Track Athletes of the Year: Allante Battle and Natalie Johnson - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Track Athletes of the Year: Allante Battle and Natalie Johnson

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Posted: Monday, June 4, 2007 12:34 pm | Updated: 6:52 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

As conspiracies go, it’s pretty far-fetched, although anyone who watched the 5A Division I state track meet would believe it’s possible.

No, there aren’t two Allante Battles, just one. But after what the Phoenix Desert Vista junior pulled off at the state meet, you can understand why people might think something fishy was taking place.

Battle had arguably the best day in Arizona track history at the May 12 state meet. In less than five hours, he won the 100, 200, 400 and ran a leg on the Thunder’s gold medal-winning 1,600-meter relay team. In each event, he set school records and all of the times were the best in the state this year. To top it all off, Desert Vista’s time of 3 minutes, 15.50 seconds in the 1,600 relay is the second-fastest time in state history.

“It felt like it didn’t happen. I’m still in a bit of disbelief,” Battle said of his whirlwind day that ended with him and his teammates hoisting their first-ever track team championship trophy. “It was very stressful, but overall really fun.”

For his performances, Battle was named the Tribune’s boys track athlete of the year.

When looking at Battle’s lineage, it’s no surprise he’s a fine athlete in both football and track. His father, Greg, was a linebacker at Arizona State and enjoyed a career in the CFL. His mother, Anna, was an All-American long and triple jumper at ASU.

But genes can only go so far. What set Battle apart this season was his competitive drive that was built through a lifelong competition with his older brother Avory.

“We were always competing and trying to be better than each other,” Battle said. “It wasn’t even sports. It was everything we did.”

That drive was on full display at the state meet. Battle opened the day with a 10.64 in the 100, came back less than two hours later and ran a 47.17 in the 400.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get by the 400,” Battle said. “After the 400, I thought I was going to be dead.”

But he wasn’t dead and won the 200 in 21.33. The joy of having the team title locked up propelled Battle and his teammates Matt Swift-Kraemer, John Kline and Spencer Chase to the victory in the 1,600 relay, with Battle, fittingly, bringing the victory home.

“It was satisfying knowing that everything paid off,” Battle said. “It showed through the performances by the whole team.”

Looking Back


It all went right: One year after finishing second at state by .2 points, Desert Vista easily made up that difference with a state meet to remember. First, the Thunder set a state record in the opening event, the 3,200-meter relay, as the team of Jeff Bolton, Matt Swift-Kraemer, Sean Rutledge and John Kline set the stage for the title with their record run of 7:47.99. The Thunder proceeded to set school records in six other events to score 146 points, the most ever for a 5A state champion. A big part of those points came from Allante Battle, who set school records in the 100 (10.64), 200 (21.33), 400 (47.17) and ran a leg on the school-record-setting 1,600 relay team.

Back on top: Valley Christian’s streak of five straight 2A titles was ended last year, but the Trojans made sure the time away from the top would be short, scoring 168.5 points to easily win the eighth title in school history.

More to come: Desert Vista’s 3,200 relay team wasn’t the only one to set a state record. Chandler sophomore Bryce Lamb, who set the state mark as a freshman, improved by six inches, jumping 49-7 to set a new standard in the triple jump.

Mirror images: One can only wonder how much fun it would have been to watch McClintock’s John Yatsko and Arcadia’s Reed Blochberger race each other at state. Yatsko and Blochberger won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races in 4A Division I and 4A-II, respectively, with similar times. Blochberger ran 4:23.16 in the 1,600; Yatsko ran a 4:23.48. Blochberger was in a much more competitive 3,200, winning in 9:31.22. Yatsko won his race by six seconds in 9:36.79.

Class 5A All-Tribune first team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Allante Battle Desert Vista Jr. 5A-I champ in 10.64, strong all season

200 Allante Battle Desert Vista Jr. Won 5A-I title in 21.33, fastest in state

400 Ansen Schenk Casa Grande Jr. 2nd in 5A-I with run of 48.24

800 Matt Swift-Kraemer Desert Vista Sr. Memorable race to win 5A-in 1:52.71

1,600 Jim Walmsley Horizon Jr. Best time in state this season (4:17.98)

3,200 Matt Boughton Desert Vista Jr. 5A-I runner-up; best time of 9:29.86

110HH Ray Polk Brophy Jr. Broke 14-second barrier (13.79)

300IH Ray Polk Brophy Jr. Best time in state this year, 37.38

HJ Phil Feinberg Corona del SolSr. 3rd straight title; had best jump of 7-1

PV Shea Kearney Desert Vista Sr. Best vault to win state at 16-4 3/4

LJ Ron Taylor Mtn. View Jr. Got first 5A-I title with 23-3 jump

TJ Bryce Lamb Chandler So. State record holder at 49-7

Shot put Steven Figueroa Desert Vista Jr. Only thrower over 60 feet this season

Discus Cameron Jordan Chandler Sr. Got it together to win state title

Athlete of the year: Allante Battle, Desert Vista

Coach of the year: Ryan Stanley, Desert Vista. After several close calls in recent years, guided Thunder to runaway victory at 5A-I state meet.

