For the last two seasons, track coaches have had the unenviable task of looking athletes in the face and telling them, “No.”
As in yes you have met the qualifying standard for the state meet, but no you cannot compete.
It doesn’t exactly jive with the coach mantra of work hard and be rewarded in the end.
So when the state meet starts Wednesday at Mesa Community College with preliminaries before Saturday’s finals, there will be athletes good enough to be state qualifiers sitting in the stands or with their teammates without a bib.
Whereas in years past, a school could enter as many qualifying athletes per event as it wanted, the meet now only allows four athletes per school per event.
It doesn’t affect most programs but Desert Vista certainly could advance more than four in boys pole vault, most of the throw events, and some of the distance running events. Mountain Pointe has plenty of depth in the sprints, but have to make the cutoff at four.
The rule change — along with eliminating a state meet (from five down to four) — has changed the dynamics of the state meet.
Depth is no longer as imperative as it once was and a team with two or three stellar athletes in different events can finish in the top three in state.
“I think it has done the opposite of what everyone expected,” Desert Vista boys coach Chris Hanson said. “Instead of opening up the state to more teams, it has allowed teams with two or three great athletes to do really well. We try to be competitive every year and, hopefully, at the end when it is all said and done we will be again.”
The Thunder and the Pride just might fit those descriptions in both the boys and girls meets.
Here is a look at some of the top individuals heading into the meet.
There is where Mountain Pointe will get most of its points as Ben Trotter, Kejavon Moore and Travonn White will all have a shot at making the finals in the 100. In the 200, Trotter and freshman teammate Paul Lucas are both seeded in the top 10 while Kevina Godfrey is a good bet in both events for the girls with Shannon Jackson not far off.
In the 400 Desert Vista freshman Alexa Homewood was a contender in the girls preliminaries but it is sidelined because of tonsillitis and another freshman, Lucas will be a factor in the boys side of the event, along with Moore. In Division IV, Horizon Honor’s April Vidal and Samantha Weeman can make a push for the top eight.
Desert Vista freshman Dani Jones can set her career path by winning the 800 in her first year in high school, while the Pride’s Katelin Warren will be a contender as well.
The Thunder’s Jenna Maack would have been trying to medal in both the 1,600 and 3,200 runs but was shutdown because of stress fractures, while Jones could make a push for the 1,600 final. The Thunder will have two contenders in the boys 3,200 with juniors Carter Macey and Ryan Dykstra.
Cross country state champion runner-up Mikaela Martin of Horizon Honors will make a push in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
The Pride will be heavily active as White, who owns the school record, and Trotter could finish 1-2, while on the female side Shaman Bailey will push for a top-three finish.
This is where the limit on entrants hurts the Thunder as it has seven boys who have cleared 14 feet this season, but only four can compete at state with Scott Marshall and Matt Arsenau looking for top-five finishes. On the girls side, freshman Vanessa Davis, who owns the state record for freshman, is expected to medal.
The Pride will be led by Hannah DeMarr, while the Thunder has Makenzie Holmes-Digiovine as a title contender in the discus.
The Thunder boys have a trio who might make a run at placement in Dylan Fischer, Ryan Hawkinson and Jordan Rezac.
Fischer is in the top 10 in both events while Hawkinson is solid in the shot put and Rezac in the discus.
“It is important to get better each week and we do that by pushing each other in practice,” said Fischer, who set the school record in the shot with a throw of 60 feet, 6.5 inches. “You can’t perform when it counts if you aren’t pressured every day.”
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