THIS WEEK: Focus Turns to Kansas Relays for Many of State's Top High Schoolers

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KANSAS RELAYS WEBSITE | WATCH LIVE ON FLOTRACK | MEET SCHEDULE


The proverbial Who's Who of Kansas high school track and field will flood Rock Chalk Park for the 90th annual running of the Kansas Relays Friday and Saturday.

It's the marquee event of the week, with 20 Kansas athletes currently leading the state rankings in their respective events scheduled to compete. Athletes from seven regional states will be in Lawrence for the two-day affair.

The meet is being broadcast LIVE ON FLOTRACK beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 and continuing through the end of the meet on Saturday night, April 22.

This is also a meet that is, by far, much tougher than the state meet in any of the state's classifications. And some could argue it could out-do many of the post-season regional track and field meets that take place in June and July.

In case you're not yet impressed, Rock Chalk Park boasts just one of five tracks in the United States that are Class 1 Certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Rock Chalk Park hosted the NCAA Division I West Regionals last May, and will host the Big 12 championships in a little less than a month.

It all comes together to offer a great chance for Kansas high school athletes to put up season- or career-best marks this week.

That said, the athletes themselves provide the greatest key of all: competition. Of the 18 championship events competed in Kansas, the boys have 11 state leaders and the girls have 9 that are competing at the Kansas Relays.

The distance events feature national-caliber runners. Kyler True of Olpe, who will run for Oklahoma State University next year, is among the nation's best in the 800 meters. He has a career-best of 1:49.87 and is the pre-meet favorite to win that event. 

True will also run the 1600 meters, an event in which he has the state's best time of 4:22.98 this season. (UPDATE: On Tuesday, April 18, True dropped that state-best time to 4:12.52 to win at the Waverly Gene Farrow Invitational.)

The girls 3200 meter run on Friday is dripping with anticipation with a monster matchup on tap between Girard's Cailie Logue, Shawnee Mission Northwest's Molly Born, and Lawrence Free State's Emily Venters.

That trio has combined for 12 state championships on the track the past three seasons, and are the top three seeds into the Kansas Relays. They last met at the Nike Heartland Regional Championships last November where they were putting up a 1-2-3 finish until the last 100 meters when Logue became ill and struggled to finish.

Logue is now back and the head-to-head-to-head battle that Kansas distance running fans relish is just hours away.

One who could spoil the party is Elizabeth Reneau of Liberty Christian in Argyle, Texas, a seven-time state champion in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.

The girls 1600 includes Born, Venters and Manhattan's Cara Melgares, three of the top four finishers in Class 6A last year, while Logue has opted out of that event this week. Joy Ripslinger of Assumption High School in Davenport, Iowa will be among the pre-race favorites. 

Here are some of the other events and key Kansas athletes we're watching closely this week:

100m -Two-time Class 5A champ Aarika Lister of Leavenworth ran 11.72 to win the Kansas Relays last year.  The state's best mark this year is 11.76 by Newton's Kalli Anderson, who is not entered in the Relays. Leavenworth's Clifford Robinson (season best 10.78) and Gardener-Edgerton's Matt Summerlin (10.71) could contend in the boys' race. 

400m - Olathe South's Cameron Waldo is the state leader with a time of 48.95.

800m - Four of the state's top six girls are entered, including Lansing's Victoria Robinson (2:15), Maize South's Kassidy Johnson (2:18), Blue Valley North's Sophie Scott (2:20), and Lawrence's Evann Seratte (2:22).

In addition to Olpe's True, the boys' 800 features Pittsburg's Connar Southard (1:56), Blue Valley Southwest's Andrew Lawrence (1:56) and St. Thomas Aquinas' Alex Gill (1:57).

Hurdles - Kansas has one of the country's best in St. Thomas Aquinas' Noah Green. He comes into the week with the state's best times in the 110 hurdles (14.10, No. 18 in the United States) and 300 hurdles (37.45, No.19 in the U.S.) and could win both. Two to watch in the girls' 100 hurdles are Jewell Bolden of Andover Central (the defending state champ in Class 4A) and Autumn Hanna of Maize (second in Class 5A).

Throws  -- Konner Swenson of Maize is the headliner for Kansas boys. He's the state leader in both the discus (198-9.75, No. 10 in the United States) and shot put (56-5.25), well ahead of Kansas competition so far this year. Alyssa Miller of Hill City has also been dominant this season; she's the state leader with a throw of 153-9 in the discus. Also look for shot putters Gabby Hopkins of Mill Valley (second in Class 5A last year) and Sydney Johnson of Beloit (third in Class 3A).

In the boys' javelin, Kansas' top contenders entered are Hunter Krom of Lawrence (184-4) and Noah Simbeck of Shawnee Mission Northwest (184-2). The girls' javelin features Class 6A state champ Dana Baker of Olathe North (159-4, No. 2 in Kansas), Class 3A state champ Kourtni Hubert of Beloit (148-0), and Class 2A runner-up Bailee Swift of Chase County.

Jumps - Kansas is loaded in this area with state long jump leaders Michael Hoffer of Shawnee Heights (23-1.5) and Jewell Bolden of Andover Central (19-4) set to compete. Jessie Stindt of Shawnee Mission East is the state leader in the triple jump (38-3.5), and Maddi Righter of Olathe Northwest tops all state high jumpers at 5-9 for the season.

Also look for Bailey Turner of Olathe East (38-2.5) and Class 2A state champ Kayla Smith of Valley Heights (38-1.5) in the triple jump; and high jumpers Hoffer (6-8), Jerrod Hoover of Washington (6-8), Richard Newman of Topeka (6-6) and Tom Haug of Manhattan (6-6).

Pole Vault - Rachel Mayberry of Olathe Northwest is the state leader, clearing 12-0 this season. This event is loaded with Kansas talent, however, with Class 6A runner-up Natalie Lanman of Shawnee Mission North (11-9) - who is unbeaten this season - as well as Class 4A state champ Jewel Eck of Andale (12-9 career best), and Shawnee Mission North's Abigail Kelly-Salo (11-9), who was third in Class 6A a year ago.

Relays - State leaders St. Thomas Aquinas boys (4 X 400) and Maize South's boys (4 X 800) are both entered this week. Olathe Northwest's girls (No. 3) and Olathe South's girls (No. 4) are the top in-state schools in the 4 X 100 relay. In the 4 X 1 Mile relay, St. Thomas Aquinas' boys are the top seed and Olathe East is the third seed in an interesting battle that pits the Class 5A cross country state champs (Aquinas) against the Class 6A state cross country champs. Manhattan's girls are the top-seeded Kansas school in the 4 X 1 Mile relay, sitting at No. 3 going in.

For a complete schedule of the events at the Kansas Relays, go to www.KansasRelays.com.

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