3A Virtual Meet/Preview: Northwestern Not Backing Down, Cooper Vs Forbes 400m Showdown

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We take a look at the individual and team battles for the 3A championship.

Girls Virtual Meet l Boys Virtual Meet

Girls Preview

When you talk about the 3A girls race you have to start with Miami Northwestern who is LOADED in just about every event. The team scored THREE HUNDRED points at their district meet. That is unheard of in postseason competition. Coach Carmen Jackson will rely on senior captain and Southern Cal signee Twanisha Terry in the 100 and 200 meter dash. Terry's bests of 11.39 and 23.20 rank US#8 and US#4 and second in the state of Florida behind only Symone Mason. She is the 2015 and 2016 state champion in both events and will be an impact on the team's relays as well. Sophomore LaSarah Hargrove was third and fifth in those respective events in 2016 and has been running well all season long as has South Fort Myer's "nugget" Mirlege Castor. In the 200, don't count out Savyon Toombs of Hillsborough, Jan'Tajiah Ford of Northeast, and Dillard's Roshelle Francois who have all run under 24 seconds.

Ford looks to defend her 400m title on Saturday and is the top seed in the field. Teammate Daneisha Woodside, who was third last year, is also entered in the field that has seven girls under 56 seconds. At the 3A Region 4 championship, 57 seconds didn't advance out of the regional. This one is anyone's race and is going to be very fast. 

Reigning 800m state champion Jinah Mickens-Malik returns after winning the two lap event as an 8th grader. She's run 2:08.05 already this year and is the favorite to repeat. A slew of other girls are right around 2:13-2:15 so the race for second and third will be very competitive, so the Mater Academy star has to be on her "A" game.

In the distance events, the 1,600 boasts five girls under five minutes. Krissy Gear of Ft. Myers is the defending champion in that event and returns for her senior season. The Furman signee looked very impressive at 3A Region 3 in a head to head match up with East Lake's Jennifer Lima. Alyson Churchill has been a distance workhorse and starred in her freshman season so far, but Ana Wallace of Chiles proved she is beatable. Gear and Churchill will be two of the best to keep an eye on in the 3,200. I'm going with Gear in the 1,600 and Churchill in the longer distance.

In the hurdles, Markalah Hart is ranked FL#2 in the 100m hurdles behind only Tiara McMinn and is ranked US#3 in the 300m hurdles behind only seniors Shae Anderson and Olympian Sydney McLaughlin. She'll be tough to beat in both events as she goes after her first of what should be many high school state championships. Others to watch include Alessa Sandusky of Gaither and Hart's teammate De'Andreah Young.

Miami Northwestern senior and Howard University signee Kaylah Clark is the top seed in both the shot put and the discus and looks to continue a long line of Lady Bulls champion throwers. Another Northwestern senior Taranique Alexander is in the 20/40 jump club and is currently ranked first in the state in both those events. Her biggest challenges will come from Lake Weir's Christine McNeal who jumped 40 feet at regionals and South Broward's Destiny Castillo who went 19 plus at her regional as well.

The Bulls will rely on their relay squads to score big as they normally do and improve on their national rankings. Last year, the girls 4x400 team snapped their win streak by falling to Northeast High School in what some may have called an upset. Can Northeast do it again or are the blue and gold too dangerous?

There is no question who will win the girls team title. The only question will be by how much. Our virtual meet has the ladies of Miami Northwestern winning their 9th consecutive crown by nearly 100 points of Northeast High School who were the 2016 runner-ups.

Boys Preview

When sophomore Tyrese Cooper transferred from 4A American High School to 3A Norland, I guarantee you no sprinter in the classification was happy. Cooper, who won the 200 and 400 as a freshman and was second in the 100 meters at the state meet, is one of the best the state has EVER seen and he has the national records, titles, and times to prove it. "Smoke" has run 10.49, 20.66, and 45.45 already this season and the potential to run even faster on the blue track at IMG is exciting to anyone.

If anyone is to beat Cooper, there best chance comes in the 100m dash. Widchard Guervil of Fort Myers looked excellent at his regional running 10.49, and there are USF signee Chauncy Smart, and Lincoln's Marquel Pittman. Smart was third last year at Brooks PR and clocked a 10.30w at last year' Florida Relays. Pittman ran 10.57 in Tallahassee in March.

Cooper owns the fastest time in the nation in the 200 with his 20.55 the next fastest is Marquel Pittman of Lincoln who won the FSU Relays in 21.11. Nonetheless a half of a second is a lot of time in any race especially at this distance. In the 400, the Norland sophomore is one of the fastest the state has EVER seen. It looks like he would win his signature race easily, but that was until Leander Forbes of Leon dropped a 45.95 to win 3A Region 1. Nobody is even close to those two and although Forbes has the 45 to his record, it would be a major upset if he could dethrone Cooper.

In the hurdles, 3A boasts two of the best in the nation in LSU signee Damion Thomas and Miami Northwestern's Thomas Burns. Thomas best of 13.43 is one ranked in the top five in the world for U20 athletes and US#2 behind only national record holder Trey Cunningham. Burns recently ran 35.51 at the regional meet. The mark is the second ever in Florida history behind only Olympian Bershawn "Batman" Jackson.

In the distance events, Creekside's Jackson Storey returns to defend his 800m crown. The Columbia University signee will field a test from Estero's Hugh Brittenham and a slew of other sub 1:55 runners eager to get their slice of the pie. Michael Phillips of Chiles, the 3A cross country state champion is one of the top seeds in both the 1,600 and 3,200 and will face stiff competition with Creekside's Matthew Clark and Nick Deal, Joshua Collins of Belen Jesuit, Evan Babatz of Ft. Myers and Sean Heera of Clearwater just to name a few.

Miami Northwestern has the top seeds in the 4x1, 4x4, and 4x800. Look for Fort Myers to challenge in the 4x1 and Creekside to give them a run in the 4x8. As for the 4x4, they've run 3:10 several times this season. No team is coming close to that time except the blue and gold.

Field event standouts to watch for include University of Alabama football signee Jarez Parks one of the top throwers in the state. He'll go head to head with newly signed University of Florida thrower Ed Shelikoff. Parks Sebastian River teammate Queshun Watson is a threat in both the long jump and triple jump.The pole vault will be a three headed battle between Ivan Piccioni, Carter Palasti, and Seth Musselman of Harmony.

Lincoln, Northwestern, Hillsborough, won their respective regional team titles and Lincoln has a ton of speed. They are projected to win in our virtual meet but only in the slimmest of margins over Miami Northwestern. Our third through eighth teams are separated by only FIVE points. This one could come down to the 4x400m relay, the last event of the night.