Our preseason rankings series rolls on to the Division II-AA girls. And like the boys, Brentwood Academy comes in as the favorite.
The Eagles lead a group of balanced teams with a couple stars who will headline the state meet as a whole this May. There's a logjam of teams behind BA, but we could see three teams winning the state championship in this newly formed division.
Here are our rankings in DII-AA to open the season.
1. Brentwood Academy
The Eagles enter the season with a balanced attack across the board. With elite jumpers, BA has the advantage over the field thanks to a few standout long jumpers.
Morgan Louderback is favored to win the state championship in the long jump and triple jump. She has personal bests of 18-7.25 and 38-1 in those events outdoors. Teammate Sydni Harvey has the second-best personal best in the state in the long jump at 18-5.5. Senior Alayna Holbert is ranked No. 2 in the triple jump at 37-9. With the lead of those three athletes, alongside Alex Swindle (11-6) in the pole vault, Brentwood Academy is projected to score 50 points in the jumps alone.
Elsewhere in the field, Victoria Caldwell has a chance to win both throwing events. The BA sophomore has thrown 115-9 in the discus, which ranks her second in the state. Her 38-9 personal best in the shot put ties her for the state lead entering the season.
Wake Forest signee Meredith Helton leads the Eagles on the track in the 1600 and 3200. Her personal bests of 5:11 and 11:04 mean she could win both events. That puts BA close to 150 points in our initial projections, which would be enough to bring another state title back to Williamson County.
2. Baylor School
The battle for second is tight. Baylor has the fastest sprinter in the division to open the season, which will also help in relays.
Makayla Packer has run 12.28 and 24.91. That would be enough to score 20 points if the state meet was tomorrow. Janie Pippenger (59.98) and Kayla Hayes (26.02) will also add some points in the long sprints.
Baylor's main source of points comes in the jumps as well. Rachel Smith has a 11-10 personal best in the pole vault. Ally Craig comes into the season tied for second in the high jump with a 5-3 personal best. There's a good chance that Baylor could qualify three athletes in the pole vault and high jump. And once you get to Murfreesboro, anything can happen. Especially in those events.
Smith will compete in the high and intermediate hurdles in addition to the pole vault. She's ranked in the top three at both distances, which should add 15-20 more points. The theme here once again is balance. Baylor has points everywhere, which should help their chances at challenging for the state title in May.
3. Briarcrest Christian School
The Saints are led by Arkansas signee Meghan Underwood, who could score 20 points in the mid-distance events. Underwood's 2:13 indoors is the second-fastest indoor 800 ever run by a Tennessee athlete. And she'll be the favorite to defend her title in the 800 again this May. She's also run 5:25 in the 1600, which is the second-fastest time coming into the season. If she decides to run the 3200, she has a 11:04 that places her second to open the season.
The duo of Grayson Raper and Michella Diebenow will score some points in the hurdles. The Saints are projected to get 15 points between the high and intermediate events. And in the field, Alyiah Wells is tied for the state lead in the shot put (38-9) coming into the season. She's also fourth in the discus at 99-3.
Briarcrest's strength is in the sprints, where Savanna Owens could score as many as 30 points. The Memphis signee has personal bests of 12.57, 25.31 and 56.22 in the three sprint events. Those times place her fourth, second and first in the division respectively. If she can run on one of the three relays as well, the Saints could bring home a state championship. Look out for this team come May.
4. Harpeth Hall School
The Honeybears of Harpeth Hall always seem to be in the mix for a state championship every May. This season, they're led by a deep group of distance runners. Emily Anderson comes in at 2:19 in the 800. Ellie and Catherine Smith should also qualify for the 800 too at 2:23 and 2:24. That means Harpeth Hall may be the favorite in the 4x800 as well.
Annie Taylor is the favorite to win the 300m hurdles coming into the season. She's run 45.33. At 16.71, she should be able to qualify for the high hurdles too. In the field, Raegan Coleman is the top seeded discus thrower entering the outdoor season. She's thrown 116-10. In the shot put, she enters the season in fourth at 35-11.
Freshman Kate Wilson has a chance to win the 400. Last year as an eighth grader she finished fourth in 59.49. Her personal best is 58.77, which she ran to win the region championship last spring. With her help in the mid-distance events, Harpeth Hall can challenge for a spot in the top two or three.
5. Girls Preparatory School
GPS is projected to score close to 40 points at the state championship. Lots of those points will come from distance runner Carley Braman.
Braman's personal bests of 2:24, 5:31 and 11:54 will all be enough to qualify her for the state meet if she decides to compete in all three. Emily Morrison will likely be asked double in the high and intermediate hurdles. She's got personal bests of 16.48 and 48.17 in those events. That places her in fourth and sixth respectively. Murfee Jones also has the fourth best time in the 300mH coming into the season at 46.96.
If she decides to pass on one of the three distance events, Braman could drop down to the 400. She's run 59.29, which would place her third in the state.
Honorable Mention: Ensworth, Lipscomb Academy, St. Agnes