Chandler Rotary draws top HS track talent as records fall

With 14 champions from last year’s Chandler Rotary Invitational back again this year, it’s no surprise that there were many repeats.

There were actually 46 state champions from 107 high schools in four states on hand over the weekend to celebrate the event’s 71st year, making it the biggest and most competitive meet in Arizona.  Last year’s meet drew 96 entrants, which was a record until this year.

In the 400-meter dash, Dylan Hambright and Alexis Roberts won repeat titles.  Hambright, a senior from Arcadia High School in Scottsdale, posted a 48.78 time to win the boys’ event, while Roberts, a Chandler High sophomore, earned the repeat by finishing the girls’ race in 57.43.

And Trae Armstrong from Deer Valley High School defended his titles in both the boys’ 100 and 200, posting a 10.66 mark in the 100 and 21.44 in the 200.

But the spotlight fell, as it often does, on Jasmine Todd, Hannah Carson, and Billy Orman.  That trio of competitors continue to dominate their respective events.

Todd, the junior speedster from Chandler High School, eclipsed a 9-year-old state record for the triple jump by six inches with a leap of 41’05” and then won the 100 meters in 11.73 before pulling up lame with a strained hamstring.  She was the favorite to win the long jump and would have run a leg of the 4×100 relay.

Todd and teammate Ky Westbrook gave Chandler a sweep of the top two spots in the 100 meter, with Westbrook finishing right off Todd’s shoulder in a time of 11.80.  Westbrook is a freshman with a huge upside ahead of her.

During her first two years at Chandler HS, Todd captured six state titles and was named the girls’ Track Athlete of the Year by the East Valley Tribune for her sophomore season.  Last summer, she won the long jump at both the Nike Nationals (18’9″) and USATF region championships (18’08.75″), and the triple jump at the region meet (38’1.75″).

But a couple of seniors competing in this year’s event have already built their reputations and are looking to move on to the next level.

Billy Orman, who is headed for Harvard after finishing his high school career this season at Tuba City High School, was his usually dominant self in winning the boys’ distance events.

Orman, who has evolved into one of the premier distance runners in the country, won the 1,600 meters in 4:12.05 to nip second-place Alejandro Montano of Catalina Magnet HS in Tucson by four seconds, and then went on to set a meet record in winning the 3,200 in 9:07.25.

And Chandler High‘s Hannah Carson once again dominated the girls’ field events, wrapping up titles in the discus (138’01”), shot put (45’6″), and high jump (5’8″).

One of the events that always draws interest is the beauty of style in the hurdles.  And this year’s event had the added draw of a national-caliber competitor.  Jaide Stepter, a junior from Canyon del Oro HS in Oro Valley, owns the top national time in the 300-meter hurdles, 43.32.  She didn’t hit her national mark, but did finish in 44.06 for the win.  Chandler‘s Paul Perkins won the boys’ event in a time of 38.07.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the two-day event held at Chandler High’s Austin Field came in the girls’ 800-meter event, which had three Arizona state champions entered.  Two of those, Yasmine Yacut from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, and Arcadia’s Tess Berghoff placed.  Yacut took second and Berghoff came in third.

But it was Ashley Kealamakia, a senior from Liberty High School in Peoria, that won this year’s title with a time of 2:13.78.