The 2006 prep track and field season opens with some interesting questions. The Wolves broke Mountain View's two-year hold on the 5A championship and appear talented enough to make it two straight of their own.
With outstanding sprinters, hurdlers and relay teams, the Wolves will be difficult to beat this season in 5A Division I, but Desert Vista and Mountain View will take their chances.
In 2A, Valley Christian looks to continue its dynasty and run its state title streak to six straight.
The rest of the conferences are toss-ups, as many teams find themselves competing against unfamiliar foes due to the division splits in 4A and 5A.
In 5A, the division split shook up the state qualifying process. Instead of taking the top four from each region, now just the region champion is guaranteed a spot at state. Everyone else must either meet the pre-qualifying standards during the regular season or wait and see if their region time is good enough to get them in the state field.
TEAMS TO WATCH
1. Chandler: Defending champs have plenty of points returning in Ashtyn Lamb and Mikhail Barton and coach Steve Carson's program continues to grow.
2. Mountain View: Once again, the Toros enter the season with a bunch of unknowns, but will likely contend for a state title. Strength of team is a deep distance corps.
3. Desert Vista: The Thunder return distance standouts Garrett Kelly and Matt Swift-Kraemer and also have some emerging sprint and field event stars.
4. Valley Christian: The Trojans are going after their 6th straight championship and have plenty returning to do it. Distance runner Corey Botma and a strong group of throwers will lead the way.
5. Westwood: Coach Harold Smith has plenty of depth to go along with standout sprinter/hurdler Cylend Simmons and the Warriors will be nipping on the heels of Mountain View in the East Valley Region.
TOP 5 PERFORMERS
Cylend Simmons, Westwood: Defending state champion in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles will set his sights on winning multiple titles.
Shea Kearney, Desert Vista: Surprise, surprise, another great pole vaulter comes along for the Thunder. Junior has already cleared 16feet, inch during indoor season.
Phil Feinberg, Corona del Sol: While playing basketball will keep him busy for the next week or so, the junior will jump right back into being the best high jumper in the state. Next goal is the 7-foot barrier.
James Bogner, Paradise Valley: As a junior, the Columbia University-bound Bogner was sick during the final weeks of the season and enters his senior year with his sights set on erasing that disappointment. He is the favorite in 5A Division II in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs and may well end up the best in all the classes in those events.
Mikhail Barton, Chandler: Choosing just one from an outstanding group of Wolves is difficult, but Barton will be right there among the front runners in the 100 and 200 meters.
OTHER ATHLETES TO WATCH
Wil Ramsey, Basha, Sr., sprints
Shane McBurney, Basha, Sr., hurdles/jumps
Jeremy Lashinske, Brophy, Jr., pole vault
Ray Polk, Brophy, So., sprints/hurdles
Anthony Hooks, Brophy, So., sprints
Ashtyn Lamb, Chandler, Jr., sprints/hurdles
Kyle Ellsworth, Chandler, Jr., pole vault
Jim Burnett, Chandler, Sr., sprints
Brenden McMaster, Corona del Sol, Sr., distance
Matt Moseley, Corona del Sol, Jr., sprints
Alex Lowen, Desert Mountain, Sr., sprints
Matt Swift-Kramer, Desert Vista, Jr., distance
Garrett Kelly, Desert Vista, Sr., distance
John Kline, Desert Vista, So., distance
Josh Embree, Dobson, Sr., throws
Mike Rodriguez, Dobson, Sr., distance
Marcus Richmond, Dobson, Sr., sprints
Matt Petrucci, Marcos de Niza, Sr., distance
Joseph Santillian, Marcos de Niza, Jr., distance
Marcus Clanton, Mountain Pointe, Sr., hurdles
Justin Hackitt, Mountain View, Sr., distance
Brock Hogan, Mountain View, Jr., sprints/jumps
Dontay Moch, Hamilton, Sr., sprints
Tyler Arnold, Highland, Jr. sprints
