TITUSVILLE — What more fitting place than the shadow of Kennedy Space Center for a state title quest to formally launch.
History likely will suggest that's where Nature Coast sophomore Danielle Doucet's 2008 pursuit really took off. On a clear, crisp evening conducive to personal-best performances, the Sharks sprinter turned in one at the Class 2A, Region 3 meet at Astronaut High.
Eclipsing her personal mark in the 400 meters, with a time of 58.81, Doucet won the race by nearly a second and placed third in the 200 (26.12) to lead the North Suncoast contingent. The top four finishers in each event qualified for the April 26 state meet in Winter Park.
"I was just trying to get prepared mentally for it … ," said Doucet, a state medal winner in the 400 at the 2007 state meet. "I was just watching the clock as I came down, trying to PR (personal record) in it."
Doucet was hardly the lone area underclassman to shine Thursday.
Zephyrhills freshman Jamieshia "Meme" Parker placed third in the girls 100, Bulldogs sophomore Katherine Patton was fourth in the discus, and freshmen Lindsay Cooper of Clearwater Central Catholic and Kelsey Sturman of Wiregrass Ranch placed second and third, respectively, in the girls 400. Another Wiregrass Ranch freshman, Ariel Grey, was third in the 3,200.
Some local upperclassmen weren't nearly as fortunate.
Zephyrhills senior Josh Perkins qualified for state in the triple jump with a fourth-place finish (43-4) but injured his left knee during the event and didn't compete in the other two events for which he qualified.
A district champ in the 200, Perkins isn't sure of his status for the state meet.
"I don't want to say I hate it; I'm glad I made it to states," Perkins said. "I don't even have the words for it."
Elsewhere, CCC junior Micah Poole placed third in the boys 100 (11.15), Nature Coast's Howie Williams was second in the high jump (6-4), and Hernando senior Tyler Maier placed third in the 3,200 (9:52.48).