(Photo by Alan Versaw)
In years past the biggest season openers for Outdoor Track and Field in Arizona have taken place in early March. This year, the 1st Richard Thompson Classic will attract elite athletes from around the valley to South Mountain High School and showcase performances in February instead, as early qualifiers for State.
Any runner from Ahwatukee can testify about how Coach Hanson's boys of the Desert Vista Thunder are always ready to roll. Earlier this month, Aksel Laudon (Jr.) and Travis Kearney (So.) ran 4:29 and 4:31 in the one mile run at the UW High School Invitational. The Chandler wolves are bringing their A-game to the Girls 1600. While Morgan Foster's (So.) 1600m PR is just a shade under 5 min., she showed exceptional speed in 2016, starting at 2:16 for 800 and cutting down to 2:07. Her teammate Becca Taylor (So.) will be hoping to dig up a fast time early on.
The 300 meter hurdles will be the opening showdown of the outdoor season, between three of Arizona's top five returning intermediate hurdlers. Edwin Adams III (Chandler, Sr.) is ranked 2nd among returning hurdlers. With a PR of 38.13, he claimed victory in 300m Hurdles at last year's D1 State Champs. Also in that race was James Smith (Jr.) of Westwood who placed 4th as sophomore. This past week he won the 55 meter Hurdles at the AZ Indoor Classic with a time of 7.67. Also in the mix will be Shamar Moreland (Sr.) of Betty H. Fairfax. High School. Though Moreland is better known for his jumping credentials, he ran 38.78 last year in the intermediate hurdles and could give Adams and Smith a run for their money tomorrow.
North Canyon's Makyah Richard (Jr.) will make her return to the Outdoor 800 meters here at South Mountain H.S. She holds a PR of 2:18 for 800 and finished 14th at the Division 1 State Championships. In that same race, Emma Merritt (Hamilton, Jr.) finished 17th in 2:21. This could be the meet she breaks into the 2-teens for two laps. Finally, new name on the same we could be hearing a lot from is Kerri Welch (Jr.), who will represent Chandler starting this season. She has already run 5:09 for 1600 in Texas and could blow the doors open here in South Phoenix.
Expected to lead the charge for Chandler's Lady Wolves in the girls 3200 meter run are Ava Hamilton (Jr.) and Gabrielle Enns (Sr.). Both have run fast middle distance races in seasons past but this time they'll be on their own for eight laps and only Ava has broken 12 minutes for 3200. Stefana Purkovic (North Canyon) ran 5:21 in the 1600m at 2016 State Championships and currently holds a PR of 12:07 for 3200. If she can hang with Hamilton and Ens, they could help pull each other into the mid-to-high 11s.
Desert Vista's triple threat in the throws, Elijah Mason (Sr.), Marcos Figueroa (Jr.), and Deshon Toney (Jr.) will be in attendance. This past weekend, Mason threw 63'-2" to dominate the Simplot Games in Pocatello, ID. Figueroa and Toney will also be looking to gain distance in their throws and this field is just what they need for their first Outdoor meet. They'll be joined by Austin Jackson (North Canyon, Sr.) who took 4th in the Disc at the D1 State Champs last year. Austin holds PR's of 179' 8" for disc and 52' 4.75" for shot. Weston Wright (Scottsdale Prep, Sr.) will also be competing and representing the small schools. In 2016 he dominated Division 4 throws, consistently reaching further than 150' last season even reaching 2nd place at Junior Olympic Nationals with a throw of 163' 4".
On Sunday at the AZ Indoor Classic, Ali Goodson (Scottsdale Prep, Sr.) cleared 3.65 meters in the 17 to 18-year-old division. In the underclassman division, Desert Vista vaulters Megan Griffith (Fr.) and Audrey Bonebright (So.) obtained marks of 2.90 meters and 2.74, respectively. This weekend all three will transition into Outdoor competition.
In the Long Jump, Shamar Moreland (Betty H. Fairfax, Sr.) will be looking to open his season with a State leading mark. Last year he won the event at the D2 State Champs with a leap of 23' 4". His biggest completion will be Talib Mudiwa (Desert Vista, Sr.) who placed 11th at State last year in the Long Jump. A jump of 44' 8" earned him 8th place in the Triple.
This weekend looks to be the birth of a meet that could extend the Outdoor season a little earlier for top athletes itching to get qualifying standards out of the way. Best of luck to all those competing tomorrow at South Mountain High School.