Minnesota was able to witness one of the most successful all around Track athletes in state history, Anna Keefer, perform last season, but as she has graduated, there will be a new face on top of the podium in the 100/200 meter events. In the 100, J'Ianna Cager from North St. Paul will be the favorite, as she finished 2nd in Class AA last year. With only one senior other than Keefer graduating from the state finals last year, there will be a big group of athletes that can contend with Cager for the state title. These include Cloquet's Kendra Kelley (3rd in AA '17), Orono's Lauren Hansen (4th in AA '17) and Minneapolis Washburn's Charlotte DeVaughn (5th in AA '17) A sleeper to keep an eye out for will be Waconia's Danielle Pioske. With a PR of 12.18, she isn't too far behind Cager, but unfortunately had an off day at the state meet last year, which kept her from making finals. Also, Cager's teammate Shaliciah Jones was able to show off some solid times after the season USATF/AAU meets, running a time of 12.19 at an AAU Region qualifier. If Jones can perform at a level like that, she will be right up there with the contenders for the sprints this season. A few other athletes that could make an impact in the 100 next year are Eagan's Jailyn Robinson, Coon Rapids' Brielle Clarke, an St. Cloud Tech's super-jumper Jodi Lipp, all of whom have run the 100 in 12.32 or better.
For the 200 meter dash, the state is losing a little more experience, as only 4 returners from last season's state final will return. The top returner will be Kelley (3rd in AA '17) so she's shown to be a solid all around sprinter who can contend for both titles. To go along with North's Cager and Jones is Jebeh Cooke, who took 5th in the 200 last season. This trio will look to be all over the podium this season, as they took home two state titles last year as a relay team in the 4 x 100, and 4 x 200 along with Alexis Pratt (setting a state record in this event). Coming in 7th and also returning is Century's Kinga Mozes, who was a finalist in the 100 too. Continue to look out for Lauren Hansen also in the 200, as she came up just short in qualifying for this event last season, taking 3rd in Section 6AA. Of course, one Lauren who will be trying to return to State is Champlin Park's Lauren Samuel, who just missed qualifying for State finals with the 10th best prelim time.
Last year in the 400, there were two freshmen in the top 6 of the finals, with the other 4 being seniors. Of course, this means those freshmen, Cretin's Sydney Jackson and Moorhead's Claire Howell, could have set themselves up for a big showdown in 2018. These runners have very similar PR's of 57.51 and 57.53, respectively. Prior Lake's Kristyn Arends, the future Badger, actually ran a time close to both of those times (57.68) at the USATF Region 8 Championships, which will put her in solid position going into the season to potentially contend with Jackson and Howell. Rocori's Brynn Sauer made the podium last season and certainly will look to do that again this year and improve upon her 8th place finish. Another notable athlete will include Natalie Jacobwith of Eden Prairie, who has a PR of 58.03, but had an off day at State last season, where she ran 60.18. Should she falter again, Section 6AA will have at least two more girls in Southwest's Alison Rosengren and Washington's Janice Cole who will be eager to snatch up her spot. Also don't count out Fridley's Cece Lewis, who took 6th in the 400 in 2016 (58.03) but just missed it by one spot at Sections last season, still running 58.23. And finally, there is Ella Larson of Lakeville South and her PR of 58.44, who began running 400 meters last year after previously making her name as a distance runner, finishing a hard-luck third in her section.