High School Girls 800m
Perhaps one of the most exciting races to keep our eyes on at the 2022 Pearl Track and Field Invitational because it is so tightly packed with multiple state qualifiers is the High School Girls 800m. Leading the way in that event is Simpson Academy's 2 x time MAIS 5A State Champion Layla Warren with a seed time of 2:36. Not far behind is Raymond High School's Chayd'sia Horton, a 2021 MHSAA 4A State Qualifier in the 800m. The last seed under 2:40 is someone who is coming off of an incredible cross country season and has been working hard in the offseason, and that is East Rankin's Leah Collipp. Behind those three, there are even more Mississippi State Meet Qualifiers such as Tupelo Christian's Anna Bishop Powell, a 2021 MHSAA 1A 800m State Medalist, and Collipp's teammate Audrey Mayatte, a 2021 MAIS State Qualifier in the 1600m and 3200m. All of these studs will be meeting in the middle in the 800m and should make for an exciting race at the 2022 Pearl Track and Field Invitational.
My prediction: Since it's so early in the season and I can't tell exactly where everyone is at, it's hard to call a clear winner. However, athletes who are coming off of big cross country seasons such as Leah Collipp could be due for some more big PR's on the track, as getting better at cross country helps tremendously even in distances as low as the 800m.
High School Girls 1600m
Moving up a distance for another event that is on the MileSplit Mississippi Watchlist at the 2022 Pearl Track and Field Invitational is the High School Girls 1600m. Headlining the field with a 5:30 1600m, and also coming off an indoor PR of 5:38, is the hometown favorite from Pearl High, Shana Sellers. Right behind Sellers are the two of the favorites in the 800m, Layla Warren of Simpson and Leah Collipp of East Rankin. Finally, an entry that is due for a big PR is Collipp's teammate and, like Collipp, is also coming off of a big cross country season, is Emily Williams. Williams' 5k PR of 20:30 that she set during the 2021 cross country season campaign is 6:36 per mile - Williams currently has a 1600m PR of 6:39. Seeing how she has now run her 1600m PR three times in a row on grass, I'm sure we could see a sub-6 out of her, as well as shake things up with Sellers, Warren, and Collipp up front.
My prediction: Much like the 800m, it's very early in the season and I also can't predict the weather. February usually isn't the month for fast times, but we will surely see a fantastic race from these ladies, and there's always the chance that they surprise themselves with a PR. However, with Sellers' being the veteran, just recently dropping a 5:38, and this is her home turf, I'll have to go with her as the pre-race favorite to take the 1600m title.
High School Girls Shot Put
The final event to watch in the High School Girls competition at the 2022 Pearl Track and Field Invitational is the Shot Put. Like the 800m, it is a very close-packed field with multiple state qualifiers. And then we have Pearl's Anila Jones who adds another factor into the mix, as this is her first-ever outdoor meet and her second ever meet to compete in, yet she is the #1 seed going into the competition. Along with Jones, we have Joyla Clark, a 2021 MHSAA 4A State Qualifier in the Shot Put from O'Bannon High School. Also entered are Discus specialists Aryn Eady from D'Iberville who is an MHSAA 6A State Meet Qualifier, and Grace McMullan from Tupelo Christian, a 2021 MHSAA 1A State Medalist in the Discus. With all of these stars aligning, we could potentially see a historic season opener in the throws at the 2022 Pearl Track and Field Invitational.