Track and field: The athletes to watch at the state meet
• Olathe South senior Braden Smith, an Auburn football signee, is the overwhelming favorite in the shot put and discus. He is the defending champion in both events, and enters with 6A’s top marks in shot put (61 feet, 3 3/4 inches) and discus (195-3).
• So far, Wichita Northwest senior Deron Thompson’s much-hyped sprinting career has netted him just two medals at the state meet, neither higher than fourth. He’ll look to rectify that, as he enters with the top times in 6A in the 100 meters (10.66 seconds) and 200 (21.87).
• Maize senior Ezekiel Welch has been the favorite in the triple all season, all but ensuring it with his state-best mark of 49 feet in May. But a strong challenger emerged at regionals, as Olathe East’s Caelan Neal set a season-best mark of 47-0 to set up a duel for the title.
• In the 1600 and 3200, the favorite will be Blue Valley Northwest senior Sam Guinn. He’s the defending champ in the mile and has also run the fastest time in Kansas this season, at 4 minutes, 15.44 seconds, and also owns the top time in 6A this season in the 3200 at 9:12.07.
• Hutchinson senior Jared Page will be looking to complete his ascent in the hurdles. After placing third in the 300 hurdles last year, Page is the top returner and owns the class’s fastest time this season (38.45).
• Shawnee Mission Northwest has had a stranglehold on the 6A title in the 3200 relay, winning the event each of the last three seasons. But the reign might be over, as SM Northwest enters with the 11th-best qualifying time.
• Kai Shean has cleared 6-10 in the high jump this season, the top mark in Kansas, and is the defending champion in the event.
• The state’s premier sprinter, Topeka Seaman junior Joe Reagan, returns and is looking to become a three-time state champion in the 100 and 200. He owns the state’s fastest times in both events this season, and will be chasing the state meet records of 10.50 and 21.44. Reagan also owns the state’s top mark in the long jump this season (23-4½).
• Bishop Carroll has won the 1600 and 3200 titles for the past three seasons. The Eagles could extend that streak, with their third runner, with senior Nick Martin in the 1600 and Paul Becker in the 3200. Each enter with the fastest qualifying time out of regionals.
• The 110 hurdles title is up for grabs after the favorite, Liberal’s Trenton Hammond, false started at regionals. That could allow a local, like Newton’s Matt Willis or Carroll’s Nick Giusti, to sneak into a surprise title.
• Hammond did qualify in the 300 hurdles and with just one race to run, might turn into an all-time best performance. The defending champion, Hammond already has run the seventh-fastest time in the event in Kansas history and could chase the state meet record of 36.80.
• St. James Academy senior Ian Jones will contend for titles in the 400, where he has the top 5A time this season, and in the 800, where he has run the state’s best time this season at 1:54.01.
• Shawnee Heights has the fastest regional qualifying times in the 400 relay (42.85) and the 1600 relay (3:23.85). The Thunderbirds are the two-time defending champions in the 1600 relay.
• The path to a title in the high jump has been cleared for Goddard senior Austin Chippeaux, who enters as last year’s top returning qualifier. He also has the top mark this season in 5A, at 6-8.
• Willie Morrison, a junior from Leavenworth, will try for dual titles in the shot put and discus, where he is the defending state champion. Newton’s Cory Martens will try to keep that from happening, at least in the discus, where he has 5A’s top mark at 177-1.
• One of the all-time best throwers will conclude his career, as Ottawa’s Kord Ferguson will look to defend his titles in both the shot put and discus. Ferguson holds the second-best mark in Kansas history in the shot put (67-10) and the fourth-best mark in history in the discus (205-6), both thrown this season.
• Before heading off to the Naval Academy, Winfield’s Josh Hanna hopes to repeat his state titles in the 800 and 1600. No one has come close to his top time in the 1600 (4:22.45), but he will face a host of challengers to keep the crown in the 800.
• Two of the best javelin throwers in Kansas reside in the class, as Paola’s Andrew Henn (204-5) and Andale’s Jeffrey Ast (199-2) are expected to square off for the second straight year to decide the title. Henn is the defending champion.
• Buhler’s Riley Allen will make his much-anticipated return to the state meet, after an injury derailed his junior season. Allen will be the favorite in the 200, and injected title aspirations, especially after Coffeyville failed to qualify, in the Buhler 400 relay team, joining as the anchor.
• Since its last pole vaulting champion, Ben Horsch in 2008, Andale has had three seconds in the event. Ethan Meyer will look to break that runner-up jinx, as he enters with 4A’s top mark at 15-0 1/2.
• Hanna’s teammate, sophomore Riley Osen, is Hanna’s top challenger in the 1600 and the overwhelming favorite in the 3200, where he was second last season.
• Both hurdles races appear to be a logjam, but Wellington senior Colin Reichenberger is one that could emerge victorious in either race – or both – in his first appearance at the state meet. Out of regional qualifying, Reichenberger is second in the 110 hurdles (14.84) and first in the 300 hurdles (39.28).
