Jaide Stepter leads a talent exodus in AZ girls prep track

The announcement that Jaide Stepter was just named The Arizona Republic Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year brings to mind the fact that the girls’ side of the sport is losing some real star power with this year’s graduation.

Stepter, a senior at Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, won three state titles for a second straight year and missed out on a fourth by just four one-hundredths of a second.

Brophy Prep‘s Devon Allen, a junior, was named the boys’ Track Athlete of the Year.  He broke the state record in the 300 hurdles and captured the state title in that event, as well as the 110 high hurdles championship.

Allen has another year to continue to build his own legacy.  But Stepter joins a select group of girls who will be leaving their legacies behind this year.

As Stepter moves on to compete for the USC Trojans, she leaves behind a record of dominance in the sprints and hurdles competition, while adding the long jump to her repertoire this year.  She has piled up a total of six state titles in the last two years, setting more than one state record along the way.

She defended her titles in the 100-meter (14.43) and 300-meter (42.01) hurdles at this year’s Division II state meet, and then added a third title in the long jump with a leap of 19’3″ after adding the event to her program just a month ago.  A fourth title escaped her when she finished the 200-meter dash in a time of 24.9, but was nosed out at the tape by Michaela Crunkleton Wilson, a sophomore from another Tucson school, Salpointe Catholic.

But Stepter is just one of several girls who have left their mark on the prep track scene in Arizona as they head for college next fall.

Rolonda Jumbo competed at Chinle High School, a small school on the Navajo Indian Reservation near the New Mexico border, but she made her presence known to the rest of the state’s distance runners early in her prep career.  She won four straight cross country state titles, three in the old 3A division and the latest in the new Division III, generally finishing her races in a dominating fashion, well ahead of the rest of the field.

She wrapped up an outstanding career by winning her 10th and 11th state titles in the state track & field meet, winning both the 1600 meters and the 3200 meters – while still trying to recover from a bout of strep throat.  In the fall, she begins her college career at Northern Arizona University.

Jumbo was able to overcome strep throat to end her career on a high note.  But Jasmine Todd was denied that privilege, thanks to a torn anterior cruciate suffered in practice prior to the state meet.

The standout from Chandler High School has owned the triple jump in the big-school competition for the past four years.  She secured three state titles in the event, and was poised to win a fourth before the ACL sent her to the sidelines.

She holds the state record in the triple jump, with a mark of 41’05”.

Todd also owns two state titles in the long jump, and set a best time in the nation at this year’s Chandler Rotary Invitational with a leap of 20’01.5″.  And for good measure, she runs a leg of the school’s state champion 4×100 relay team.

There are always younger competitors coming up that fill the voids when the superstars move on.  But it’s always difficult to watch this kind of talent close out their high school careers because it doesn’t come along that often.