A pulled hamstring was all that kept this year’s state high-school track championships from living up to the grandiose expectations that have preceded the event since the beginning of the season.
The state finals promised state records, elite-level performances in the big-school competition, and a farewell to one of the best girls’ runners this state has ever seen. All were realized.
However, the much-anticipated domination on the boys’ side by Paul Lucas was cut short when the junior at Mountain Pointe High School pulled a hamstring while competing in the Division I long jump, taking him out of his best two events. Lucas won the long jump with a leap of 24’4.5″ and then managed to hold it together long enough to post a time of 10.66 to win the 100-meter dash.
But that was it for the hobbled sprinter and he was forced to withdraw from the 200-and 400-meter events, which could potentially have given him four individual state titles this year.
Would Lucas have likely won both of the events? He has the fastest time in the nation this season in the 200 (20.84) and the 400 (46.86). So, yeah, his chances were better than good.
But on the girls’ side, Ky Westbrook did win four D-I titles – and anything short of that would have been a surprise. The Chandler High senior has dominated the sprint competition since her freshman year and will be running next year for USC. (See 7/8/13 phxfan: What’s left for Ky Westbrook after winning a gold medal?) She graduates high school with 12 individual state titles.
And this was the year her team really needed her help. The Chandler girls’ team had won eight straight team titles coming into the finals this year, and it needed the points from every one of her four individual titles to hold off Desert Vista High School for the 2014 Division I crown. The Wolves beat Desert Vista by just six points, the thinnest margin of victory in all its nine titles – and it came down to the final event, the 4×400 relay. And Westbrook was on board the relay squad to help secure the win.
Her accomplishments included victories in the 100 (11.69) and 200 (24.33) dashes, the 100 hurdles (14.17), and the shot put (45’7.75″). She took up the shot just last year and before that season was over had broken a 33-year-old record in the throw with a heave of 47’9″. And last year she also broke the state record in the 200 that had stood for almost a decade.
She finishes a prep career in which she has never been beaten in state competition in either the 100 or 200.
There were other state records broken this year, in both the girls’ and boys’ D-I competition. Lauren Ellsworth, running for Highland High School, won the 800 meters with a record-setting time of 2:07.61. She beat out runner-up Dani Jones, the junior from Desert Vista who held the best time in the state (2:09.24) coming into the state meet.
The top two big-school distance runners in the state have been going at each other all season long, with Jones posting top times in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200 and Ellsworth right behind with the No. 2 times in each event. Ellsworth turned the tables in the 800, but Jones got back on top by winning the 1,600 and 3,200 – while Ellsworth settled for second place in both. Jones’ time of 4:48.73 in the 1,600 broke a state record that was set back in 1999.
But the race that drew some of the most attention was the girls’ 4×800 relay because it featured Dani Jones and her freshman sister, Baylee, pitted against a Highland team that included Lauren Ellsworth and her freshman sister, Alena. It was the first time all season the sisters had a chance to go head-to-head in a race and it was Highland winning this one with a time of 9:03.90. But Desert Vista made it the kind of finish everyone was expecting, finishing just a shade off Highland with a photo-finish time of 9:03.94.
One other state record fell on the boys’ side when Bryant O’Georgia from North Canyon High School erased a mark that has stood for 25 years. The senior won the high jump with a leap of 7’2.25″ to eclipse the old record by a quarter of an inch.
The boys’ team title this year went to Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, which also claimed the cross-country state title last fall. Leading the way for the track & field team was senior Nathan Rodriguez who won individual titles in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200 races, and then anchored the winning 4×800 relay team.
Desert Vista finished in second place and Brophy Prep in third.