Willie Williams Classic showcased top prep track athletes

When Jaide Stepter crossed the finish line of the 4×400 relay at the Willie Williams Classic this weekend, she accomplished more than winning her third gold medal of the event.

The junior from Canyon del Oro High School also got some great exposure in front of coaches from the dozen or so colleges and universities that were in attendance with their track teams at Drachman Stadium on the campus of University of Arizona.

Stepter ran the last leg of the relay team that finished in a winning time of 4:01.81.  Before that, she was clocked at 43.32 in the 300-meter hurdles (a personal best) for her first gold medal, and then took the 100-meter hurdles in 15.35.

The Willie Williams Classic is one of the largest high school meets in Arizona and is run alongside collegiate competition during the three-day event.

That puts the high school athletes in an event that provides not only competition with schools from Arizona, Texas, and Califonia, but also provides a college atmosphere, which they don’t get during the regular-season meets.

The high schools got the stage to themselves on Thursday and then shared it with the colleges on Friday and Saturday.

And, of course, the Tucson schools love it because it also means they compete in their own backyard, without having to travel across the state to find good competition.

For the University of Arizona, it marks the close of the college indoor season and the beginning of the outdoor track & field season.  And they get a chance to show off their facilities, coaches, and athletes to potential recruits from across the state.

The high schools that attended will benefit in another way this year because it gave them one more opportunity for their athletes to post qualifying times for the state meet.  A format change by the AIA this year has eliminated the region meets, where the athletes could qualify in past years.  Now they have to meet a standard time, based on their results in invitational meets such as the WWC.

There were a number of runners and throwers posting their best marks of the season, giving the college recruiters in attendance something to think about.

Stepter’s CDO teammate, Lezo Urreiztieta, swept the boys hurdles events.  The senior picked up his first-ever wins at the WWC.  He won the 110m hurdles in a time of 14.44 and the 300m hurdles in 39.60.

In the boys sprint events, it was Ironwood Ridge High School taking center stage.  The Nighthawks finished 1-2-3 in the 200m, with Tyler Grammer winning it in a time of 22.36, followed by Trevor Wesley and Tyler Williams.

Wesley also picked up a gold medal in the 100m dash with a time of 11:19 and joined with Grammer, Williams, and Phil Satterfield to win the 4×100 relay.

Other winners on the boys side included Lindon Claridge (Flowing Wells HS) in the 800m and, in the field events, Buena High’s Jeremy Tuttle (Buena HS) won both the shot put (56’1″) and the discus (172’6″).

In the girls competition, there were additional winners on the track and on the infield.  Michaela Crunkleton-Wilson (Salpointe Catholic HS) won the 100m dash with a time of 12.28 and Chloe Newell from Sahuaro HS took the distance honors, winning the 1,600m with a time of 5:12.99.

Jasmine Pratt from Estrella Foothills HS, the two-time defending champion in the 100m, was the odds-on favorite in that event.  She finished second, but then went on to win the 200m by posting a 24.99 time.

The girls’ additional wins in the field events came from Buena’s Ashley Weber, who won the shot put by setting a new meet record of 41′ 11 3/4″, and Salpointe’s Alyssa Thompson, who set a personal-best mark of 18’2 1/2″ in the long jump.