1. Kassidy Johnson, Maize South senior
How will Johnson top her Triple Crown from last year’s state meet after winning the 400, 800, and 1600 titles in 5A?
She will drop down to 4A, where she will attempt to knock off the defending champion in both the 400 and 800. It would be one less championship, but perhaps even more impressive if Johnson is able to pull off the feat in less than two hours Saturday.
Part 1 will be the 400, with the final at 3:45 p.m. Saturday. Johnson, a two-time champion, has the fastest time in 4A at 58.31, which is just ahead of primary challenger Sidney Howland (58.42) of El Dorado, the two-time defending champion in 4A. Both are headed toward Division I careers and should provide one last sub-58 duel before their high school careers come to a close.
Part 2 might be even more of a challenge, as Johnson will try to take down a six-time state champion and one of the best distance runner in Kansas history in Girard’s Cailie Logue. Logue’s specialty is in the longer distances, as she owns the third-fastest 1600 time and the second-fastest 3200 time in Kansas history.
When it comes to the 800, Logue is still historically fast. Her personal-best time of 2:13.08 ranks No. 11 all-time. But Johnson has the foot speed and the kick to match, as the Maize South senior clocked a 2:13.32 (No. 13 all-time) this season at the Kansas Relays. The meet record Logue set last year at the state meet (2:13.08) should be in jeopardy, as the two fastest 800 runners in the state battle for the first time at 5:05 p.m. Saturday.
2. The Newton 400 relay team
Before Newton’s 400 relay team even steps on the track at the state meet, it has already secured its place in Kansas history this season by becoming the first relay to break 47 seconds.
Kalli Anderson, Taylor Antonowich, Jen Andres, and Savannah Simmons have been together for two years and they have accomplished almost everything possible. They won last year’s 5A championship together and set the meet record, then ran a 46.98 this season for the No. 1 time in Kansas history.
The only thing left to accomplish is to try to break 47 seconds again at the state meet. They seemed poised to shatter their meet record set last year at 48.16. Their preliminary race is at 2:55 p.m. Friday, following by a 3 p.m. final Saturday.
The fastest time registered at the state meet in all classes is 47.27, set in 6A by Leavenworth in 2009.
3. Jewell Bolden, Andover Central senior
Few can match the outstanding high school career Bolden has pieced together. She has won a title in the 100 hurdles (3A titles at Collegiate in 2014 and 2015 and a 4A title at Andover Central last year) all three years of her high school career and owns 3A long jump titles from 2014 and 2015.
Bolden had her dual-title streak snapped last year at the 4A meet when she finished third in long jump, as she will looking to rectify that this season. Bolden enters the state meet with the top jump in Kansas this season, as she has pushed her personal-best mark out to 19 feet, 4 inches, which is No. 15 in Kansas history. Only Baldwin’s Carly Lindenmeyer (18-1) has cleared 18 feet in a competition this season, while McPherson’s Elle Barret (17-6 1/4) is the defending champion from last season. Bolden will challenge the 33-year-old 4A meet record of 18-7 1/4.
No one has ever come within three tenths of a second from Bolden at the state meet in the 100 hurdles and it’s unclear if there is a challenger who can push her this year in the 4A field. Bolden owns the fastest time in Kansas this season at 14.59 and her personal-best time of 14.38 ranks No. 13 all-time in Kansas history. McPherson’s Emma Ruddle (14.94) is the only racer in the 4A field who has broken the 15-second barrier so far this season.
4. Christal Mosley, Southeast junior
The Southeast junior has finally been able to stay healthy throughout a season and enters the state meet primed to be one of the weekend’s stars. Mosley’s two standout events are the 200 and the 400, which she has registered some of the best all-time races in Kansas history.
Mosley’s first chance at a title will come in the 400 with the final at 3:45 p.m. Saturday. Mosley ran a personal-best time of 55.48 at regionals, which moved her up to No. 10 all-time in Kansas history in the event. She will still have some work to do to break the 6A meet record of 54.40, but she might receive the push she needs from Hutchinson senior Yazmine Wright, who is the defending champion in the event after finishing runner-up in 2015 and 2014. The two are the only racers to have cracked 57 so far this season in the quarter and should produce one of the more entertaining races this weekend.
In the 200, Mosley’s path to a title doesn’t seem to have an established presence like Wright in the way. Mosley owns the fastest time in the state this season at 24.34, which just a tick faster than the 37-year-old 6A meet record of 24.40. No one else in the field has cracked 25.3 in the race, while Mosley was consistently breaking 25 this season. The 200 preliminaries are around 5:15 p.m. on Friday with the finals coming around 5:50 p.m. on Saturday.
Mosley is also qualified in the high jump, where she has cleared the bar at 5-6 this season and enters with the third-best mark in the field. Mosley will compete in the 6A high jump at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
After injuries have derailed her first two state track meets, Mosley could be the breakout star as a junior.
5. Kalli Anderson, Newton sophomore
The question heading into the state meet doesn’t so much concern Anderson, but with the two-time defending champion in the 5A 100: Leavenworth’s Aarika Lister. The Leavenworth junior has been hampered by an injury throughout this season, but she has qualified for the state meet.
