A foursome of Payson High School’s finest track and field athletes has spent the past week preparing for appearances in one of the state’s most prestigious postseason competitions.
The contest is the Meet of Champions to be held May 22 at Queen Creek High School.
In the field of invitees, which includes individual state champions from all school size classifications, 1A to 5A, are Holly West, Dustin Isles, Forrest Wadington and Maddie Nossek.
West will compete in the shot put, Waddington in the 800 meters, Isles in the two hurdle events and Nossek in the high jump and long jump and possibly the 400 meters.
At press time, coach Jonathan Ball had not decided whether to enter Nossek in a grueling three events or to restrict her to only two.
Most of the season she’s competed in the maximum four events, but the competition in the Meet of Champions is so fierce, the coach might elect to have her in only two, hoping the rest will improve her performances.
Nossek advances to the meet as the state champion in both the long jump (17 feet, 2.5 inches) and high jump (5 feet, 3 inches) and a silver medalist in the 400 meters — if she enters.
At the 3A state meet last week at Arizona State University, Nossek set a school record (58.63) in the 400 meters breaking the old record of Brianna Marshall by almost a full second.
“Maddie’s performance was unreal,” Ball said. Also at state, Nossek competed in the 800 meters, an event she will not enter in the Meet of Champions.
She, however, did quite well in the state 800, turning in a personal best time of 2:22.04.
Ball remembers the race as a barnburner saying Nossek, “ran it exactly the way we wanted her to.”
Her pre-race strategy was to focus on Chinle’s Rolando Jumbo who is one of the country’s finest long distance runners.
“Jumbo went out to a huge lead and Maddie fought back to take the lead with about 15 meters to go,” Ball said. “Maddie did not see the hard-charging frosh from Show Low (Chastine Virgen) behind her and got beat at the line.”
West enters the Meet of Champions as the 3A conference silver medalist in the shot put with a throw of 33 feet, 10 inches. Her season’s best was 36 feet 8 inches.
“Holly did well, she really had a great season,” Ball said.
Wadington takes to Queen Creek High a 3A state bronze medal, an East Region gold medal and a personal best 800-meter time of 2:00.94. If he can break the magical two-minute mark at QC, he could be in the running for another of the top-three medals.
Isles will be among the pre-race favorites in the 300-meter hurdles, an event he won at the state meet in 38.64.
“He was running so well and gave us a heart attack on the final hurdle as he tripped, but recovered to win,” Ball recalls.
His state time is among the best in Arizona this season and with each meet he seems to get faster and faster. In the 110 meters at state, he was third and will travel to Queen Creek as an underdog in the event mostly because he will go toe-to-toe against champions from the 4A and 5A “big school” conferences.
Competition at Queen Creek High School begins at 6 p.m., Saturday, May 22.