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Pinellas: Class A and 2A track and field preview

The Class A and 2A track season begins this week and there are many pressing questions. The Times answered the top three for boys and girls.

Can Admiral Farragut's Josh Burch win again?

Last year, Josh Burch exploded down the long jump runway on his next-to-last attempt and uncorked a leap of 22 feet, 8.5 inches at the Class A state meet, vaulting him into first.

The mark stood and Burch joined a special fraternity, becoming the third male athlete from his school to win a state title in the event (Ed Manderson and Bernard Scott were the others).

Now, Burch will try to become the first county athlete since Manderson to win two straight long jump titles. Burch has a shot considering five of the top 10 athletes who finished below him have graduated.

That's not the only title Burch is after. He also is aiming for gold in the triple jump. He came close to winning last year, finishing second with a leap of 44-9.5. The winner, Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy's Anthony Sheffield, has graduated. That means Burch is the top returner.

Will CCC's Micah Poole emerge as the county's top sprinter?

Last year, Micah Poole made a name for himself by winning district titles in the 100 and 200 meters. He qualified for state in the 100, finishing 15th. In the fall, Poole concentrated on football as an electrifying all-purpose player. Now, he's back on the track in hopes of placing at state in his two signature races. His best chance is in the 100, where three of the top four place winners have graduated.

Who are the other top male athletes?

Clearwater Central Catholic's Tobias Probst is coming off a strong season in cross country and is the county's top contender in the distance races. Last year, he finished in the 1,600 meters at state. Indian Rocks Christian's 4x400 team, which finished fourth at state, returns all four runners.

Will Shorecrest's Samantha Specht capture gold?

Samantha Specht is used to coming home from state meets with a bagful of medals. She already has 11 in her career.

But none of those were gold.

Six times in the past three seasons, the senior has had a chance to win an individual title in the triple jump or 400 meters, only to be beaten in the end.

Last year, she took second in both of her signature events, as well as fourth in the 200 and fifth in the long jump.

In years past, Specht always had the misfortune of being paired in the same events with athletes who were strong, quicker or more experienced.

But this is her best chance to break through and win an elusive title, due in large part to those who left.

Tallahassee North Florida Christian's Michelle Jenije, last year's champion in the triple jump, graduated. So did Miami Dade Christian's Faith Umoh, who won the 400.

Specht is the top returner in both events.

Which girls team is the strongest contender?

Northside Christian has more depth than anyone and puts those numbers to good use. Last year, the Mustangs were dominant at the Bay Conference and district meets. Expect more of the same.

Northside returns nearly everyone, including Katelyn Greenleaf, who finished fifth in the 3,200 meters last season. She headlines a list of strong distance runners. But the Mustangs also should do well in the relays, sprints and middle distances.

Is there another female athlete to watch?

Clearwater Central Catholic's Domenica Owens was one of the county's top middle distance runners as a freshman last season. She finished eighth at state in the 800 meters and should be able to place higher considering two others ahead of her graduated. Shorecrest's Erin McClenathan and Sandy Lowry are the top contenders in the pole vault.

For the fans

Admission: Most schools charge $3.

Regular season: Today is the first day for regular-season meets in Class A and 2A. The regular season ends April 11.

Postseason: The district meets for Class A and 2A are April 13-18. The top four in each event at districts advance to regional meets, on April 22-24 for A and 2A. The top four in each event at regions advance to the state meets, which will be May 1 (A) and May 2 (2A) at Showalter Field in Winter Park.

Pinellas: Class A and 2A track and field preview 02/22/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 22, 2009 8:06pm]
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