Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tampa Bay's next wave of track stars

After watching Gibbs' Trayvon Bromell run people down and earn national acclaim, Hillsborough's Jeremiah Green reduce the triple jump to a battle for distant second, Lakewood's Griffin twins Shaquille and Shaquem jump and run to new heights, Lakewood's T.J. Holmes hurdle every obstacle effortlessly, and, of course, the Spartan boys exhilarating one-point win for a state title, it must be asked:

Does it get any better?

If so, it will mean breakout, record-setting seasons for these 12 track athletes that we believe will create some of the same excitement we saw last year.

1. Brittany McGee, Admiral Farragut: The Blue Jacket junior might be the hardest working track athlete in Tampa Bay. She placed in the top 10 at state last year in the high jump, triple jump and both hurdles, and already has run a meet this year where she won all four of those events. In fact, McGee has already posted a 14.99-second time in her best event, the 100 hurdles, faster than her time at state when she finished second.

2. Emily Gauvey, Anclote: Right now, there's no better high jumper around. As a freshman last year, Gauvey jumped 5 feet, 6 inches at state, tying her with three others for the best leap. This season, she has already gone 5-8 and is the one to beat.

3. Bobby Harris, Springstead: The defending Class 3A high jump champion won the title with a leap of 6 feet, 2 inches, but he went 6-9 during the season, and he already went 6-8 to win his most recent meet.

4. Damien Daniels, Gibbs: It hardly seems fair to ask anyone to fill the bright yellow cleats of Bromell, but Daniels will give it a go. He was terrific last year, just overlooked, and shined on the state championship relay. He opened this season with a 10.76 time in the 100, a 22.10 in the 200 and a 14.83 in the 100 hurdles, all events in which he could qualify for state.

5. Assata Trader, Shorecrest: Talk about peaking: Trader came out of nowhere last year to win the Class A 100 meters, prompting many to ask, who? Trader ran a 12.29 in the preliminaries and a 12.12 in the final, and she's currently the gold standard in her class. And with a 12.42 already to her credit, she doesn't look ready to relinquish her crown.

6. Janae Caldwell, Spoto: This is our sleeper pick. Keep an eye on her in the 400, she can win gold at state.

7. Alex Eaton, Shorecrest: This might be the runner to beat in the mile and 2-mile, though there will be plenty of competition. Won her first 2-mile race of the season by a minute.

8. Deja Rodgers, Middleton: Ran a 12.10 in the 100 at district, but injuries slowed her down. Already with a 12.49, will anything slow her down this year?

9. Anthony Rhynes, Middleton: He was a surprise in football, catching passes for more than 1,000 yards, and now at track after a 10.71 in the 100 and 22.1 in the 200 at the Charles Davis Invitational. As far as we can tell, that is Rhynes' track debut. Hello.

10. Alfreda Steele, Pasco: Only a freshman last year when she ran a 11.92 to finish third at state in the 100, Steele has all kinds of potential.

11. Deterrica Simpkins, Northside Christian: Simpkins won conference championships at Pinellas Park last year in the 100, 200 and 400, and her best times in the 100 and 200 would have won state in Class A, where she now competes. Her battles this season with Trader should be fun.

12. Deiondre Porter, Jefferson: His long jump of 23 feet, 1/2 inch is only 6 inches off the winning jump from state a year ago, and he's doing damage in the sprints as well.

Others worth keeping an eye on

Hannah Brookover, Calvary Christian: She won the 800 in her first meet of the season after finishing fourth at state last year. Definite star potential.

Hallie Grimes, Land O'Lakes: The dominant 400 runner on the North Suncoast was third at state last year.

Addison Harden, Berkeley Prep: The Arizona recruit has already set school records in the discus (125 feet, 2 inches) and shot put (38 feet, 7 inches). Expect her to better last year's second- (discus) and fourth-place (shot put) finishes at state.

Mercedes Innocent, Sickles: Having already cleared 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump, can she be a player for best in her event?

JaKayla Jones and Kara Young, Zephyrhills: We've lumped these two together because they already have gone 1-2 in the 100 twice this season, posting times between 12.55 and 12.86. Throw the Pirates' Alfreda Steele in the mix and east Pasco has some serious wheels this season.

Jennifer Kistemaker, Osceola: She was seeded first at state last year in the pole vault but struggled to a fourth-place finish. But she clears 12 feet regularly, so look for gold this year.

Dwayne Lawson, Hillsborough: The hotly recruited quarterback of the football team has already posted a 6-6 high jump, and the coaches at Hillsborough know a little something about teaching kids to jump.

Ahmad Middleton, Dunedin: A state qualifier in both hurdles last year, Middleton may be the one to beat in Pinellas this year.

Chris Olson, Canterbury: He is already throwing the discus 150-plus feet.

Jamaree Ried, Anclote: The hurdles specialist had a great run at region last year, with his sights set on breaking the 40-second mark in the 300 this season.

Jack Rogers, Robinson: The 800 runner was fifth at state last year.

Michael Rusnak, St. Petersburg Catholic: Off to a great start after taking second in the 400 at state last year.

Claire Snyder, Academy of the Holy Names: The distance ace won a slew of mile and 2-mile races last year on her way to state and will be better in 2014.

Carson Waters, Osceola: The senior pole vaulter won a region title last season and enters as one of the favorites in the event. He already has cleared 14 feet, 6 inches this season.

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