Boys team preview
The mighty Terriers were humbled last year at state by St. Thomas Aquinas and Groveland South Lake, and finished fourth overall. But athletes such as Jerod Brisbon, Juan Washington, Lindsey Lamar and Terrence Mitchell should have coach Joey Sipp's team back in the thick of things.
"We did real well last year. We were region champs and placed fourth at state. Most of our guys placed in the top three and four at state," Sipp said.
Of course, no season would be complete without some adversity. Sipp learned last week that prized athlete Colby Walden will not be allowed to compete because he will be too old on the first day of the season. Walden was third at state in the 400 and would have been a contender in the 200.
Key loss: Mark Williams, who ran the 400 and 800 meters, is now at Florida A&M. "We still have a number of guys that can make up those points, but losing those points there will probably be a slight drop-off," Sipp said.
Keep an eye on: Chamberlain, Newsome, Sickles
Girls team preview
The Wildcats sustained heavy losses to graduation after last year's second-place finish to Oak Ridge at state. Wharton is searching for eight girls to replace the ones who are gone, among them Kathia and Katrina Skinner, both now at UCF. Wildcats coach Wes Newton will lean on Amani Bryant, London Enos, Shawntrel Pierre, Erin Bailey and Alyssa Franks to carry the load now.
"We're not the team we used to be," Newton said. "It's going to be tough. If you look at Gaither on paper, they're better than we are. We're going to have to work hard to beat them."
Of course, there's also the question as to whether this will be Newton's last season because of budget cuts in the school district, which could eliminate his teaching position. He said his team is aware this could be the end, so perhaps they will use that to rally.
Key losses: The Skinners, the Wildcats' distance stars, were part of the 4x800 state champion relay.
Keep an eye on: Gaither, Hillsborough, Tampa Bay Tech, Sickles
Boys to watch
LaVaughn King, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: Finished third in last year's triple jump at state.
Lindsey Lamar, Sr., Hillsborough: The Terriers' top sprinter is a preseason All-American and will be Dentarius Locke's toughest competition in the 100 and 200. He finished fourth in the 100 after stumbling out of the blocks and has a football scholarship with USF.
Dentarius Locke, Sr., Chamberlain: Preseason All-American who won the 4A state title in the 100 meters in 10.72 seconds. The state runnerup in the 200 has signed a letter of intent with Tennessee.
John Mitchell, Sr., Durant: Set a personal best of 4 minutes, 21.63 seconds in the 1,600 meters to win the 4A state title. He is headed to Florida to run cross country.
Gregory St. Justine, Sr., Wharton: Area's top hurdler finished fourth at state in the 100 hurdles in 15.12 seconds.
Derek Wehunt, Sr., Sickles: Looking to bounce back from a disappointing finish in at the state cross country meet by making a strong showing in the distance events. He is headed to Florida to run.
Others to watch: Jeremy Deering, Jr., Leto; Desmond McGill, Sr., Brandon; Mark Parrish, Jr., Chamberlain; Daniel Wehunt, Sr., Sickles; Trenor Wilkins, Jr., Plant; Trent Wiseman, Sr., Freedom
Girls to watch
Amani Bryant, Sr., Wharton: Earned a personal best of 42.92 seconds to win the 300 hurdles title and is headed to Florida.
London Enos, Jr., Wharton: Earned second at state in the pole vault with a mark of 10 feet, 6 inches.
Alyssa Franks, Sr. Wharton: After an injury-riddled junior season and a state meet where she fought off a nagging cold, Franks is in top shape and ready to run.
LeRia Jenerette, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech: She helped guide the Titans basketball team to a playoff run and is ready to dominate once again in the discus.
Rikka Lovely, Sr., Gaither: The Cowboys jumper reached the state final in four events and medaled (top eight) in three of them (long jump, triple jump, 100). She is expected to score in the 100, 200, long jump and triple jump.
LaShae White, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech: Her personal best of 56.51 was enough to put her in second place in the 400.
Others to watch: Erin Bailey, Jr., Wharton; Michaela Kennedy, So., Plant; Tanesha Maxwell, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech; Marissa McElveen, Sr., Blake; Bianca Morrison, Sr., Sickles; Yesenia Perez, Jr., Gaither Shantrell Pierre, Jr., Wharton; Jasmine Pope, Jr., Plant City; Morgan Scherschel, Sr., Gaither; Grace VanDeGrift, So., Durant