Skyhawks’ defending track champs take on leadership roles

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Deer Valley seniors Kassidy Deardorff and Ilian Roberts are more than defending state track champions.

They are among the top students in the Class of 2017. Deardorff is on track to graduate as the class valedictorian and Roberts is making plans for a uniquely difficult college major.

Deer Valley junior Ilian Roberts poses for a photograph Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at Deer Valley High School in Glendale. He has returned to defend his 200 meter title as a senior. (Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

This year, they are also the guides and standard bearers for their teams, on and off the track.

“Everybody’s looking to us and aspiring to be us. It puts pressure on me to try harder and set an example for everybody,” Roberts said. “I don’t really pay attention to anybody else outside of our team. Within our team, I try to be a better person for them. We have some people that need so improve their character.”

Sometimes the younger Skyhawks need help with smaller things, as Deardorff has learned during early season meets.

The defending Division II champion in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs

“In the 4×400 they were asking me how to do this and that. I had to explain everything to them, and it’s interesting to see and kind of nice to see to see that too. They see me as someone they can look up to,” Deardorff said.

Last May the rest of Division II was looking up at Roberts in astonishment after the junior won the 200-meter dash from Lane 9.

This followed disappointing preliminaries in the 100 meters, 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles.

Deer Valley boys track coach Eric Bolus said the goal is to get Roberts’ talent to shine through more consistently. For example, he said Roberts got beat Friday by a sprinter from Tempe Corona del Sol who was not necessarily faster but ran a better race .

“My job is to give him the best opportunity to defend and win more. I think Ilian can win multiple races at state,” Coach Bolus said.

While both seniors said they are focusing on their teammates and themselves, both look like they will need even better performances at state against what looks like a deeper Division II field.

Phoenix North Canyon, Scottsdale Chaparral, Centennial and Liberty have moved in. While it is early in the season, North Canyon junior Tyrees Moulton already has the top time in the division — by a considerable margin — in the 100, 200, 400 and 800.

For her part, Deardorff has the top time in the 3,200 but is still working her way back from and injury that wiped out most of her cross country season.

“There’s a lot of expectation for both of us to do well. It’s kind of nerve racking, especially since I didn’t do cross country because I had an injury. It’s difficult for me to see where I’m at right now and to try to live up to where I was last year,” Deardorff said.

The girls team also seeks to defend its state title. Again, though, North Canyon looks like the clear favorite early on.

Both of the Skyhawks top runners are getting adjusted to the favorite role. This weekend, however, they can be the hunters of bigger names win they compete at the multi-state Chandler Rotary Invitational meet.

“There’s expectations wherever they go. At all the meets they’re announced as a state champion. That’s the deal and it’s hard to defend,” Coach Bolus said.

Once they graduate, both want to continue running in college. With her cross country background, Deardorff was able to secure a scholarship earlier from UNLV.

Deardorff said she first looked at UNLV because of the quality of its hospitality management program, then the cross country and track program. Then she visited and liked the team and coach.

Roberts wants to run at Grand Canyon University and study biology with an emphasis in premed and plans to contact the Lopes’ coaches soon.

“Since junior year I’ve always wanted to go to GCU,” Roberts said. “I’m going to be seeing if they can watch me in certain track meets.”

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