High School Sports

10 (more) boys athletes to watch at the state track and field meet

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1. Noah Green, St. Thomas Aquinas junior

Green is the premier hurdler in Kansas right now and his talents will be on full display on Saturday, as he will be chasing two more titles and meet records in both races. Liberal’s Austin Mullens was expected to be a legitimate challenger to Green in both races, but Mullens’ health is in question after a late-season injury.

That means Green, who last year’s titles at BV Southwest before transferring to Aquinas this year, could be running by himself this weekend -- not that it matters much to him. He broke the meet record last spring in the 110 hurdles running by himself, clocking in at 14.02 – six-tenths of a second ahead of the field to win the 6A title. He’s dipped his personal-best down to 13.71 this season, which stands as the No. 2 time in Kansas history, and he’ll be looking to break the 14-second barrier this weekend for another record. Green will run his preliminaries around 2:30 p.m. on Friday with the finals on Saturday around 10 a.m.

But if Green wants his name in the record books twice, he will have to summon a personal-best in the 300 hurdles to beat the 36.80 time set by El Dorado’s Troy Brown from 1987. Green won last year in 37.14 and hasn’t returned to that time yet this season, but will try in the preliminaries around 4:45 p.m. on Friday with the finals around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday.

Green also has a chance to make history with Aquinas’ 1600 relay team with Devin Diggs, Cole Giess, and Landon Wirt with Green serving as the team’s anchor. They own the fastest time in Kansas this season at 3:20.81, which is a second off the state meet record of 3:19.27 by Hutchinson in 2009. Waldo was the anchor on BV Southwest’s 1600 relay team, which won the 5A title last season. The 5A preliminaries are around 6:25 p.m. on Friday with the finals set for Saturday around 7 p.m.

2. Cameron Waldo, Olathe South senior

Waldo won last year’s 6A race going away, separating from the field by more than seven tenths of a second to win in 48.68. He’ll be the favorite to defend his title in 6A this season, as he owns the fastest time in the state so far this season (48.75) and is the only runner in the field to have cracked 49 seconds so far.

But Waldo actually finished second at his regional, as Olathe Northwest’s Julian Lacey (49.21) won that race. SM Northwest junior Hayden Goodpaster (49.00) and Campus junior Federico Harvey (49.47), both regional champions, could also be challengers to Waldo’s repeat, as they both seem capable of dipping below 49 given the right race.

Olathe South will be looking for its third straight 6A title in the 1600 relay after last year’s squad (3:17.07) came up just a second off the meet-record time (3:17.07) in their title-winning performance. The Falcons return three of the four legs to this year’s state meet.

When Emmanuel Okwuone, Tre Adger, and Waldo aren’t competing for state titles in their individual events, they will come together to form arguably the state’s fastest 1600 relay team with Nolan McKay. Olathe South has already logged the fastest time in the state this season at 3:20.30 and figure to once again push the meet record with Waldo, who was also on the 2015 title team, as the anchor.

3. Kyler True vs. Quanah Gardiner in the 1A distance races

Olpe’s Kyler True and Ashland’s Quanah Gardiner both completed the Triple Crown of distance racing last year, as True swept the 800, 1600, and 3200 in Class 2A and Gardiner did the same in 1A. Now that Olpe has dropped to 1A, True and Gardiner will battle in all three races during their senior years.

True enters with the fastest times in Kansas in all three races, as he has posted times of 1:51.26 in the 800, 4:10.69 in the 1600, and 9:21.57 in the 3200. True will be the heavy favorite in the 1600 and 3200, which means the 800 race should be the most competitive.

Class 1A actually has the three fastest 800 times in the state this season with True (1:51.26), South Gray’s Luke Skinner (1:55.20), and Gardiner (1:5.40) coming in the top three. The trio could push to break the 1A meet record of 1:53.29 set by Pawnee Heights’ Christian Smith in 2002.

True will also be aiming to break the meet record in the 1600 (4:15.70) and the 3200 (9:25.97), although he will likely be running alone when he chasing those records. The 1A 800 race is set for Saturday at 5:30 p.m., the 1600 race is around 2:05 p.m. on Saturday, and the 3200 race is Friday around 7:45 a.m.

4. Jacob Koelzer vs. Kaden Davis in 3A sprints

It will likely be a repeat duel between Nemaha Central senior Jacob Koelzer and Ellsworth senior Kaden Davis to decide the 100 and 200 titles in Class 3A. Last season Koelzer edged Davis in the 100 (10.89 to 11.06), while Davis won the 200 race (22.39 to 22.63).

This season Koelzer enters with the fastest 100 time this season at 10.76 with Davis close behind at 10.84. The 3A preliminaries will begin around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning with the finals starting around 1:05 p.m.

