Look for the Stars to Shine in Kansas 4A track and field

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Kansas' class 4A track and field has never lacked for star power, and the lineup of athletes set to compete this year will certainly uphold that lofty standard.

For starters, Winfield junior Matthew Everett has risen up the national ranks in the discus, having posted a mark of 195-1 this season. That puts him at No. 8 in the United States currently, and No. 1 in Kansas.


Last year, he was the runner-up in this event to LeeRoi Johnson of Tonganoxie, but could flip the tables at this year's meet.


Cale Carson of El Dorado is the state's fastest 800 meter runner this season, having clocked 1:53.41 to win the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League meet. Ryan Neill of Buhler was right on his heels at the league meet in a time of 1:54.95, which also stands as the No. 2 time in Kansas this season.


The boy's sprints in class 4A will be exciting. In the 100, Jayden Price of Mulvane has the top time in 10.80, but there are five athletes in this division with times at 10.88 or faster. In the 200, Devon Marshall of Piper (22.38) leads a field of eight who are within three-tenths of a second of one another.


Abby Smarsh of Andale returns as the 300 hurdles champion, and she'll be looking to add the 100 hurdles title this year. She headlines a powerful Andale squad that is likely to defend the 4A team championship it won a year ago.


Samantha Vanhoecke of Paola is the No. 1 pole vaulter in Kansas this season, having cleared 13-3 at regionals for the No. 12 ranking in the United States. She's the defending 4A state champion in that event.


Among newcomers, look for freshman Taylor Briggs of Chapman to introduce herself to the state track and field scene. She won the 4A state title in cross country last fall, and is ranked No. 1 in class 4A in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs. This is a division that just saw Girard's Cailie Logue dominate the distances for four years - is Briggs the next in line?


Andale's girls are a strong favorite to win the team title. In addition to Smarsh, Andale has a pair of star sprinters in senior Kasidee Eck and junior Ellee Eck, who could go 1-2 in the 100 meters. Kasidee is also a medal contender in the 200 and Ellee should score in the long jump.


With that sprint strength, Andale also stands to win the 4 X 100 and 4 X 400 relays.


Andale also is loaded in the field events, where freshman Katelyn Fairchild and junior Jacy Anderson are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the class 4A discus. Senior Katy Commons and Fairchild are top-three contenders in the shot put and javelin.


In most years, Paola's girls would be the dominating force in this division. They have a stable of athletes capable of bringing home individual gold.


In addition to Vanhoecke, Moorea Long is the pre-meet favorite in the high jump, and Elizabeth Pomatto is the favorite in the javelin -- she threw 156-11 to win regionals, which is the fifth best throw in the United States right now. Sophie Jones has the division's top time this season in the 200, and sits at No. 3 in the 400 entering state.


The Panthers' 4 X 100 relay team is tops in class 4A this season, and they are top five contenders in the 4 X 400 and 4 X 800.


The other podium spot may be decided between McPherson and Baldwin.


McPherson senior Elle Barret is the two-time defending state champion in the triple jump and won the state title in the long jump in 2016 (she was second last year). Sophomore Emma Ruddle, who has the top time in the class 4A 100 hurdles, is unbeaten in eight races this season, and was the state runner-up in the event last year.


Baldwin's Kayla Kurtz is ranked No. 2 in class 4A in the javelin, currently with the 11th best throw in the United States at 148-11. Baldwin could also put together some points in the distance races, as well as the 4 X 400 and 4 X 800 relays.


Missing from this year's meet: Chapman speedster Ninti Little, who won the 100 meters a year ago. Little's family moved to Tacoma, Washington after last school year.


The boys' team title appears to be strongly in Buhler's favor, and that's even after sprint champion Jordan Hawkins failed to qualify out of regionals. Hawkins, who won the 100 and 200 meters as a sophomore last year, has been limited to running just the 100 this year. He returned to competition just three weeks ago, but finished fifth in the 100 at regionals. He won't be back this year to defend his titles.


But Buhler will pick up big points from seniors Bradon Rose and Brendan Webb, including a good shot at a 1-2 finish in the shot put. Rose also is the top-ranked javelin thrower heading into this meet, and both compete in the discus. Those two alone could get close to 35 points toward Buhler's team score.


Ryan Neill is No. 2 in class 4A and Kansas in the 800 meter run, while senior Clay Eckert is a top three contender in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles.


Andale's boys, the defending 4A state champions, have the best shot to catch Buhler, but they were hurt at regionals when Grant Fairchild, one of the division's best in the discus and javelin, failed to qualify in those events. Fairchild will compete only in the shot this year. In the pole vault, a 1-2 finish is not out of the question from Brayden Meyer, and Ty McPhail. Cole Landers could provide important points in the high jump.


Holcomb, El Dorado and Piper lead the pack of teams also hoping for a spot on the podium.


Holcomb's Isaiah Armstrong has the top time in class 4A in the 400 meters and Devin Mader is No. 4 in the class 4A 100. Holcomb also has the fastest 4 X 100 meter relay in class 4A.


El Dorado's Ezekiel Kemboi  will run the 800, and El Dorado has the top-ranked 4 X 800 relay in 4A -- Cale Carson runs the anchor on that relay --  and a top-4 team in the 4 X 400 relay.


Piper is led by sprinter Devon Marshall, who has run the fastest 200 in class 4A this season (22.38). Dalton White has the No. 2 time in 4A in the 300 hurdles.


Among other individuals to watch for in the 4A meet, Clay Center's Peyton Lane, the defending champion in the pole vault, has cleared 15-0 and is the No. 3 vaulter in the state of Kansas this season. Lane's teammate, Connor Last, has the top mark in class 4A in the long jump.


The boys' 1600 meter run should be a good race. Travis Lutz of Ottawa will be seeking his first state title, and has the No. 1 time in 4A this season at 4:27.45. But he'll face a strong challenge from three-time cross country champion Lakelin Conrad of Wichita Collegiate.

And don't be surprised to see another championship for the Logue family of Girard. After watching Cailie Logue capture four straight titles in the girls 3200, it's now her brother who has a chance to win that event. Cormick Logue, just a freshman, has the No. 1 time in class 4A this season.


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


Team -- Andale


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


Team - Andale


* Ninti Little has moved out of state and no longer competes for Chapman.