Class 5A All-Tribune second team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Mikhael Barton Chandler Sr. Finally got healthy, ran 10.78 at state

200 G.T. Tipton Casa Grande Sr. Finished 2nd at 5A-I meet; ran 21.60

400 Tyler Arnold Highland Sr. Was 3rd in 5A-I; had best time of 48.02

800 D.J. Johnson Mtn. View So. Ran P.R. of 1:54.95 to place 2nd in 5A-I

1,600 D.J. Johnson Mtn. View So. Top E.V. finisher at state (3rd)

3,200 Jim Walmsley Horizon Jr. Best time came in 2nd week of season

110HH Michael Woodham Mtn. Pointe Jr. 2nd at 5A-I meet with P.R. of 14.12

300IH Dion Jordan Chandler Jr. Runner-up at 5A-I meet with 38.26

HJ Hunter Gibson Desert Ridge So. Came from nowhere to win 5A-II title

PV Brandon Bear Mtn. View Jr. Good when it counted; 2nd at 5A-I meet

LJ Bryce Lamb Chandler So. 2nd in 5A-I; had best jump of 23-6 1/2

TJ Will Claye Mtn. Pointe So. Best mark was 48-10 1/2.

Shot put Joe Riccio Horizon Jr. Was 5A-I champ; top mark of 58-7

Discus Ryan Kelly Corona Sr. Best throw was 183-9; was 2nd in 5A-I

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune first team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Patrick Foley Notre Dame So. Ran P.R. of 10.99 to win 4A-II title

200 Patrick Foley Notre Dame So. 2nd at 4A-II state meet in 22.37

400 Corey Botma Valley Christian Sr. State champion with time of 49.65

800 Corey Botma Valley Christian Sr. Won 2A with time of 1:55.77

1,600 Reed Blochberger Arcadia Sr. 4A-II champ; best time of 4:18.85 3,200 John Yatsko McClintock Sr. 4A-I champ; ran 9:27.48 this season

110HH Jared Call Queen Creek Jr. Ran 15.06 to finish second in 4A-II

300IH George Jones Coolidge Jr. 3A state champion ran 39.94 to win

HJ Daniel James Higley Sr. Was 2nd in 4A-II with P.R. of 6-6

PV Daniel Fanelli Valley Christian Jr. Set 2A meet record with 14-10 1/2 LJ Raheem Jackson Canyon State Sr. 21-8 3/4 won 1A by more than 2 feet

TJ Jamaal McKinney Coolidge Sr. 2nd in 3A with mark of 44-6

Shot put Sean McPherson Tempe Sr. Had best throw of 53-10

Discus Sean McPherson Tempe Sr. Placed 2nd in 4A-II, threw 156-4

Athlete of the year: Corey Botma, Valley

Christian Coach of the year: Rob Reniewicki, Arcadia. Guided the Titans to a second-place finish in the 4A-II meet for best finish at state in school history.

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune second team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Chip Sivak Arcadia Sr. 2nd at 4A-II meet with 11.18

200 Jai Brewster Canyon State Sr. Won 100, 200 at 1A state meet

400 Jon Colton Arcadia Sr. Was champ in 4A-II with 50.15

800 Sam Benavides Queen Creek Sr. Was 2th in 4A-II with time of 1:57.39

1,600 John Yatsko McClintock Sr. Best in 4A-I with time of 4:23.48

3,200 Reed Blochberger Arcadia Sr. Best time of 9:29.86; won 4A-II title

110HH Jamie Sandys Chaparral Jr. Placed 3rd in 4A-I with 15.24 time

300IH Jared Call Queen Creek Jr. 4A-II runner-up with time of 40.20

HJ Jake Gaylord Higley Sr. 3rd in 4A-II; East Sky Region champ

PV Chris Ernst Pinnacle Sr. Won 4A-I title with 14-6 clearance

LJ Justin Loomis Valley Christian Sr. 2A state champion with jump of 21-1

TJ Kenneth Gooden McClintock Sr. 4A-I runner-up jumped 44-5 1/2

Shot put John Kredit Valley Christian Jr. Won 2A state title with 48-10 1/2

Discus Joe Koestner Seton Sr. Finished 3rd in 3A with throw of 153-9


The final impression that many will have of Natalie Johnson was not a good one.

