Following an abundance of high-stakes competitions this past weekend at the Arkansas Indoor Track & Field Championships, which marked the end of the 2023 indoor season, our sights are now set on the outdoor track season.
In preparation for this highly anticipated season, Milesplit Arkansas has teamed up to provide an in-depth preview of each division, highlighting some of the top returning performers and teams to watch this year.
Molly Weilert from Haas Hall Academy finished second in the 400m dash this weekend but was the state champion in the event last spring and will also be in the mix for her second consecutive championship. Her teammate Helen Hesselgren will also be searching for a state title in the 400m dash, owning the fastest returning time in the event from last season, running a 59.01, adding to the tremendous depth in this event.
Juliah Rodgers from Jessieville returns for her senior season, hoping to defend her state championships from last year in the 800m and 1600m. Rodgers clocked the fastest times in all three distance races last season, running a 2:18.33 in the 800m, 5:01.53 in the 1600m, and 11:32.45 in the 3200m. Rodgers is once again the distance runner to beat in 3A.
Jaden Steeland from DeWitt is not only the top returner in 3A for the discus throw but in the entire state of Arkansas. With a throw of 126-6 at the Region 16 AAU Regional Qualifier, Steeland enters this season unbeaten in her last nine meets and as the clear favorite to win a second consecutive state championship in the event.
Jaylen Johnson from Prescott is one of the top returning sprinters this season. Johnson won the state championship in the 400m last spring and enters this spring coming off two indoor championships in the 200m and 400m dash events.
Hunter Pye from Jessieville is the fastest returner in the 1600m, running a 4:40.23 in his sophomore season, and hopes to defend his state championship in the event as well. Mason Ullrich from Paris and Pye's teammate Kaleb Eskew, the 3A indoor state champion in the 800m and 1600m, are two other names to keep an eye on in the distance events.
Jakeylon Jones from Prescott is a top returner in the two hurdle events, coming off two runner-up finishes at the state championships last outdoor season. Jones returns the fastest mark in the 300m hurdles with a 40.47 and second fastest in the 110m hurdles, trailing just Nathan Woodall from Melbourne by .16 seconds, who has run a 15.88. Jones is also a top competitor in the long jump and finished 3rd in the event at the indoor state meet this weekend.
Jeremy Racca from Riverview and Max Meredith from Greenland both return to defend their respective state championships from a year ago. Racca jumped a personal best 12-8 last season, while Meredith threw 48-7.75 in the shot put at the Arkansas Meet of Champions in 2022.
Ashdown High School came close to sweeping all four relay events at last year's state championships and will look to complete the sweep in 2023. Ashdown finished second as a team behind Prescott High School last season and the two teams once again enter this season as the two favorites to win a team state championship.