Christian Balcer, East Central
After a loooong review of the speedy Mississippi high school girls, we now have the boys to cover. And gosh, we sure have a lot to look over... So let's go ahead and get right to it!
Is this even an article on Mississippi boy's track and field if we don't mention East Central High School's, Christian Balcer?? He has had a historically fast season so far, running 1:58-800m/4:12-1600m/9:26-
**UPDATE: Balcer ran 4:13 FTW in the full mile -- converts to a 4:11 1600 -- then came back to run a 1:57.0 at the Mobile Challenge of Champions Invite**
As expected, the Tylertown High School duo of Jordan Anthony and Jeremiah Dillon has been on fire this past month. Anthony is leading the charge with state-leading times of 10.33 in the 100m, and 21.56 in the 200m. Dillon is not far behind, running 10.53 in the 100m for #3 in the state, and 21.75 for #2 in the state in the 200m. Anthony and Dillon are the only two athletes that have broken 22 seconds for the 200m this year. Anthony is also #5 All-time in the state of Mississippi, only .11 off of the state record held by Kailo Moore from West Bolivar High School back in 2013. Also, and unsurprisingly so, Tylertown High School is currently leading the state of Mississippi in the 4x100, 4x200, AND 4x400. Expect these two to score at least 36 points individually, and maybe we will even see them go after that 400m title... Interesting enough, Anthony, the Adidas Indoor National Champion in the 200m, is yet to win a state championship title. As a matter of fact, Dillon is the defending champion in the 100m and 200m. Anthony has got to be the early pre-meet favorite with the way he has been looking in March, but it will surely be thrilling to watch these two go at it next month at the MHSAA 3A State Championships.
While we're on the topic of sprints, we absolutely have to mention Saint Aloysius HS Brennon Williams. This guy's range in the sprints is unreal, unlike anything I have ever seen. He has run FIVE marks that are inside of the top 7 in the state right now. Williams is currently #7 in the 200m, #6 in the 110mH, #4 in the 300mH, #2 in the 100m, separating Anthony and Dillon by the way, and is currently leading the state in the 400m dash with a time of 49.35. In his 10 races that Williams has run so far, he has had a couple of slip-ups but has been extremely consistent for the most part, winning 8 out of his 10 races this year. For someone to go sub 10.6 in the 100m, sub 40 in the 300mH, and sub 50 in the 400m is insane to think about. It will be very interesting to see what events he decides to run at the MAIS 4A State Championships, as he can only pick 3, but is leading his respective class in all 5 events that he has run this season. Perhaps the most versatile male athlete in the state this year, expect him to make some money moves in May in whatever events he decides to run, as well as making a difference in the relays.
Speaking of the 300mH, specifically in MHSAA 6A, it is going to be an absolute thriller to watch Adam Augustine from Ocean Springs High School and Justin Nave from Clinton High School throw down in the event, as well as the 110mH. The two have never raced each other, but are bound to meet at the MHSAA 6A State Championships in May. Augustine currently leads the state in the event with a time of 39.20. Nave isn't far behind with a PB of 39.74. In the 110mH, however, it is Nave in front, as he has secured a sub 15 performance with a current record of 14.94. The early pre-race favorite has to be Augustine, though, as he straight up hasn't dropped a race all year in either event. Nave, on the other hand, can be a little shaky, but when he's on, he is on. I can personally attest to that as I watched him at the 2021 Rabbit Creek Rivalry before it got rained out, and that kid is smooth over the hurdles. Throw in Corvin Johnson from Pearl High School and Bryson Smith from Oak Grove High School, and it is going to be a hurdle race for the ages.
It should also be noted that Jacoby Matthews from North Pike High School has been putting on a show in not only the hurdles, but the 200m, LJ, and HJ. He is a very versatile athlete for the Jaguars in May, and his efforts this past month have not gone unnoticed.
