High School Sports

South Florida track teams expected to dominate as state meet opens Friday in Jacksonville

Hallandale High track team members, from left, Chanel Freeman, Aisha Nelson, Dariel Green, Kimani Rushing and Lamisha Simmons are pictured Friday, Feb. 13, 2015.
Hallandale High track team members, from left, Chanel Freeman, Aisha Nelson, Dariel Green, Kimani Rushing and Lamisha Simmons are pictured Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

There are a couple of old-school ways to judge greatness in track and field: the stopwatch, a measuring tape or the record book.

These days, the easiest is DyeStat.com's national rankings index, which with a couple of clicks can arrange the best sprinters, hurdlers, throwers, jumpers, relay teams and long distance runners across the country in order and do the same with schools, states and even regions.

No matter the method -- old school or new -- it's easy to see the high schools in Dade and Broward are in the midst of a Golden Age.

Entering Friday and Saturday's state track and field championships at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, 56 girls and 28 boys as well as 36 relay teams (19 boys, 17 girls) from the area are nationally ranked in their respective events by DyeStat.com

So it's no surprise why after winning three of the four boys' titles (Booker T. Washington, St. Thomas Aquinas, Westminster Academy) and two of the four girls' titles (Northwestern, Aquinas) a year ago, as many as seven of the eight team trophies could find their way back to Dade and Broward this weekend.

Here's a look at the local storylines heading into all four championship meets, which begin Friday with Class 1A and Class 2A and end Saturday with 3A and 4A:

CLASS 4A

St. Thomas Aquinas' girls, in search of their 11th state title, will have a much tougher battle on their hands this year from Broward rival Northeast, last year's state runner-up.

Although the Raiders should score plenty of points in the sprints behind seniors Krystal Sparling (100m, 200m), Diamond Spaulding (100m, 200m), and Alon Lewis (400m), Northeast should be able to stay within striking distance behind seniors Camora Sanders (top seed in shot put, 3rd in discus), Jeyland Valentin (5th seed in 100m hurdles, 2nd 300m hurdles) and Kayla Woulard (4th in 400m, 2nd in long jump).

Other top girls in the hunt for state titles: Coral Reef high jumper Taylor Dames, Flanagan sophmore long jumper Devin D'Oiliveira, Douglas triple jumper Gillian Morrison, Monarch discus throwers and sisters Phoebe Gustely and Sophia Gustely, Southridge sophomore Symone Mason (100m, 200m) and American senior Lenysee Dyer (400m).

Aquinas' boys have won six state titles in the last seven years, but it's going to take a special effort to hold off Orlando Dr. Phillips and Longwood Lyman for this year's crown.

Outside of sophomore hurdler Trevon Grimes, who comes in with the second fastest time in the 110-meter hurdles and should defend his state title in the 300-meter hurdles, the Raiders, bringing seven individual qualifiers and two relay teams, project to pick up just 10 more points combined from senior triple jumper Austin Bryce and from their 4x400-meter relay team.

Although Ely is bringing 16 individual qualifiers and two relay teams from its boys regional title squad (more than any other school), senior long jumper Anthony Gamble is one of only four Tigers projected to score points.

Individually, South Dade junior James Wiggins will look to become his school's fourth individual state champion in the long jump and first since triple jumper Kentrell Sanders in 2010. Northeast sophomore Damion Thomas in the top seed in the 110-meter hurdles and American senior Ari Cogdell, headed to Tenneseee, has the nation's fourth-fastest time in the 400-meter hurdles.

West Broward senior Isaiah Taylor, a University of Miami track signee, will look to become his school's first individual state champion in track. He ran the nation's seventh-fastest time in the 100-meters (10.52 seconds) earlier this year, but will have to beat a field that includes nationally ranked sprinters Alvin Bryant Jr. of Dr. Phillips, Plantation's Khai McLin, Miramar freshman Terrence Horne Jr. and Coral Gables' Amir Rasul, who won the state title as a freshman two years ago when he was at Columbus.