Andrew Price, Horizon, Jr., distance
Jim Walmsley, Horizon, So., distance
Joe Riccio, Horizon, So., throws
Josh Jarvis, Mesa, Sr., sprints
Marcos Gonzalez, Mesa, Jr., hurdles
Brian Rudd, Mesquite, Sr., jumps
Mike Williams, Paradise Valley, Jr., sprinter
Cory Grant, Red Mountain, Sr., sprints
Jay Petsch, Red Mountain, Sr., hurdles
Mark Brown, Westwood, Sr., throws
Anthony Turner, Westwood, Sr., sprints
Reed Blochberger, Arcadia, Sr., distance
Matt Hull, Arcadia, Sr., pole vault
Tyler Porras, Saguaro, Sr., jumps/hurdles/sprints
Omar Khalil, Saguaro, Sr., throws
Talon Allen, Queen Creek, Sr., sprints/jumps
Jon Arnett, Queen Creek, Sr., hurdles/jumps
Ryan Lee, Higley, Jr., distance
Nick Tooker, Chaparral, Sr., sprints
Xavier Lucas, McClintock, Sr., sprints
Austin Bailey, Cactus Shadows, Sr., sprints
Patrick Cronin, Cactus Shadows, Sr., distance
Eric Gorraiz, Cactus Shadows, Jr., throws
T.J. White, Coolidge, Jr., sprints
Jesse Wheeler, Coolidge, Jr., sprints
Jaime Cassillas, Coolidge, Sr., sprints
Jeff Sandell, Seton, Sr., distance
Corey Botma, Valley Christian, Jr., distance
Nick Hernandez, Valley Christian, Sr., throws
Shawn Vance, Valley Christian, Sr., pole vault
Calvin Drenth, Scottsdale Christian, Sr., distance
Josh Fredericks, Scottsdale Christian, Sr., distance
John Cox, Horizon Honors, Sr., hurdles
Honoring Barry: Chandler High will host a Meet of Champions on May 20 in honor of the late Arizona Interscholastic Association historian Barry Sollenberger. The meet, held May 20 (a week after the state meets wrap up), will try to draw the top teams and individuals from all classes.
Wynn-Zucco growing: The name got longer over the years and so did the meet, but this year's Wynn-Zucco Tempe Relays will be a doozy. All three days (April 13-15) of the meet will be held at Arizona State University in conjunction with the Sun Angel Classic, and the meet is open to the first 45 teams to enter.
New places: Longtime Mountain Pointe boys track coach Karl Kiefer stepped down and in stepped Kris Alexander, and John Prather went from Desert Mountain to coaching boys and girls track at Saguaro. Another new face is in control at Westwood, where Harold Smith coaches the boys team. Also, Fred Clare went from Gilbert High School to Queen Creek. Also at Queen Creek, Ellie Hardt, mother of cross country star Kari, takes over the girls program that is coming off back-to-back 3A championships.
New standards: Coaches in 4A Division I and II were no doubt surprised to see the automatic qualifying standards for the state meets. In the majority of the events, the qualifying standards in 4A were much higher than those in 5A. Some 4A coaches are currently trying to get the AIA to reconfigure those standards, but nothing has changed as of the start of the season.
Last hurrah: Paradise Valley boys coach Bob Cayton is beginning his 13th and final season.
Friday: The season kicks off with a pair of quality meets, the Desert Classic, which starts at 9 a.m. at Queen Creek, and the Paradise Valley Relays, which begin at 3 p.m. at Paradise Valley High School.
Saturday: Aztec Invite at Corona del Sol
March 24-25: Chandler Rotary Invitational at Chandler High School
April 1: Freshmen Showcase at Cactus Shadows; Valley Classic at Alhambra High School
April 7: Scottsdale Running Co. Distance Classic at Saguaro High School; Kiwanis Invitational at Casa Grande High School
April 8-9: Arcadia Invitational, Arcadia, Calif.
April 13: Opening day of three-day Wynn-Zucco Tempe Relays/Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State University; Gilbert Invitational at Gilbert High School.
April 21: fLost Dutchman Invitational at Apache Junction High School; Tribune Invite at Westwood High School
April 26: Scottsdale City Meet at Desert Mountain High School
May 3-5: Region Meets
May 10-13: State meets: 5A-I and 5A-II at Arizona State; 4A-I, 4A-II and 2A at Mesa Community College; 3A and 1A at Mesa High School.
— Compiled by Steve Burks