MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
BROOKSVILLE — Central long jumper Tikiera Relaford can still remember the day she moved from Pembroke Pines toward the end of seventh grade and met Raqurra Ishmar at West Hernando Middle School.
The two instantly became close friends.
At least that’s what Relaford thought.
“I hated her because her name was too close to mine,” Ishmar recounted. “…I remember I went up to her in seventh period when she first moved here, and I was so big-headed, I asked her if her name was Tikiera and she said, ‘Yes.’ I told her, ‘I don’t like it, your name’s T.T.’ And she said ‘okay’ and walked away.”
It took a few weeks for Ishmar to warm up to Relaford, but the two have been nearly inseparable since, both in and out of the athletic arena.
On Friday, the Central duo hopes to stay attached again, this time on top of the podium as the first girls North Suncoast pair to win state track titles for the same school in the same season. Relaford is the defending state champion in the high jump after clearing 5 feet, 6 inches and has jumped a personal-best 5 feet, 8 inches this season.
“I expect to PR and I expect to win at states,” said Relaford, who became the first girls track athlete from Central to win gold last year. “Anything less and I would be sad.”
Ishmar earned the top seed in the shot put entering Friday’s Class 3A meet at Showalter Field in Winter Park with a throw of 45 feet, 1 inch at regionals. Last year, Ishmar, who is also seeded third in the discus (120-10) and 12th in the long jump (17-2), came within a couple inches of joining Relaford as a state champion, placing second (40-8.75).
Ishmar, who says she was forced into track by her middle school coaches because of her natural athletic ability, only recently started competing seriously in the sport. As a freshman, she didn’t go out for the team and a knee injury kept her sidelined as a sophomore.
Still, despite the lack of experience, Ishmar has shined.
“She’s very driven and very athletic,” girls track coach Christina Brandel said. “You give her a mark, and she hits it.”
Since their rocky introduction, Relaford and Ishmar have been, arguably, the most prolific sports figures in the history of Central girls athletics. The two starred on the basketball court, leading the Bears to only their second-ever playoff appearance this year.
They also provided the Bears’ volleyball team a pair of potent hitters.
“Our friendship made us better athletes,” Relaford said.
The track, however, is where Relaford and Ishmar are at their best. The pair is being recruited by several schools and recently visited Florida International after last week’s region meet.
But first, Relaford and Ishmar have unfinished business to take care of Friday.
They hope to go into the record books side by side, just like they have been since that fateful first meeting five years ago.
Class 3A state track
When: Friday, 1 p.m.
Where: Showalter Field, Winter Park
Admission: $8 Parking: $5
North Suncoast contenders
Nicole Woodard, Land O’Lakes (high jump, long jump): Woodard cleared 5 feet, 2 inches at regionals to place fourth in the high jump, but the long jump is the senior’s best chance to medal. Woodard is seeded fourth (18-4).
Karissa Bertling, Ridgewood (200, 300 hurdles): Bertling, the St. Petersburg Times’ all-North Suncoast girls track and field athlete of the year in 2010, is seeded 10th in the 300 hurdles (46.10). In the region prelims, however, Bertling ran almost a full two seconds faster (44.33). A torrential downpour before the finals could have accounted for Bertling’s slowdown. She is also seeded 10th in the 200.
Kelli Williams, Mitchell (800, 1600): Williams won a region title in the 800 (2:21.22) but will have some ground to make up as the No. 9 seed at state. In the 1600, Williams is ranked fifth (5:07.84), a little more than five seconds behind the leader.
More state qualifiers:
Kara Young, Zephyrhills (100); Wilena Little, Springstead (200); Hallie Grimes, Land O’Lakes (400); Sasha Spalding, Springstead (300 hurdles); Zephyrhills 4x100 relay team (Aaliyah McKenzie, Alexandria Viera, Jamieshia Parker, Kara Young); Wiregrass Ranch 4x100 relay team (Marissa Tomei, Tori Tomei, A.J. Blount, Hannah Eder); Land O’Lakes 4x100 relay team (Alyssa Lonsway, Hallie Grimes, Samantha Austin, Nicole Woodard); Wiregrass Ranch 4x400 relay team (Marissa Tomei, Kayla Deloach, Kelsey Sturman, Makayla Strickland); Land O’Lakes 4x400 relay team (Nicole Woodard, Samantha Austin, Alyssa Lonsway, Hallie Grimes); Mikayla Bogulski, Springstead (800); Nikita Shah, Wiregrass Ranch (3,200); Ariel Grey, Wiregrass Ranch (3,200); Wiregrass Ranch 4x800 relay team (Ariel Grey, Alex Diepholz, Marissa Ginn-Davis, Elise Cedre); Springstead 4x800 relay team (Sasha Spalding, Kailey Genrich, Ty’Rhonza Harris, Mikayla Bogulski)