All week long, we're previewing every division in the state for the 2018 outdoor track season.
We're kicking off our preview series with the Boys Division I Large Schools. This division looks a bit different this year. Knoxville Catholic is going to be a major player in its first year competing at this level. That means Jake Renfree will have a big chance to score some important points in the team competition in May.
The usual players are back too. Brentwood High is loaded with field events. Memphis Central has some of the top sprinters. Plus, Bearden and Hardin Valley are both dark-horses to make the podium as well.
We took a look at current and past personal bests to compile our preseason power rankings for this year's state competition.
1. Brentwood High School
No, Brodey Hasty and Scott Thompson aren't competing for the Bruins. But some of the state's top field event athletes are.
Based on current personal bests, BHS would score 42 points at the state meet off field events alone. Garrett Lee (15-0) is the top pole vaulter in the state. On the track, Kyle Costner should definitely make the state field as well. He's the defending AAU Club National Champion in the decathlon as well, so he can score points there too.
Jett Kinder may be one of the stars of the state meet this May. He could score as many as 30 points in up to four competitions. He's got a great chance to win the decathlon. He's also currently the second-best triple jumper and high jumper in the division. Kinder has a 44-9 in the triple jump and a 6-6 personal best in the high jump. He's also jumped 14-7 in the pole vault.
The mere numbers in the field are enough to put Brentwood in the top spot to start the season. The Bruins will also have Max Benson in the 800, who could place in the top three or four by the end of the season.
This is a deep team with a lot of high-end talent. They deserve the top spot to start the year.
2. Memphis Central High School
Memphis Central is in the No. 2 spot because of Courtney Thomas. He may be the MVP of the State Meet this May.
Thomas won the 300m hurdles at last year's state meet. He also placed second in the triple jump. Coming into this season, he has the top returning mark in that event at 46-7.
But he isn't the only hurdler who will help the Warriors. Josh Owten has the second-fastest time in the league behind Thomas. He comes into this outdoor season at 38.67. There's a solid chance that those two will go 1-2 in that event. And that's enough to push Central into podium contention.
Between those two and mid-distance specialist Armond Poindexter, the Warriors have three athletes who can score 30-40 points. In the Large Schools division, that's a major haul. Central will be a force to be reckoned with, despite only having a few athletes with state-level marks.
3. Bearden High School
Joshua Sobota is the Bulldogs' star. And he's one of America's stars as well.
Sobota will run away with the discus and shot put competitions at the state meet. That's a given. Barring injury, he'll win both. The Kentucky signee will likely have his eyes on a national championship next summer.
But he's not the only athlete with a state-best mark. High jumper Shawn Stacy has jumped 6-8, which makes him the favorite in that competition too. He placed second at the state meet last year. He also started his season well a few weeks ago with a 6-4 win at Hardin Valley.
Even if those two guys are the only Bulldogs to make the state meet, they'll be enough to make things interesting.
We've got Bearden third, but the gap is small between them and the teams around them. Brentwood is the clear favorite coming into the season, but the rest of the field is wide open. Sobota and Stacy could put Bearden in second or third on their own.
4. Hardin Valley Academy
The Hawks have a ton of potential. And even though they start the season at No. 4, we think they have a chance to win the whole division.
800 specialist Kenton Bachmann comes in with the fastest outdoor 800 PR. His 1:52 could score anywhere from 6-10 points.
Willington Wright had one of the best indoor seasons of anyone in the state. In the triple jump and 400, he's had major breakthroughs over the past couple of months. Right now, he's got the top 200 mark in the state (21.80). He also has the No. 3 400m mark (48.58).
HVA also has one of the deepest teams in the state. Their relay depth will also be a major asset to their chances of moving up these rankings. And a lot of those relay teams went up to New Balance Nationals in New York a few weeks ago. That experience will help.
5. Cleveland High School
The Cleveland Blue Raiders may be the hurdle capital of Tennessee this year. They're absolutely loaded in the 110 hurdles with Benjedi Casseus and Eric Parker.
Casseus is the fastest high hurdler in the state so far this season with a personal best 14.24 from this past weekend. Last year, he won the AAA state meet with a 15.26. And he's already a full second faster this year. Not bad for late March.
Parker comes in as the second-fastest hurdler in the league. He was right behind Casseus in second place at last year's state championship. And in the Rhea Ridge to River meet last weekend, he ran 14.45. Also not a bad start to the season.
Those two alone may be able to score close to 30 points in both hurdle events. That seems to be the magic number for a contending team this year. We're expecting maybe three or four teams to hit that mark. All five of the squads mentioned here will have an excellent chance. Keegan Jones' 10.87 100m personal best certainly won't hurt the Blue Raiders this season.
Honorable Mention: West Creek High School, Heritage High School, Houston High School, Wilson Central