(Photo by Alan Versaw)
For many years, the Aztec Invite has been a season opener for most of Tempe. Although Chandler and Desert Vista opened their seasons last week at South Mountain's Richard Thompson Classic, we have yet to see most of the faces that lit up the scoreboards at State Champs last year.
To start with the throws, Desert Vista's Elijah Mason (Sr.) just threw the US #2 mark in the Disc, and this weekend we could see him follow up with another record breaking performance. North Canyon will also be represented and we could see their top Senior Austin Jackson perhaps reach for a further mark in the Disc or Shot. In the Girls throwing event, Kaleigh Conlon (Mountain Pointe, Sr.) is set to return tomorrow after an indoor rust-buster at the NAU Skydome two weeks ago. Her PR for Disc is 144' and last year she dominated this invitational by over 20' ahead of the field. This year she might have deeper opposition in Samantha Ponds (Chandler, Jr.). Last week at Richard Thompson, Ponds threw a lifetime best of 126' 11" in the Disc and won by almost 17 feet. Other returning names to look out for are Liz Gore (Sr.) of Horizon and Jaztyne Griffin (Jr.) of Desert Vista.
The distance events should make for some exciting rematches between the Desert Vista and Brophy on the guys' side and Desert Vista and Chandler in the girls' races. While Desert Vista edged out Brophy at Cross Country State Champs this past Fall, the Brophy Broncos return their triple threat of Luke Mason (Sr.), Drew Burns (Jr.), and Hociel Landa (Sr.) from the 3200 at the Track and Field State Champs last May. We should also expect to see some familiar faces from the Aztec distance runners like Slade Sumners (Sr.), Liam Kovatch (Sr.) and Graham Eversden (Jr.). Eversden was placed 4th at State last year in the 800 and will likely have some lofty goals on his sights including a win at home. Also on the list of teams entered are Highland and Perry who finished 5th and 6th respectively at XC State Champs. Last week at South Mountain, the Chandler girls made their season debut in distance events and while the Lady Thunder's distance Desert Vista squad was not heavily represented, Baylee Jones and Haley Wolf showed that they're ready to race after a respectable performance in the 4x400. Sandra Day O'Connor will also attend the meet, and with them most likely, Jesselyn Bries. Jess is coming off a remarkable cross country season and could be going for her 2nd consecutive Aztec 1600-meter title.
In the girls jumping events spectators will likely see another all-star matchup between last year's top returner for triple jump Nura Muhammad (Mountain Pointe, Sr.), Jillian Lombardi (Desert Vista, Jr.) currently at the top of the leaderboard for TJ, and Chandler's superstars Tiana Poirier-Shelton (Sr.), Terayah Payne (Jr.). New on the AZ scene for Girls Long Jump, is freshman phenom Jadyn Mays from North Canyon who flew onto the charts with a jump of 18' 8.5" at Richard Thompson last week. In the Boys High Jump, we should see the top returner from last year's D1 State Championship is Josh Onwardi (Sr.) open his season for the home crowd. Onwardi currently holds a PR of 6' 7" for High Jump.
Gathering the community of Tempe and especially those around Corona Del Sol High School, to compete with others around the State at the highest level and going beyond the level of an average season opener creates an beckoning atmosphere unique to the Aztecs. Best wishes to all track athletes, coaches and spectators alike tomorrow for the Aztec Invite.