Following an abundance of high-stakes competitions 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.
Olivia Pielemeier from Lake Hamilton will look to continue her success in her final high school track season. The senior enters the season with 12 state titles to her name, hoping to defend her 800m, 1600m, and 3200m state titles from 2022. Pielemeier also competed at one of the most competitive races in the country last season at the Texas Distance Festival, finishing 4th in the 1600m, running a 4:54.77.
Tramiral Jackson from West Memphis and Donna Douglas from Nettleton will also be looking to defend their state titles from a year ago. Jackson ran a 15.46 in the 100m hurdles last season and is the fastest return in the event. Douglas ran away with her state championship in the shot put, throwing a 43-11, which was the furthest throw in Arkansas in 2022,
At last year's outdoor state championship, Sophia Allen from Sheridan and Taylor Hankins from Greenwood both jumped 11-04 in the pole vault. At last week's indoor state championships, the pair jumped the same height again. Allen has won the past two meetings. This year marks the two seniors' final chapter, which should produce another instant classic at this year's state championship meet.
DeAndra Burns Jr. from El Dorado had a solid day at the state championship meet last season, winning the 100m dash and long jump, finishing second in the 400m dash, and third in the 200m. Burns is also the fastest returner in the 200m. James Hunter from Parkview, Josiah Rainey from Sylvan Hills, and Aaron Webb from Sheridan are three other sprinters to watch in the loaded field of sprinters in 5A.
River Hardman from Russellville, Joseph Bariola from Lakeside, Ky Bickford from Mountain Home, and Noah Embrey from Greenwood highlight this loaded group of distance runners. Hardman, Bickford, and Embry won state titles last season in the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m respectively, while Bariola is the quickest returner in the 1600m. The 5A distance races are sure to steal the show this outdoor season.
Takoi Steward from El Dorado will look to defend his state title in the discus. Steward threw 144-4 at last year's state championship meet, which is good enough for the second-best returning mark from last season. Robert Dover from Mountain Home owns the top mark from 2022, having thrown 146-5.
Just seven points separated El Dorado and Mountain Home last season in the team championship scores. The two teams enter this season returning a lot of star power and will be the two favorites to win the team championship in 2023.