If the Grove Lady Red want to capture a fourth state championship at Friday and Saturday's meet at East Central High School in Tulsa, they'll have to rely on their relay teams to do so.
So far this season it's been a formula that has worked very well.
In last week's Regional Championship held at Skiatook, the Lady Red got 52 of their 119 team points from three relay events. The girls took first in both the 1600 and 3200 meter relays, as well as third in the 800 meters. And with relay events counting for twice as many points as individual events, those points will be crucial again this weekend for the Grove girls, who won three state titles in a row from 1995-1997.
Of the three events, the Lady Red's best chance for state gold would appear to be in the 1600 meters. Grove's team of Blair Thomas, Peri Lane, Tessa Robertson and Caitlin Bales ran the event in 4:07.86 at the Skiatook regional, nearly four seconds faster than any other team in the state.
In contrast the Lady Red will be hard pressed to medal in the 800 meter relay, finishing third behind Edison and East Central at Skiatook. Grove's time of 1:47.61 was sixth best of all the regionals.
In the 3200 meter relay the clear favorite will be Bishop Kelley. That team's 9:55.10 time from the Ponca City Regional was nearly 13 seconds better than runner up Coweta's, and 18 seconds better than Grove's.
Individually the Lady Red will have several contenders for medals. In the 100 meter dash Bales will once again be attempting to beat Jaquetta Dever of Edison, who finished ahead of Bales at Skiatook.
In the 800 meters Thomas will be looking to catch Kelsey Graham of Pryor, who edged her by a second at Regionals. However, both competitors will trying to keep up with Chloe Berlioux of Bishop Kelley, whose 2:18.97 at the Ponca City Regional was over four seconds faster than any one else in the state.
In the field events Katherine Johnson threw the third best distances in both the shot and the discus and will be a strong contender to medal in both events. Teammate Johnnie Keene will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing Regional, having finished fourth and sixth but earning wild-card qualifying spots for both events.
For the Ridgerunners their best chance for a state championship will be junior hurdler Brody Scott, whose 40.37 in the 300 meter hurdles at Skiatook was best of all the regionals last weekend.
Freshman Ryan Wheatley will also be a strong contender in the 800 meters, having narrowly finished second behind Tahlequah's Moe Brown at Regionals.
In the field events the Ridgerunners will be looking for medals in the discus from senior Sean Hayword, who finished second at Regionals, as well as from senior pole vaulter Ryan Housley, who finished third at Skiatook.
The State Track Championship will begin with field events at 10am on both Friday and Saturday on the campus of East Central High School in Tulsa, with running events scheduled to begin at 1pm both days.