Heartland Classic done, Nike Track Nationals run today

The summer months hardly qualify as “off-season” any more, as high school sports teams use the time to travel around the country, testing their mettle against teams from other states.

Just last week, an Arizona team made up of baseball players from 18 different high schools throughout the state spent six days at the Heartland Classic tournament in Norman, Okla.

And today, three Arizona high schools are competing at the inaugural Nike Track Nationals in Eugene, Ore., to determine a mythical track & field national champion.

The baseball team met with mixed results at the Heartland Classic, winning five of its eight games and finishing in fifth place.  They played Team Ohio for fifth place, winning a close contest, 3-2.

The tournament, which was re-named from the Sunbelt Classic this year,  is one of the most unique baseball tournaments in the country, where families in the Norman community put the players from the various teams up in their homes.  This year, there were teams from Arizona, Georgia, Arkansas, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Canada.

In the past, the tournament was for recently-graduated seniors, but was opened this year to include freshman through seniors.  But the Arizona team was comprised of seniors only, with Mesquite HS and Canyon del Oro HS placing two each on the squad.

The team included Jason Frost, Queen Creek HS; Tucker Esmay, Casa Grande HS; Nate McOwen, Westview HS; Ty Wester, Blue Ridge HS; Kurt Janke, Saguaro HS; Jason Gonzales and Rocky High, Mesquite HS; Hunter Zwart, Mingus HS; Juan Vega, Nogales HS; Levi Smith, Winslow HS; Greg Ryan and Ryan Cota, Corona del Sol HS; Kevin Wirth, Sinagua HS; TJ Bennett, Red Mountain HS; TC Mark, Pinnacle HS; Taylor Kaczmarek, Desert Ridge HS; Alex Brown, Amphitheater HS; Malcom Purdy, Paradise Valley HS; David Abney, Verrado HS; and Dan Slania, Salplointe Catholic.

But there is a better chance of an Arizona team coming back with a trophy at the Nike Nationals in Eugene.

The Chandler HS girls track team, which won the 5A-I state title, has been ranked No. 2 in the country throughout the 2010 season and has sent seven athletes to compete in the national showdown. The Wolves should have a good shot at winning it all today.

Brophy Prep, which received an automatic bid by finishing the season ranked No. 1 in the Southwest Region, and the Desert Vista HS girls’ squad, which received an at-large bid because of their No. 7 national ranking, will each send seven competitors.

Only one state is sending more than Arizona’s three team entries.  Six teams from California were invited.

The event includes just the top 12 boys and girls teams in the country, for a total field of 24 teams.  From March 1 through June 13, high school coaches were invited to compete in the virtual competition by inputting to a website marks recorded throughout the season, using times and records set at USATF meets.

Each participant can participate in a maximum of two events and 10 events will be recorded for each team at today’s event.

Making the trip:

Chandler HS:  Jasmine Todd (100m, long jump); Hannah Carson (shot put, discus); Alexis Clay (100H); Alexis Roberts (400m); Haley Bowser (pole vault); Cadija Harris (high jump); and Mia Townsend (mile run).

Brophy Prep:  Devon Allen (100m); Harry Danilevics (400m, 110H); Tommy Williams (800m, mile); James Harper (high jump); Josh Dennard (long jump); Alex Bishop (pole vault); and Geoff Roxborough (discus).

Desert Vista HS:  Julia Kline (100H); Syndee Freeman (100m, 400m); Yasmine Yacut (800m); Heather Arseneau (pole vault); Mary Kretschmar (high jump); Lindsay Jantzi (long jump); and Kadie McNamara (shot put, discus).