On Saturday May 14 the Grand Canyon boys track team finished the best season in school history, capturing the 1A State Track and Field title.
The team scored 104 points, defeating three-time defending champion Pima which scored 87 points. Canyon State Academy rounded out the top three with 80.5 points.
It was a long and intense day with preliminaries and finals in the field events, hurdles and sprints. It started at 10 a.m. and did not end until almost 11 p.m. It was the biggest 1A meet in state history, with enough athletes participating to make officials begin to talk about setting qualifying standards and adding a regional meet for 1A.
The morning session started well for the Phantoms. In the 100 and 200 meters Justin Kremer and Tempy Walker both qualified for the finals. Kremer and Jeff Towers qualified for the finals in the 400 meters, and Ryan Eck qualified for the finals in the 300 meters hurdles. Junior Martin Klotz competed in the discus with a throw of 68 feet and in the shot put with a distance of 30 feet, 9.5 inches. The morning session ended on a great note for the Phantoms with Eck taking first (21 feet, 6 inches) and Walker second (19 feet, 7 1/2 inches) in the long jump. Teammate Gabriel Massonaive jumped 14 feet, 5 inches in the long jump and ran the 100M in 13.4 seconds.
Chris Streit was having a tough day, and with one jump left had not yet qualified for the finals. His third jump was the leap of his life as Chris sailed 39 feet, 7 inches, a distance that stood up through the finals for third place. Ryan Eck came through again jumping 43 feet, 9 inches and taking first place. The Phantoms finished the afternoon session in third place with 34 points.
The Phantoms started out strong in the evening session, with Kremer and Walker finishing first and second in the 100M. Kremer successfully defended his 100 meter title and tied the meet record with a time of 11.02. The next event for the Phantoms was the 4 x 100 meter relay. The team of Walker, Towers, Eck and Kremer came from behind to defeat the team from Orme with a meet record time of 44.58.
There was not much rest for Kremer and Towers, as the 400 meters was right after the relay. Kremer defended his title and ran under 50 seconds (49.99) for the second time that day, he ran his preliminary in 49.78. According to state records this is the first time in at least ten years that a 1A runner has run under 50 seconds in the 400. Towers finished fifth (53.8) and scored 4 important points for the Phantoms.
Next up was Ryan Eck in the 300 hurdles. Ryan had already had a long day, winning the long and triple jump, running a leg on the winning 4 x 100 and qualifying for the finals in the 300. Yet he seemed as fresh as could be as he blasted out of the blocks, was first at the first hurdle and was never challenged winning in a time of 42.28.
With just the 200 meters and 4 x 400 relay remaining the Phantoms were tied with Pima with 86 points. The Phantoms had Kremer and Walker in the 200 finals, where Pima did not qualify anyone. However they had a team in the 4 x 100 and the Phantoms did not. So if the Phantoms could score at least 11 points in the 200 they would be ensured the state championship.
Kremer and Walker had already had a long day with many races already but decided they would do all they could to ensure a State Championship for the Phantoms. Kremer defended his third title of the day setting another meet record (22.87). Kremer beat the previous meet record (23.02) set by Grand Canyon's Jeff Maize in 1997. Walker leaned at the tape and took second in a time of 23.80.
At that point all the Phantom athletes, boys and girls, and Grand Canyon fans over 50 in all were just waiting in the stands for the completion of the 4 x 400 and the announcement of the results.
According to Head Coach Leah McGinnis, everyone sensed Grand Canyon was the new state champion but no one would talk about it.
Finally the announcement was made and the athletes along with McGinnis and Assistant Sally Wahler stood in front of the Arizona flag in front of over 2,000 people to receive the first place trophy. It was a very proud moment that the coaches and athletes will cherish their entire lives.
The first event for the girl's team was the 3200M run, and sophomore Sandy Pittenger set the pace by running a 15:56 on a very hot sunny morning. Junior Jackie Wren, running the 100M dash for the first time this year kept the momentum going by making the finals in both the 100M dash and the 300M hurdles. Jackie had been participating in the 400M dash throughout the season, leaving room for a number of younger team mates to run in the sprinting events. She stepped up to the plate in the 100M dash and got the job done running a 14.44 for sixth place. Jackie also placed sixth in the 300M hurdles with a time of 57.06.
Freshman Lizzy Tobin followed close behind, making the finals in the 100M dash as well and placing seventh with a time of 14.47. In the 200M prelims, Tobin ran a 31.70 and sophomore Fabienne Guiessaz ran a 32.53. In the long jump that morning sophomore freshman Ali Towers jumped 12 feet, 1 inch and team-mate Jessie Wren jumped her personal best with a jump of 13 feet, 5 inches.
The triple jump was held in the heat of the afternoon. This was the first year for the triple jump for the 1A conference in about 15 years. Grand Canyon had three girls participating Guiessaz, Tobin and Towers. Tobin lengthened her jump with every jump she made, ending with a jump of 29 feet, 8 3/4 inches earning her sixth place and setting a new school record. The previous school record was set by Callie Foo in 2003. Towers continued on to finals as well, jumping 27 feet, 9 inches and earning her ninth place.
Both the 800M run and the 1600M run were held in the evening session as finals. For senior Julie Haughton that meant she had to wait well into the evening for her first race.
According to McGinnis, it takes a lot of discipline to stay hydrated and mentally ready to run when watching team mates perform all day. Once Julie took to the track, however, knowing it was her last race of her high school career, she pushed her times achieving a personal best in the 800 with a time of 3:39 and a time of 8:11 in the 1600M run. Teammate Pittenger ran the 800M in a personal best as well of 3:20, and the 1600 in 7:10. Other 800 runners included Jackie Wren (3:03) and Towers (3:04).
The last race of the evening was the girls 800M medley relay. Tobin started the team out with a great 100M, handing the baton off to team mate Ali Towers who was filling in for Leslie Martinez who could not make the meet for personal reasons. Towers maintained the team's position for another 100M and handed the baton to Jessie Wren. Jessie ran the 200M leg of the race, bumping into Leslie's position because of her strong 200M runs. Jessie handed the baton to Jackie, who brought the team home in the 400M dash, earning the team a fourth place medal with a time of 2:15.
It was a great meet for the girls, some good experience for the freshman and solid performances by upper classman. The girl's team watched the success of the boys team all season, cheered them on and celebrated with them, knowing that the Grand Canyon girls track team has some good times to look forward to in the upcoming years.