CLASS 4A TRACK AND FIELD PREVIEW: New season, but (mostly) same teams vying for title

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Just in case you missed the thrilling team battles at last year's Class 4A boys and girls track and field meet, we've got good news for you.


They'rrrrre back!


The preseason contenders for the team titles look a whole lot like the top five finishers from last year's state meet, with one glaring exception: Maize South, which finished as state runner-up in the boys and girls meet, has moved on to Class 5A.


Andale swept the boys' and girls' crowns a year ago, but it wasn't easy. The boys' team nipped Maize South by 4.5 points, and the girls held off Maize South by 11. There were five teams still in solid contention in both boys' and girls' team races up until mid-afternoon on the final day of last year's state meet.


In this year's sequel, Andale should again have a pretty good dog in the fight, having returned many key performers from the state title teams of a year ago.


The Andale girls have perhaps one of the best hurdlers in the state in senior Abby Smarsh. She rolled to the 300 hurdles title a year ago and is a huge favorite to defend her crown in that event this year.


Andale is especially strong in the field, covering most of those events with athletes who could win -- or place in the top 3. They include junior Jacy Anderson and senior Morgan Geist (discus); Katy Commons (shot put and javelin); junior Ellee Eck (long jump); and junior Jaden Eck (pole vault).


Baldwin, which placed third in Class 3A track and field last year, returns a loaded girls team this season, and that squad is going to benefit from a pair of freshman distance runners who medalled at the state cross country meet last fall. Freshman Ambrynn Stewart was fourth at the state cross country, while fellow freshman Lauren Russell was 16th.


It's a great time for Baldwin to have strength in the distances. Class 4A girls is wide open in the middle distance and distance events after the graduation of 12-time state champion Cailie Logue of Girard. There's a lot of points to be earned in the Class 4A girls distance events.


The two Baldwin freshmen supplement what was already a very strong Baldwin track and field team that includes the defending state champion in the javelin -- junior Kayla Kurtz -- and the No. 1 ranked returner in the long jump -- junior Carly Lindenmeyer.


Baldwin senior Abby Ogle has a shot to dethrone Andale's Marsh in the 300 hurdles. Junior distance runner Natalie Beiter, also a medalist on Baldwin's state champion cross country team last fall, is a returning state medalist in the 800 and 1600.


Paola's girls, fourth in Class 4A last year, have a pair of returning state champions to key their school's shot at a team title this year. Senior Samantha VanHoecke will try to defend her state title in the pole vault, and senior Bea Pomatto will try to do the same in the discus. Pomatto also throws the javelin, heading a group of three -- including seniors Elizabeth Pomatto and Lexi Kuehl -- who all could medal at state in that event this year.


The Panthers also have an outstanding sprinter in sophomore Sophie Jones, and high jumper Moorea Long, a senior, is a top-three contender at state.


Class 4A girls has its share of stars, but one to watch this year is Chapman's Ninti Little, who burst onto the state scene a year ago and established herself as one of the top sprinters in Kansas -- regardless of classification. She won the 100 meters in class 4A last year, but is also a threat to win state titles in the 200 and long jump.


Andale's boys will try to defend their state crown this season by riding its strength in several field events. Senior Grant Fairchild could medal in the shot put, discus and javelin, while junior Luke Graf (high jump) and sophomore Brayden Meyer (pole vault) have a shot at state titles, as well. Junior Sawyer Simon enters the 2018 season as the No. 2 ranked 300 meter hurdler in Class 4A.


But Andale won't be the favorite in boys Class 4A this season. That distinction goes to Buhler, a team that returns just about everybody from the squad that finished fifth place at state last year.


Buhler certainly has star power. Junior sprinter Jordan Hawkins is the defending state champion in the 100 and 200 meter runs, while junior teammate Cole Janzen could be right with Hawkins in both of those events.


Buhler senior Bradon Rose enters the season with the No. 1 ranking in the javelin (he also is a top-four contender in the shot put and discus), and senior Brendan Webb has the No. 1 ranking in the shot put (he also is a top-four contender in the triple jump and javelin). Buhler should also score well this season in the pole vault, where seniors Andrew Voth and Clay Eckert will go to work.


Bishop Miege was fourth in the Class 4A boys division last year and bring back triple jump champion Cameron Key, a senior. They'll also do well in the sprints, with sophomore Brison Cobbins an up-and-comer.


Holcomb is a team that could be a darkhorse in the team standings. Junior Carter Blackburn is the defending state champion in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, while senior Andrew Morss is likely to make some noise in the short sprints and the triple jump. Tanner Johnson, a junior, is a top-four contender at state in the pole vault.


Two individuals to watch this year are pole vaulter Peyton Lane of Clay Center (15-6 at state last year), and discus thrower LeeRoi Johnson of Tonganoxie (180-3 at state last year). They are among the best in Kansas in their respective events, and both will be looking to add another state title to their credit.


Class 4A girls returning state champions


100 -- Ninti Little, Chapman


300 hurdles -- Abby Smarsh, Andale


High jump -- Megan Elliot, Wichita Trinity


Pole vault -- Samantha Vanhoecke, Paola


Triple jump -- Elle Barrett, McPherson


Shot put -- Aubrie Sorrell, Labette County


Discus -- Bea Pomatto, Paola


Javelin -- Kayla Kurtz, Baldwin


Class 4A boys returning state champions


100 -- Jordan Hawkins, Buhler


200 -- Hawkins, Buhler


400 -- Corey Minks, Maize South (now in class 5A)


110 hurdles -- Carter Blackburn, Holcomb


300 hurdles -- Blackburn, Holcomb


Pole vault -- Peyton Lane, Clay Center


Triple jump -- Cameron Key, Bishop Miege


Discus -- LeeRoi Johnson, Tonganoxie


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