WEEKLY PREVIEW: State Spots Up For Grabs at Regional Meets

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The Kansas State High School Activities Association has a full listing of regional track and field meets at this link.


It is showtime in Kansas track and field.


This is the week when regional meets will be held in every classification, with the top four finishers in every event qualifying for the largest state meet in the United States - the Kansas High School Track and Field Championships at Wichita State University.


That amounts to 720 athletes in individual events, and 36 relay teams in two days of action-packed track and field.


To get there, you've got to 'Survive and Advance'. It doesn't matter if you finish in first place or fourth place at the regional meet - you will have earned your spot at state.


Teams do not advance based on their finish at regionals; only individuals advance to represent their team at the state meet.


For Kansas' athletes and coaches, this is when you put all your cards on the table. No more experimenting with events, or resting athletes or even trying to hide your entries from opposing coaches.


If you want to be a state champion, it starts this week.


I've been doing quite a bit of looking at virtual meets for the state championships, trying to figure out what schools need to get their athletes through regionals to keep their team title hopes alive. By classification, here are some of my thoughts of things to watch for at regionals:


Class 1A

You might think that class 2A defending boys champion Olpe is the team to beat after their move to 1A earlier this school year. But, they are not.


South Gray, also a 2A school last year, is a strong favorite to win this year, with a squad that is loaded in the field and on the track. The key for South Gray, though, is making sure that all of that depth gets through the regional meet.


They'll have a good chance to do that on their home track as they host the class 1A, region 23 meet in Montezuma on Friday.


Olpe's Kyler True is the best middle distance and distance runner in Kansas, regardless of classification. He's the class 2A defending champion in the 800, 1600 and 3200, and we expect him to run those events at the region 22 meet in Burlington, where he clocked a career best 4:10.69 for 1600 meters earlier this season.


At Fort Hays State University, Lakeside's girls need a good day to remain the favorite in class 1A girls. They are led by 100 meter hurdle champion Rachel Miller, but it will be the qualifiers in other events that will boost their state title chances next week.


Class 2A


A two-team battle looms in class 2A girls between defending state champion Valley Heights and Kiowa County. Valley Heights has star power and is likely to get its primary state-scorers through at the region 20 meet at Jefferson County High School. Kiowa County is at the region 18 meet at Stanton County High School.


The class 2A boys chase begins with some intriguing regional battles this weekend. Plainville, a team with a strong shot at the 2A boys state title, will host the region 19 meet which features two other very strong teams - Sacred Heart and Smith Center. It will be interesting to see if any of those teams are able to knock off state qualifiers from the other teams this week.


Washington County and Stanton County are also in the mix for the 2A boys title. Washington County will be at the region 20 meet at Jefferson County North, and Stanton County hosts the region 18 meet.


Class 3A


Beloit will kick off its quest to win boys and girls state titles when they compete at the region 15 meet, hosted by Russell High School. The boys' squad will get a close-up view of the defending 3A champions and the team that is likely the early favorite for the 2017 state title - Norton.


Beloit's girls are the defending 3A champions and are loaded again. The regional meet is the first step in defending their crown.


Hugoton's boys and Cheney's girls are solid contenders in class 3A. They'll be competing at the region 13 meet, hosted by Cheney. Nemaha Central's girls are in the mix for the state title this year; they'll try to push their athletes through at the region 16 meet, hosted by Silver Lake.


Class 4A


Girard's Cailie Logue is a treat to watch anytime she steps on the track. This week, she takes the first step toward becoming a four-time state champion in the 3200 meter run when she competes in the region 11 meet at Paola. She has never been beaten in the 3200 meters in Kansas during her high school career.


Logue became just the seventh Kansas runner to win four cross country championships last Fall. She's also won two 1600 meter titles and one 800 meter title, and will probably run all three of the distance and middle distance events this year.


Maize South, which won boys and girls cross country state championships last Fall, will also be a strong challenger for the track and field titles next week. The Mavericks moved down from 5A this school year and already are showing their strength.


They will be competing in Winfield at the region 12 meet where they will face off against Andale, which has strong boys and girls teams, as well. Those two teams will either dominate the regional, or knock a few individuals out before state...and maybe both.


Pratt and Buhler are also contenders for the boys' state title. They'll face each other at the region 10 meet, hosted by Buhler.


Class 5A


Defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas is a dominant force in boys 5A, and I'm not sure anyone can slow them down. They have perhaps the best star power and best overall depth in the division, which they'll put on display at the region 5 meet at DeSoto High School.


At that same meet, two of class 5A girls' best teams will do battle. Pittsburg and St. James Academy have already met on the track this season, but this one will be with state berths on the line. The two teams are very similar, with a host of contenders for individual titles. St. James has some of the state's best relay teams, while Pittsburg has hurdle champion Taylor Muff and field event firepower.


Sprint-rich teams Leavenworth and Liberal are the schools with the best chance of beating St. Thomas Aquinas' boys. Leavenworth takes on the field at the region 8 meet at Shawnee Heights High School, while Liberal will be at Eisenhower High School in Goddard for the region 7 meet.


One storyline to watch among individuals: Leavenworth's Aarika Lister is the class 5A defending state champion in the 100 and 200 meter sprints, posting the state's only sub-12.00 time for girls at the 2016 state meet. However, we haven't seen her run since early this season and it will be interesting to see if she's back for regionals and a chance to defend her crown as the "Fastest Girl in Kansas."


Class 6A


Topeka's boys and Junction City's girls have plenty of swagger to carry them to the class 6A state championship this season. Make that, swagger, and speed, as their power in the short sprints also translates well to the relays.


It could carry each of those Centennial League teams to state titles next week. They look to take the first step toward that goal when they compete at the region 2 meet at Lawrence Free State.


Shawnee Mission Northwest and Olathe South have emerged as contenders for the 6A boys state title. SM Northwest will host the region 4 meet, while Olathe South will compete in the region 3 meet at Olathe North.


In 6A girls, Olathe Northwest and Hutchinson are trying to take the next step toward contending for the state championship. Olathe Northwest is also at the region 3 meet at Olathe North, while Hutchinson competes at the region 1 meet in Dodge City.