Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hooper: Just watch this test of track and field skills

Chamberlain’s Amanda Leland, left, might be out for some payback in today’s 100 and 200 races.


Chamberlain’s Amanda Leland, left, might be out for some payback in today’s 100 and 200 races.

Track and field may be the least appreciated of all prep sports, and I don't know why.

It's running, jumping and throwing — the original sports — still on display in the same basic form used in ancient times. Sure, track has strategy, but ultimately it comes down to who can run fast, jump high and throw far.

Lace 'em up, line up and go.

Where else can you see multiple sports neatly woven into a singular event? Where else can you witness a competition so pure and simple, yet so thrilling? Every race has the potential to be a mini-drama of grimacing faces, pumping arms and burning hamstrings.

The stands should be packed, but you don't see many fans beyond family and friends. It's a shame, especially considering the caliber of county athletes this season.

Today's region meets offer one of the last chances to see these stars, many who rank among the state and nation's best. Gaither plays host to the 4A-2 meet, or you can make the drive to Punta Gorda Charlotte High for the 3A-3 meet.

At Gaither, Chamberlain's Dentarius Locke heads the list. I call Locke "Killjoy" because he's taken all the fun out of the 100- and 200-meter events this year. Nationally ranked, his initial burst is so quick the race is over before it starts. He looks fast even when he walks.

One of the best races will be in the boys 1,600 and 800. Durant's John Mitchell will have to beat an entire family to succeed. He'll face Sickles' Derek Wehunt in the 1,600 and brother Daniel Wehunt in the 800. Derek also is a favorite in the 3,200.

On the girls side, Plant City's Jasmine Pope and Chamberlain's Amanda Leland renew their rivalry after a photo finish at districts. Pope edged Leland by .004 of a second in the 100, and by .33 in the 200, but don't count out Leland.

Durant's Grace VanDeGrift also may end up singing a victory song. Fresh off a win in last week's Brandon Idol — she played guitar and performed Taylor Swift's White Horse — she will look to repeat that success in the 1,600 and 3,200 at Gaither.

Hillsborough's Terrence "T-Rex" Mitchell leads the Terriers at the 3A regional. Mitchell won the 100, 300 hurdles, long jump and triple jump in the district meet last week. Terriers teammate Lindsey Lamar won the 200, finished second in the 100 and third in the 400.

Brandon's Desmond McGill will challenge Mitchell in the 300 hurdles, and McGill and Leto's Jeremy Deering will have a showdown in the 110 hurdles.

The best race, however, may be the boys 4x400 where Wharton, Armwood and Charlotte will run below 3:22.

The girls 4x400 also should be competitive between Hillsborough and Wharton, led by Amani Bryant. Bryant is a tiny dynamo who coolly runs with shades and won't be challenged in the 100 or 300 hurdles.

Tampa Bay Tech's LaShae "Legs" White will put her graceful stride against Hillsborough's Brittney Barton in the 400. Also look for Blake's Marissa McEleveen to make a strong showing in the long and triple jumps.

Overall, both meets should feature kids pushing their bodies to the limit. The track athlete can't take a play off, can't ride on a teammate's coattails, can't hide.

It's real, raw and riveting. Give it a chance. That's all I'm saying.

You can reach Ernest Hooper at [email protected]

fast facts

Region track

and field

Admission: $6

Class 4A, Region 2

Host: Gaither

When: 1 p.m. today

Local schools: Alonso, Sickles, Bloomingdale, Chamberlain, Durant, East Bay, Gaither, Plant City, Riverview

Class 3A, Region 3

Host: Punta Gorda Charlotte

When: 4:30 p.m. today

Local schools: Blake, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Leto, Plant, Armwood, Brandon, Freedom, King, Middleton, Newsome, Tampa Bay Tech, Wharton

Hooper: Just watch this test of track and field skills 04/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 11:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday


    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  2. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  3. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  4. Signs point to Jameis Winston dressing vs. Bills


    TAMPA — The Bucs didn't sign another quarterback Wednesday, which would suggest they are confident that Jameis Winston can be active as a backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday at Buffalo if he doesn't start.

  5. FSU doesn't feel need for ongoing reminder of last year's beatdown at Louisville


    Of course Florida State remembers what happened against Louisville last year. The 63-20 loss was one of the worst defeats in Seminoles history.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson looks back at the action from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)