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The boys and girls teams have won three meets this season while turning in the majority of the county's best individual performances.
By SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2001
TAMPA -- "Our school has only been around four years, but we're getting respect like we've been around a long, long time," Wharton senior Carmen Crespo said.
"The other schools see our jerseys at the track meets and say, 'Wow, you're from Wharton.'
"Now that feels good."
Why shouldn't it? Crespo and her teammates have worked hard to get where they are, which is at the top of the area track scene. As of Tuesday night, Wharton had:
Won the boys title at the Manuel/Griffin Relays.
Won Clearwater's Ed Wells/Kiwanis Invitational with 1221/2 points, 421/2 ahead of second-place Lakewood.
Won the girls title at the Seminole Rotary Invitational, 110-73 over runner-up Seminole.
Placed third among boys teams at the Bob Hayes Invitational in Jacksonville, which featured more than 100 schools and 700 athletes.
"And we could have won that meet," Wharton coach David Watson said.
"But I decided to not run a couple of relays because it was a long day for the kids and we had a long drive to get back home."
And among county individuals and relays, Wharton has eight of the best boys performances. Twelve of the Wildcats' performances rank in the top three. On the girls side, 11 performances are in the top three. "What's the key? Well that's really not too hard to figure," Wharton girls coach Wes Newton said.
"The key is that all of us work together real well, and we also work real hard.
"Now we just happen to have some talent, and it's working out real well."
The top talent includes Crespo, who won the state high jump title as a sophomore and leads the area this season with a leap of 5-foot-8. She has also run the 110-meter hurdles in 16 seconds.
Add Crespo to Kendra Smith -- 38-41/2 in the triple jump, 17 feet in the long jump, and 5-4 in the high jump -- and you're looking at a lot of points for Wharton's girls at the state meet.
The boys' talent includes Dwight Ellick, who won the New York state title in the 100 meters as a junior last season and has posted a 10.6-second time in the 100 as a Wharton senior. Ellick also ran 21.47 in the 200 at the Bob Hayes meet.
Steve Carrico leads the county in the 330 hurdles with a 40.82.
Then there's Alex Harris, who has cleared 6 feet, 10 inches in the high jump and bounded to a 44-8 mark in the triple jump. And Stuart Carrico, who has run 1:57.80 in the 800 meters.
Add that up, along with some strong help in the relays, and Wharton might be a contender for the Class 4A boys state title.
But Watson is quick to point out that the Wildcats must not look ahead.
"We're just going to try and keep getting better," he said. "And then we'll see what happens."
Wednesday, the night after dominating the Ed Wells and Seminole Rotary meets in Pinellas, the Wildcats were out at the track, sprinting, bounding and lifting.
The next meet is this weekend's Florida Relays at the University of Florida, an individual meet that both Crespo and Ellick have high hopes for.
"I feel like I have a lot faster time waiting for me," Ellick said. "I think 10.4 (in the 100) is a possibility."
And Crespo, who came out for Wharton's track team on a whim as a sophomore, said she is thinking 5-10 in the high jump isn't out of the question.
She also couldn't be happier Wharton is the name of the school stretched across her jersey.
"If I wouldn't have come out for track, well, I would have been bored," said Crespo, who is receiving track scholarship interest from Florida and South Florida.
"Being part of the track team has been so much fun. It is a lot of work, but that work makes you feel better.
"Right now, I feel great."