Here's some questions for track and field fans to ponder before they sit down to watch the NIAA/U.S. Bank State Track and Field Championships today at Reed High School in Sparks.
-Can Mojave High School's Nicole Ireland become the first 4A female athlete to win four events at a state meet? And will Ireland help pull Carson's Amy Sanchez and Caitlin Prunty to new heights?
-Can Carson freshman Shanna Sparks break through and win a gold medal in the girls 800 meters tonight? And can she double back on Saturday and take on Green Valley's nationally recognized Abby Miller in the 1,600?
-On Saturday afternoon, can Douglas senior Chris Chappell defend his 4A boys pole vault title and become the first athlete to clear 16 feet?
Stay tuned, because athletes in Nevada's four classifications - 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A - will all be performing on the same stage, starting today with field events at 1:30 p.m. and running events at 2:10. The competition resumes at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Carson coach Todd Ackerman is looking forward to seeing a contingent of Senators compete in the meet.
"I just hope our kids run and throw well," Ackerman said. "This is a meet where you want to try and p.r. (set personal records), and if they can do that, they've got a shot at medaling."
Sparks has a shot at gold tonight when the girls 800 field lines up at 7 p.m. The Senator freshman ran 2:21.14 at zone last Saturday, one-hundredth of a second behind Galena junior Julie Hinton in a duel that went to the wire, while Prunty finished third in 2:22.64. Hinton and Sparks have the two fastest state qualifying times.
"Shanna's run 2:18 twice and if she can get to 2:15, she can win it," Ackerman said. "I think Caitlin is ready to step up, and if she does, I think we have a legitimate shot to go 1-2."
The 4A girls 1,600 on Saturday shapes up as a showdown between Miller and Sparks, who finished first and second, respectively, at the state cross country meet last fall. Sparks won her zone race in 5:10 and Miller won hers in 5:16.12 - and the meet record of 5:09.00 set by Carson's Cindy Rockwood in 1985 could be challenged.
In the pole vault, Douglas' Chappell is shooting for his second straight state title and the meet record of 15-7, set by Martin McClellan in 1983. Chappell went 16-0 in Fallon on March 25, becoming only the second Nevada prep athlete ever to achieve that plateau - Wooster's Ray Crook is the other. Chappell's 15-10 to win zone last Saturday set zone and stadium records at Reed.
Chappell also teamed with Gabe Hatchett, J.P. Patay and Matt Parra to win the 4x100 relay at zone in a school record time of 43.90.
Ireland overcame the flu to win the girls 100, 200, 400 and 100 high hurdles at last weekend's Southern 4A zone meet, and she will attempt to become first female to achieve that feat at state. The Alabama-bound senior has run 11.7 in the 100, 24.48 in the 200, 54.4 in the 400 and 13.9 in the high hurdles.
Perhaps Ireland's presence in the hurdles will help Sanchez in her bid to improve on the school record time of 15.16 she ran for second-place at zone last Saturday. Sanchez also placed third at zone in the 300 low hurdles (46.95) and third in the 200 (26.67).
"Amy's hoping to get down into the 14s, and I think she can; she's getting faster and smoother in the hurdles," Ackerman said. "I think she can get down into the 45s in the lows, too."
After running the 800 tonight, Prunty will come back and try to challenge a strong 400 field. The Carson junior will run in lane seven after placing third at zone in 59.82.
Carson also qualified three athletes in the girls and boys discus. Sophomore Megan Anderson placed third at zone and will be up against a strong girls field that includes Silverado's Lara Saye, whose season best of 163-4 surpasses the state record of 156-0 she set last year, and Galena's Janine Bodo (best of 131-3). Junior Chandler Menteer and sophomore Josh Carter qualified with the seventh and eighth best marks.
"All three are capable of medaling," Ackerman said. "Megan will have to throw 120 to 130, and Josh and Chandler will have to throw better than 150, but I think they're capable of that."
Junior Doug Brooks also qualified with the sixth-fastest time in the boys 100 meters and is part of a 4x200 relay team that will run today. Jordan Payette, Rob Handley and Matt Waterman are also part of that relay team.
Douglas also has a medal contender with Hatchett in both boys hurdles races. Hatchett has the sixth-fastest qualifying times after placing second at zone in the 110 highs (15.12) and 300 intermediates (39.85), behind Galena's Hamilton Ashworth (39.66).
Dayton has some individual title contenders in the 3A competition, starting with Rebecca Edie and Kristyn Jacobson in the weights. Edie has the best qualifying mark in the girls discus with the 108-8 she posted to win at the Division I meet last Saturday in Yerington, and Jacobson's 33-9 is No. 1 in the shot put.
Shayna Hamner is the defending 3A champion in the girls pole vault, but she will face a formidable challenge to beat Incline's Amy Hickstead, who cleared 10 feet to win at the Division II meet. Hamner went 8-6.
Dayton's boys 4x200 relay team of Jose Marquez, Shaun Merrill, Josh Essman and Genaro Coronado combined to post a first-place clocking of 1:34.60 at the Division II meet.