The best high school track talent in the state gathered at Mesa Community College for four days of competition under the new format that offers just four divisions, instead of the seven used in years past.
The largest schools were placed in Division 1, the smallest in Division 4 – and some of the best performances of the championships could be found in the small-school divisions.
In Division IV… Tempe Prep won the girls championship and, in the process, ended the longest streak of state high school championships in the nation. The Valley Christian High girls, who scored 88 points for second place, had won 15 straight state titles, first in 1A competition and then it continued when the school moved up to 2A a couple of years ago – and were in line to add another this year.
But Tempe Prep had other ideas. Claire Horvath and Kayla Beene finished second and third in the 200-meter run, and Beene added a first-place finish in the 400 meters to fuel the championship run.
But Sydney Tassielli, a junior at Valley Christian, did all she could to help her school keep the streak alive. She won the 300 hurdles and finished second in the 100 hurdles, then helped the 4×400 relay team to a victory and ran a leg of the 4×100 for a third-place finish.
And the Tempe Prep boys team made it a sweep this year, winning their own state championship by scoring 79.5 points and handily running away from runner-up Northwest Christian, which had 54 points.
Paul Tonnesen contributed the lion’s share for the Knights, finishing the four days with first-place finishes in the long jump, triple jump, and high jump. And then he added a second place in the 110 hurdles.
In Division III… the Florence High School boys’ team provided the drama by squeezing past Higley High School in the final race of the day to win by one point. Florence trailed by two points going into the 1,600 relay and managed a sixth-place finish for three points and the 66-65 win.
The Higley girls made up for the loss by scoring 72 points to overtake Estrella Foothills HS (64 pts) and claim the girls’ championship. Kenesha Colman propelled the Higley win by finishing first in the 100 hurdles, running a leg of the winning 400 relay, and placing second in the 200 meters.
But the biggest stage in Division III belonged to Billy Orman from Tuba City High School, one of the premier high school distance runners in the nation.
On Friday, the senior set the second-fastest 1,600-meter time among high school runners across the country, finishing in 4:06.75. Then on Saturday, he completed the 3,200-meter race more than 30 seconds ahead of the pack and set a state record in the process. His time of 8:48.63 is the fastest high school time this year.
In Division I… the girls’ team from Chandler High School took care of business as usual. They blew away the field and pocketed their sixth consecutive state title. Their 224.5 total points were light-years ahead of second-place Hamilton High School, which compiled 71 points.
Leading the way for Chandler were Ky Westbrook’s first-place finishes in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, Sherrelle Jordan’s win in the 100 hurdles, and Jasmine Todd‘s victory in the long jump.
On the boys’ side, Brophy Prep was able to hold off second-place Chandler HS for the team title. The Broncos tallied 77 points to 73 points for Chandler, which missed out on eight points when its 4×400 relay team was disqualified.
A couple of performers stood out in Division I boys’ competition. Brophy’s Devon Allen ran the 110 hurdles in 13.90, which is the second-best time in the nation by a sophomore. He was edged out by Cameron Taylor from Westwood High School, who won in 13.80.
And Trae Armstrong, a junior from Deer Valley High School, made a huge contribution for the Skyhawks, who finished in third place with 55.5 points. Armstrong won the 100m, 200m, and 400m races.
In Division II… it was Queen Creek High School taking home the boys’ team trophy for the second straight year, scoring 58.5 points to overcome second-place Canyon del Oro High School, which managed 48 points. In the girls’ competition, Canyon del Oro did manage to win it all, compiling 76.5 points to skate past second-place Catalina Foothills High School (42 pts).
Worth noting… Promise Amukamara, a senior at Apollo High School in Glendale, won the 100-meter dash in a time of 12.47, While it didn’t help Apollo to the title, it was significant because Amukamara’s main sport isn’t track.
Amukamara is the Arizona Republic’s Big Schools Player of the Year in basketball, leading the Hawks to the 4A-I state championship this year. Next year, she will be playing at Arizona State.
Won’t the Sun Devils be happy to see that kind of speed arrive in Tempe?