As results from meets are starting to come in and the season ramps up, this will be the last article in the Outdoor Track & Field Preview Series for this year. With this article, we look at the 1600 and 3200.
When you win a state title in cross country, that automatically puts you in the crosshairs for track and field in the spring. Such is the situation Xander Black finds himself in this spring. But, he seems to be handling it well.
If you go back to the Sundown Track Series #2 meet, now almost a month ago, Black was the top Arizona finisher. His time was a very impressive 9:08.89. He should get an opportunity to whittle away at that mark a little this spring. But, rising temperatures figure to add to the challenge. It's not a done deal that he improves on that mark.
Still, Black looks like the favorite for Arizona, at least for Division 1
Besides Black, the top time turned in on the track in 2020 from someone with remaining high school eligibility was a 9:44.80 by Gilbert's Terrence Keyes. Dayton Carlson of Casteel was next with a 9:51.08. None of us would mind having a couple of those kind of guys on our team, but it's hard to project from a 9:44 or 9:51 one year to a state title the next.
But, hang on for a moment... If we visit the Division 2 cross country results from this fall, we find Carlson making an enormous step forward and winning it all with a 15:08. Max Davis of Flag was second with a 15:24, and Keyes third with a 15:43.
In Division 1, Desert Vista's Noah Jodon chased Black to the finish line at state cross country, coming up three seconds short. It was 15: 34 to 15:37. Austin Clayton of Mountain Ridge was next with a 15:49. Then came the masses.
All that gives us some sort of idea of how Division 1 and Division 2 play out, but anyone who's tried to equalize times from separate races on the same course and same day already knows that process is fraught with difficulties.
Add to that the fact that Roshan Miranda of Rio Rico in Division 3 ran a 15:32 at state. That qualifies him for consideration as well as the state's top 3200 this spring. Gilbert Olivas of Cactus ran 15:47. It keeps getting more interesting...
By now, it's something of a relief to note there are no certified contenders emerging from Division 4.
The simple truth is that there isn't enough data, and certainly not enough head-to-head data to pick a clear favorite as the top boys 3200 in Arizona this spring. But, at least you have a least of likely suspects.
It's a similar, but not identical, cast of characters when we look at the 1600. The 1600 is less like cross country than the 3200, which makes it more difficult to predict from cross country results. And, the shortage of available marks from last year parks a whole lot of guys right around 4:30. Some of the top returners on that list are Carlson, Jodon, Keeton Sanchez of Youngker, Ethan Rodriguez-Story of Saguaro, Justin Pace (a great name for a distance runner) of Sunrise, Alexander Rafferty of Millennium, Leonel Morales of North, and Derek Baca of Casteel.
Go ahead and try to pick a favorite from that cluster!
Ayden Schilb of Cienega is another you want to think about. He ran 4:16 at the Division 2 state championships as a sophomore in 2019. His cross country times are good, not great, but speed seems to be his game. Don't go to sleep on Schlib.
Randy Espinoza of Deer Valley ran 4:17 in 2019 and should be back this year. We mentioned Max Davis, above. He ran 4:22 in 2019.
Having listed all those names, I'd love to tell you with assurance that the top guy in Arizona this spring will come from that list. But, I don't have a lot of assurance to offer. All I can say with assurance is that I've listed many, probably most, of the top candidates.
It gets a little easier with the girls. Traditionally, the density of girls at the top of the pack isn't as great as the density of boys at the top of the pack. I don't offer an explanation for that, I just leave it as an observation.
And, of course, the sisters Ping of Desert Vista come to mind in a hurry. Grace Ping ran 10:25 in the 3200 last year. Lauren Ping ran 10:32. Nobody in Arizona was close to either. Although it was a shortened season, it's not clear that a longer season would have made any difference in the proximity of the field. Grace Ping's cross country marks from this fall, however, did fall a little off her long-time norms. That's not to say she isn't dangerous this spring, just to make a note of where things stand as of the fall.
Lauren Jorgensen of Catalina Foothills is next up on the list. Jorgensen ran an 11:07 in March of last year. That's worth noting. Landen Leblond is a freshman this year, and I don't have a high school pinned down for her yet, but she ran 11:16 at the Desert Hurrah last June under the lights.
Katie Sigerud, also of Desert Vista, ran a 10:46 this winter at one of the Sundown Series meets, making her an instant person of interest.
Matalyah Bretz (Mesa), Kylie Miller (Perry), and Emma Finchum (Highland) each have sub-11:10s from 2019. That's getting a bit far back in time to rely on too heavily, but the times are too good to keep these young ladies out of the conversation.
Reverting to the strategy of using state cross country performances from this fall, Lauren Ping and Katie Sigerud come right back into the conversation. Others to watch include Kayla Case and Emma Baugh of Highland and Taylor Lovell of Perry. That's from Division 1.
So, what changes when we drop to the 1600?
Taylor Lovell brings forward the best returning 1600 time from 2019. That counts for something. Cami Merickel of Pinnacle comes up next on that list. Bretz, Miller, and Finchum each show up high on that list as well.
Going to the shortened season of 2020, the sisters Ping sit at the top of the list, with Jorgensen easily in third.
Checking times already turned in for 2021, Lauren Ping is all alone at the top. Jadyn Herron-Jonap (Casteel) and Sara Jones (Perry) turned in tantalizing times at last weekend's Saunders Montague Desert Classic. Keep an eye on those two. It's a long way to the top, but these two gave indication they're interested in the chase.
That's what it looks like from here. It will be interesting the check back in about six weeks and see where we are with all this.