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She’s the state record holder, but Lauren Ellsworth enters her senior season as a darkhorse, a long shot. The Highland star posted the fastest time for an Arizona high school girl last May while winning the Div. I title in 2:07.61. What makes Ellsworth the long shot is an ACL injury that she suffered in October. Ellsworth is back to running, but only in short spurts, and her status for the season remains doubtful. It would be a minor miracle if she returned to competition this spring and the BYU commit won’t jeopardize her running future by trying to come back too soon, so she likely has ran in her last race as a Hawk.

Next tier

It’s ridiculous to put Desert Vista senior Danielle Jones under the header of next tier, but here she is. She is the 2013 state champ in the 800 and will make a run at trying to knock Ellsworth down to No. 2 on the all time chart. Her PR is 2:09.24 and if the University of Colorado commit gets into the right race this year, she has the speed to go under 2:07.

On the rise

Some of the best racing will probably be found in the 800 among Desert Vista’s Mason Swenson (a junior), Baylee Jones (sophomore) and Mandy Davis (sophomore) and Chandler’s Alexis Nichols (junior) as well as Corona del Sol’s Renee Clary (sophomore) and Red Mountain’s Taryn Estavillo (senior). Those six runners have Personal bests between 2:16.21 (Jones) and 2:19.02 (Estavillo) and will be mixing it up to get to a spot on the podium.

Boys 800 meters

Top tier

Perry’s Cade Burks emerged onto the scene by winning the elite 800 at last year’s Chandler Rotary as a sophomore and he was the lone sophomore in the fast heat of the Div. I 800 meter finals. He emerged as the state runner up behind Corona del Sol’s Nate Rodriguez, posting a personal best of 1:54.22. Burks has a nearly 4 second gap on the rest of the returning field in Div. I and he’ll try to close the gap with the state’s top returning 800 runner, Rio Rico’s Carlos Villarreal, who ran 1:53.00 to win the Div. III title.

Next tier

His speciality isn’t the short distances, but Campo Verde’s Lucky Schreiner showed he does has some leg speed, running to a fourth place finish in Div. II with a time of 1:57.14. Schreiner missed all of cross country with a stress fracture in a foot, so the shorter distances may better suit him this year as he gets back into shape.

On the rise

Gilbert Christian junior Logan Pinkerton was the only underclassman in the top 4 at the Div. IV state meet. He finished third with a PR of 1:59.82 and will assume the role of favorite heading into this season.

Girls 1600 meters

Top tier

This season should look a lot like a Dani Jones victory lap. The Desert Vista senior has accomplished just about everything she’s set out to do in her career, but don’t expect her to slow down. She set a new state record in the 1,600 at the Div. I state meet in May at 4:48.73 and then ran to a 3rd place finish at the adidas Dream Mile in New York City, running a full mile in 4:43.40, which converts to a 4:41.76 1,600, more than seven seconds faster than the old state record of 4:49.11, set by Sara (Gorton) Slattery back in 1999. Jones will be after a return trip to the Dream Mile where she will eye a victory on the national stage before heading off to Boulder and the University of Colorado.

Next tier

Four returning girls runners ran under 5 minutes in the 1,
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600 and three of them are from Desert vista (the other was Lauren Ellsworth of Highland). Mason Swenson ran to a 3rd place finish at state in 4:59.47 and Baylee Jones was right behind in fourth at 4:59.85. Both had strong cross country seasons and should be fast enough to beat just about anyone in the state not named Dani Jones.

On the rise

Chandler has had a strong grip on points in the sprint events, but Alexis Nichols should help the Wolves grab some distance points. Nichols was fifth in Div. I a year ago and will have to fend off runners like Desert Vista’s Mandy Davis, Red Mountain’s Taryn Estavillo and Highland’s Allyson Girard for the fourth spot behind the strong Desert Vista trio.

Boys 1,600 meters

Top tier

Lucky Schreiner emerged as a superstar last year for Campo Verde, winning the 1,600 in Div. II and running a PR of 4:13.45, the No. 2 returning time in the state. Schreiner, who will attend Columbia University in the fall, will be very motivated to run well on the track this year after missing all of cross country season with an injury.

Next tier

Corona del Sol senior Marcus Wheeler last competed on the track as a freshman at Hamilton. Wheeler transferred to Chandler as a sophomore and sat out the cross country and track season. Then, he ran cross country at Corona del Sol as a junior and sat out the track season. This year, he won the state title in cross country and is back on the track for the Aztecs. Wheeler showed in cross country he can run with anyone in the state, so it will be interesting just how fast he’s become in two years away from high school track and field.

On the rise

Cade Burks has the top returning time in Div. I, but the Perry junior didn’t run the 1,600 at state, deciding to focus on the 800, where he was second. This year, Burks will look to improve greatly on the 4:20.38 he ran as a sophomore as he plans to run more 1,600 races.

Girls 3,200 meters

Top tier

Dani Jones ran the 3,200 meters just twice last year and both times were good enough to be the best time in the state. Her 10:34.16 at the state meet helped lead a 1 2 3 Desert Vista sweep in that event (a feat that the Thunder could repeat in 2015). This season, expect Jones to run the 3,200 at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in April and make a real run at the all time mark of 10:15.94 set by Sara (Gorton) Slattery in 1999. Arcadia is known nationwide as the best meet to run the 3,
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200 in with a deep and fast field. Last year six runners ran under 10:15.94.