Four years of hard work ends over the next two days for Meredith Kiekintveld, Brock Davis and four other Payson High student-athletes.
Six seniors close their prep athletic careers in the Division 3 state track and field meet at Mesa Community College today and Saturday.
Kiekintveld and Davis, two of the best athletes at the school, will continue their track careers at Northern Arizona University.
But both want to close their high school careers occupying one of the four places on the medal stand. Actually, they’d like to do that in multiple events.
And there’s good reason to think they will.
Both are ranked No. 2 in the 100/110-meter hurdles and No. 3 in the 300 hurdles. And they’re part of top-ranked relay teams — Kiekintveld on the fifth-ranked girls 4x100 and Davis on the third-ranked boys 4x400.
Kiekintveld looks to claim her second state championship in the 300 hurdles after winning that event as a junior.
But she’s just as focused on contributing to a strong finish with the 400 relay. Freshman Emmy White to senior Savanna White to Kiekintveld to senior Hannah Goldman turned in a 51.83-second time that makes that quartet a legitimate contender for a medal. Emmy White competed in that race all 10 times Payson ran it this year. However, an injury will prevent her from joining her sister in the race. MaKenzie Brade will take her place to open the race.
“I really want to perform well in the 4x100,” Kiekintveld said. “Those are great girls who have been working hard all year and they really deserve to be on the podium.”
Kiekintveld also qualified for the state meet in the triple jump and javelin but won’t compete in either event this weekend. Instead, in addition to the two hurdle races, she’ll compete on the relay. Last year she competed in four events in the state meet. But head coach Jonathan Ball thinks competing in four events again, especially in the extreme Valley heat, could very well hurt her chances of turning in her best performances in the other races. So she’ll only compete in the three events.
Kiekintveld’s attitude about that relay is really what high school athletics is like in its purest form. Instead of competing in four individual events, she’ll do her best to help the 4x100 reach the podium as one of the top four finishers.
She’s inspired by Goldman, who turned in a personal-record 13.1 in the last meet at Snowflake to qualify in the 100 dash. In addition to the 4x100, Goldman also qualified in the 100 and triple jump.
“Hannah is our sprinter and she’s the reason we’re in striking distance in the 4x100,” Kiekintveld said. “She’s worked so hard all year. I feel like we need to get up there (on the podium) for her. She deserves it.
“She’s my best friend, a great teammate and family. We’re all family on this team.”
Kiekintveld and Davis are also both very good basketball players. But both made the difficult decision to sit out their senior seasons to focus on preparing for their last season of track.
“I was two weeks late starting track season last year because basketball didn’t end in time,” Kiekintveld said. “I wanted to put in more work this season.”
Davis also qualified in the 200 and 400 runs but won’t run in those races so he can concentrate on the two hurdles and the 1600 relay.
Savanna White is ranked fifth in the discus and sixth in the shot put after placing fourth in the shot put in her first season as a thrower last year.
Davis will run with senior Cole Tenney and juniors Lance Beckner and Jordan Harger on the 4x400.
Tenney also qualified in the 110 and 300 hurdles and 4x100. Beckner also qualified in the 400 and 4x100. Sophomore Trevor Cline also qualified in the triple jump and 4x100. Sophomore Bridger Harger qualified in the high jump.
Senior Luis Diaz is ranked fifth in the discus and seventh in the shot.
Payson coach Jonathan Ball is excited about how high both the girls and boys teams could finish in the team standings. Seventh is the highest either team has finished since the AIA switched from classes with fewer schools in each to larger divisions for the 2011 season.
“This is the deepest group of seniors we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Ball said. “Our girls finished eighth among 59 schools last year. This year we have 70 in Division 3, so they added 11 schools. It’s the most schools ever.”
“The goal for every event is to get in the finals (top nine),” Ball said. “If we do that then we could finish in the top five, maybe in the top three, both teams.”