The Kansas high school track and field state meet for all six classifications will take place Friday and Saturday at Wichita State’s Cessna Stadium. Events start at 8 a.m. on both days. Here are five storylines to monitor throughout the meet.
1. Four teams defending titles
The metro-area will send four defending team champions into the state track and field meet this weekend.
The only boys champion is Olathe East, which returned 110-meter hurdle champion Austin Stephens this year.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Lawrence Free State and Maranatha Christian girls are all trying to defend team titles this time around. It is a two-year streak for Lawrence Free State and a three-year streak for Maranatha.
St. Thomas Aquinas is led by Emily Downey, who has the top qualifying marks in Class 5A for the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs. Lawrence Free State’s Emily Venters is the reigning Class 6A champion in the 3,200 meter run, and Lauren Harrell holds a trio of titles in 2A: in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs.
2. St. James girls try to return to the top of Class 5A
Aquinas’ biggest challenge for the Class 5A girls crown may easily come from within its own regional.
Aquinas won by a narrow four-point margin against St. James Academy in last year’s team standings, and the two seem to be set on another crash course after the Thunder won the regional by eight points last Friday. The two have combined for the last three team titles.
St. James Academy is led by Kelly McKee, who won the long and triple jumps at the regional, and javelin champion Allie Webb.
3. Leavenworth boys field
Despite being the only Class 5A team in the Sunflower League, the Leavenworth boys tied for a league title. A big part of that was their strength in the field events.
The Pioneers hold the top seed in four different field events, three of those top seeds won state championships last season.
William Morrison leads the way as the favorite in both the shot put and the discus. Jared Belardo is first in the triple jump and Isaiah Ross is tied for the top mark in the high jump.
4. Cross country rematch in Class 6A 3,200
Blue Valley’s Joe Gorthy finished third at the Class 6A cross country championships in the fall, but he has a chance for revenge in the 3,200 meters in state track against the same two guys who finished ahead of him.
Manhattan’s Michael Melgares leads the pack with a seed time of 9 minutes, 38.04 seconds, and Gorthy is only .44 seconds behind him. Manhattan’s Jackson Schroeder, who won the cross country title, is third with a time of 9:39.06.
5. Allen making history in Class 2A
Freshman Kate Allen has wasted no time making her mark at Heritage Christian Academy.
By winning three events at the Class 2A Washington County regional, she became the first track athlete in program history to qualify for state.
She is the No. 3 seed in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 47.99 seconds and No. 6 seed in the long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 3 inches.