Just like that, the biggest track meet before early May is coming.
The 74th rendition of the Chandler Rotary takes place this weekend (March 21-22), where, again, the best in Arizona high school track and field, and several other states converge on Chandler High School.
According to the meet’s website, kids from 83 schools in Arizona and 110 total schools from around the country are signed up. The field includes California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas and Illinois.
Again, the brain behind this massive operation is Dave Shapiro, former Chandler High athletic director who went into semi-retirement after the 2013-2014 school year. It’s “semi-” retirement mostly because of the size and scope of this year’s track meet (along with the Nike Tournament of Champions for basketball and volleyball), and nobody else could possibly make this event go to the degree that it does.
Similar to last year, when a change was implemented, the meet will be only finals and will be contested as a three-session meet. Friday (open), Saturday morning (seeded) at 9 a.m., (field events) at 10 a.m. (track) and feature fields of an estimated 32 to 40 athletes. Saturday evening (elite) will feature fields of 16 to 24 athletes with field events beginning at 4 p.m. and track events at approximately 4:45 p.m. The meet usually goes until 9:30 or 10 p.m.
“It’s actually made the meet more competitive with some of those marks they are posting,” Desert Vista 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.”
This neck of the woods has more schools and kids worth watching than any person can (pardon the pun) track: Chandler’s Ky Westbrook is already headed down the path of being the best track and field athlete in Arizona high school history, and Tope Williams, Imani Adams and Co. are going to race toward another state championship.
Desert Vista potential champions are distance runners Dani and Baylee Jones, thrower Makenzi Holmes-Digiovine and pole vaulters Vanessa Davis and Aliya Simpson, while Mountain Pointe counters with Morgan Green in the high jump, Autumn Smith in the 300 hurdles and Rees Young in the horizontal jumps.
Mountain Pointe’s Paul Lucas hopes to approach the state and meet records in the 100-meter dash while also looking for the top of the podium in the 200 and long jump. Other Mountain Pointe boys elite competitors are Trey Lauer (110 hurdles), the 4x100 relay team and Devonte Roach-Ashurst (shot put).
Desert Vista boys, who finished second at the Aztec meet to start the season, has a long list of competitors who could make some noise come Saturday night.
Cole Tippit (hurdles), the Thunder’s 4x100 relay squad is in the final heat, senior Jacob Walimaa (800), Alec Hoyt (3200), Jakob Alme (pole vault), Connor Watson (triple jump), Jarrell Lister (discus, shot put) and Jordan Rezac (discus) all could find a spot on the podium.
“Jacob Walimaa is ready to do something special,” Hanson said. “He is a senior who is motivated and focused. This is the time to do it. The Chandler Rotary is the best meet around.”
Horizon Honors will be represented in the elite race by distance runner Mikaela Martin.
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• Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. Reach him at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.