It’s time to leave a legacy.
Eight teams from the Tribune’s coverage area will be defending their state track and field championships. Eight teams have a chance to go down as the ones who either continued the program’s reign at the top or faltered.
No program has been on top longer than the Valley Christian girls in the 2A conference. The Trojans hold the national record for consecutive state championships with 14. Three other teams have won consecutive state titles, led by the Tempe Prep girls, who saw their string of 1A championships reach five last year. The Chandler girls (5A-I) have won four straight and the Desert Vista boys have won three straight in 5A-I.
The other returning champions are the Tempe Prep boys, the Notre Dame boys and the Queen Creek girls.
Here’s a look at the top teams and athletes heading into the 2010 track season.
With underclass stars like Jasmine Todd, Hannah Carson and Alexis Clay, there is no end in sight to the Wolves’ run of dominance.
National record holder for consecutive state titles, the Trojans have some work to do to make it 15 straight. But history has shown that Dan Kuiper’s team finds the right pieces by the time the state meet rolls around.
Thunder are strong everywhere, with athletes like Prasanna Polite and Sydnee Freeman ready to take the next step to become among state’s best. Pole vault crew is arguably the best in the nation.
Bulldogs won last year in 4A-II, but step up to 4A-I will be a challenge. Ashley Workman is back to anchor the distance events, but Bulldogs will need to find a way to replace graduated sprinter Mariah Bowers.
Few programs have the distance runners to compete with the Gators, but they’ll need to find more speed performers like Bianca Lewis was a year ago if they want to fight off Desert Vista and challenge Chandler.
Just another season of reloading in Ahwatukee. The Thunder have a great freshman class coming in to add to an already deep roster that includes standouts Michael Ingrassia and Anders Battle.
If things fall into place for the Wolves, they could make live very interesting in 5A-I. Bryce Wood leads a strong corps of hurdlers and the Wolves have some youth in the field events to replace Bryce Lamb.
The Toros get a shot in the arm from sprinter Carter Brown, who didn’t compete last year. He joins a team with a lot of depth in the distance and field events.
Broncos could join the big three in 5A-I (Desert Vista, Chandler and Mountain View) this year. They have outstanding performers returning in the hurdles (Harry Danilevics), the pole vault (Alex Bishop) and the jumps (Josh Dennard) and add outstanding freshman Devon Allen to the mix.
Last year the Bulldogs fell to third in 4A-II, but don’t expect them to stay down long. Sherod Hardt is back for his final campaign and looks poised to have a monster year. If he can score 25-30 points at the state meet, the Bulldogs have enough pieces to get back into the trophy hunt.
FIVE GIRLS TO WATCH
Hannah Carson, Jr., Chandler
It’s difficult to pick out just one or two Chandler athletes because the Wolves are so good. Carson stands out due to her versatility. If she was allowed, Carson could score points in six or seven events at the state meet. She’s already among the state’s best in the shot put, discus and high jump but can also long jump and run both hurdle events.
Shaylah Simpson, Sr., Desert Vista
She’ll likely take several shots at the state record of 13-0 1/4 in the pole vault this year. But while the pole vault is her bread and butter, Simpson is also a strong high jumper, making her very valuable at the state meet.
Jessica Tonn, Sr., Xavier
With her college choice already made (it’s Stanford), Tonn can enjoy her final prep season and make a run at the state records in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Shauntrell Johnson, Sr., Coronado
The returning state champion in the 100 meters in 4A-II, Johnson will be looking to add to her 100 title and make a run at titles in the 200 and 400.
Destiny Lundy, Jr., Hamilton
She made the finals in both the 100 and 200 last year as a sophomore and is one of the key pieces for the Huskies as they try to narrow the gap with their cross-town rivals at Chandler High.
FIVE BOYS TO WATCH
Anders Battle, Sr., Desert Vista
Carries the burden of living up to the Battle name but appears poised to be the fastest in the family yet (there’s one more Battle coming). Will try to do what brother Allante did (win the 100, 200 and 400 at state), just do it faster.
Carter Brown, Sr., Mountain View
Watching this big redhead barrel down the track in the 100 and 200 is a treat. He runs with abandon and gives the Toros a top-tier sprinter that they’ve been lacking the last couple seasons.
Aaron Hill, Sr., Williams Field
A challenger for the state title in 4A-II in both the high jump and long jump and would be the first track champion for the Black Hawks if he can win.
Sherod Hardt, Sr. Queen Creek
Michigan State-bound distance star opened the season with a time in the 1,600 that was better than anyone in Arizona ran last season. He will go for state titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 after a subpar performance in last year’s state meet.
Derek Molina, Sr. Red Mountain
Another in a deep line of sprinters this year in 5A-I. Molina and Battle ended last year with the exact same top time in the 100 (10.86 seconds).
DID YOU KNOW?
For the first time since the conferences split, the 5A-I and 5A-II meets will be held at the same track (Mesa Community College) as the 4A-I and 4A-II meet. The first day of the 5A meet will be on Wednesday, May 12, while the first day for the 4A schools will be on Friday, May 14. All four conferences will be together for the finals on Saturday May 15. MCC’s track, by the way, just underwent a resurfacing this winter.
Three Desert Vista girls pole vaulters have already cleared 12 feet in their careers, including two (Courtney Reginato and Emily Heisler) who did it in their opening meet of the season. Shaylah Simpson has cleared 12-9 in her career and if one more from the Thunder clear that height, Desert Vista will be the first high school program in the nation to have four girls vaulters over 12 feet.
Kenesha Coleman, who was the 4A-II state champion in the 100 and 200 in 2008 while a freshman at Perry, sat out last season and is competing at Higley this season.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR...
Several state records will be challenged this season.
Xavier’s Jessica Tonn will make a run at two records, both set by Sara Gorton from Mountain Pointe in 1999. Tonn will need to drop eight seconds off her best time from last year to reach Gorton’s 1,600-record of 4:49.11. Tonn will need to drop 10 seconds in the 3,200 to match Gorton’s 10:15.94. Before dismissing Tonn’s chances, keep in mind that from her junior to senior season in cross country, Tonn dropped her time at the state meet 22 seconds.
Queen Creek’s Sherod Hardt opened his season with a time of 4:11.49 in the 1,600, putting him well within range of the state record of 4:06.44 set by Jeff Canada of Greenway back in 1983.
Shaylah Simpson of Desert Vista went 12-9 3/4 last season and is eyeing the state standard of 13-0 1/4 set by Lake Havasu’s April Kubishta in 2003.
Finally, the South Mountain girls hold the state record in the 1,600-meter relay, but Chandler has the pieces on hand to make a run at that time of 3:51.02. Last year, the Wolves posted a time of 3:54.77.
As a sophomore, Desert Vista’s Michael Ingrassia ran a time of 37.98 in the 300-meter hurdles. If he can improve just a little this year, he’ll be nipping at the record of 37.01 set by Westwood’s Cylend Simmons in 2007.
March 26-27: The 70th annual Chandler Rotary Invitational
April 1: The 58th annual Casa Grande Kiwanis Invitational
April 1: The Scottsdale Distance Classic
April 8 and 10: The ASU Sun Angel HS Invitational
April 9-10: Arcadia Invitational, Walnut, Calif.
April 16: Queen Creek Invitational
April 17: Valley Christian Invitational
April 23: Mesa Hohokam Invitational
May 4-8: Region meets
May 12-15: State meets