Moving back over to distance, the first name we have to talk about is someone that seemingly came out of nowhere, and certainly one that I personally did not see on the come-up. That someone's name is Ben Owens from Madison Central HS. The 1600m seems to be his primary event, as he has yet to lose in the event this season, securing a PR of 4:38 in the process. His only loss this year was in the 3200m, running 10:27 for a HUGE Personal Best, and only 2.5 seconds behind Brookhaven High School's Sam Arnold. The dude is a 'gamer', there's no other way to put it, and will always show up on race day. He's somewhat of an underdog heading into Division meets, but expect him to shake things up big time in the 1600m this season.
Another distance runner that has had a solid year so far is MAIS ace is Mississippi College commit Preston Speed, from Jackson Preparatory School. Most recently, Speed essentially soloed a 4:39 1600m, and also soloed a 2:01 800m the meet before that. He hasn't lost all year, ranging from the 800m-3200m, and leads the MAIS in the 800m and 1600m events.
It should also be noted that the current leader of the 3200m in the MAIS is Dallas Stricker from Heritage Christian Academy, with a mark of 10:27. The MAIS A State Champion in cross country has had a 'low key' very solid year so far, running a MAIS leading time in the 3200m and also running a 4:56 in the 1600m... in the EIGHTH GRADE. The fact that this kid is that young from such a small school running those kinds of times is actually extremely impressive and simply has to be commended for his efforts so far this year.
Some other distance guys that have been tearing it up on the track are the boys of Tupelo and Oxford, MS. In the 3200m, they are dominating the North side of 6A, as the top 5 are all from either Tupelo High School or Oxford High School. From Tupelo High School, J.T. Posey is leading the charge as he currently leads MHSAA 6A with times of 4:30 in the 1600m and 9:52 in the 3200m. Christopher Eskeson is not far behind, ranked #2 in 6A with a PB of 9:56. Eskeson has also gone 4:42 in the 1600m this season, also a PR, and sits at #3 in the North 6A currently. And, last but not least, the 8th-grade sensation Taylor Brown has gone 10:07 in the 3200m, good for #6 in class 6A currently. That time in the 3200m is also the fourth fastest time an 8th grader has run in the country this year. Unfortunately, Brown is on the outside looking in, as he is also #5 in the North 6A right now, and only 4 qualify to go to the Big One. The two that are separating the stacked Tupelo squad are none other than Luke Johnson and Ethan Knight from Oxford High School. Johnson went 10:00 on his home track at the Charger Invitational, beating out his teammate in that race by 3 seconds, putting Knight at 10:03. That was a huge run by Knight, though, as he was seen as somewhat of an underdog after the cross country season, but has obviously been putting some work in over the break. Johnson and Knight currently rank #3 and #4 in the North 6A. Knight also has the 4th spot in the 1600m in the North 6A, Running 4:42. As a matter of fact, there are 14 guys right now in all of MHSAA 6A that are between 4:41 and 4:46, so I personally can't wait to see how that shapes out once the North/South meets come up. Also, In the 800m, Jaheim Bridges has gone 2:02 for the 800m, a PR and currently #2 in MHSAA 6A, behind Miguel Bankston from Clinton High School. Posey has gone 2:04, putting him in the 4th spot in North 6A, so we will have to see if he goes for the triple once regionals and North Half comes up.
It should also be noted that Causey Simmons, from Tupelo Christian Prep School, has run 9:53 in 3200m this year. He hasn't dropped a race in the 3200m this year and leads MHSAA 1A in all events. I don't know what's been in the water that the Tupelo boys have been drinking, but they have been throwing down some serious times on the track in the past month.
