Do you smell that? Probably not. But I know you can feel it.
The Arkansas High School Indoor State Championships are set to take place at the Randall Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas tomorrow and the entire state is buzzing with anticipation.
Over the last few weeks, we have talked about some of the biggest names in Arkansas from Julian Carter, the US #2 in the Boys 800m, to Zoe Wilson, the state leader in the Girls 200m and 400m, to Solara Koser and Sloan Jones, two more state-leaders in their respective events.
As excited as we are for these four athletes to toe the line on Saturday, there are several other individuals and races worth watching this weekend, as every competition from the 60m to the 3,200m to the pole vault is sure to be a good one.
Let's not waste any more time and preview a few other notable races on the track on Saturday.
Girls 60m Dash
Zoe Wilson has received her due in recent weeks and should find great success on the track this Saturday. The senior from Bryant leads the state in the 200m and 400m and currently sits second in the 60m dash just behind Morgan Maier.
Maier currently owns the fastest in the state, having run a 7.80 at the Prentice Gudgen Invitational in Kansas. The senior from Rogers is slated for a busy weekend, as she is entered in six events including the 60m hurdles, 200m dash, high jump, long jump, and shot put events.
Austin Azaria is also entered for Saturday's state meet and has the fastest mark entering the event. Although having raced just once in the 60m dash this season, Azaria brings a personal best time of 7.77 into the weekend, a time she ran en route to winning the event at the 2022 Indoor State meet.
The girls 60m dash is sure to be a thrilling event on Saturday as the laundry list of elite sprinters continues to grow. Gressa Hoyord, Debra Rauls, and Skylar Sterritt are three more names entered and among several other athletes capable of winning a state title this weekend.
Boys 400m Dash
There are currently three boys entered into tomorrow's 400m dash championship with seed times under 50-seconds.
James Hunter currently owns the fastest time in Arkansas, having run a 49.32 at the Arkansas HS Invitational, however, Jake Field is the fastest entry in Saturday's championships as he carries a personal best time of 49.17 into tomorrow's 400m.
Bruce Payerli is the third individual entered below 50-seconds in the 400m, having run a 49.89 en route to a 3rd place finish at this event last year.
Like Hunter and Field, Payerli is also entered in the 200m dash, but will certainly be fighting more fatigue than his competition. The junior from Rogers Heritage is also entered in the 60m hurdles and listed for his team's 4x400m relay. While Payerli will be a busy man on Saturday, his schedule will not stop him from asserting himself as a legitimate championship contender in this incredibly quick 400m race.
As a distance buff, I am obviously excited for the Girls 800m event this weekend as it includes some of the best distance runners the state has to offer.
Haley Loewe, the back-to-back 6A Girls Cross Country State Champion, is entered for Saturday's championship race and is just the fourth fastest entry in the event.
Joining Loewe will be Malaya Johnson, who owns a personal best time of 2:15.22, which she ran at the AAU Junior Olympic Games last July. Kayla Eggers and Jaylen Hagood are also entered in Saturday's 800m championship race. Eggers is a sensational freshman Rogers who finished 3rd at the Cross Country Championships this fall, while Hagood finished 3rd at the USATF Region 9 Championships last September in the 800m.
While the list of names at the top of the entry list makes this event one of the true "can't miss races" of the day, don't forget to keep an eye on Brooklyn Nicholson and Devyn O'Daniel, two decorated seniors who will be looking to finish their high school indoor careers on a high note.
All three boys distance events are loaded with the top distance stars in the state and the distance boys in the Natural State are sure to put on a show on Saturday.
However, the favorite entering Saturday's race, to nobody's surprise, is Julian Carter, who we mentioned before owns the second-fastest 800m time in the United States. Joining Carter will be the fastest crop of Arkansas distance runners we have seen in quite some time. Joseph Bariola, the 2023-24 Gatorade Boys XC Player of the Year and NXR South Champion is entered for this weekend's 800m and will be one of many distance stars chasing the All-American in front of them.
Along with Bariola, River Hardman, Harper Jones, Caleb Hogue, Brandon Waller, and Eli Seavey are just a few more names expected to line up and compete for a state title on Saturday. Hardman and Jones look to be Carter and Bariola's top competition, as both individuals are bringing seed times under 1:55 to Fayetteville.
The 1,600m and 3,200m events should be just as entertaining as Matthew Shelly, the 2023 6A Boys Cross Country State Champion, James American Horse, Trea Melton, and Brandon Avila are slated to compete in the distance double.
Girls Triple Jump
The top of the entries list for the girls triple jump is incredibly busy, which tells me we should expect a great competition from these ladies on Saturday.
Laiklyn Stephens is currently the state leader in the event, having jumped 36-3 at the Arkansas HS Invitational earlier this month. Stephens is also slated to compete in the long jump.
Danyelle Poole enters Saturday's event, however, with a seed of 36-10, the top mark in the competition. Poole, alike Stephens, is slated to compete in the 60m and 200m dash events and the long jump.
Ariadna Flores Isturiz enters tomorrow's championships with a mark just off the leaders of 36-0 and should also be a major player in the girls triple jump event. Perhaps an advantage the junior from Bryant owns over her two top competitors is that she will only be competing in the long jump, in addition to the triple jump, which could perhaps lead to a slightly less stressful and fatigue-filled day.
Boys Long Jump
Cooper Williams is currently entered in three events on Saturday, including the long jump. The superstar senior from Fayetteville is currently the US #2 and state leader in the high jump. Entered at an incredible 6-11.5 in the event, Williams is an overwhelming favorite to win the event this Saturday. The long jump, however, is a different story.
While we can expect Williams to be right in the thick of the competition in the long jump this Saturday, his road to a state title will not come nearly as easy in the high jump.
Lucas Roblee currently owns the top mark in Arkansas, having jumped 22-5.25 at the Arkansas HS Invitational earlier this month. The junior from Fayetteville will be looking to improve upon his 3rd-place finish at the 6A State Championship meet last spring in this event.
Even with Williams and Roblee slated to compete in Saturday's event, it is Christian Farrow who brings the best mark into Saturday's state meet. At last year's indoor state meet, Farrow jumped 22-6.5 en route to winning a state title.
There are several other individuals capable of winning a state title in the boys long jump this weekend, including Kayden Brown, who enters Saturday's race with the third-best mark in the event. Tristen Knox and Demetrius Moore are two more names to keep a careful eye on in this event as the two should be in the thick of this hotly contested long jump.