CLASS 2A TRACK AND FIELD: Wide Open Race for 2A State Team Titles

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See Who's Back: Top 8 Returners in Class 2A -- BOYS | GIRLS

If you're thinking of picking preseason favorites for the state title in Class 2A track and field, I suggest an alternative method:


Write the names of your top half-dozen teams on a piece of paper, mix 'em up in a bag, close your eyes, and grab.


Yep, it sure seems to be a wide-open race in Class 2A this year, based on athletes returning from last year. This may truly be a division where incoming freshmen or athletes who worked hard over the winter can push their team over the top.


Defending girls state champion Valley Heights had some key graduation losses, but the Mustangs are still pretty loaded, with junior Kayla Smith (shown at right) a heavy favorite to defend her state title in the triple jump. Smith is also a star sprinter, and could add the 100 and 200 meter titles to her resume this year.


Valley Heights, which won the 1A state title in 2014, also has key returners Shelby Vermetten, a senior, in the shot put and discus; and junior Skyler Saunders in the pole vault.


But Valley Heights will have to fight off a host of contenders if it intends to keep its title.


* Bennington has impressive strength in the distance events with sisters Halle Johnson, a junior, and Kya Johnson, a sophomore who won the 3200 meter run last year and was the Fall cross country runner-up;

* Wabaunsee has a bit more depth, including state title contenders Madeline Hess, a senior, in the distances and junior Jasmine Hurla in the sprints;

* Berean Academy's strength is in the javelin with three state medal returners, and sophomore distance runner Erin Topham;

* Sacred Heart will likely score big points with senior Gabrielle Diederich in the javelin and triple jump, and senior Grace Ivey in the high jump.


The Class 2A girls state meet should feature nine of the 15 state champions in non-relay events last year. They include senior Brooke Brownlee of Maranatha (100 and 200); sophomore Faith Little of Jackson Heights (800 and 1600); sophomore Kya Johnson of Bennington (3200); Valley Heights' junior Saunders (high jump) and Smith (triple jump); and senior Alyssa Miller of Hill City (shot put and discus).


The boys' team chase probably won't take a back seat to the girls for excitement at this year's state meet. Defending champion Olpe has moved to Class 1A, leaving behind several contenders in 2017.


Washington County and Ness City are two of those, and interestingly, both schools' strength appears to be in the jumps and throws.


Jae Eaton in the shot put, Hunter Kier in the discus (where he won the state title last year), and Dawson Miller in the javelin are all seniors for Washington who can win state titles. Ness City's Levi Armon is every bit their equal in the shot put and discus.


Ness City senior Chandler Stiawalt has the division's top returning marks in the high jump (6-7), long jump (20-8) and triple jump (44-6) and may be the wild card that his team holds. He is the defending state champion in all three of those events.


Washington's Jerrod Hoover (who jumped 6-6 for second place at state last year) should give Stiawalt a challenge again this year.


Plainville senior Sam Kaup (pictured at left), the defending state champion in the 200 meters, and senior teammate Hayden Friend are both title contenders in the sprints. They have a chance to put Plainville in the top 3 simply with their work in the 100, 200 and 400. Junior Zach Pierson also should score points for Plainville in the shot put and discus.


Senior Kaden Meitler leads Smith Center's chances at state. He's the defending state champion in the pole vault, and is also the top returner in the 300 meter hurdles.


Junior sprinter/triple jumper Jacob Rein and junior hurdler Bryce Casper should keep Macksville in the team hunt.


Three other teams may challenge for the state title based on strength in the distance events:

* Stanton County, which has senior distance standout Caleb Carrasco, who is the top returner in the 800 and 1600 meter runs;

* Kiowa County, which also has a distance ace in senior Frank Cuevas. He was the cross country champion last Fall, and won medals in the 800, 1600 and 3200 on the track last year;

* Yates Center, which has the division's best 1-2 punch in sophomore sensation Hadley Splechter and junior Jordan Smith. They both finished in the top 10 at the cross country championships, and have state experience on the track. Yates Center also has sprinter Levi Cooper who will likely score at state.

See Who's Back: Top 8 Returners in Class 2A -- BOYS | GIRLS