Evidently, all the pre-race hype prior to the Chandler Rotary Invitational track & field meet did little to bother Dani Jones. The senior from Desert Vista High School wasn’t intimidated by the flock of Gatorade cross country runners of the year from four different states entered along with her in the 1,600 meters.
Jones followed her game plan in the 1,600, laying back in the pack until she had about 500 yards left to cover and then shifting into a big kick that enabled her to not only win the event, but set a state record in the process. She clocked a sizzling 44.46 that handily won the race for her over several runners that race organizers had said before the event were capable of finishing in the 4:30s.
One of those was Katie Rainsberger, the Gatorade XC Runner of the Year from Colorado, who finished in second place with a lackluster time of 4:50.53. And Bryn Morley from Montana, who took third place in the national cross country championships just a few months ago, had to settle for third, finishing in 4:51.10.
Later in the day, Jones also won the 800 meters to stake an early claim to both events at the upcoming 2015 Arizona outdoor state championships. Her winning time in the 1,600 meters is the fastest in the nation so far this outdoor season.
She picked the biggest stage in the Southwest to strut her stuff. The 75th running of the Chandler Rotary had the largest field, and perhaps the deepest pool of national-level high school talent in its history, with 131 schools from around the country represented.
But there were other local athletes who earned a share of the spotlight over the weekend at Chandler High School, which hosts the event each year.
The much-anticipated performances by Paul Lucas in the dash events did not disappoint. The senior from Mountain Pointe High School, like Dani Jones, remains the main attraction in the 100-meter dash, which he won in a time of 10.70 seconds, and the 200 meter, which he continues to dominate, wining that event in 21.58. In addition, Lucas, who is also a highly-recruited football player, ran a leg of the 4×100 relay.
Getting less attention than Jones and Lucas, both from Division I schools, was Carlos Villarreal from Rio Rico High School, a small high school near the Arizona-Sonora border. Villarreal set a couple more national marks to go with Jones’ record-setting Rotary performance, running a 4:12.50 in the mile and a 4:11.26 in the 1.600 meters.
A lot of attention was also focused on the boys’ hurdles, where Isaiah Oliver is working on his goal of breaking the state record in the 300 hurdles. The senior from Brophy Prep won that event, but his time of 37.14, slowed by a misstep at the start, wasn’t close to the 36.24 he needs to beat. He also won the 110 high hurdles but is also a threat in the 400-yard run, which he may include when the state tournament rolls around.
The University of Colorado-bound senior beat Lucas in that event a week ago, winning the 400 at the Brophy Prep AMDG Invitational in a meet-record time of 47.13.
And over at the field events, Nicole Baker from Highland High School in Gilbert ended the two-year reign of Desert Vista‘s Vanessa Davis by winning the girls’ pole vault at the Rotary by clearing 12’03”.