This will serve as the final article of the "Where Are We Now?" series. Next week, we'll break into the nitty-gritty of hypothetical state meet scoring--the full state meet(s). It won't be the way the actual state meet--any of them--plays out, but it will give us a close look at what each team has going into the state meet and which teams should be considered favorites.
For now, though, we plunge into which teams are showing the strongest at 400 and 800 meters. No track team ever had too much depth at 400 and 800 meters. An excellent 400/800 runner typically does a lot of things for his or her track team, and the team with the best stable of 400/800 types quite often ends up winning the state meet. So, pay close attention to what you learn here.
In the search for a team favorite at 400 and 800 meters, we land on three different teams, St. Johns, Phoenix Country Day, and Glendale Prep. I'll take each of those teams separately in the paragraphs that follow.
St. Johns has the 800 meter leader in Brooke Smith at 2:24. I'm not sure if there's a relation here, but they also have the 400 meter #3 in Kayme Smith. Although that's only one in each event, it's still a great hand to be taking to state.
Phoenix Country Day has all their eggs, at least for the moment, in the 800 meter basket. They have Kimi Cahoon at 2:26 and #2, Ella Brenes at #3, and Anna Sabol at #6. And, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see a dominating 4x800 emerging there as well.
Glendale Prep leans heavily on Zoe Rich. Rich has the #1 400 time at 59.74. That's about a second-and-a-half ahead of the rest of the field, what's commonly referred to as a comfortable lead. She also checks in at #4 in the 800. If she runs both at state, Glendale Prep is positioned well.
The rest of the points figure to distribute across a wide variety of schools. Think of it as a lot of small hills, with no mountains.
Although Coconino's fortunes rest mainly on the legs of Cathron Donaldson, they're still going to be a tough team to beat. Donaldson owns the top 400 (57.21) and 800 (2:20) on the season. She'll be the favorite in both events if she runs both, but may be slightly more vulnerable, due to competition, at 400 meters. Coconino also has Wheaten Smith, who could fall into 800 meter points as well. If she does, Coconino's case is just that much stronger.
Snowflake's challenge builds around Lydia Szabo (#2 in the 400), Caitlyn King (#11 in the 400 and #9 in the 800), Alyssa Hall (#12 in the 400), and Mignon Ritz (#3 in the 800). There's probably at least one very good relay--either 4x400 or 4x800--emerging out of this group as well.
Salpointe Catholic responds with Ashton Stamatopoulos (#4) and Jernei Johnson (#7) in the 400, plus Kylie Wild (#2) in the 800. As with Snowflake, there's probably at least one outstanding relay emerging out of this group as well--surely Salpointe Catholic has another leg who can plug in effectively here.
Beyond that, there are some solid athletes in the mix for points, but no other teams that figure to rival the production of these three.
Um, can you say North Canyon? To be sure, there's some question about whether North Canyon will lock and load the 400--there being other events that their top athletes could do pretty much just as effectively--but if North Canyon points at the 400, they will walk away with it. If North Canyon pursues the 800, they will be a force there as well.
How do we know? Well, the top three 400 times (all three under 57 seconds and more than two seconds ahead of the rest of the field) belong to Ella Escobar, Riley Patera, and Joy Moorer. And, for fun, North Canyon also has the #8 time in Treasure Rinaldi. It goes without saying that North Canyon is probably going to load up (all) the relays and be tough to beat there as well. In the 800, North Canyon has Escobar at #4, but it doesn't seem all that likely she'll be putting that race on her state menu. That effort was, more than likely, a little extra training effort, or perhaps to prove a point--or both. On the other hand, she has run the 800 twice this spring, not just once.
The 800 looks now to be coming down to a two-person race between Kaylin Lacher of Desert Mountain and Jadyn Herron-Jonap of Casteel. Either has the wheels to win it, and Merit Thompson of Cactus Shadows could potentially surprise. There does not, however, appear to be a team in position to dominate the 800 beyond taking the individual title.
One team to keep a watch on, though, when we look at both the 400 and the 800 is Williams Field. WF has Kianna Jones at #6 and Saira Prince at #10. My hunch is that Prince, being probably a better hurdler than 400 type, doesn't run the 400 at state, but WF could be watching what happens with the entries about them before making a final decision there. Jones also has the #7 position in the 800 and could easily figure for more points there.
Possibly the biggest question surrounding the Division 1 400/800 is the will-they-or-won't-they one about Katie Sigerud and Lauren Ping in the 800. They probably go 1-2 (and pile up a lot of points for Desert Vista along the way) if they do. But, they could put all their money on the table in the 1600 and 3200. Or they could try for the trifecta. Meanwhile, they've left very little time on the table with which to show their hand. And, if you're trying to qualify the 3200, conditions for running that race aren't getting any better.
Much will be revealed in the next 10 days or so.
Meanwhile, Chandler has the 400 in a headlock with Jocelyn Johnson and Trinity Henderson both under 56 seconds. I'm not the final word on who runs what, but my inclination is to believe Chandler can't afford to give away what looks like a fairly certain 1-2 in the 400. They don't need to go with their highest-tier athletes across the board to win the sprint relays, so my hunch is that Johnson and Henderson stay put so far as the 400 is concerned. Sarah Plant and Ava Potts are potential points for Chandler in the 800 as well, though both are on the cusp of being in or out.
Queen Creek's Alona Haymore is currently #3 in the 800. She ranks just outside of points in the 400 but could still forge her way into points in that event. Brooke Stradling adds to Queen Creek's presence in the 800 with a #7 ranking. Madison Burciaga of Hamilton has stayed relevant in both events, keeping a #6 in the 400 and a #5 in the 800.
Highland has a foothold in both events with Camila Aguilar-Perez checking in at #5 and Lainey Jones at #7 in the 400, buttressed by Hannah Whiting (#4) and Emma Baugh (#11) in the 800. There's clearly some stellar relay potential here on top of the individual possibilities.
Perhaps more than any other division, the 400 and 800 in Division 1 are looking as much like a chess match as like races at the moment.