The weather is warming and the school year is coming to an end, which is as good a sign as any that it’s time for state track.
The event, which will be split into 5A/4A (Eagle High School) and 3A/2A/1A (Middleton High School) on Friday and Saturday, may offer extra intrigue because it’s the first in two years. The coronavirus pandemic wiped out last year’s event, so everyone involved is psyched for the return.
Here are three things to watch for at this year’s state track meet.
Skyline’s distance runners: The future and the seniority
When Skyline’s distance runners take the track at Eagle, two examples of the program’s success will stand out as freshman Nelah Roberts, who represents a promising future for the Grizzlies, and senior Sariah Harrison, who will be capping an illustrious career, look to get on the podium.
Roberts, who will compete in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, has yet to lose in the 3,200. She’s also recorded three first-place finishes in the 1,600. In those two races, she ranks fourth and second, respectively, in Class 4A. There’s a reason she’s a beacon for the program’s future, the next in line of a storied line of Skyline runners.
On the other end of the spectrum will be Harrison, who will be competing at state for the final time. Over her last few outings in Boise, she’s delivered races for the books: In 2018, fifth in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200; in 2019, fourth in the 800 and second in both the 1,600 and the 3,200. She qualified for this year’s meet by placing second in the 3,200 and 1,600 and third in the 800, though in that race, she’s given up her spot to make room for teammate Abby Wegener.
Either way, this will make for quite the dynamic this weekend for Skyline. Two eras of their program will be on display. One will continue and one will come to an end. Here, Harrison may be passing the torch to Roberts.
How will Thunder Ridge sprinter Tao Johnson fare at his first state meet?
Tao Johnson’s story is intriguing. He fashions himself a football and basketball player. This year, the junior decided to run track — for the first time.
So far, Johnson’s decision has proven fruitful. He’s qualified for state in the 100 — more on that in a bit — as well as the long jump and the 4x100 relay, along with teammates Maxwell Whitehouse, Kody Robinson and Elijah Johnson. That’s not a bad haul for anyone, much less a first-year track athlete.
The most impressive part, though, is likely Johnson’s 100 savvy. He’ll enter the state meet with the best time in Idaho, 10.62, a personal record that he set back on April 16. In fact, he’s undefeated in the event so far. His worst time, 11.13, would still rank in the state’s top 25.
So how will Johnson fare against the best in the state?
That’s a fair inquiry, considering the change in atmosphere at the state event.
Consider the pressure. The venue. Maybe some nerves. There’s a reason state is state, in part because it feels so different than regular-season meets.
Still, Johnson has already proven he ranks among Idaho’s elite. He’s also first statewide in the long jump with a mark of 22-11.5, which he set at the Tiger/Grizz Invitational at the beginning of the month. Plus, his 4x100 relay team checks in sixth in the state, the team’s best time of 43.57 coming at last week’s district meet.
If Johnson can do at state what he’s done all season long, he’ll likely establish himself as one of Idaho’s top track athletes. Plus, he’ll give a nice boost to his Thunder Ridge team, which is still trying to find its footing in the school’s third year.
Look for Salmon’s Johnathon Simmons to try and repeat as state champion
One of the most dominant stretches from Class 2A recently has come from Salmon’s Johnathon Simmons, a senior who is trying to put a bow on a distance running career that can only be described as scintillating.
Two years ago, Simmons secured two state titles, one in the 1,600 (4:30.10) and one in the 3,200 (9:46.63). He also earned a silver medal in the SMR, where his team finished in 3:46.32. Just a sophomore, Simmons was already beginning to emerge as one of the state’s best.
Since, Simmons has added to that reputation and more. This season, he has five first-place finishes in the 1,600 and three in the 3,200. Simmons has also qualified for state in the 4x400 relay, running with teammates Caden Caywood, Treygan Bragg and Griffin Mylan.
Simmons has a chance to leave Salmon as one of his school’s most decorated runners ever. Outside of Simmons, Salmon has produced just two state champions in the past decade. If Simmons can go back-to-back this weekend, there’s a good chance he’ll be remembered for a long time — at Salmon and around Idaho at large.
Below, check out the start times and order of events for the two meets.