The second part of the state championship review series would of course be the MHSAA 2A/4A/6A State Championships, happening on Saturday, May 1, beginning at 11:00AM. We have a LOT of action and athletes to cover here, so let's not waste any more time and get right to it.
The first headline going into this meet is if the Tupelo High School boys, Christopher Eskeson, J.T. Posey, and Taylor Brown, can make history and potentially sweep the podium in the MHSAA 6A 3200m, which would be the first time in state history everyone on the podium is from one school. They already made history last week at North Half, when they had 3 runners break 10 in one race... This has never been done before. They will definitely have some very strong competition to go through if they want to achieve this lofty goal, names like Benjamin Owens, who broke up their 1-2-3 finish at North Half last week, or South State Champion Brady Helms or 10:01 3200m runner Adam Atigh. I think that it is definitely a possibility, though, and they worked really well as a team at North Half last week, and will for sure be gunning to sweep the podium.
Speaking of MHSAA 6A events... How many boys will break 2:00 and 4:30? In the 1600m, 7 out of the 8 men entered have broken 4:40, and the fastest coming in is Chase Rose at a 4:30.02 off of a somewhat tactical race. In that race, he out kicked Posey, who has also run 4:30 this year, and 1:59 800m runner Miguel Bankston, who ran 4:31 on that day. Once you factor in Kevin Cooley, the South State champion in the 1600m who dropped a 63 last lap on his way to a 4:34, then we have an absolute race on our hands. I would expect at least half of the field to break the 4:30 barrier. As far as who the favorite is... I'm going to have to go with Rose on this one. He hasn't dropped a race this year, and looked too good in his 1600m/800m double win at North Half last week. Moving over to the 800m, as mentioned earlier, Bankston is the only one to have broken 2:00 in the field this year, with a slew of guys that have run 2:01-03 entered in the field. I know a lot of guys want to break 2, but they also want to win. If those 2 goals work hand-in-hand with each other, we could have a lot of guys break the barrier. However, we will have to say how that goes, how it is the state championship so you never know what will happen, and a lot of those guys will be coming back from the 1600m, including Bankston, Rose, and Cooley. This race can go a lot of different ways, and there will be a lot of guys, basically the whole field, fighting for the win as they are all so close to each other. This is going to be a good one folks, perhaps the race of the meet. It's a rolling schedule, but I would predict this race to go off around 7:00-7:15 PM night, and If I were you, I would try and make it out to that one.
Another male athlete to look out for, and is trying to do a lot of things for the Pirates next week, would be Corvin Johnson. Johnson is slated to run in the 100m, 110mH, 400m, AND the 200m. He leads Class 6A in every single one of those events. A very versatile athlete, he started the day off right at South State in the 100m with the Win. However, he then got 3rd in the 110mH, and got 2nd in the 400m and 200m. First off, these definitely were not any bad performances, and he got beat by some legit guys. Especially Brandon Bell's 49.36, who also hasn't dropped a race in the 400m this year. However, I straight up watched him pull up in the 110mH, and he didn't look 100% in the 400m or 200m either. Whether he was saving it for State or if he is dealing with a slight injury, I am not sure... But even though this is a very tall task indeed, I personally believe that he is talented enough to win all 4 at state if he is healthy and ready to go on Saturday. He will have some TOUGH competition, though, in Bell, Jonathan Vaughn, Adam Augustine... just take your pick.
So, since we're on the topic of Augustine, let's go ahead and hype him up. This guy is the real deal in hurdles, and hasn't dropped a race all year - Something that was really hard to do coming from the south half of 6A. The 110mH could either way between him, Johnson, or Justin Nave. In the 300mH, though, Augustine has got to be the hands down favorite. He has broken 40 in the 300mH twice this year, including his win last week at South Half. I can personally attest that he gives it absolutely everything he has, as that is what he did at South Half in the 300mH when clawed to the finish in first place. I would not be surprised if we saw a 38 out of this kid, and the 110mH is going to be a dog fight as well.
Another athlete to highlight going into this weekend, again scoring a lot of points for the Pirates, is the jumps specialist Jerry Johnson. Johnson is expected to put up some big numbers, along with teammate Marcus Thompson, and will most likely help out in the relays as well. Johnson passed most of his jumps last week, and his progression is going upwards, so expect some big jumps out of him.
The last male runner to look forward to watching is the distance runner phenom from the coast, Keegan Leverett from Saint Stanislaus High School, competing in 4A tomo. Leverett finally stepped on the track this year at his respective division meet, and hasn't dropped a race yet. At his division meet, he essentially soloed a 10:13 3200m. He also has a secured a 4:44 1600m PR, though his 3200m and 5k PR from cross country suggests that he could run faster for sure. Personally, I believe this young talent could break 10 in the 3200m... possibly if him and Cooper Parmer decide to after it. I would say that, although it will not be a cake walk, Leverett is the favorite in both the 1600m and 3200m.
