TAMPA — One milestone has been secured, and others are within grasp.
The prior girls track standards at Freedom appear poised for obscurity. By early accounts, coach Dwight Smith has dozens of girls capable of clearing them, hurdling them, overtaking them, even flinging them into oblivion.
But no one to vault over them.
“No pole vaulters,” Smith said. “We don’t have a coach so we don’t put ’em out there.”
It’s the lone fragment of irony in a season in which the Patriot girls already have raised the program’s proverbial bar, and appear set to lift it a few more notches.
Freedom’s eight-point victory at the 24-team Charles Johnson Invitational two weekends ago was the first girls team triumph in the school’s 11-year history. On Saturday, the Patriots were fifth at the 23-team Nash Higgins Relays at Leto.
If potential can be harnessed and injury can be dodged, those efforts may represent mere snapshots in a historic spring. Smith and sprints coach Ryan McGee estimate they have 45 kids on their roster.
“This is the largest team we’ve ever had, and it’s not 45 girls and probably three of them are okay,” Smith said. “You’re probably looking at about 20 girls that can score. We’re talking about some throwers all the way to distance runners in the 3,200 (meters).”
The cornerstones, naturally, are Western Kentucky-bound senior Sandra Akachukwu, who captured four medals at last season’s Class 4A state meet; and Riverview transfer Faith Woodard, the reigning state high jump champion in 4A.
The Times’ reigning Hillsborough County girls track athlete of the year, Akachukwu accounted for all 13 of Freedom’s points at state last year. Toss in the 13 Woodard earned on the same day, and those 26 points would have secured a top-10 team finish at state.
But Smith and McGee insist there’s a formidable team behind that tandem.
“We have the people,” Akachukwu said. “It’s just a matter of performing.”
With Woodard still immersed in the Patriot basketball team’s state tournament run, Akachukwu medaled in four events— winning the long jump and high jump — at the Charles Johnson. She also took both jumps at Nash Higgins.
Meantime at the Charles Johnson, junior Anel Smith placed second in the 300 hurdles in a personal-best 48.11 seconds, while senior Jasmyn Perry notched a PR in a runnerup 100 hurdles effort (15.32).
Additionally, sophomore Destanie Bush placed fourth in the shot put (31 feet, 11 inches) and senior Alex Mitchell placed third in the 800 (2:24.52). The 4x400 relay team — minus Woodard, who likely will anchor the unit — placed second to Alonso by half a second.
Exactly what other events Woodard will do remains a secret, Smith and McGee say. The Patriots’ aspirations aren’t.
“Top five (at state),” Smith said. “As far as Western Conference, county championship, districts, regions — we want that. But like I told the girls, we haven’t done anything yet. We’ve still got to go out and do it.”
HomeTeam Heat Sheet
The Heat Sheet is a fancy name for the Tampa Bay Times’ weekly county track and field honor roll. Bear in mind, this is a continual work in progress. To add performances (or argue others), contact Joey Knight at email@example.com.
High jump: Sandra Akachukwu, Freedom (5-2); Samantha Plager, Seffner Chr. (5-0)
Long jump: Sandra Akachukwu, Freedom (17-7); Ryann McEnany, Holy Names (17-1.5)
Triple jump: Carly Reiner, Tampa Prep (35-1); Dejoun Dennard, Armwood (34-11)
Shot put: Andrea Aaron, Chamberlain (41-2); KiKi Newsome, Armwood (35-8.5)
Discus: Andrea Aaron, Chamberlain (120-0); Addi Harden, Berkeley Prep (115-3)
Pole vault: Britainey Smith, Wharton (11-0); Marin Arsenault/Rachel Goding, Plant (10-6)
4x800 relay: Plant (9:59.56); Wharton (10:06.25)
100 hurdles: Ryann McEnany, Holy Names (15.30); Jasmyn Perry, Freedom (15.32)
100: Carrol Hardy, King (11.86); Jorian Ordway, Hillsborough (12.45)
1,600: Claire Snyder, Holy Names (5:19.88); Maddy Hull, Robinson (5:31.40)
4x100 relay: King (49.49); Wharton (50.12)
400: Jorian Ordway, Hillsborough (55.43); Janae Caldwell, Spoto (57.73)
300 hurdles: Mikayla Barber, Wharton (44.92); Ryann McEnany, Holy Names (46.69)
800: Rachel Cazares, Gaither (2:18.42); Rachel Favors, King (2:21.45)
200: Carrol Hardy, King (24.88); Jorian Ordway, Hillsborough (25.5)
3,200: Claire Snyder, Holy Names (11:50.81); Madison Scanlan, Robinson (12:15.32)
4x400 relay: Wharton (4:08.77); Alonso 4:09.40
High jump: Dwayne Lawson, Hillsborough (6-2); Ronnie Scott, Chamberlain (6-2)
Long jump: Jeremiah Green, Hillsborough (23-3); Deiondre Porter, Jefferson (22-3.5)
Triple jump: Jeremiah Green, Hillsborough (47-2); Marc McCoy, Spoto (44-4.5)
Shot put: Jaylin Vereen, Riverview (47-7.5); Jamari Johnson, Tampa Bay Christian (44-7)
Discus: Tyler Webb, Plant (144-2.5); Jamari Johnson, Tampa Bay Christian (135-7)
Pole vault: Silas Dobbins, Brandon (13-6); David Kornitzer, Strawberry Crest (13-6)
4x800 relay: Bloomingdale (8:18.87); Steinbrenner (8:19.49)
100 hurdles: William Taylor-Haynes, Alonso (14.64); Caleb Chambliss, TBT (15.13)
100: Deontae Williams, Tampa Bay Tech (10.92); Eric Moate, Spoto (10.97)
1,600: Andrew LeBlanc, Bloomingdale (4:25.45); Matt Magee, Steinbrenner (4:26.55)
4x100 relay: Armwood (42.47); Jefferson (42.55)
400: Todd Jackson, Newsome (48.72); Robert Wilson, Hillsborough (48.75)
300 hurdles: Matt Williams, Gaither (40.79); Caleb Chambliss, TBT (41.25)
800: Jonathan Moore, Jefferson (1:57.26); Justin Martinez, Newsome (1:59.24)
200: Jeremiah Green, Hillsborough (21.88); Eric Moate, Spoto (22.03)
3,200: Max Borland, Berkeley Prep (10:01.22); Josh Keenan, Seffner Christian (10:04.55)
4x400 relay: Middleton (3:26.82); Jefferson (3:26.92)
Note: Hand-held times for races of 400 meters or less are not eligible for the Heat Sheet
Joey Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.