The top high school athletes always bring their ‘A game’ to the state tournaments at the close of each season. They know they have one last chance to set a new personal-best, or perhaps break a record or two.
And that opportunity has rolled around again for track & field competitors as the Arizona state meet runs this weekend.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why this year’s finale could be one of the most interesting in recent years.
Cole Riddle from Valley Vista High School just broke the 27-year-old state record in the boys’ pole vault by clearing 17’05” at the final meet of the regular season, the Last Chance Meet at Desert Vista High School. That will remove some of the drama for those fans who have been watching him inch closer to the record the last couple of years, but it’s his senior year so the state competition will be his last chance to push the record a little higher to make it more difficult to be surpassed by those coming behind him.
And the way he has been elevating the last four or five weeks indicate he may still be climbing. He won the prestigious Chandler Rotary Invitational at the close of March by clearing 16’7″. That’s a lot of upward progress in just four weeks.
The old state record was set in 1990 by Nick Hyson while at Tolleson High School. That mark was 17’4.75″, so Riddle just squeezed by. Interestingly, Riddle had Hysong, who went on to compete in the Olympics, helping him break the record. Hysong, who was the first high-school vaulter in the state to clear 17 feet, has been mentoring the youngster in the off-season the last couple of years.
Alena Ellsworth from Highland High was another winner at the Last Chance, clocking 24.86 in the girls’ 200-meter dash for the title in that event. It was Ellsworth that ran a 54.86 in early April to become the state’s top performer in the 400 meters. So there are big expectations for what she may accomplish this weekend.
There’s lots of interest this year in the field events, on both the girls’ and boys’ side, where Elijah Mason and Turner Washington have been tearing up the discus competition.
Mason, from Desert Vista, tied the 30-year-old state record in the boys’ discus with a throw of 212’11” at the Arcadia Invitational three weeks ago, a mark that was third in the nation at the time. Washington, from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, hit the nation’s top mark at the event, throwing 217’5″ to beat the state record of 215’8″ which he set just weeks earlier.
In the girls’ competition, Scottsdale Prep‘s Alexandria Goodson soared 13’1″ just over a week ago in the pole vault, making her just the sixth girl in Arizona prep competition to clear 13 feet, and Kayleigh Conlon from Mountain Pointe High School heaved the shot 47’9.5″ to set another state record.
But the performer that everyone will be watching will be on the track. That’s where Allie Schadler will hold court for the final competition of what has been one of the most dominant high school careers in the distance events.
The senior from Rio Rico High School, a small D-III school in the Santa Cruz Valley, has won four cross country state titles and last year was named the Gatorade Arizona Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year. Her time of 17:03 to claim that fourth title broke the course record.
Schadler also set a new state record in the 3,200 meters earlier this season at the Arcadia Invitational and there’s a good chance she could claim the top spot in the 1,600 at the state meet. She has clocked 4:45.39 as her personal best in the 1,600m event, and that’s just a couple of strides off the record of 4:44.46 set by Dani Jones, the former Desert Vista phenom who many consider the best distance runner this state has seen.
And if you prefer pure, raw speed, stick around for the relays. The Chandler High girls’ 4×400 relay team has already broken the state record twice this season, once at the Brophy Prep Invitational and again at the Arcadia Invite. That squad of Anaya Bailey, Armani Harris, Anna Foreman, and LaMeyah Charlton will be shooting for a third record performance to close out the season.