TAMPA — Spoto's Janae Caldwell was overjoyed to qualify for the state meet last year, but a second-place finish in the 400 meters wasn't quite enough.
"It was a blessing to make it as a freshman, but then I was kind of bummed about finishing second," Caldwell said.
In the offseason, she worked harder than ever and decided to eat better than ever, too. The results continue to impress.
The Spartan cruised to another state track appearance Wednesday evening, comfortably winning her marquee event, the 400, in 56.21 seconds at the Class 3A, Region 3 meet at Leto.
Caldwell's performance, which also included a win in the 200 (24.67), highlighted a night of strong performances at the 3A-3 and 4A-2 meets, held concurrently at Leto.
"I decided to improve my diet, and I started eating like Olympians eat," Caldwell said, which meant ditching fast food for salmon, white rice for brown and mayonnaise for a lighter version. "I can feel the difference. I'm a lot stronger."
Caldwell also ran on Spoto's all-sophomore, state-qualifying 4x400 relay team, which finished third.
Other 3A standouts included:
Hillsborough and Jefferson's boys teams scored 37 points, tying for third behind team champion Sarasota (40). The Terrier girls were fourth as the top local finisher.
Middleton sprinter Anthony "Shug" Rhynes won the 100 in 10.37 seconds, a time that would have won the Class 3A state championship last year. He also finished first in the 200 (21.57).
Gaither hurdler Samson Moore won twice, running the 110 in 14.28 (and edging second-place finisher Mike Shields by .02 seconds) and the 300 in 37.34.
Hillsborough's Dwayne Lawson won the triple jump (a personal-best 47-7) and the high jump (6-4) to advance to state as a title contender in both.
Blake's Jermal Wiley won the 400 (49.94) as the only Yellow Jacket to advance.
Armwood's Byron Cowart threw the shot put 55 feet, 2.5 inches, breaking the school record that had stood since 1999.
Class 4A-2: The Wharton girls may have had one of the youngest teams, but they were also the best.
The Wildcats scored 86.5 points to finish first ahead of Steinbrenner (58), riding victories by freshman Bryanna Rivers in the 800 (2:18.98) and getting key contributions from fellow frosh Aria Tate (fourth, 100 hurdles) and Daneesha Davidson (third, triple jump; fourth, 300 hurdles). Another freshman, Searra Woods, ran a leg on the Wharton second-place 4x400 relay.
Wildcat senior Jasmine Robinson won the 400 in 56.99.
Bloomingdale captured first and second in the 800, as Kevin Heron (1:58.54) and Matt Butler (1:59.87) outlasted a pair of runners from runnerup Countryside.
The Freedom girls produced a pair of region champs as Ashley Wilson won the discus (119-01) and Anel Smith the 300 hurdles (45.65).
Sickles' James Zentmeyer outdueled Plant's Jack Guyton in the 3,200, winning in 9:37.93, less than a second better than his rival. In the 1,600, though, Guyton was the swiftest, winning in 4:16.52.
Alonso's Lynette Robertson won the long jump (17-10.5), was second in the triple jump (38-9.5) and ran a leg on Alonso's winning 4x400 relay team, along with Tare Floyd, Tia Steward and Savannah Torres.
Riverview thrower Jaylin Vereen won the shot put (48-6).