Ky Westbrook’s showdown with Arianna Washington won’t happen this weekend, but still expect plenty of amazing performances at the Chandler Rotary.
Following the trend of most high school track events that draw national fields, the 74th annual Chandler Rotary did away with team scoring last season.
It had a lukewarm reception a year ago, but one thing became clear: The athletes thrived.
The top athletes didn’t have to spread themselves thin and attempt to do what was best for the team. Instead, they were able to focus on a few events and expend all their energy in attempts to set personal, meet and/or state records.
“It’s actually made the meet more competitive with some of those marks they are posting,” Desert Vista (Phoenix) coach Chris Hanson said. “Since it is a non-scoring event for the teams, the athletes can really focus on an event or two and try to hit the home run. They aren’t as spread thin in an attempt to help the team. They can pick and choose and really go after it.”
It should be no different when some of the nation’s top track teams and individuals head to Austin Field Friday and Saturday.
It’s a two-day event, but the focus is on Saturday night, when the seeded finals (no preliminaries) feature the best the meet has to offer. There will be athletes from 83 schools in Arizona and 110 total schools from around the country are signed up. The field includes teams from California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas and Illinois.
It has been speculated that there are about 15 meet records in jeopardy this weekend.
Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) sprinter Paul Lucas is focused on the 100-meter dash record (10.50 seconds) and Robert (Bobby) Grant of Brophy College Prep (Phoenix) will be after the 300 hurdles mark of 37.04.
Watching Westbrook is captivating enough, as she already owns the 100 (11.47) and 200 (23.64) meet records.
Dior Hall of George Washington (Denver) is the American indoor 60 hurdles record holder and this will be her first outdoor competition of the season. Since Colorado’s state meet isn’t until mid-May, this could be her only competition until April.
Dior ran 13.11 as a freshman, and has slowed down since then, running a 13.44 last season and there are five other competitors who have gone sub-14.0.
The field events will be just as impressive, led by some Nevada schools. Ashlee Blake of Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) is one of the country’s top throwers, as she topped 52 feet in the indoor season, while teammate Reno Tuufuli could top 178 in the discus.
The Cunningham siblings of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), the children of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, should make their presence felt, as Randall Cunnigham Jr. has already cleared a national-best 7 feet, 3 inches in the high jump, while his sister, Vashti, is at 6-0 ¼.
With a little left in reserve tank because of the relatively new non-scoring approach, don’t be surprised if all of these athletes wreak havoc on the meet’s record book.
“I am racing against time. I’ve never been worried about other people,” Lucas said. “From eighth grade on up I’ve been beat. I don’t always get first.
“I don’t worry about them, just whether or not I am getting better.”
Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothill News staff writer, is a 19-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at email@example.com or 480-272-2449. AIA365 contributed to this report.