CLASS 3A

Northwestern's girls have won a record-six state titles in a row and 11 overall. Championship No. 12 should be a mere formality for the Bulls, who have 22 individuals in scoring position not to mention all three relay teams are seeded No. 1.

Top seeds include sophomore shot put thrower Kaylah Clark (seeded second in the discus), senior sprinter and University of Nebraska signee La'Kayla Harris (tops in 200m; third in 100 meters), junior hurdler Timetria Mitchell (No. 1 in 300m hurdles; 2nd in 100m hurdles) and sophomore Daesha Rogers, gunning for her third 800m title after winning the last two in Class 2A for American Heritage.

On the boys' side Boyd Anderson hopes to make a run at a fourth state title and first since 2001. The Cobras have an outside shot of emerging on top a leader board featuring Tallahassee Leon, Lincoln and Chiles.

Junior Phillip Lee comes in as the seventh seed in both the long high jump and long jump, but had the fourth-best high jump in the state during the regular season (6-9) and the fourth-best long jump (23-1.5) and could surprise.

The Cobras' 4x800-meter relay team comes in seeded first after running the nation's 22nd-fastest time in 7:52.95 at last week's regional meet. Kansas State-bound senior Javon Patterson will anchor that squad while also serving as the top seed in the 800 meter race.

Other top locals to track include Northwestern freshman hurdler Thomas Burns, the younger brother of University of Miami cornerback Artie Burns, who comes in seeded third in both hurdles events. Norland senior William Gordon and Central senior Aaron Hanna come in seeded first and second in the shout put.

CLASS 2A

Hallandale has a strong shot at joining St. Thomas Aquinas (2014) and Southridge (2008) as the only South Florida schools to sweep both team titles at a state track meet.

Junior Kimani Rushing, already a two-time state champion, is favored to win the triple jump, the 100 meter and 300-meter hurdles and is seeded third in the long jump. Teammates Lamisha Simmons, University of Nebraska-bound, and Tia Strackman are also expected top place in the hurdles. Hallandale’s marquee events will be the hurdles.

Ransom Everglades, which had one runner-up finish in 1980, will make a push at the Chargers behind Duke-bound pole vaulter and high jumper Nati Sheppard and talented distance runners Lauren Archer, a junior seeded second in the 800 meters and first in the 1,600, and sophomore Beatriz Ruan, the top seed in the 3,200.

For Hallandale's boys to win their second state title and first since 2006, the Chargers will have to knock off defending champion Booker T. Washington and win some good head-to-head battles in the hurdles with Paxon.

Hallandale will be led by senior Oliver Alexandre, a University of Nebraska signee, who is seeded first in the 400 meters and fifth in the 200 meters, and Baylor-bound hurdler Antwuan Musgrove, seeded first in both the 110 and 300-meter hurdles. The Tornadoes are led by senior Vaquan Small, the top seed in the 800 meters and one of the nation's top high jumpers.

Individually, American Heritage star quarterback Torrance Gibson, an Ohio State signee, comes in seeded second in both the 100 and 200 meters while also anchoring the Patriots' 4x100 and 4x400-meter relay teams. Other top individuals to track from Heritage include seventh-grader Danielle Bess, who has the top time in the 400-meters.

CLASS 1A

After winning their second state title by just six points last year, Westminster Academy's boys are favored to win another tight battle with Orlando First Adademy.

The Lions could get a big edge early in the field events: senior Ryan Moore is the co-favorite in the high jump; Jordan Cabral is the favorite in the long jump; Hozie Hankerson is the favorite in the discus and Luke Miseyko is ranked third in the shot put. Junior George Williams is seeded No. 1 in the 400-meters and senior Sanders Desir is seeded third in the 110-meter hurdles and second in the 300-meter hurdles.

On the girls' side no local team is expected to contend for the title, Lions senior Ebony Brown could have a huge day. She's seeded second in the long jump, fourth in the 100 meters and No. 1 in the 200 meters. Teammate Karin Sastre is seeded third in the pole vault.

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