Running the anchor leg on Phoenix Xavier’s 1,600-meter relay squad in the 5A Division I state track meet, Johnson labored over the final 60 meters, going from just a few steps out of first all the way down to third.

“It bothers me because that’s not usually how I run,” Johnson said. “Especially in the 4-by-400, that’s the event I usually do well in no matter how I feel.

“That was really a big shock to me when I ran and lost at the end.”

Johnson’s final high school race in Arizona may have ended on a sour note, but for the recordbreaking season she enjoyed, the Xavier senior earned the Tribune’s girls track athlete of the year.

Few knew that Johnson had been battling an illness during the weeks leading up to the state meet, missing five days of school and getting in limited workouts. In fact, Xavier coach Dave Van Sickle didn’t know if Johnson would compete at state at all until the day the meet started.

But Johnson did run. She won her specialty, the 800 meters, and finished second in the 400 and third in the 1,600-meter relay.

Johnson leaves as the state’s best middle distance runner ever. She is the state record holder in the 800, setting the standard of 2 minutes, 8.61 seconds on April 6 at the Arcadia Invitational.

The previous day, Johnson, Sarah Penney, Jessica Tonn and Nicole Waters broke the state record in the 3,200 relay, running a time of 9:02.99 that stands as the second-best time in the nation this year.

“It was fun getting to know the girls and the team camaraderie that we had,” Johnson said. “It was fun being with everybody else and doing well.”

Johnson also had the second-best 400 time in Arizona this year, a 55.54, and her personal best of 55.17, set her sophomore year, ranks fourth on the all-time charts in Arizona.

Despite the late-season struggles, Johnson says she is pleased with the way her prep career ended and is ready for the challenges she’ll face the next four years at Notre Dame.

“I think it was a good season, a good finish to my last year at Xavier,” said Johnson, who won six state titles. “But I think it’s time. I’m ready to go off to college and face those challenges.”

Looking Back


Repeat performances: Winning one title is tough enough, but four East Valley teams now have consecutive title streaks going. The longest such streak belongs to Valley Christian, which ran its streak to 12 straight 2A state titles. The Trojans are now just one away from tying Safford (1986-1998) for the longest track title streak in state history. Queen Creek won its second straight 4A Division II title and fourth straight overall (two were in 3A). Chandler, with a young lineup, won its second straight in 5A-I and Tempe Prep did the same at 1A.

Records fall in California: Xavier runners shattered two state records in two days at the Arcadia Invitational on April 6 and 7. The first state record to fall was in the 3,200-meter relay, as Jessica Tonn, Sarah Penney, Nicole Waters and Natalie Johnson won in 9 minutes, 02.99 seconds, easily breaking the old record of 9:20.15. The next day, Johnson set a new state record in the 800 with 2:08.61. The Xavier relay time is the second-fastest in the nation this year, while Johnson’s time ranks 8th on the season.

Triple crown: Scottsdale Christian’s Jillian Klassen finished her banner high school career in style, sweeping the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the 2A state track meet. Klassen, who will run at Samford University in Alabama next year, won nine state track titles and three state cross country championships.

Class 5A All-Tribune first team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Shawn-Tae GreeneDobson Jr. Ran P.R. of 12.17 to win 5A-I title

200 Pollyanna Trotter Mtn. Pointe Sr. Emerged from tight field to win in 5A-I

400 Natalie Johnson Xavier Sr. Her 55.54 clocking was 2nd-best in state

800 Natalie Johnson Xavier Sr. State record holder with 2:08.61

1,600 Jessica Tonn Xavier Fr. Set freshman state record in 4:56.63

3,200 Jessica Tonn Xavier Fr. State champ ran 10:37.23

100HH Larissa Mathews Chandler So. Repeat state champion; top time of 14.29

300IH Nicole Kittleson Hamilton Sr. State champ had top time of 44.20

HJ Courtney Hayes Dobson Sr. 5A-I champ; state’s best jump at 5-8

PV Cara Carpenter Mt. View Jr. 5A-I champ,school record with 12-0 mark

LJ Samantha Collins Westwood So. Saved best jump (19-0) for state meet

TJ Paulla Hart Skyline Sr. 5A-II state champ jumped 37-7 3/4

Shot put C.J. Navarro Desert Ridge Sr. 41-9 3/4 best in state by over a foot

Discus Samia Stokes Corona Sr. Best throw of year at state meet 143-5

Athlete of the Year: Natalie Johnson, Xavier

Coach of the Year: Eric Richardson, Chandler. Guided young, energetic team with just two individual champions to easy repeat.