Moving on over to girl's action, Kiersten Clark is going to have some work set out for her if she wants to pull off the sprints triple crown. She's got a lot of heart, though, and that mixed with talent, which she has that too, will bode well for. She will have a lot of talented athletes vying not to let that happen, though, athletes like Addison McLaurin in the 200m, and especially Taylor Wingo in the 400m, who just had a breakout performance at South State clocking in a blazing 58.5. And then in the 100m dash, just take your pick of all the studs in that race. Clark, Makiyah Adams, Taylor Stratton, Jada Portis, or Trinity Williams. Basically, in all of the sprints, it's going to be insane, and Clark has some strong competition coming to her at State.
Now that Daeja Davis is out of the girls 6A 3200m, that race is wide open. The favorite has got to be Riley Jackson, the freshman phenom from Hernando who just ran 11:34 for the win at North Half, beating out Tupelo's Brookelyn Morgan. Pearl's Shana Sellers, the South State champ, ran 12:05 in the heat, and had a massive kick, hawking down Isabelle Wheeler from Ocean Springs. I think any of these 4 girls could be in the running for the title, with most of them doubling back in the 1600m where they will face off against Davis, another great race to watch. The story line of this race is that not one of these girls has ever won a state championship, so there is a lot riding on the line in this one.
Mallory Streetman might be the biggest 'gamer' in the state right now. She just gets on the line and gets things done. At South State 6A, she played a huge role in the 4x800, getting her team, Gulfport High School, to state in that event. She then handily won the 800m in a PR of 2:25, which is her primary event, and is undefeated as she has now won 9 times in a row now. We could possibly see a low 2:20's in the cards for the middle distance ace. Her tactics are near perfect, and she is the heavy favorite going into the state championships this weekend. She also anchored her 4x400 to victory at South State, and will be vying to do the same thing at state as well.
The head-to-head matchup of the meet, to one's surprise, will be at the boys 6A Pole Vault between John Scott Kendricks from Oxford and Aaron Fortenberry from Brandon. This is going to be a battle for the ages, as these 2 studs get to face off one last time in their high school careers. In the head-to-head battle. Fortenberry took the most recent battle, beating Kendricks out at the Pearl Invitational. Kendricks, though, has the higher PR of 15-7.5 to Fortemberry's 15-4.5. The pair has never faced off in a state championship, and could quite possibly push each other to a 16 foot vault this weekend at state.
One last thing to mention before we get into our team predictions is the Boys 6A 1600m run. This race is going to be historically fast this year. The charge, and pre-race favorite, is led by Jack Hewes from Saint Patrick High School, who has run an impressive 4:44, and won by 13 seconds, at his South State meet. We could potentially see 5 guys break 5, as well as the potential winner running sub 4:40, 2 things that generally don't happen often in MHSAA 2A. Once you throw in the 2020 MHSAA 2A Cross Country Champion into the mix, who is also the pre race favorite in the 3200m, we could have an exciting race on our hands.
2A BOYS: Saint Patrick High School is the easy favorite, heavily carried by their distance, led by Hewes and Dominic Patino (Patino will have a tight battle in the 800m) though they look strong in the jumps as well. Northside is somewhat in the hunt, as they have athletes like Thaddeus Latham and their jumps squad scoring a lot of points for them, but they would have to make up a lot of ground in those events to do anything.
2A GIRLS: Saint Patrick looking for the sweep, as they are more stacked in distance then the boys team is, even without Olivia Leatherman. Isabel Leatherman, favorite in the 1600m, and and Isabella Patino, favorite in the 800m, leading the charge of their distance squad, as they have at least 2 people in every distance event.
4A BOYS: Raymond High School and Saint Stanislaus High School will have a battle. Pontotoc High School and Richland High School will also be in the hunt, but for right now, on paper they will get third and fourth. Saint Stanislaus getting the majority of their points from Leverett and their discus crew, led by Ryan Tyler. Jvontae Noel doing a lot of good things for Raymond in the jumps, and they are also looking strong in the relays. Pontotoc and Richland would have to really capitalize on the events that they are in, especially distance with Cooper Parmer and Freddy Porter for Pontotoc. This should be a very good team battle.
4A GIRLS: Even with no distance runners, this is Raymond High School's meet to lose, and I can't see them losing. They are strong across every other discipline, with most of their points coming from sprints and throws.
6A BOYS: Clinton High School can almost match Pearl High School in every event... except the triple jump and the shot put, thanks to Jerry Johnson and bomb squad duo of Leo Mcintyre and Niquez Wade. Because of their top-notch field squad, that will most likely be what brings Pearl to the state victory.
6A GIRLS: It looks to be swapped, as Clinton just looks too strong this year... thanks to their bomb squad of Kaitlyn Walker and Meagan Womack, as well as their pole vault crew. Pearl High School will have to make up a lot of ground in their other events, and they will certainly try with athletes like Thai Douglas doing all kinds of events for them, but Clinton will be looking to get around 40 points on them in the throws and pole vault alone.