The continuation of excellence happened before everyone's eyes at a blistering pace at the 72nd Chandler Rotary Invitational Saturday, as Jasmine Todd and Ky Westbrook battled and impressed at the same time.
The Chandler (Ariz.)
girls track program has been the crown of Arizona, one of the better running states on the West Coast, for years. From Kenyanna Wilson (2006) to Larissa Mathews (2008) to Hannah Carson (2011), the torch, or baton as it was, has been passed from one great athlete to the next over the years as the Wolves ripped off six straight big-school state titles under the direction of Eric Richardson.
Competition, pride and most importantly athleticism has pushed Chandler to being nearly unstoppable, winning each state meet by an average of 66.5 points.
"We never want to let up," Todd said. "We expect to be the best and that's why we push each other so we can keep the standard we have built here."
It was on display this weekend when the Wolves won the Chandler Rotary, the state's premier event, with a score of 155 to best fellow national-level program Long Beach Poly (Calif.), which finished with 92 points. The closest Arizona team was Xavier (Phoenix) at 42.5.
While it takes more than two athletes to pull something like that off, Todd and Westbrook are the epitome of what keeps Chandler at the top. When Todd, known more for her jumping ability than speed, beat teammate and top sprinter Mathews as a freshman it provided a level of competition that made each of them better.
Now that Todd is a senior the role has been reversed as she is now being challenged – and defeated – by Westbrook, a sophomore.
In the Rotary, Westbrook won the 100-meter dash in 11.65 seconds with Todd second at 11.76.
"We make each other so much better," said Westbrook, the daughter of former NFL wide receiver Michael Westbrook. "She has been great and I love running next to her every day. You get better by challenging yourself against the best and I see her every day in practice."
While Westbrook, who has the lower body of an NFL running back, is a terror in the sprints – she finished second in the 200 with a time of 24.09 (her personal best) to Long Beach Poly sophomore Arianna Washington's 23.97 - Todd is a national-level jumper. The Oregon recruit is the two-time Arizona long jump champ and has three Arizona triple-jump titles, including a state record of 41 feet, 5inches. She is the favorite in both this spring.
"My mom (Kimberly) follows all of the national (results) so I always know where I compare," said Todd, who has also won two 100 dash titles. "It is something that pushes you to be better. If you hit a certain mark, you want to know where it ranks."
Todd doesn't have to look very far to see where she ranks in the sprints with Westbrook side-by-side on a daily basis.
And that's what makes Chandler girls track, which has won the Nike National title the last two years, as great as it is annually.
As soon as someone hesitates, ever so slightly, they risk being passed – by a teammate.
"I love competing with Ky," said Todd, who set the meet record in the long jump (20-1.5) and won the triple (39-1.75). "There is respect there because we know if we make each other better that means Chandler is going to be better."Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothill News staff writer, is a 15-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-272-2449.