Relays won a state championship for Akron last spring. Can they match last year's relay production this spring? Photo by Alan Versaw.
Probably the most surprising thing about this "Track Teams to Watch" segment is how long it took me to getting around to writing about Akron's girls' team.
Last year, the Rams piled up 41 points in relays, almost exactly half of their team total for the state meet. Except for a loaded, and very speedy Holyoke 4x200 team, Akron would have won three sprint relay titles. And, honestly, Akron didn't lose a lot by way of graduation.
But, with Lyons moving down to 2A, the relay challenge presented last spring by Holyoke will not disappear--it will simply wear a different colored uniform this spring. There's not a lot of difference between trying to chase down Marissa Smith versus trying to chase down Rachel Hinker on the anchor leg of a relay. Either way, you're hoping your first three spot you a decent lead.
Still, Akron figures to score a lot of points in relays. Indeed, they probably need to score a lot of points in relays.
But, relays aren't the only well Akron draws from, just the deepest well.
Sydney Clarkson is back for her senior year. And, Ms. Clarkson has to be feeling like this could be her year. Johanna Reed and Kelly Lamb have graduated. Ashley Atkin drops down to 1A. That would appear to leave Sydney Clarkson as the consensus preseason favorite at both 400 and 800 meters. But beware of freshmen arriving on the scene. So far as incoming freshmen go, rumors are rampant of a phenom up in Cripple Creek and Miriam Roberts out of Lyons. Whether either, or both, run in the 400 or 800 remains to be seen.
Sidney Merrill had an outstanding freshman campaign for Akron last spring and should be back causing problems for the opposition again this spring. Merrill qualified for state in the 300 hurdles last spring and won the pole vault. Merrill is a pretty decent high jumper as well. Add in a little bit of relay duty and you have about all you could have asked for from a freshman. Nice to have a problem like figuring out how to distribute Merrill's events, no?
And, Merrill is far from the only returning pole vaulter. In fact, we may as well rename Akron as Pole Vault High. So committed to the pole vault is Akron that, when weather turns sour in the spring (as it often does on the eastern plains), Akron simply takes their pole vault practice inside to their indoor facility. Jordan Drum, Megan Callahan, and Cheyenne Kondsdorf figure to move up in the pole vault rankings this spring.
A little extra freshman contribution last spring came from twins (?) Morgan and Megan Woods. We don't often think of Akron as a distance school, but they've been surprisingly consistent in distance events over recent years. Neither Morgan nor Megan scored at state last spring, but both were close enough that it's worth thinking about them as contenders for points this spring.
Hanging around the throwing rings, you'll find Ella Saunders, the top-ranked 2A shot putter coming into the season.
Whether Shelby Guy and Allyson Vasquez are running strictly relays at state or taking on an individual sprint event or two next spring remains to be seen. Both have the sort of speed to qualify for state in the sprints, but it's plausible to think that both could have a greater impact as part of dominant relay teams.
It's been many, many years since Akron's girls were a non-factor at the state meet. Figure that string remains intact this year.