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It's time to notice Tornado

By BOB PUTNAM and NICK TALBOT

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2002


A sophomore competing in track for the first time, Clearwater's Jason Jones has been a bit of an unknown.

A sophomore competing in track for the first time, Clearwater's Jason Jones has been a bit of an unknown.

After his performance Saturday, Jones should be recognized as a state title contender in the discus.

Jones went 158 feet, 8 inches to finish as the runner-up in the event during the Class 4A portion of the Florida Relays.

The distance was nearly seven feet off his best mark (165-7), which he set a month ago at the Osceola Relays to break the meet record.

Jones and teammate Sam Vavra were the only competitors from the county.

Vavra did not place in his only event, the shot put.

It was one and done for Hillsborough senior Marlon Wood.

Wood took the long jump title after a leap of 22 feet, 7 inches on his first attempt. "After seeing everyone else jump in the preliminaries I knew I could win," Wood said.

"I just wanted to show all these people here that the Tampa area is home to some of the best."

Wood, who has only been competing in the long jump for four weeks, said he could have tried for 23 feet.

"I wanted to try for it, but coach didn't want me to risk getting hurt for districts," Wood said.

His teammate, Antwon Hall, finished seventh with a jump of 21-5.

Pole vaulter Jon Miller of Bloomingdale, the state leader with a height of 15 feet, began the day with high expectations. However, Miller finished third after clearing 14-6.

"Jon messed up. He got over with his body but just caught it with his arm," Bloomingdale coach Steve Littleton said. "He just didn't get settled today."

Wharton displayed its power in the boys 100-meter dash, placing two runners in the top seven. Jovon Mitchell finished third in 10.84 seconds and Ray Laphonso placed seventh in 11.02.

Wharton also took sixth in the 4x400 relay (3:25.40).

Clearwater's Jason Jones was second in the discus after a throw of 158-8 and Rolf Steier of Berkeley Prep -- one of the nation's top milers -- finished third in his signature event.

In the girls competition, Dara Altman of Gaither won the pole vault with a height of 11-0.

Gaither's Natalie Caldwell finished sixth in the high jump (5-2) and ninth in the long jump (17-21/4).

The Cowboys also had a strong day in the relays, finishing fifth in the distance medley (13:19.78) and ninth in the 4x800 (10:20.92).

Kendra Smith led Wharton in the field events.

Smith had the Wildcats' top finish when she placed second in the triple jump with a leap of 39-93/4.

In other field events for Wharton, Natalie Moser had a pole volt of 10 feet to place third, Candice Dupree placed sixth in the discus with a mark of 111-6 and Kristen Fleming tied for ninth in the high jump (5-0).

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