In recent years, Class 6A track and field has seen its share
of dominant teams that you just knew would be a load to handle come time for
the state meet.
Olathe East's boys dominated the division in 2014 and 2015,
while on the girls' side, Lawrence Free State and Lawrence were pretty clearly
the best from 2013 through 2015.
Which brings us to this year, when you could pick more than
a half dozen teams in both the boys and girls divisions that are capable of
putting a championship performance together.
Garden City's boys are possibly the closest to a clear-cut
favorite that Class 6A can offer. The Buffaloes return the core of a team that
finished fourth in the team standings in 2016, with the majority of their
strength coming in the field events.
That includes a trio of pole vaulters who stand a chance to
sweep the top three places in this year's state meet. Juniors Ruben Huerta and
Jacob Vargas and senior Brian Rodriguez placed second through fourth in last
Garden City also returns seniors Zachary Karlin in the high
jump and George Ross in the long jump, and junior Demarcus Elliott has the best
returning mark among 6A competitors in the shot put. Junior Garrett Doll is the
division's top returner in the 1600, and should also score in the 800, while
senior Marcus Tula is likely to medal in the 1600 and 3200.
The team that matches up best with Garden City is Manhattan,
which also will pin its hopes in the field events and distances. Seniors Joshua Haus and Ian Trapp are the top two ranked javelin throwers, while Haus and
fellow seniors Brandon Cook and Kevin Kim are medal contenders in the discus.
Tom Haug has Class 6A's top mark in the high jump entering
the season, while his twin brother John Haug is a top three contender in the
triple jump. The Indians are bolstered by the anticipated return of senior
Jackson Schroeder, the cross country state champion in 2014, and runner-up in
the 3200 meters at the 2015 track and field championships.
Hutchinson, Shawnee Mission North (the defending champs),
Olathe North, Topeka and Washburn Rural may not have quite the depth of those
two, but they definitely have the quality to score big at the state meet.
Hutchinson's Martavius Johnson is the defending champion in
the 110 hurdles and also runs the 300 hurdles. Senior D.J. Norman (high jump)
and juniors Hunter Degarmo (shot put) and Jaydon Baker (400) are top three
contenders in their events.
Shawnee Mission North may also get a boost from the return
of a distance runner. Alex Akalu, who sat out last cross country season, has
the division's top mark in the 3200 and third best in the 1600. Senior
teammates Carter Jacobson in the 800 and Carlitos Hernandez in the triple jump
should score at state, as well.
Olathe North junior William Jones has the best preseason
mark in the long jump, and is also a medal contender in the high jump and
triple jump. Junior Brandon Clark and sophomore Brian Beach head up North's
Topeka senior Richard Newman was the state runner-up in the
high jump last year, and fellow senior Jai Mein Berry was third in the 100
meter dash. Washburn Rural's Pierce Flanders is a strong contender in the 800
and 1600 meter runs.
Aside from Hutchinson's Johnson, the only other returning
state champion from last year in Class 6A boys is Shawnee Mission Northwest's
Cameron Waldo in the 400.
A couple of the state's distance running stars should keep
their teams in the mix for team titles in Class 6A girls.
Shawnee Mission Northwest's Molly Born is the two-time
defending champion in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs. Just a junior, she's trying
to pull off wins in those two events for the third straight year. She also has
won two cross country titles, and was the Nike Heartland Regional cross country
champion last fall.
She has a familiar foe in Lawrence Free State's Emily Venters, runner-up to Born in the 1600, 3200 and cross country last year.
Venters has won Kansas State championships in cross country (2014) and the 3200
meter run (2015).
Shawnee Mission Northwest should also score points in the
pole vault with junior Abigail Kelly-salo and senior Haley Utech - both contenders for a top five finish.
Venters' teammate, senior Kiran Cordes, is a top three
contender in the 3200 meters, bolstering Free State's title chase, and junior
long jumper Cameryn Thomas should also be in the mix for the individual title.
Olathe Northwest could have the best depth among early
contenders in Class 6A girls. Raven senior Audrey Fisher could win titles in
the long jump, triple jump and high jump and sophomore Leah Wellman is a top five contender in the 1600
Olathe North junior Dana Baker is the defending state champion in the javelin, and among the
best in the discus. Delaney Shaffer, a junior sprinter, is a title hopeful in
the 100 and 200,
Garden City has strength in sophomore Taylor Savolt (300
hurdles, triple jump and long jump), junior Raegan Linenberger (pole vault) and
seniors Annie Gerber (pole vault) and Aileen Gurrola (800). Wichita East junior
Unieisha Parker is a title contender in the 100 and 200, while seniors Brittan Richey (high jump) and Astrid Same (shot put) have the top marks in Class 6A
entering the season.
Olathe East is the defending champions in the girls
division, but were hit heavy by graduation. The sole returning placer from last
year's team is junior Bailey Turner in the long jump and triple jump.
In addition to Born and Baker, the returning state champions in Class
6A girls this year are senior Yazmine Wright of Hutchinson (400), and junior Jessie Stindt of Shawnee Mission East (triple jump).