Morenci sends one defending state champion to Grand Rapids this weekend, along with two other athletes who will push the top-ranked leaders at the Div. IV track and field meet.
Morenci sophomore Austin Sandusky returns as the only defending champion after Brooke Bovee's season-ending injury three weeks ago. Sandusky tied for the 400-meter dash title last year with Nolen Mitchell, then a sophomore from Albion. Mitchell isn't running the 400 this time, but a sophomore from Peck has turned in a time as fast as Sandusky’s this year. Sandusky won in 2012 with a time of :50.9, but at the regional meet last week he finished at :50.7.
Three other state qualifiers have run the race in less than 51 seconds, including Britton-Deerfield's Leighton Merritt.
Sandusky placed fourth in the state last year in the 100-meter dash at :11.4; this year he's run :11.0. That time ranks him as number four in the state, and this race is where he will encounter Albion's Mitchell again. Mitchell posted a :10.6 at his regional contest.
Sandusky is ranked fifth in the 200-meter dash with a time of :22.9. Mitchell is on top at :21.7. One other competitor has run below 22 seconds.
Sandusky qualified in all three dashes as a freshman, also, but ended up not competing in the 200-meter dash after his other two races.
Morenci's other male qualifier is freshman Alex Thomas who, along with seven other high jumpers, qualified at 5-11. Ten jumpers have cleared six feet and higher, and Thomas's season best is 6-0. An Addison jumper is ranked on top at 6-4.
Only two inches separated Morenci junior Ali Piercy from the first place thrower at the regional meet in the discus, and that's where they stand in the Div. IV state rankings. Elizabeth Herriman from Sand Creek tossed the disc 114-7 and Piercy followed at 114-5. The other Herriman twin is five feet back in third place.
The throw at the regional meet was Piercy's best of the season—a season in which she's consistently cleared 100 feet.
Athens runner Chantel Davenport got a break when Morenci hurdler Brooke Bovee was injured three weeks ago. The two have run side-by-side for the past three years and each have endured hardships. Bovee fell in the 100-meter hurdle race as a freshman and Davenport had a false start in her sophomore year. Last season, Davenport finally got her state title.
"She probably gave a sigh of relief when she learned Brooke was out," Morenci coach Brad Brown said. "Then out of nowhere came Madi."
Morenci sophomore Madi Glecker is now ranked second best in the state, three-tenths of a second behind Davenport, and she's closed in rapidly as her technique improves. Davenport qualified with a time of :15.1, ahead of Glecker's :15.4. Two other hurdles have come in under 16 seconds.
Bovee would have had a challenge defending her state title in the 300-meter hurdles, but Coach Brown is confident she would have made the grade. The championship will now probably go to Reading junior Michelle Davis (:45.5). Glecker is ranked sixth at :48.0, although she lowered her time to :47.3 last week.
Morenci junior Tatyana Pless returns to state to compete in the 1600-meter run. A year ago she finished at 5:38 and she qualified for the event this year at 5:35.9. There are plenty of good runners ahead of her 17th place ranking, led by a Traverse City St. Francis runner at 5:08. Sand Creek's Natalie Perry is rated fifth.
Seven teams qualified at 4:20 and under in the 3200-meter relay. Morenci stands at 19th with a time 4:27. Team members are Mariah Gillen, Pless, Piercy and Gleckler.