By Mike Elder
Tuesday, August 5, 2008 12:39 PM CDT

Kiana Ruff of the St. Louis Blues finished first in her age group in the 800 meters and finished second in the 400 at the AAU Junior Olympics in Detroit.
Alishea Usery doesn't win them all.

The former McCluer South-Berkeley superstar sprinter made a bet with her former St. Louis Blues coach Rodney Dotson that his current 4x400-meter Young Women (17-18) squad would not top the time of 3:41 put up by herself, sister Ashley, LaJada Baldwin and Paris Daniels at the AAU Junior Olympics last summer.

Well, the team of Lauren Hollingsworth (Villa Duchesne), Yolanda Suggs (Belleville East), Olivia Lewis (Gateway Tech) and Daniels (Normandy) did just that. The team ran a 3:40.87 at the meet in Detroit, Mich., last week to finish first in the nation. The time came close to the national record of 3:40.80.We had a little one dollar bet, said Dotson. I told her before she left for (the University of Florida), I was going to come collect. I told her I was going to take that dollar and put it in a frame.

He'll have to go shopping for a frame now. The team, which had a previous best time of 3:47, improved dramatically to win the event.

I knew we could run better but we had never had anybody to push us, said Dotson. I told the girls I knew they could win it. It was really special. It was a highlight. Nobody left the stadium because they all wanted to see the 4x400.

The victory in the 4x400 took away the pain Daniels felt after finishing a disappointing eighth in the 400. She entered the event hoping to win it and became the favorite after posting the best time (54.5) in the prelims. But she got a terrible cramp about halfway through the final and had to limp to a time of 58.8 seconds.

She cried, said Dotson of Daniels' reaction. She just forgot to drink water. I told her she's got to listen to the old man and drink the water.

Her great time in the prelims was enough to catch the attention of a number of Division I schools, though. Dotson said coaches from Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Wisconsin and Kansas all approached him about Daniels, who will attend Fort Scott Community College in Kansas in the fall.

Although Daniels was disappointed with her open event performance, McCluer South-Berkeley junior-to-be Kiana Ruff wasn't with hers. She ran a 2:11.24 to win the 800 meters in the girls Intermediate (15-16) division and she also finished second in the 400 (55.45).

I thought her performances were great, said Dotson of Ruff. Kiana is just one of those kids who is a coach's dream. She does what I ask her to do and then she implements it on the track.

The Blues also got a fifth place finish at nationals from its Young Women 4x100 relay. The team of Hollingsworth, Lewis, Suggs and Taelar King (McCluer South-Berkeley) clocked a time of 46.99.

Lewis also finished sixth in the 200 in a time of 24.66 and the Bantam (9-10 girls) 4x100-meter relay team of Symiah Fulton, Raven Fletcher, Alexia Rainey and Damita Williams finished third in a time of 56.1.

Those little kids wanted to win so bad, said Blues coach Denise McField, who coaches the young girls on the squad. They were disappointed they took third. I told them that there were like 100 teams starting off and they were No. 3 in the whole nation.

Fletcher also got a medal in the 200 with an eighth place finish (28.4).

On the boys side, the Blues Intermediate (15-16) 4x400 relay squad of Edwin Young (SLUH), LaRon Cook (Hazelwood East), Steven Armstrong (Hazelwood Central) and Michael Hester (Hazelwood East) finished second in a time of 3:19.2.

I was thrilled, said boys coach Johnathan Rodgers. I knew we had a chance to win it. It would have been great if we could have won it. But to place second out of 60 is nothing to hang your head about.

The 4x800 squad in the same classification also finished fourth overall in a time of 8:22. That group included Mike Wingo (McCluer), Young, Cook and Armstrong.