Prep track champions gathering at Chandler Rotary Invite

Nearly 3,000 high school track & field athletes showed up last year to compete in the Chandler Rotary Invitational.  And this year an even bigger chunk of those will be from Arizona.

The 72-year-old event, the second-oldest continuously-run invitational meet in Arizona, topped the century mark last year with 107 teams from five states and Canada.  Even though those committed this year total slightly fewer at 101 teams, the number of Arizona schools participating is up from 85 to 88.

The rest of the teams will roll in from schools in California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, and Canada.

And that makes the event, which begins tomorrow at Chandler High’s Austin Field, the biggest in the state – and also the most competitive; there were 46 state champions in the field last year.

Unfortunately, a couple of the Arizona prep stars of past years won’t be on display this time around, as Billy Orman and Hannah Carson have both graduated.

Orman, from Tuba City High School, became one of the premier distance runners in the country during his prep career, and was snatched up by Harvard.  He won the 1,600 meters again last year in a time of 4:12.05 and set a meet record of 9:07.25 in winning the 3,200 meters.

His record was among a bunch set at the 2011 Invite.  On the boys’ side, there were 11 individual marks erased, and three new relay records.  The girls posted 23 new individual records and five in the relays.

Carson, from Chandler High School, was a dominant force in the girls’ field events.  She closed out her final competition in the Chandler Invite by winning titles in the discus with a throw of 138’01”, the shot put (45’06”), and the high jump (5’08”).

With Orman and Carson off to college (Carson to Texas Tech), that leaves the lion’s share of the spotlight for another athlete who has also been dominant throughout her high school competition, and will be competing for the last time as a senior this year.

Jasmine Todd is another reason Chandler High‘s girls’ track team won its second straight national title last year at the Nike Track & Field Nationals in Eugene, Ore.  The 2011 Arizona Republic girls’ Track Athlete of the Year won the long jump both years, and set a meet record last year with a jump of 19’6 1/4″.

Todd was the state champion in the long jump in her sophomore and junior years – but also claimed titles in the triple jump (2009, 2010, 2011) and 100-meter dash (2009, 2010).

At last year’s Chandler Invite, she erased a nine-year-old state record for the triple jump, hitting 41’05” – which was six inches better than the previous record!  She also won the 100 meters in a time of 11.73, and would likely have added the long jump title as well, but a strained hamstring cut short her competition.

Trae Armstrong will also be back for one last year.  The senior from Deer Valley High School won the boys’ 100 meters and 200 meters the last two years and has a good shot at making it three in row this year.  His times last year were 10.66 in the 100 and 21.44 in the 200.

The Chandler Rotary Invitational was started by the Wickenburg Rotary Club back in 1941 and just eight teams competed in that first meet, which was strictly a relay event.  It was moved to Chandler High School in 1943.

Wouldn’t those Wickenburg Rotarians be amazed to see what has sprung up from their little relay race?