1. Sports

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Marina Rao and Joshua Bowers

East Lake track and field athlete Joshua Bowers
East Lake track and field athlete Joshua Bowers
Published Apr. 10, 2017

Marina Rao Mitchell

Rao was inserted into Mitchell's starting lineup in the season opener. The move did not come as a surprise to the freshman.

"I had a feeling I could start because our coach (Scott Bisbe) knew about me since the seventh grade," Rao said.

Rao's older sister, Demetria, is a senior who played for the Mustangs as a freshman and sophomore before giving up the sport to concentrate on academics. Marina often was in the stands for games.

Now she is in the field. Marina talked to her sister and her friends about what it was like to play softball at the high school level.

That was not enough to completely take away the nerves.

"I struck out my first at-bat," Marina said.

She whiffed just two other times all season.

Marina has become a solid contributor in the lineup. She has at least one hit in 11 of her past 13 games.

Last week, Marina had her best performance of the season, going a combined 5-for-7. Three of those hits came in a pivotal 6-5 win over two-time defending Class 7A, District 10 champion Osceola that gave Mitchell the top seed in the upcoming tournament.

"I'd have to say that was my best week, especially getting those hits in such a big game against Osceola," she said.

Joshua Bowers East Lake

Bowers, a junior, finally feels like himself again.

Eight months ago he tore his ACL during spring football practice. A wide receiver and cornerback, Bowers had to sit out the entire football season, as well as the rest of the track and field season.

"All I could do was watch," Bowers said. "It was terrible."

After months of rehab, Bowers is back on the track and the football field.

He runs the 100 and 200 meters for East Lake and also goes through spring workouts with the football team.

At last week's Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet, Bowers ran an 11.03 in the 100 and a 22.27 in the 200, winning both.

"It wasn't much of a surprise," Bowers said. "I knew that I had been running well and I figured my results would be great. It was a blessing to be able to run those times."

He said he is a football player first and a sprinter second. He hopes to make an impact both on offense and defense next season for the Eagles.

But he isn't a newcomer to track. He said he ran AAU events as a kid, and at the high school level track is a way to stay in shape for football.

"I've been a football player more than I've run track," Bowers said. "I'm looking forward to finishing strong in track and then getting on the football field. My knee feels fine right now. I'm actually faster now than I was before the surgery. I never would've thought that."

Bob Putnam and Rodney Page, Times staff writers