(Photo: Harold Smith)
On March 30th, 2020, David Hines, the Director of the AIA, announced that all AIA sports and extracurricular activities were canceled for the remainder of the year due to the COVID-19 virus. It has nearly been a full calendar year since and high school track and field is finally back in Arizona.
Although the 2020 season was canceled, the meets that were held a few weeks before competition was brought to a halt can give us a good idea of which returning athletes are poised to breakout in 2021.
At the 2020 Richard Thompson South Mountain Classic in Phoenix, Arizona, Tyson Tippett from Chandler recorded one of the most notable Division 1 boys performances by a returner where he placed second in the 100m dash. Tippet raced to a 10.88, .08 seconds from a personal best, which he set at the 2019 AIA State Championship his sophomore year and finished 4th. Tippett will enter his senior year the favorite to win the 2021 AIA D1 boys 100m dash state championship.
In the 200m dash, the top three sprinters in Division 1 return. Senior Zach Weinman from Desert Vista recorded the best performance in 2021, running a quick 22.23. Senior Kesean Dansby from Cesar Chavez and junior Payton Barlow from Queen Creek finished the 2020 season just behind Weinman and will also be in the hunt for a state championship in 2021.
Barlow is also a top returner in the long jump, along with seniors Zachary Sutton from Shadow Ridge, Zach Lewis from Hamilton, and Jeremiah Reed from Westwood. Seven jumpers return in Division 1 that jumped over 21 feet in the shortened 2020 season.
In the fall, senior Xander Black from Brophy College Preparatory won the AIA Division 1 Cross Country State Championship and recorded Arizona's lone sub 15 5K performance, en route to finishing 32nd in the RunningLane National Championships in Birmingham, Alabama.
Last week at the Sundown Track Series #2, Black recorded a 9:08.89 in the 3200m against some of the best distance runners in the country. Black is positioned to be the top distance runner in Division 1 in 2021 and would be the favorite to win any state championship race ranging from the 800m to the 3200m.
Hickel has steadily improved since the conclusion of the 2020 season. Since, Hickel has won the East Coast Invitational in Virginia Beach, Virginia, throwing a new personal best of 60-2.75 in the event and placed 5th at the Adidas Indoor National meet. Hickel is one of the top shot put competitors in the nation and will look to win his first AIA State Championship.