Best bets for state
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published April 26, 2007
Tonight in Titusville, the top track standouts from the county will attempt to do the ultimate - peak and advance to state by finishing in the top four of their respective events. It won't be easy, as competitors from three other districts join in for the Class 3A region meet, including some of the best programs from track hotbeds like Polk and Orange counties. But that's what it's all about this time of year - run the best race of your life or your season's over. Here are some of the local competitors who appear ready for the challenge:
Keari Brink and Ashley Haggard, Ridgewood
Both Ram pole vaulters went 10 feet last week (Haggard actually went 6 inches better than that to win the event), and both marks are unmatched by the addition of Districts 5, 6 and 8. They have been consistent all season, so no reason to expect anything but double digits.
Jasmine Pleasant, Wesley Chapel
Okay, so Oak Ridge will make things a lot harder for Pleasant, but she still has the kind of times in the 100 and 200 that should get her in the top four. And she should be able to nudge the Wildcats' 4x100 through as well.
Emily Seda, Land O'Lakes
The Gators junior will need to shave a split second or two off her time in the 400 to sneak into that top four, but this is the time of year for such things.
Frances Schmidt, Laura Cruz-Ramos, Dania Casellas and Seda
The Gators' 4x400 team cruised to a comfortable win at districts, and while they won't knock Oak Ridge off, they should live to run another day.
Beth Butler, Ridgewood
The junior has been jumping 5 feet, 2 inches consistently all season, and that kind of jump should be good enough for a top-four finish. If she can find another inch or 2 in those legs, a region title is realistic.
Patience Shackley, Wesley Chapel
The junior Wildcat has ruled the hurdles all season around here, but her winning times would not have qualified her for regionals in the Oak Ridge district. Yikes. But Shackley should make it to state in the high jump (her best is 5-2).
Dalia Madison, Ridgewood
She didn't have her best performance in the long jump at districts, but she is better than the 16-5 she jumped. And her triple jump of 35 could make her a state qualifier as well.
Jeani Ducos, Wesley Chapel
If Ducos, a junior, can hit 35-5 again like she did at districts, she'll be good. But she can do better, and if she can find a bit more oomph (and, say, a foot or 2), she can make plans to be in Orlando next week.
Meghan Seltman, Ridgewood
She didn't throw the shot put well at districts and failed to qualify for regionals, but wiped out the field in the discus at 116-8. None of the other districts competing last week in this region could touch that throw.
Arisa Bush, Wesley Chapel
See Seltman, Meghan. Bush threw 111 feet at districts, which would make her the girl to beat if Seltman wasn't around.
Dontarrius Thomas, Land O'Lakes
The Gators speedster will need to run the race of his life in the 200. There are nine runners with district times between 22.29 and Thomas' 23.02, so if he's going to peak, tonight would be a good time. In the long jump, Thomas went 21-5.5; he'll need to find another foot.
Ashton Lemon, Wesley Chapel
The Wildcat senior won the district in 51.94 seconds, which won't even get him seeded in the top four tonight. But he has run faster and will need to tonight.
Jerome Blyden, Land O'Lakes
Blyden ran just 2/10ths of a second behind Lemon at the district meet and hasn't really burned his best time yet.
Michael Kern, Ridgewood
He has emerged as one of the Rams' most consistent performers, and his 2:03.30 won districts. Three runners from other districts posted better times, so Kern needs to inch a little closer to 2:00 to get in the top four.
Felix Soto, Land O'Lakes
Probably the best bet among the boys to get to state, especially if you're looking for a two-event qualifier. In the 1,600, Soto has been untouchable in the county, and his winning time at districts compares favorably to other region qualifiers. Considering he hasn't been pushed this season, that bodes well. In the 3,200, Soto won the district by 14 seconds in 10:15. Only Spencer Taricic of Vanguard (10:12.30) and Jonathan Junkins of Lecanto (10:13.61) were better, but they were running against each other.
Cory Bunch, Wesley Chapel
Bunch also qualified in the triple jump, but will skip that event so he is fresh for hurdles. He ran a 15.57 at districts, but needs to get closer to 15.30 to ensure a top-four finish. Bunch also holds the key to the Wesley Chapel 4x100 relay team as the anchor leg. The Wildcats ran a 43.93 last week; only three other teams coming in broke 44 last week.
Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel's 4x400 teams
Last week's district meet was hot and grueling, and the times got less impressive as the meet wore on. The last event, the 4x400, produced a winning time of 3:36.03 by Gators Jeremy Grunewald, Justin Ellis, Thomas and Blyden; Wesley Chapel was second at 3:36.49. Some fast times came out of Polk County, so if legitimate, forget about these teams' chances. But if 3:33 is more like the time needed to run, they're possibilities.
Marcus Neeson, Gulf
The Bucs' best hope is the senior high jumper, who won districts with a jump of 6-2 last week. There will be five other jumpers competing who went at least 6-0 last week, and another few who have gone at least 6-0 this season, so it might be time for Neeson to pull out a career best.
Earon Hicks, Wesley Chapel
Hicks went 6-0 in the high jump at districts, and a similar performance might be enough to get him to state. But 6-2 would be a safer height to nail down. Hicks also will be in the mix in the long jump.
This might be Pasco's best event, with three state hopefuls in Clay Hevenga of Ridgewood, Tony White of Land O'Lakes and Hudson's Joe Buono, who all went at least 12 feet at districts. Hevenga won the title with 12-6, but White or Buono are capable of matching that. White, the SAC champ, has been the most consistent of the vaulters this year. Kirk Dandridge of Lecanto went 14-0 last week, the mark to catch.
Vince Chalecki, Wesley Chapel
The Wildcat strong man won districts with ease, tossing the old metal ball 49-2.5 feet. Not bad, but he'll need to hit better than 50 to move on.
Charlie Minichino, Ridgewood
The Rams junior could surprise in the shot put, but the discus is his best event. He won at districts throwing 141-01, a distance that is third-best of all the region qualifiers.John C. Cotey can be reached at (727) 869-6261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Class 3A, Region 2
Local teams: Gulf, Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Wesley Chapel
Where/when: Astronaut High, Titusville, 3 p.m.
At stake: The top four finishers in each event advance to May 4 state meet at Showalter Field in Orlando.