In 2010, Deer Valley sprinter Trae Armstrong staked a claim to being the state’s fastest student, winning the 5A-II 100- and the 200-meter dashes.
If he repeats the feat Saturday, or even goes one rung better by winning the 400, there will be no doubt who is king. Deer Valley moved up to Division I under Arizona’s new configuration this year and is competing with all the largest East Valley schools.
That, combined with a bumper crop of sprinters in the state, makes for the deepest field in recent memory. For example, 12 boys qualified for the 100 meters with times under 11 seconds. And the field didn’t let up during preliminaries Wednesday.
“I have not seen such a fast sprint year in my experience, but we did realize that it was much faster than last year at the Chandler Rotary,” Deer Valley track coach Eric Bolus said. “There is not one kid in the finals of the hundred over 11 seconds.”
Armstrong rose to the occasion Wednesday, posting the fastest preliminary times Wednesday in the 100 (10.68), 200 (21.63) and 400 (48.64). He also anchored Deer Valley’s winning 4x400 relay team.
Yet he can’t relax Saturday. There are four speedsters capable of beating Armstrong in the 100 and 200, and another pair of contenders in the 400.
"I just have to run really good races," Armstrong said. "At state nothing is promised. You can be seeded first and lose."
Phoenix Brophy Prep sophomore Devon Allen was second in Wednesday’s heats with times of 10.75 in the 100 and 21.80 in the 200. He’s also posted competitive times in the 400.
Chandler Hamilton junior Just’N Thymes pushed Armstrong and is more of a threat in the 200. Chandler junior Javonn Williams finished his 400-meter heat just two hundredths of a second off Armstrong.
And then there’s the rival down the street, Ironwood senior Isaiah Underwood. He’s the only Arizona sprinter to beat Armstong this year, edging him by a hundredth of a second in the 100 at the Westside Invitational.
“Isaiah Underwood has been a state champion and Trae is 1-3 against him. His one win against him is at the state meet last year however, Bolus said. “I don’t know a whole lot about any of the other kids...I know that Devon Allen is one heck of an athlete and Just’N Thymes has run really fast times in the 200 and challenged Trae at the Chandler Rotary.”
With so much competition, it would be understandable if Armstrong concentrated on the shorter sprints. Instead, he added the 400 to his program this year and grasped the longer distance after midseason, posting some the state’s fastest times in recent weeks.
"At the Westside Invitational, I ran a 47-second split in the 4x400 relay," Armstron said. "My coach said we should try it out and gave me a strategy for running it. I figured it out and started posting some good times."
The Division 1 track finals begin with the 100 meters at 3 p.m. Saturday at Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern Ave.