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Returning state qualifier leads Bulldogs

Thrower Andrew Smith has Zephyrhills in the running for a district championship.

By DEREK LARIVIERE
Published February 23, 2007


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ZEPHYRHILLS - Although the Bulldogs are armed with star sprinters like Sederrik Cunningham and Cannelios Ansley, the lone returning state qualifier this season is a thrower, Andrew Smith.

Cunningham and Ansley will be major parts of coach Dave Jones' plans, and well they should be as two of the top sprinters in the county.

But it is Smith who comes across to teammates and his coach as the prototypical leader.

The road back to the state meet will not be as easy for Smith.

Injuries have forced the senior to miss valuable practice time, but his goals remain the same.

He is talented in the discus and shot put, but it is the shot in which he really excels.

During last season's state meet at Jacksonville Wolfson, Smith launched the shot 48 feet to place 11th overall in the finals.

His season high was 49 feet, 7 inches.

Jones conservatively believes Smith can break the 50-foot mark before the season is over, but Smith has goals beyond that.

"Actually, I want to get to 56 feet before the end of the year," he said.

"That would break our school record, and I know it would put me toward the top of the state."

If Smith does break that 55-foot barrier on the state stage, he becomes an immediate favorite to win a state crown.

Last season's state champion, Frank Grimes of Godby, tossed his shot 54-7 to take the title.

The obstacles for Smith have been plentiful, and the list is growing. Last year, he suffered a serious knee injury, and despite deciding to forego optional surgery, he must wear a brace at all times.

Even more troubling to his throwing is his current injury.

According to Jones, Smith strained something in his throwing wrist and hand.

It happened a couple weeks ago, but it has become nagging.

"It's getting better day-by-day," said Jones. "Some guys just heal faster than others."

Physical limitations can derail his early-season training, but there is one thing that cannot be taken away due to injury - his innate ability to lead.

"The other throwers definitely look up to Andrew because he knows so much more," said Jones.

"He is not one of those guys that just wants everyone to get out of his way so he can throw."

If Zephyrhills is going to repeat its performance from 2006 as the Class 2A, District 9 runnerup to Jesuit, the Bulldogs will need to be running on all cylinders heading into the postseason.

Smith, along with Cunningham and Ansley, should lead the charge.

[Last modified February 22, 2007, 23:29:47]


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