The Chandler girls track team didn’t buy into the hype of competing for a mythical national championship right away.
Until, of course, it went viral on Facebook.
The Wolves are one of three Arizona teams traveling to Eugene, Ore. on Friday to compete in the Nike Track Nationals, an event in which the top 12 boys and girls teams in the country have been invited for a national showdown.
"Initially when I first told them, they were like, 'Yeah, whatever, it's just a little deal on the computer,'" Chandler coach Eric Richardson said. "Then a couple people started talking about it on Facebook. People from other states were asking about the people from Chandler, and we were No. 1 for the first three or four weeks. Ever since then, they've been following it pretty closely."
Chandler is the second-ranked girls team in the 12-team field behind Long Beach Poly. The Desert Vista girls team and the Brophy boys will also compete. Qualifying standards were based on marks throughout the season and tallied on the website www.niketracknationals.com.
Chandler will send seven athletes, including the Tribune’s Girls Track Athlete of the Year, Jasmine Todd (100-meter dash, long jump), and Hannah Carson (discus, shot put).
Brophy will send seven athletes, including Devon Allen (100), Harry Danilevics (400, 110-meter hurdles) and Tommy Williams (800, mile). Desert Vista will send eight athletes, including Syndee Freeman (100, 400) and Heather Arsenau (pole vault).
Each person can participate in a maximum of two events.
Richardson believes track and field in the state continues to improve, and the presence of three Arizona schools among the 24 finalists validates his thinking.
"We always felt like we were legitimate, but it does add some legitimacy to your program when you're ranked among the elite in the country," he said.
Richardson said this race was in the back of is head as he drew up a training regimen for the track season.
He still planned for his athletes to peak during the state track meet in May — in which the Wolves cruised to the 5A Division I title — but also wanted to keep them conditioned for this event.
"It’s a fine line," Richardson said. "Obviously our target is the state meet, and trying to maintain that line for six weeks is virtually impossible. We had a plan we implemented where we went back to basics for a couple weeks. Trying to be on that level will be tough, but we've been training hard and our goal is to put our best foot forward."
Althought the Wolves took the event lightly at first, they don’t lack for motivation now.
"We're taking it as a competition," Richardson said. "We’re trying to win it."
Nike Track Nationals
Who: Chandler girls; Desert Vista girls, Brophy boys
What: A mythical track and field national championship, featuring 24 teams from across the country
Where: Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.