Editor's note: The following preview is meant to be a preview of the 2004 Class 2A boys track season. Undoubtedly, I missed athletes or schools moving in classification. A bevy of athletes were left off because I was unaware of their class status and whether or not they have graduated. I'm open to any corrections or criticsm. However, please understand, no omissions were done on purpose (well, maybe a few :) )
Defending State Champion: Tampa Jesuit (Mike Boza)
Team Preview: This year's team battle is as intriguing as ever. Tampa Jesuit is the defending state champion and returns the bulk of last year's squad. They will, however, have to make up for the graduation of hurdler Eric Balotta with distance depth and Burroughs in the throws. Clay's drop from 3A to 2A makes the Blue Devils an immediate state contender with field event points a plenty. Belen Jesuit, Suwanee, and Pahokee all could challenge for state gold if they are able to remain healthy and secure strong points in the sprints and relays. Belen is probably the most balanced team of the bunch. v The field events and balance will likely be the biggest keys in determining this year's state champion. The top spots in the sprints appear to be locked up by athletes that are on non-threatening teams, and the distance races (besides Andy Biladeau and Bryan Sharkey) are a crap shoot.
High Jump – Glades Central returns to Class 2A, which means bad news for competing high jumpers. The Raiders bring the state's top returning high jumper in 7-foot-leaper Dempsey Josinvil to the table for an almost certain 10 points. His toughest competition will likely come from Clay's Curtis Francis, who jumped 6-8 last season, and over 6-4 on six occasions. Citrus' Michael Brown, and Pasco's John Peyton – last year's state runner-up – also have chances to score very high.
Pole Vault – This might be one of the class' most competitive events. Lake Highland's Casey McGinn and Bolles' Matt Frith, 1-2 at the state meet last year return and will duel for the state crown. These two are the definite class of the event and should provide plenty of drama and competition on April 30th.
Long jump – Clay's transfer to Class 2A has immediately made Curtis Francis one of the state's most valuable athletes. The senior is the top returned in Class 2A and his next rival, John Carroll's Cedric Wilson, best jump is nearly six inches back. With most of the state's top jumpers graduating, this is a wide-open event that a prominent team could use to grab key points in the state title race.
Discus – Three of the state's top-4 throwers return, but the addition of Clay to 3A is what makes this event as loaded as they come. Terrence Butler (176-08), Clint Sovie, and defending 2A champion, Scott Clayman all return with PRs of 170 feet. Should make for an interesting competition that will likely come down to who has the best throw on that day. Butler and Clayman are in the same region. With Brett Burroughs (Tampa Jesuit) also competing, this will be a key event in the race for the team championship.
Shot Put – Burroughs is the CLEAR favorite here, in another event that will be key to Jesuit's repeat chances. Clay standout Clifford Arvil is the only other returner with a PR over 50 feet, but word has it that Bolles has a transfer football player (surprise) capable of matching Frady's prominence last year and there's always a couple of surprises in this power event.
Triple Jump – This is a hard event to judge, as I can't find years on several of the class's top athletes, but Clay's Tommy Williams and John Carroll's Cedric Wilson own PRs over 46-feet and should be competitive in the scoring. Another event where talented athletes can make a quick impact and could be up for grabs if the top athletes from last year's state meet graduated.
4x800 – The typical cross country powers will once again be ready to roll. Gulliver Prep and Belen Jesuit return the most of the bunch, but Tampa Jesuit didn't run AndyBiladeau last year and could be among the favorites if he runs this season, while Bartram Trail is getting better every year. Nease, Pahokee, St. Pete Catholic all were hit hard by graduation, but are deep in tradition and could produce another standout relay any year.
110H – Episcopal's Sha'reff Rashad and Belen's Jose Garica-Tunon are the class's top returnees, but have Wesley Chapel's Kenny Roberts breathing down their necks. This is another wide open event, that I'd put Tunon as the slight favorite given his consistency and summer work on the track. All three of these athletes could be amazing decathletes.
100 – Immolakee's big-time football recruit and University of Florida signee, McIntosh Nicolas is the defending state champ, and favorite to repeat this season. However, he'll have Pahokee sophomore Antoine Smith close in his shadows. Smith enters the year with the fastest returning time (10.65), but Nicolas was unbeaten vs. 2A competition last year.
1600 – Tampa Jesuit's Andy Biladeau and Gulliver Prep's Bryan Sharkey should certain duel it out for the title in an event that could provide distance fans with some nice memories. Biladeau's teammate, Will Siever's, and Belen Jesuit's Eddie Arguello could also score valuable points for their team, along with the ever-improving Kurt Able, who could crack the top-5.
4x100 – Always hard to judge who will actually be running in this event until the athletes hit the track, but Suwanee, Clewiston, and Pahokee were easily the top-3 teams all of last season, before Pahokee's baton mishaps in the state final. Expect all three to be competing for a title once again.
400: State Champion Ezra Jones returns for Wildwood, as does third-place finisher Cary Williams, of Chaminade. Bolles transfer Rocky Ross has the talent and coaching to go under 49 seconds and be a contender for the title. Expect some surprises to show up in this event.
300 H: Bradford's Eric Lane came out of nowhere last year to upset Belen's Garcia-Tunon's state title bid, and the two are expected to go at it again this season as both return. Suwannee's Ronald Hall and Episcopal's Sha'feff Rashad are the only two other returnees to have run sub-40.
800: Might be the class's most wide-open distance event as four of the top-5 athletes from last year's state meet graduated. That leaves St. Pete Catholic's Sam Secord as the early favorite (1:59 indoors already), and an opportunity for a lot of middle distance athletes to take their shot. Paxon's Jarrett Woodbury is as talented as they come, and I'd expect to see a Gulliver, Belen, or Tampa Jesuit standout to make the drop and take a shot at key points in this event.
200: Once again, McIntosh Nicolas (Imolakee), and Antoine Smith (Pahokee) will likely get a rematch from the shorter event. Nicolas is even more dominant in the 200 than the 100, and will be very tough to beat. A year ago, Clewiston's Kenny Haynes edged out Smith in the finals of a very fast 200 final. Episcopal's Houston Robinson (21.91 FAT, and 3rd at state in 2002) will be competitive if he can remain healthy.
3200: A highly anticipated event, will likely be a rematch from the 1600 final if everyone runs it. Biladeau and his impressive finish from AOC last season is the favorite, followed by Sharkey, Javier Cruz (Belen Jesuit), flrunners.com cross country champion Eddie Arguello, Interlachen's Jeremy Criscione, and the ever-steady prescence of Keystone Height senior Enoch Nadler. Depending how much some of these guys are softened up by doubling, this race could go to any one of those six guys and maybe a surprise or two from the likes of Kurt Able. Should be a fun, tactical race to watch.
4x400: Pahokee and Bolles graduated almost every leg on their top-4 placing teams, leaving North Lauderdale and Suwanee as the favorites. Expect Pahokee to reload and an improved prescence from a very strong Belen Jesuit team. Episcopal and Suncoast could challenge for top-3 spots as well.