Meet of Champions great way to end HS track season

This year’s Meet of Champions once again gave high school track athletes from the smaller schools a chance to compete head-to-head with those from the 4A and 5A divisions.

The meet, held Saturday at Queen Creek HS, is an AIA-sanctioned event and is considered the premier post-season competition.  Athletes who won their event at one of the seven state meet divisions were automatically eligible for entry, and then the field was filled out with invited athletes who have shown well at important meets.

Some found the opportunity to compete with athletes from across the spectrum a great experience.

Some found it to be a humbling experience.

Schools like 5A Desert Vista HS continued to dominate in the girls pole vault, claiming the top five spots, as they usually do.  Shaylah Simpson took top honors with a vault of 13’04”, which broke her own state record of 13’02” and ranks her as third-best across the country.

Her winning vault was more than a foot above her nearest competitor.

Simpson was followed by teammates Courtney Reginato (12’01”), Kylie Harmon (12’01”), Heather Arseneau (12’01”) and Emily Heisler (11’07”).   Arseneau has also cleared 13 feet this season and the girls’ team has five vaulters who have cleared at least 12’01”, which is reportedly the first time that has happened at any high school in the nation.

On the other hand, the smaller 3A Payson HS was well represented, it thought.  Dustin Iles earned his way to the MOC by virtue of a state title in the 300m hurdles, Maddie Nossek won the high jump and long jump at the state meet, Molly West was runner-up in the shot put, and Forrest Wadington was invited to compete in the 800m.

Out of the field of Longhorns stepping up to the level of competition at the MOC, Iles fared the best, winning the 300m hurdles in a time of 38.81, just a couple of strides ahead of Tolleson’s Tevin Blaylark, the 5A-II state champion, at 39.79.  Nossek took third in the high jump (5’02”) and fifth in the long jump (17’06”), West finished fifth in the shot put (36’08”), and Wadington came in 13th in the 800m (2:03.00), considerably off the pace of his personal-best time of 2:00.94.

And 4A Flagstaff HS just sent one competitor, Amanda Stricker, who had won the long jump in the 4A-II state meet.  Her personal-best mark of 17’03” is just short of the school record, and she had hoped to be able to hit that mark again in Queen Creek.

But Stricker was just able to manage a seventh-place finish at the MOC, hitting  17’02.25″.  Brian Shrader, Flagstaff’s premier long distance runner who holds 13 state track and cross-country titles, would have accompanied Stricker but declined an invitation to compete, closing out his high school career with the state meet.  Time to start getting ready to compete for the University of Oregon.

As expected, there were multiple-event winners throughout the field this year.  Hannah Carson from Chandler HS won both the shot put (44’11.75″) and the discus throw (137’07”) and teammate Jasmine Todd took the 100m dash (12.09) and the long jump (19’01.25″).

Carson is a junior who is ranked No. 1 in the country in the javelin throw (which is not included in AIA meets), hitting a personal record of 171 feet, and has a state title in the discus in her resume.  Todd is just a sophomore, but her long jump of 19’11” is a record in 5A competition and the fourth-best in Arizona history.

Shea Grant from Estrella Foothills won the 300m hurdles in a time of 45.73 and came in second in the 100m hurdles in 15.59, right behind Chandler’s Alexis Clay (15.25).

On the boys’ side, Sherod Hardt and Billy Orman showed why they are two of the premier distance runners in the state.  Hardt, a top cross-country runner from Queen Creek HS, won the 800m in 1:54.11, just a few seconds faster than Brophy Prep’s Tommy Williams (1:56.65).  Orman, from Tuba City HS, cruised to a victory in the 3200m in 9:04.97.  And Cody Rosengarten from Tombstone HS won the 1600m in 4:21.46.

In the field events, Brandon Pineda from Tolleson HS won the shot put (55’10”) and finished runner-up in the discus (170’01”) to Buena’s Jeremy Tuttle (176’01”).

(Photo: Milesplit/Margot Kelly)