It remains unclear if Lister healthy enough to dip below 12 seconds again and defend her title. Since returning from an injury of her own this season, Anderson has been consistently breaking 12 seconds in the 100 and her season-best time of 11.76 is the fastest in Kansas this season and ranks her No. 12 all-time.
Regardless, it seems certain the 5A meet record of 11.90 shared by two sprinters is in peril with Anderson running.
6. Savannah Simmons, Newton junior
The Kalli Anderson and Savannah Simmons duo has instantly become the best 1-2 punch in the sprints throughout Kansas. Anderson (11.76) and Simmons (11.92) own the two fastest times in the state this season in the 100, while Simmons (24.52) owns the second-fastest time in Kansas in the 200 and is the only sprinter in the 6A field who has broken 25 seconds.
Simmons has yet to win a state title and those hopes likely rest in the same question as Anderson: how healthy is Leavenworth’s Aarika Lister? Lister has won the last two 5A titles in the 100 and 200 and logged some of the fastest times in the state’s history, but an injury has hampered her throughout this season. She is qualified in both the 100 and the 200, but her times are far from what Lister was running the last two years. Simmons will also have to combat another former champion in KC Sumner’s Demitra Carter (25.04), who won the 4A title last year and is bumped up into the 5A field this season.
With her teammate Anderson not running in the 200 and Lister apparently not 100 percent, Simmons could be in line for her first individual state title. The 5A 200 final is at 5:50 p.m. Saturday.
7. Sidney Howland, El Dorado senior
It’s rare to have a situation where two two-time champions in the same race will square off against one another in the state meet, but that’s what we have this season in 4A with Howland taking on Maize South’s Kassidy Johnson in the 400.
Howland has won the last two 4A titles in the 400, while Johnson won the 5A title as a freshman in 2014 and again as a junior last year. The two raced against each other for the first time last week at regionals with both running season-best times, as Johnson (58.31) prevailed over Howland (58.42) by one tenth of a second.
Johnson will have the open 800 to worry about later in the day and she is also expected to run a leg on at least one of Maize South’s state-qualifying 1600 and 3200 relays over the weekend. Howland, on the other hand, is only qualified in the 400 and can focus all of her energy into one race.
Both are two-time champions and both have signed Division I scholarships, but only one will emerge with a third championship. The 400 final is at 3:35 p.m. Saturday.
8. Taylor Latimer, Valley Center senior
Since signing with Kansas State, Latimer has taken off in her senior season in all three of her throwing events.
Latimer enters the state meet with the top mark this season in the shot put (44 feet, 4 inches) and the discus (152-7 1/2), while she is third in the javelin (133-2). Latimer completed a similar trifecta last season, placing sixth in the shot put, winning the discus, and placing third in the javelin.
Latimer’s season-best mark of 152-7 1/2 in the discus ranks her No. 17 in Kansas history. She will challenge the 5A meet record of 148-11 set in 1999 by Great Bend’s Caley Carter.
While no one in the 5A field can come within 15 feet of Latimer’s best throw in the discus, Mill Valley’s Gabby Hopkins (44-3 1/4) could push Latimer in the shot put. Latimer and Hopkins are the only throwers in 5A who have surpassed 42 feet this season. The 5A discus competition is at 1:15 p.m Friday, while the shot put is 3 p.m. Saturday.
Latimer’s chief competition in the javelin will be Arkansas City’s Halie Brown (145-0) and Shawnee Heights’ Alyssa Conway (136-6). The 5A javelin begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night.
9. Astrid Same, East senior
Same is a former state champion in the shot put, winning the 6A title as a sophomore in 2015, but finished third at last year’s state meet and has been motivated to return to the top of the podium since.
The Florida International signee has distanced herself from the field, as her personal-best mark of 45 feet, 3 inches that won the City League meet is more than three feet further than the rest of the 6A field. While no one else has surpassed 42 feet this season, Same has consistently been throwing past that for the last month.
10. Jessica Heidel, Belle Plaine senior
After finishing second at the state meet twice last season, Heidel is back, qualified for four events and a title contender in at least three of them.
Heidel’s specialty is in the jumps and she came through with personal-best marks in both the long jump (18-0) and the triple jump (37-4 3/4) to top the 3A field entering the state meet. Heidel finished second in the long jump last season and seventh in the triple jump. If she repeats both of those, she may not have much competition. But Heidel will still have to deal with the defending champion who beat her last year at the state meet in Russell’s Alaina Gfeller in the long jump (8 a.m. Saturday) and Nemaha Central’s Allison Rottinghaus in the triple jump (8 a.m. Friday).
Heidel will also be a factor in the sprints, as she owns the second-fastest 100 time (12.58) this season in the 3A field and the third-fastest 200 time (26.40). Heidel finished second in the 100 at last year’s state meet. But everyone in 3A will be chasing Sedgwick’s Shae Ware, who has posted the fastest times in the field in both the 100 (12.32) and the 200 (25.93). The 100 final is at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, followed by the 200 at 5:50.