(L to R) China Simmons, Autumn Smith, Jasmyne Graham and Jaela Williams sprint to the finish in the 100H. Arizona Milesplit Photo.
The Chandler Rotary has been around for longer than most of us reading this have been alive. During that span of time it has made a name for itself nationally as the meet to be at in March. It attracts some of the best athletes from not only Arizona, but California, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and occasionally another state or two. This makes for some really elite fields. Sometime these field are primarily out of state athletes, and sometimes they have a strong Arizona representation. The girls 400m was the latter. Coming into the meet I wrote 6 girls all had a shot to break 56. While only two of them did, it made for a fantastic race.
Three time defending state champion Jasmine Stauffacher Gray put away the field by running a state leading 55.70. A very out of breath Jasmine was happy that she had won, "The Rotary means a lot to me, my freshman year I had a panic attack, my sophomore year I ran poorly and last year as I junior I set the meet record," recounted Jasmine, "I just wanted to come out here and run strong." While she was not able to reset her own meet record, she did come away with a win in a crowded field. Coming down the finish straight she was in a fight for the title, "I just wanted to keep my form good, it's really hard to finish." After the race though she was among the first to give credit to her opponents, "Asiah is really strong on the back stretch, she helps push me." This was also a big race for Asiah Fields as well. Asiah was able to get past Chandler's Anna Foreman for the first time in a high school uniform. Look for that rivalry to develop through the rest of the season and in the years to come.
The hurdles also had a very strong set of athletes competing, though the strongest was from California. USC bound Jasmyne Graham was able to sweet the titles on both the 100H and the 300H. Local favorite Autumn Smith placed 2nd in the 300H and 4th in the 100H in a strong showing. Chandler's Arniesha Mitchell was fastest Arizonan in the 100H clocking a third place finish in 14.77. Possibly the most surprising local finish though was what Millennium's China Simmons did in the 300H. What made her performance especially impressive is that she did it from the 2nd to last heat in the 300H. Normally the last heat is the fastest but China didn't get that memo. Unsatisfied with her 5th place finished in the 100H, She was able to clock the 3rd fastest time of the day in 44.43. She played down being put in the slower heat, "It's just a race against the clock." Even though she did admit having other runners around her because it "makes me push a little harder."
Another factor that helps athletes push a little hard it a big, loud crowd. Chandler Rotary is one of those rare moments where you have two grand stands full of people at a track meet. The way the track is designed at Austin Field the pole vault pit is right alongside the finishing stretch on the track, where the crowd is often the loudest. Pre-season athlete of the year Nikki Baker really appreciates that, "It is really cool how many people are in the stands and that pole vault if front and center." Nikki remained undefeated on Arizona soil on the year winning the pole vault at 12-3. The bar had originally been raised from 12-0 to 12-6, but after Nikki and Vanessa Davis missed all of their attempts at that height it was lowered back to 12-3 and additional attempts were awarded to both athletes. "I have never won like that before," recounted Nikki, "It felt just like 12-6 to me." Vanessa wasn't the only athlete from Desert Vista that Nicki had to hold off. Shannon Fritz and Aliya Simpson joined Vanessa on the podium, holding off 5th place Taylor Alexander in the process.
The pole vault was not the only event for Shannon on Saturday evening. She placed 4th in the high jump, just two inches short of champion Zarriea Willis of Alhambra. "Running back and forth made me lose energy," recounted Shannon. While she may have wished she had more attempts placing top 4 in two events at this meet is nothing to sneeze at.
Another competitive event was the girl's triple jump. It was won by Tiana Poirier-Shelton of Chandler. Chynna Simmons of Mountain Pointe was only two inches off her mark in second. The whole lead group was tight considering the state's top returning triple jumper, Sydney Olsen of Snowflake placed 4th.
The girls shot was not the only field event decided by a few inches. In the girls shot Corneisha Mitchell of Chandler was able to hold off Jessica Shinkle of Raymond S Kelly by a mere three inches with Mountain Pointe's Onnika Scott only another inch behind. It should be interesting to see how that rivialry develops over the course the season. Stay tuned to Arizona Milesplit to find out more about it. All results and pictures from the Chandler Rotary are available here. If you want to see how you or your kid ranks in the state or nation check it out here.