For premier high school track and field teams, the Chandler Rotary Invitational provides an opportunity to see who has the most talent and depth.
For those who don’t have the numbers it’s a chance to see if they can at least compete with the crème of the crop.
“You try not to psyche yourself out over just one meet,” said Breanna Leslie, a junior hurdler at Chandler Valley Christian. “It’s easy to do. The talent is so incredible. You have to just try and do your best.”
The 68th annual meet begins today with an open competition and will conclude with Saturday’s seeded event in which team points will be awarded.
More than 2,300 athletes from 85 schools — including New Mexico, Colorado and Canada — are set to compete.
Among the schools favored to win team championships this weekend are the state’s usual suspects: Chandler, Phoenix Desert Vista, Phoenix Xavier Prep and Glendale Mountain Ridge among others.
But there is also a second-tier of teams, such as Valley Christian, Chandler Seton Catholic, Queen Creek and Scottsdale Saguaro, whose goals are not focused on team trophies. For teams like this — and there are many others — their hope is to make the finals of an event. Winning would actually be a shock.
“We’ve won some events before,” Valley Christian coach Dan Kuiper said, “but when you compete against schools 10-times larger than you, it doesn’t happen often. It’s just a great opportunity for our kids to go head-to-head against the best competition in the state. Then see what happens.”
The athletes from 4A, 3A and 2A schools don’t feel they have to take a back seat to anyone. And they shouldn’t. Some of the best performances in the state this season have come from non-5A athletes.
A pair of Queen Creek girls relay teams will be in the hunt for medals (awarded to the top three finishers). The 3,200 meter relay team owns the second-best time in the state this season and the 1,600 team has the third-best time.
The Bulldogs’ boys team is led by sophomore Sherrod Hardt who turned in a 4:23 in the 1,600 this season, second-best in the state.
Teammate Jared Call has the third best time in the 110 meter high hurdles and Justin Hamblin’s mark of 6-feet-3 in the high jump is three inches off the state’s best height.
Valley Christian senior Daniel Fanelli would have entered the pole vault as the odds-on favorite. Only problem is, Fanelli is not competing. He will be out of town with the school’s music department.
“It’s disappointing,” said Fanelli, who owns the state’s top mark at 15-feet, 3-inches. “This is the meet you really want to have your best day. There is definitely a different energy.”
The meet also provides the smaller schools an opportunity to qualify for their respective state meets. Kuiper feels with the stronger competition come better results from his athletes.
“They will definitely be pushed,” he said. “We want to qualify as many as we can for state and this is a great time to get it done.”
Chandler Rotary Track Invitational
Chandler High School’s Austin Field, 350 N. Arizona Avenue
More than 80 teams
Friday: Open competition, 2 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Saturday: Seeded competition, 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Athletes to watch:
800 meters: Sarah Penney, Xavier 2:19.57; Andrea Menhenett, Mountain Ridge 2:21.98; Chloe Phillips 11 Flagstaff 2:23.54; Ashley Workman, Queen Creek 2:23.61; April Page, Desert Vista 2:23.79.
1600: Jessica Tonn, Xavier 10:43.21; Nastia Bishton, Mountain Ridge 10:48.44; Hanna Henson , Rio Rico 11:13.47; Natasha Vulic, Mountain Pointe, 11:29.31.
100 meter hurdles: Larissa Mathews, Chandler 14.60; Samantha Collins, Westwood 15.34.
300 meter hurdles: Karen Schillinger, Xavier 46.50; Callie Davis, Highland 46.81.
1600 meter relay: Chandler 3:59.20; Queen Creek 4:09.33 ; Desert Vista 4:09.39; Chandler 4:05.92.
3,200 meter relay: Sandra Day O’Connor 9:47.40; Queen Creek 9:51.08; Chandler 9:55.04; Xavier 9:55.21; Rio Rico 10:02.45; Mountain Ridge 10:07.53.
Pole Vault: Shaylah Simpson, Desert Vista 11-6; Lacy Palmer, Westwood 11-6; Alex Cappelli, Horizon 11-0.
Long Jump: Samantha Collins, Westwood 17-7; Mischa Carson, Chandler 17-0.25
100 meters: Giorgio Giurdanella, Mountain Ridge 10.81; Foley Notre Dame 10.98; Luke Mathews, Desert Vista 11.07.
400 meters: Allante Battle, Desert Vista 49.45; Clark Coyle Mesa 49.53.
800 meters: John Kline, Desert Vista 1:53.49; James Eichberger, Catalina 1:55.20; Chris Frazier, Rio Rico 1:56.47.
Pole Vault: Seth Compton, Marcos De Niza 14-6; Brandon Bear, Mountain View 14-0; Ryan Kunce, Desert Vista 14-0; Joel Lang, Desert Vista, 14-0.
Triple Jump: Kiefer Fields, Tolleson 47-0.75; Luke Mathews, Desert Vista 46-3.25; Michael Dunn, Chandler 44-9.
Shot put: Joe Riccio, Horizon 56-7; Steve Figueroa, Desert Vista 54-10.
Discus: John Luchsinger, 166-11; Steve Figueroa, Desert Vista 166-5, Joe Riccio, Horizon 155-6; Austin Cartwright, Corona Del Sol 154-11.