Back over in Oxford, though, the distance boys aren't the only ones that have been tearing up their track season this year. John Scott Kendricks has been killing it, winning 6 out of his 8 competitions, and currently leading the state of Mississippi with a mark of 15-7.5. Interestingly enough, only 3 inches behind is Brandon High School's Aaron Fortenberry, both in the same class this year, so that will surely be a great matchup at state this year. Both vaulters are in the top 10 All-time in Mississippi, with Kendricks slated at #6, and Fortenberry at #9. Although Kendricks has the better PR of the two, Fortenberry is winning the head-to-head matchup with a total tally of 2-1. Who knows what will happen when an MHSAA 6A State Championship is on the line, though, and we may get to see a vault over 16 feet between one of these two at state, something that we have only seen in 5 athletes in the history of the state.
One more field athlete that needs to be mentioned would have to be LaJoshua Jackson from Senatobia High School. Jackson currently leads the state in the shot put, and is also ranked #3 in the discus. However, Jackson has not lost in either of the two throwing disciplines all year and has a lot of momentum heading into divisional meets. He easily leads MHSAA 3A in both shot and discus and will be very valuable to the warriors in May, who are possibly vying for the team title. Expect Jackson to score an easy 20 points for his team at the MHSAA 4A State Meet.
Moving back over to the MHSAA 6A State Meet, the team race will be a phenomenal battle between these three powerhouses: Clinton High School, Pearl High School, and Oxford High School, with Tupelo High School and Meridian High School on the bubble list of that. As of right now, if every single person has run, jumped, vaulted, or thrown their season best so far, Then Pearl would be the favorite, mostly thanks to their sprints and throws... They can thank the likes of Niquez Wade and Corvin Johnson for that. However, Clinton is not far behind, as they will be looking towards Miguel Bankston and Christian Kingdom to score some points in the 800m and 1600m, as well as possibly winning the 4x800m, an event that Clinton HS is historically pretty good at. Tupelo could score as much as 50 points in the distance, so if they just sprinkle in points here and there across every other discipline, they could be one to watch out for. Oxford, with the likes of Kendricks and their distance crew could be one to look out for as well... especially if Chase Rose gets put into the equation. Lastly, Meridian High, with Jonathan Vaughn and Kemarie Wade, and their hurdle crew, will be doing some big favors for the Wildcats in May. All that to say, the MHSAA 6A State Meet will be an absolute blast to watch, and the team race for that is wide open.
Our final topic to talk about, like mentioned in the girls' review, will be to touch upon a few absences in the sport this season. As I mentioned briefly in the paragraph before, Oxford transfer Chase Rose, the MHSAA 6A State Champion in Cross Country, has yet to run a race this outdoor season. As a matter of fact, the last time he stepped on the outdoor oval was his sophomore year at the MAIS Overall Championships, back when he was at Kirk Academy. It is known that Rose, who just recently committed to run for the Ole Miss Rebels in the fall, was a major part of the Oxford basketball team, and that was to blame for missing the first few weeks of the season. However, basketball has been out for a minute now, and Rose has yet to step on the line for the Chargers. If he ends up competing for them at State, however, he will surely shake things up BIG TIME, as he could possibly win all 3 of the distance events if he is in good form.
The last name to touch upon is another distance ace, and this runner actually finished the season ranked #3, right behind Rose, at the end of Cross Country season. That runner's name is Keegan Leverett from Saint Stanislaus High School, the 2 time MHSAA 4A State Champion in Cross Country. Like Rose, Leverett's school has run plenty of meets this year without Leverett on the starting line. Leverett was a runner that I was personally ready to see what he could do on the track, but that has yet to happen in the 2021 outdoor season. Also like Rose, the last time he stepped on the track was almost 2 years ago. If he is able to get to the line at the Division meets, however, he could also be one to make a huge difference, because if he is healthy, he could win the 1600m and 3200m at the MHSAA 4A State Meet.
Whew... I finally get to take a breath after reviewing all of the superb performances across the state in all disciplines. I expect a lot of them to go down in the next month, especially at the state championships. As always, the Mississippi Milesplit staff wishes everyone the best of luck on their road to state, and hope to see you there in May!