miles. Drew Regnier has gone sub-1:50 twice this year. And Aaron Sahlman may factor in, health permitting.

And finally, Xai Ricks, the biggest wild card of the favorites, has possibly the highest upside in the field outside of Matsatsa. Ricks ran his 1:49.19 PR back in March and hasn’t contested an 800m since then, but he has brought his 400m down from 47.74 to 46.06 in that time. It’s hard to say if it will translate, but with that kind of speed development, Ricks may be due for a huge performance at New Balance Nationals.

Girls Championship 800m: Sunday, June 18th, 2:36pm

Names to watch: Allison Ince (2:03.17), Sophia Gorriaran (2:00.58), Nicki Southerland (2:05.06)

Preview: The 800m looks to be a battle between Allison Ince and Sophia Gorriaran. Gorriaran will be looking to pull off an impressive double after the mile the night before, while Ince will be fresh for the 800m.

Despite Ince owning the faster time on the season, Gorriaran is likely the favorite with a 2:00.58 PR. Gorriaran, a Harvard commit, will likely opt for the pace to be fast and for the race to be spread out early. Another athlete who could factor in is Nicki Southerland. The Indiana junior has been on a roll and shaved 3 seconds off her 800m PR in her last three races. At NBN last year, this race was won in 2:05.61, but with the right conditions, I think we could see these girls go for a time closer to 2:01-2:02.

Gary Martin

University of Virginia distance runner. Archbishop Wood alum. High school sub-4 miler. Sixers superfan.