Davis owns the fastest time in 3A this season in the 200 (22.08), while Koelzer enters with the third-fastest time in 22.43. Lakin’s Jeff Gilleland (22.35) might also be a factor in the race, which has the preliminaries around 12:25 p.m. on Friday afternoon with the finals on Saturday around 6:10 p.m.

After finishing runner-up in the 400 last season, Davis is the top returner this season and owns the field’s fastest time in 48.98. He has already defeated the only other two runners to crack 50 seconds head-to-head at regionals in Russell’s Tanner Brown (49.43) and Norton’s Tyus Henson (49.64).

Davis will also challenge Koelzer in the long jump, which Koelzer has won back-to-back titles in 3A. Davis actually enters with the best mark in the field after winning his regional with a 22-8¼ mark, while Koelzer has the second-best mark at 21-9¼. It will be the first time the two will compete in long jump in their storied rivalry. The 3A long jump Is set for Friday at 9:45 a.m.

5. Sam Hankins, Manhattan freshman

Rarely do you see a freshman boy at the top of the state in any of the throwing events. That’s typically reserved for the more mature throws, the juniors and seniors. But that’s not the case this year in the javelin, as Hankins, a Manhattan freshman, has become a phenom.

Hankins owns the top javelin throw not only in 6A, but in Kansas this season with a mark of 205-11, which already ranks him in the Top 10 of the country. He is somewhat of a throwing prodigy, as he has excelled in the spot since he was young. Expect to hear the name a lot the next four years, as Hankins is also a quarterback on the football field.

Hankins will compete on Friday at 4:45 p.m.

6. Richard Newman, Topeka senior

Perhaps the only chance this weekend to see a 7-foot high jumper will be when Newman competes on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. Newman has already surpassed what he set out as his goal, clearing 6-11 this season, the best mark in Kansas, but he’ll be looking for that one-inch PR to join the elusive 7-foot club this weekend.

Newman is also the top qualifier in the long jump, as his mark of 23-1½ is No. 1 in Kansas this season. The 6A long jump is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.

7. Austin Mullens, Liberal junior

For the last two years, Liberal’s 1-2 punch of Austin Mullens and Dusty Torres has dominated every race they have entered. The duo finished first and second at the 5A meet last season with Mullens winning in 48.65, but late-season injuries to both has derailed those plans for this season.

Mullens still managed to qualify for the state meet to defend his 5A title, but finished fourth in a season-low time of 51.69. He was pushing the 49-second barrier earlier this season when he was healthy, but has the last week been enough time for him to recover? Can he still win the race without being 100 percent?

Expect a strong push from a pair of regional champions in Topeka West’s Jordan Walker (49.56) and BV Southwest’s Konrad Marshall (49.57). The 400 preliminaries are scheduled for Friday around 3:55 p.m. with the finals on Saturday around 4:05 p.m.

Mullens is also an excellent hurdler and enters the state meet with the second-fastest times this season in the 110 hurdles (14.32) and 300 hurdles (38.53) behind defending champion, Noah Green of St. Thomas Aquinas.

8. The Leavenworth 400 relay team

Leavenworth has somewhat of a dynasty going right now in the 400 relay, as the Pioneers have won the last two 5A titles in the event. The common denominator? Senior Clifford Robinson, who will serve as Leavenworth’s anchor for the third year in a row.

Despite replacing three members last year and two this year, Leavenworth returns with the fastest time in Kansas this season at 41.91. They became just the 14th team in Kansas history to break the 42-second barrier at the regional meet, clocking in at No. 11 all-time and barely off the state meet record of 41.64 set by Bonner Springs in 2008.

Leavenworth’s 400 relay team consists of Joe Bradshaw, Anthony Gould, Osezele Ativie, and Robinson this season. They will run in the 5A preliminaries around 3:15 p.m. on Friday with the finals on Saturday around 3:20 p.m.

9. Chandler Stiawalt, Ness City senior

Stiawalt will try to complete the 2A sweep in the jumps again after winning the high jump, long jump, and triple jump in 2016.

He will have competition in all three events this season, as Stiawalt only has the top mark in 2A this season in the triple jump with his mark of 45-7. He ranks second in the high jump (6-6) behind Washington County’s Jerrod Hoover (6-9½) and third in the long jump (21-8) behind Ellis’ Trey Hudson (21-10) and Stanton County’s Creed Puycar (21-8½).

10. LeeRoi Johnson, Tonganoxie senior

Johnson has exploded in the discus in his junior season, as his regional-winning toss of 192-10 moved him into the Top-25 nationally and into the Kansas history books with the No. 16 best throw all-time.

After placing fifth in last year’s state meet, Johnson is the heavy favorite to win his first championship on Friday at 4:45 p.m.