Class 5A All-Tribune second team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Larissa Mathews Chandler So. 5A-I runner-up ran P.R. of 12.24

200 Steffani Jordan Chandler Fr. 2nd in 5A-I in 25.17, will be force in future

400 Khadijah Muhammad Chandler Jr. Fiesta Region champ; P.R. of 57.56

800 Sarah Penney Xavier So. Had 2nd fastest time of year at 2:14.64

1,600 Sarah Penney Xavier So. 5A-II runner-up in 800, 1,600 and 3,200

3,200 Chelsea Chauvet Horizon Sr. Peaked at state with 10:47.81 time

100HH Mischa Carson Chandler Jr. Versatile athlete was 2nd in 5A-I (14.86)

300IH Courtney Wood Basha Sr. Finished 2nd in 5A-I, best time of 45.23

HJ Elyse Weitz Gilbert Jr. Cleared 5-5 at state, will be favorite next year

PV Shaylah Simpson Desert Vista So. Holds freshman state record at 12-0

LJ Mischa Carson Chandler Jr. 3rd at 5A-I meet; had best of 18-3 ¾

TJ Mischa Carson Chandler Jr. 5A-I state champ with jump of 36-10 1/2

Shot put Alishia Asijie Red Mt. Sr. 5A-I champ had best throw of 40-7

Discus C.J. Navarro Desert Ridge Sr. Had 2nd best throw of year at 141-3

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune first team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Brittany Parks Maricopa Fr. 2A champ ran 12.60 to win 2A title

200 Brittany Parks Maricopa Fr. Ran personal best 26.09 to win 2A title

400 Mariah Bowers Queen Creek So. State champ in 4A-II with 58.42 time

800 Ashley Workman Queen Creek Fr. 3rd in 4A-II meet with 2:20.37

1,600 Jillian Klassen Sco. Christian Sr. Capped career with another 2A title

3,200 Jillian Klassen Sco. Christian Sr. 2A champ; best time of 11:06.25

100HH Hailey Buschur Queen Creek Sr. Was 2nd in 4A-II; best time of 15.12

300IH Breanna Leslie Valley Christian So. Surprise 2A champion in 45.76

HJ Kelsey Wood Higley Sr. 2nd straight 4A-II title; top jump of 5-6

PV Katlyn Carroll Valley Christian Sr. 2A state champ had best mark of 11-3

LJ Shamesha Smith Valley Christian Sr. Set school record with jump of 18-3

TJ Shamesha Smith Valley Christian Sr. Had 4th best jump in state at 36-10

Shot PutMarika Lemmons Notre Dame Jr. Had best day at state to win 4A-II title

Discus Courtney Adolph Queen Creek Sr. Led Bulldogs sweep with throw of 119-7

Athlete of the Year: Jillian Klassen, Scottsdale Christian

Coach of the Year: Ellie Hardt, Queen Creek. Not having her daughter Kari didn’t seem to be a problem, as Bulldogs dominated in 4A-II for second straight year.

Class 4A-1A All-Tribune second team

Event Athlete School Yr. Comment

100 Shauntrell Johnson Coronado Fr. Placed 2nd in 4A-II with time of 12.66

200 Ashley Osbourne Chaparral So. 4th at 4A-I meet in time of 26.52

400 Sara Pages Cactus Shadows Sr. Runner-up in 4A-II; ran 59.86

800 Ragen Riggs Higley Fr. Came on strong late; 5th in 4A-II at 2:25.36

1,600 Loren Wynn Saguaro So. 3rd in 4A-I with time of 5:17.31

3,200 Natalie Omundson Cactus Shadows So. 3rd in 4A-II with top time of 11:35.29

100HH Breanna Leslie Valley Christian So. Had big state meet; ran P.R. of 15.21

300IH Noel Brown Queen Creek So. Placed 2nd in 4A-II with time of 47.18

HJ Hannah Sadler Fountain Hills Sr. Jumped 5-0 to finish third in 3A

PV Ella Arrott Tempe Sr. Finished 3rd at 4A-II meet, clearing 9-6

LJ Robyn Robledo Tempe Prep So. 1A state champion with jump of 16 3/4

TJ Gabby Mantley Tempe Sr. 4A-II state champion jumped 36 1/4

Shot Put Daimin Robertson Apache Junction Jr. Finished 2nd in 4A-II at 35-1

Discus Taryn Thompson Queen Creek Sr. 2nd at 4A-II meet with throw of 115-6

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