The high school outdoor track and field season begins Thursday at Benton with the annual Shamocus Patton Memorial Benton Tiger Relays sponsored by Home Federal Bank.
Field events begin at 3 p.m. and running events start at 4.
Teams competing are Benton, Bossier, Cedar Creek, Haughton, Lakeside, Mansfield, Northwood, Ouachita Christian, Ouachita Parish, Parkway, St Mary’s, West Ouachita and West Monroe.
West Monroe and Ouachita Parish are the defending boys and girls champions, respectively.
Haughton, the three-time reigning District 1-5A champion, finished just 5.5 points behind West Monroe. Parkway finished second in the girls division.
Haughton senior sprinter Josh Lister, a Navarro College signee, is the top returning male athlete in Bossier Parish.
Lister is already a state champion, having won the 60-meter dash in the LHSAA State Indoor Meet a week ago Saturday.
Last year, Lister was undefeated in the 100 until the Class 5A state meet. He had the top qualifying time but was disqualified because of a false start.
With Lavonta Gipson and Kynan Hayes returning, the Bucs figure to be strong in the sprints again.
Lister, Hayes and Gipson ran on Haughton’s 5A state champion 4X100-meter team.
Haughton’s David Leitnaker, the defending 1-5A champion in the pole vault, also returns.
Parkway looks to be strong in the boys and girls distance events as usual.
Cole Billiot was the runner-up in the boys 3,200 in the state indoor meet. Airline’s Seth Papineau and Will Dart will also be strong competitors. Papineau is the reigning 1-5A champ in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Parkway lost standout runner Sara Funderburk to graduation, but the Lady Panthers have added transfer Adrianna Wilder. She won the 3,200 in the state indoor meet.
Parkway’s Darius Bradford is the defending 1-5A 200-meter champion. Stoney Butler tied for second in the 1-5A pole vault.
Haughton returns Class 5A girls javelin state runner-up Savannah O’Neal, who also competes in the hurdles.
Benton has won five straight District 1-4A girls championships and should be strong again.
Taylor Davis finished second in the high jump in the indoor meet and Keke West was third in the triple jump. West was fourth in the 4A state outdoor meet last year. Davis finished fifth as a freshman.
Also returning are reigning 1-4A champions Peyton Reeder (110 hurdles), Mallorie Gill (javelin), Rheagan White (discus) and Peyton Singletary (shot put). Breanna Bundy and Georgia Carroway, who finished 1-2 in the pole vault, are also back.
Hailey McGhee and Megan Rainwater are two others with experience that coach Barry Plunkett will be counting on to score points.
Benton had a string of four straight 1-4A boys titles broken last season with a runner-up finish to Huntington. The Tigers should field another competitive team.
District runner-up John Westmoreland returns in the hurdles along with defending pole vault champion Conner Toms.
Bossier’s Xavier Venious, who swept the 110 and 300 hurdles in the District 1-4A meet last season, is another athlete to watch this season.
Plain Dealing’s Teunna Perry, who was named the Outstanding Performer in the Class 1A meet last season, is one of the top returning female athletes in Northwest Louisiana. She is the defending state champion in the long, triple and high jumps.
Airline’s Brittany and Jasmine Roberson won District 1-5A championships in the 400 and high jump, respectively, as underclassmen last season.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org