• Trinity Academy junior Tyler Burns has steadily progressed in his career, now as a junior, he will look to chase titles in the 100, 200, and the long jump. While he is among the best in the sprints, he enters with 4A’s top mark in the long jump (23-0 3/4).
• Perry-Lecompton, the defending champions in the 1600 relay, again is the favorite in the event and its season-best time of 3:22.83 suggests it could challenge the meet record of 3:21.21.
• Baldwin owns the top time in the state in the 3200 relay and could contend for the meet record, at 7:58.83.
• A month ago, it appeared that Hesston senior Ryan Schadler would be the heavy favorite to win state titles in all four of his events: 100, 200, 400, and long jump. Schadler remains that in the 200 and 400, where he has a chance for the meet record at 48.32, but Wichita Collegiate’s Jacques Williams (10.67 in 100) and Wichita Independent’s Thomas Varenhorst (23-0 1/2) have emerged as contenders in their respective events to challenge him.
• Phillipsburg has won the past two titles in the 400 relay and even set the state meet record last season. They’ll once again threaten the record, as they own 3A’s top qualifying time of 42.62 – less than a tenth off their record.
• Garden Plain senior Mitchell Hilger, who was the 5A champion last season at Goddard, will now try for the state title in 3A. Hilger owns the top mark in the class this season at 188-5.
• Beloit senior Alex Conn could become a two-event champion in the 800 and 1600, entering the meet with 3A’s top times in both, if he can hold off a strong contender in Belle Plaine’s Tyler Balsters in the mile.
• To retain his championship in the 300 hurdles, Holcomb senior Heath Tucker will have to fend off Wellsville’s Hunter Thuro. They are the only hurdlers to have broken 40 seconds, while Tucker enters with the top time at 38.86.
• Phillipsburg senior Grant Wickham has ascended to an elite triple jumper, as he has posted the state’s second-best mark at 47-1 3/4 and enters looking for his first title.
• Caney Valley junior Levi Wyrick will contend for titles in the shot put, where he has 3A’s top mark at 56-8 1/2, and discus, where he is the defending champion. Teammate Nicholas Camper is also a defending champion in the high jump.
• In his first appearance at the state meet, Medicine Lodge senior Scott Beecher is in position to compete for the titles in the 100, 200, 400, and triple jump. He ran the second-fastest times in the 100 and 200 at regionals, and is the only runner in the 400 field to have broken 50 seconds this season. He also enters with the top qualifying mark in the triple jump.
• Sterling senior Jed Dierksen is the defending champion in the shot put and owns the top mark in 2A this season at 56-7 1/2.
• The class has some of the top distance performances in the state this season in Ellinwood’s Kyle Oglesbee in the 800 (1:56.70), Washington County’s Dylan Hodgson in the 1600 (4:19.10), and Ness City’s Dray Carson (9:40.71). Ellinwood’s Pedro Montoya is the defending champion in the 3200.
• Pleasanton’s Matt Bauer has posted the second-best mark in the state in the high jump this season, clearing 6-8 in the event.
• Linn senior Kurt Van Der Mewe is the defending champion in the 200 and returns with the top qualifying time in the class. He also ranks first out of regional qualifying in the 100.
• Pike Valley junior Caden Callaway has morphed into one of the best runners in the state, regardless of class. He has the fastest times in 1A in the 800, 1600, and 3200, and has posted the second-best time in the state in the 1600 (4:18.80) and the top time in the 3200 (9:09.52).
• Linn’s Chad Gross has cleared 6-8 this season in the high jump, the second-best mark in the state, and will be in a head-to-head battle with Wallace County’s Luke Schemm, who cleared 6-6 at regionals.
• Elijah Smith of Valley Heights, the 1A defending champion, is one of the top triple jumpers in the state, ranking in the top 10 of Kansas with his season-best mark of 46-0, which is the best mark in 1A by more than three feet.
• La Crosse senior Lucas Moeder is the defending champion in the javelin, but Southern Coffey County senior Aaron True has thrived this season and has produced the second-best throw in Kansas at 201-10, which would be a 1A meet record.
• Maize senior Keiryn Swenson has the top javelin throw in Kansas this season, at 155-2, but has a stiff challenger in Wichita East’s Andrea Navarro, who has the top regional throw at 148-1.
• Lawrence Free State’s Alexa Harmon-Thomas returned from injury just before regionals to qualify in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles to defend her state championships. Last season, Harmon-Thomas ran a state-meet record in the 300 hurdles.
• Wichita Northwest senior Calea Carr has a chance at becoming a champion in the shot put, as her season-best mark of 43-6 1/2 is more than three feet better than the next in 6A, and discus, although she will have to knock off defending champ Matia Finley from Lawrence.
• Wichita Southeast sophomore Breanna Eckels is the defending champion in the triple jump, and also has the top mark in Kansas this season in the long jump at 18-10 1/2.
• Olathe East’s Jasmine Thomas is the two-time defending champion in the 100 and returns with the fastest time this season at 12.27. She also won the 200 last season.
