Hillsborough track teams gear up for regional championships

As track season heads into its final turn before the home stretch, athletes from all over Hillsborough County will converge on three locations Wednesday in division meets before the big county showdown at Jefferson the following week. Let's break down the division meets, one ­by one.

American Division Track Championships (Western Conference)

Where: Jefferson High School, 4401 W Cypress St., Tampa

When: Wednesday, field events start at 1 p.m.

Who: Alonso, Blake, Gaither, Jefferson, Plant, Robinson, Sickles, Steinbrenner

The Skinny: This is one of the more balanced divisions, with elite athletes across many events. Gaither girls 800-meter runner Rachel Cazares is one of the top middle distance runners in the state. Fresh off a victory at the massive University of South Florida ­Steinbrenner Invitational, Cazares posted a 2:16.71, the fourth best time in the state, according to Flrunners.com. Cazares, a senior, recently signed to run track at University of North Florida, where she hopes to compete at the state championship in May. In longer distance, Plant junior Jack Guyton is also fresh off a USF Steinbrenner win, when he posted the fourth best time in the state (4:19.07). Host Jefferson has lots of opportunities to score and will likely press Steinbrenner and Plant for the team title. Dragons senior and University of Florida football commit Deiondre Porter has the eighth­-best long jump mark in the state. Porter's jump of 23­ feet, 1/2 inch is the standard in the county. Only James Hambrick of East Bay has been close at 22-8. Dragon teammate Juwaun Brown has the 13th best throw in the state in shot put (51­-3.5). Keep an eye on the Alonso girls 4x400 and the Jefferson girls 4x100 relay teams. The Alonso girls are already re­writing the school record book in the 4x800m and posted a state top 20 time in the 4x400m relay at USF (4:03.15). The Jefferson girls finished second to Zephyrhills at USF with a state top 13 time of 48.95. Sickles' James Zentmeyer runs well under 10 minutes in the boys 3,200 meters and has the 16th best time in the state.

National Division Track Championships (Western Conference)

Where: Armwood High School, 12000 U.S. 92, Seffner

When: Wednesday, field events start at 1 p.m.

Who: Armwood, Chamberlain, Freedom, Hillsborough, King, Middleton, Strawberry Crest, Tampa Bay Tech, Wharton

The Skinny: The Freedom girls and Hillsborough boys have dominated in recent years, but both squads graduated their elite athletes and are rebuilding this year. That hasn't stopped Hillsborough, which has won the local meets with efforts from Dwayne Lawson in high jump and triple jumps. Terrier female athlete Jada Roberson is a dual threat, with top five finishes at USF in the triple jump (36-2) and the 100 meters (12.65). In the sprints, Middleton High should dominate with elite athletes in Shug Rhynes and Deja Rodgers. Rhynes (10.71), has a state top 20 time in the 100 and a top 30 state time in the 200 (21.97); Rodgers made the finals in the 100 at USF and has a great time in the 200 as well, but watch out for Chamberlain's Savyon Toombs, whose times are right up there, and Toombs topped Rodgers in both events at USF. Chamberlain 3,200 runner Maggie Parrish cracked the 12-minute barrier at USF, taking first place in 11:46.95. Wharton should dominate the girls competition. The 4x800m relay team posted the fifth best time in the state (9:40.38) at the Kowboy Invitational on March 8, and each of the runners broke off to control other events. Speaking of relays, has anyone noticed that the King relay teams are sending shock waves across the state this year? After dispatching the sixth­-ranked Fort Lauderdale Hallandale boys 4x400m relay at USF in dramatic fashion, the boys followed it up by winning the 4x100m. The King boys, Dionte Poole, Darian Wright, Emerson Tyler and Javontee Brice, are ranked 10th in the state in the 4x400m and 14th in the state in the 4x100m. The same four athletes run both relays.

Federal Division Track Championships (Western Conference)

Where: Spoto High School, 8538 Eagle Palm Drive, Riverview

When: Wednesday, field events start at 1 p.m.

Who: Bloomingdale, Brandon, Durant, East Bay, Lennard, Newsome, Plant City, Spoto

The Skinny: Traditionally a distance-strong division, the Federal Division offers some interesting diversity this year. Plant City pole vaulter Jackson Hardee shattered his personal record by 3 feet at Nash Higgins and has one of the top 15 highest jumps in the state (13-6). Bloomingdale sophomore Ryan Voyles shocked the track at USF, taking first in the triple jump (45-8), now a state top 16 mark. East Bay jumper James Hambrick was second in long jump at USF (22-8), and that is a top 14 state mark. Teammate Ryan Rannie is under 50 second in boys 400m, but Newsome's Todd Jackson is also under 50 seconds. Strawberry Crest jumper Chauncey Thomas is strong in both long and triple jumps. Riverview's Maia Carter was third at USF in the girls 300 hurdles (46.19). Teammate and freshman J'Nai Taylor posted a 25.63 at USF, taking fifth in the girls 200. And of course the Federal Division is strong in distance. Riverview's Robert Cottrell is just over the 2-­minute mark in the 800, but Bloomingdale's Kevin Heron is under two minutes and was third at USF. The Bloomingdale boys 4x800m relay is tops in the county at 8:05.50, the seventh-best mark in the state this year.

Hillsborough track teams gear up for regional championships 03/21/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 23, 2014 1:53am]

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