By Jessie Vanderson
TUCSON – Brielle Sterns, the senior standout at Tucson’s Sahuaro High, was one of the busiest athletes during the final day of competition at the Willie Williams Track and Field Classic Saturday at the University of Arizona’s Roy P. Drachman Stadium. The New Mexico State University recruit won the girls’ 100-meter hurdles with a clocking 14.4 seconds, the 300-hurdles (44.6), and ran the second leg for a Cougars’ unit that teamed to take second (4:04.5) in the 4×400 relay. Sterns also ran the anchor leg for a Sahuaro unit that dropped the baton on the final exchange in the championship final of the 4×100 relay. That Sahuaro unit, which also included Emerald Lihne-Shivers, Annabella Spencer and Dayris Bonillas, had advanced the 4×100 finals after posting the day’s fourth-best time (49.9) in Friday’s prelims. “I have been doing a lot more work this off-season so I am excited about the start of the season, ” said Sterns, the most gifted girls’ hurdler to emerge in the Tucson area since former Oro Valley Canyon del Oro great Jaide Stepter and Salpointe Catholic’s star Alyssa Thompson. “So I think that I will do well this year.” Sterns will face a major challenge in the 100 and the 300 this spring from Phoenix Betty Fairfax’s sophomore sensation Ma’Kayla ‘Kay-Kay’ Dickerson, who finished second (14.9) behind Sterns (14.5) in the 100 hurdles at the Div. II state championship meet as a freshman and won (43.1) the 300-meter hurdles state championship. Sterns raced to fourth-place (45.7) in that race. Dickerson is arguably the most talented girls’ track athlete to emerge in the Phoenix Union School District since former Phoenix South Mountain sprint greats Tierra and Taylor Evans. “I will see what happens this year,” said Sterns. “I think she (Dickerson) is a great athlete, but I am not going to worry about her. I am going to focus on my race and get ready.” Sterns has been putting in extra work to get ready for the rigors of her pending collegiate career. She has committed to playing volleyball and running track at New Mexico State. “I think college will be a lot easier than high school because the volleyball season comes first,” said Sterns, who will be in the hurdles’ field this weekend at the Chandler Rotary Invitational. “I am doing club volleyball right now and running track, and that’s hard. So I think it will be easier in college.” Tucson High junior Neysia Howard is a promising young sprinter that New Mexico State may want to keep an eye on. Howard dashed to the Willie Williams’ championships in the 100 (12.4) and the 200-meters (24.7), where she was the defending meet champ in the 200. “Last year was a pretty off year for me. I did not really run as fast as I normally do,” said Howard, who was hampered by foot blisters last season. “So this year, I am working to getting back to pr’s after not pr’ing for a whole year.” Howard, who also won the long jump (17 feet, 3.50 inches), outran a couple of quality sprinters to win the Williams’ titles. She out-dashed Lakeside Blue Ridge’s two-time Division III 100 and 200 state champ Hannah ‘Flash” Flodin and Tucson High’s Onome Ugbisien in the 100. Flodin, who has been fighting a cold, took second (12.6) in the 100 while Ugbisien, who made the finals at the Div. I 100 last year, raced to third (12.7). In the 200, Howard’s best race, she left in the dust Chandler Hamilton’s fine sprinters Morgan Parzych and Melanie Loff, who finished second (25.2) and third (25.4) respectively, in that race. Flodin sprinted to fourth (25.9) in the 200. In other track action in the girls’ meet at Willie Williams, Tucson Rincon/University High sophomore repeated as the meet champion in the 400-meters (58.33), just edging Vail Empire’s up and coming sophomore sprinter, Jaquelyn Candito, who raced to second (58.37). Hamilton’s Emma Merritt won the 800-meters (2:24.6), Tucson Catalina Foothills’ junior Richelle Sandin won the 1600-meters (5:24.6) and the 3200-meters (11:48.8). A Hamilton unit of Loff, Deidre Nelson, Jayla Valderas, and Emma Merritt teamed to win the 4×800 relay (9:39.1) on Thursday, an El Paso El Dorado quartet of Jade Williams, Elizabeth Hinojosa, Amaya Taylor and Jeramea Dennison teamed to win the 4×100 relay (49.4), and a Hamilton foursome of Parzych, Loff, Valderas, and Ankia Puri, joined to win the 4×400 relay (3:59.0). In field events’ action, El Paso Jefferson’s Erika Snyder won the high jump (5-6, Tucson Flowing Wells’ Katie Daily the pole vault (11-0), El Dorado’s Dennison the triple jump (36-7.75), Jefferson’s Gwen Murchison the shot put (37-5.25), and Hamilton’s Hannah White the discus throw (120-2). White, who is one of the top returning throwers this spring in Div. I, also finished second in the shot put (36-2.75).