• The defending champion returns in the 1600 in Free State’s Bailey Sullivan, but she has been in competition for being the best on her team this season with teammate Emily Venters entering with the top time of the season in 6A.
• Andover junior Jaylyn Agnew is once again a heavy favorite to win the high jump crown. Since entering as a highly-regarded freshman, Agnew has yet to lose in the event in high school and is looking for her third straight 5A title.
• Newton’s Payton Roberts is poised to be a breakout star, as she enters with the No. 1 throw in Kansas this season in the shot put and the best mark this season in 5A in the discus.
• St. Thomas Aquinas has a chance for history in the distance races. It qualified the maximum three runners in the 800, 1600, and 3200, and its three runners own the top three times in the class in the 1600 and 3200.
• The Wichita Heights 400 relay team will be in search of its third championship in recent history, this time in a new class. The Falcons ran a season-best time of 48.93 to win regionals, which is also the top time this season in 5A.
• The 100 crown is up for grabs, and Andover’s Gloria Mares, Eisenhower’s Natali Engle, and Maize South’s Teagan Hayes are all in the crowded pack who could run away with it.
• Maize South freshman Kassidy Johnson has 5A’s top time this season in the 400 with her season-best time of 58.50 in the event.
• Winfield junior Courtney Griffiths will be in search of her first state championship, as she has the top time in the class in the 800 (2:18.63). But the showdown everyone will be watching is in the 400, where Griffiths and Baldwin’s Morgan Lober will square off as the two best 400 runners in the state. Lober won in come-from-behind fashion last year at the state meet and own’s the state’s top time in the event at 56.80.
• Circle senior Talia Highbarger is the favorite to win the 100 hurdles after finishing in third last season. She’s the top returner and has the top time this season in 4A with a 14.86.
• The triple jump will undoubtedly come down to a rematch of a regional showdown between Andale’s Courtney Lies and Andover Central’s Amanda Kakoulias. The two are the only to have cleared 35 feet this season, as Lies edged Kakoulias by a half-inch at regionals with a season-best mark of 36-9 3/4.
• Fort Scott’s Katren Rienbolt is the defending champion in the 1600 and 3200, but will have to fend off Girard’s Cailie Logue in each event, as Logue enters with the top qualifying times in both.
• Baldwin and El Dorado could push each other dangerously close to a meet record in the 1600 relay, which is 3:59.15. Baldwin is the defending champion in the event and has the best time in the class this season at 4:02.21.
• Tonganoxie’s Haley Griffin is one of only three girls in the state to have gone 5-7 in the high jump or higher.
• Chanute’s Haley Taylor is the defending champion in the javelin and returns with the top mark this season in the class at 137-8.
• Collegiate freshman Jewell Bolden will make an impact in her first state meet, as she enters with the top time this season in the 100 hurdles (14.98) and the top mark in the long jump (18-8 1/2).
• Cheney’s Taylor Needham is poised for a big meet, as she enters with the top qualifying times in 100, 200, and 300 hurdles. She owns the best mark this season in 3A in the 300 hurdles at 46.23.
• Kingman’s Claire Theis is a defending state champion in the 400 and enters the meet with the top qualifying time out of regionals, winning in a season-best time of 58.62.
• Noelle Dooley, a junior at Garden Plain, is the defending state champion in the discus and returns with the third-best qualifying mark in the event. Hiawatha’s Emily Gartner enters with the top mark in 3A in the event at 140-7.
• After falling less than three feet short of a state title in the javelin last season, Cheney’s Carlea Holt returns as a favorite in 3A with a season-best throw of 144-4.
• West Elk junior Sarah Hines is the Kansas leader in the 100 hurdles, as she finished runner-up at the KU Relays with the state’s fastest time this season at 14.66. She’ll have the 2A meet record if she can duplicate that, as well as her second straight title. Hines also owns the top triple mark in 2A, as she won her regionals at 34-10¼.
• Inman qualified three – Krystal Miller, Emma Aberg, and Krystan Miller – that have a chance to win the 100 race. Aberg also enters with the fastest time this season in 2A in the 200.
• Maranatha Academy’s Lauren Harrell owns the fourth-fastest 800 time run this season in Kansas, at 2:19.71. She also has the third-fastest 1600 time in the state (5:02.43) and is the defending champion in the event.
• Alexcia Deutscher, a sophomore from Ellis, has the third-best high jump in Kansas, at 5-6 1/4, which is the best mark this season in 2A.
• Valley Heights sophomore Brandi Jo Roepke is back after winning the state titles in the 100, 200, and 400 last season. Roepke enters the meet with the top times this season in 1A in all three races. She also owns the top qualifying mark in 1A in the long jump at 16-10 1/2.
• South Barber’s Santana Reeves has flown under the radar this season, not posting the top times in 1A in the 1600 and 3200, but is the defending champion in both races.
• Hoxie’s Carly Heim is one of the top triple jumpers in the state, as her season-best mark of 36-6 1/2 ranks eighth-best this season in Kansas. She is the defending champion in the event.