The Northwestern Bulls are heavily favored to win title number 12. They currently stand alone for the most championships in state history with 11. They have won the past six state titles, a state record, which included a drop down to class 3A in 2012. Last year, their 154 total eclipsed the previous team total all classifications best of 140 which was set by the Sanya Richards led St. Thomas Aquinas team. In the past 17 years, they have either won or finished runner-up in 16 state championships. At the helm has been Carmen Jackson, a dedicated coach and an even better motivator.
The Bulls have 22 athletes in scoring positions for a projected 143 points. They have scorers in twelve of the seventeen events. They have the number one seeds in the shot put, Kaylah Clark; the 200m,Lakayla Harris, a University of Nebraska signee; the 300m hurdles, Timetria Mitchell; the 4 x 100m, 4 x 400m and 4 x 800m relay teams; and the 800m, Daesha Rogers. And their numbers keep adding up with long jump fourth seed and triple jump third seed, Taranique Alexander, long jump eighth seed Shamaria Lovett, discus second seed, Kayla Clark, shot put sixth seed Chanel Dawson, 100m second and third seed Twanisha Terry and Lakayla Harris, 200m second and sixth seed, Twanisha Terry and Alexis Harrell, 100m hurdle second, sixth and seventh seed, Timetria Mitchell, Taranique Alexander and Shamaria Lovett,300m hurdle second and sixth seed, Shamaria Lovett and De'Andreah Young, and eighth seeded Shiree Hinds in the 800m. With a win, they can add to their remarkable achievements.
Going for two! Returning winners.
Talia Falco, Lakewood Ranch. Triple jump and High jump. She is the second seed this year behind Golden Gate's Darlene Charles. Charles has jumped a wind legal 40-00 and a non-wind legal 41-06.50 at last week's region meet. Tiara Swanagan of Ed White (Jacksonville) owns the best mark in 3A with her leap of 42-08.75. In the high jump, Falco is seeded fourth behind the state leader, Nicole Greene of Ponte Verde. Greene, a UNC signee, finished fourth last year with a mark of 5-06.00, but has upped her game reaching 6-00.00 on five occasions. Her best of 6-00.50 came in winning the New Balance National Indoor Championships. The state record of 6-01.50 was set by Victoria Andonova of Coral Springs in 2005. Andonova holds the all-time state meet record of 6-00.00 which she did twice in 2003 and 2004.
Taylor Anderson, Mitchell. Pole vault. Anderson won last year's state championship with a leap of 11-06.00 breaking a tie with this year's top seed, Jennifer Kistemaker of Osceola. Kistemaker will be tough to beat as her personal best of 12-02 was set this season and leads class 2A.
Northwestern, 4 x 800m. The Bulls return three of the four legs from last year's winning team that ran 9:13.10. This year they have run 9:12.90 to win the Florida Relays. A big cog in their quest will be Daesha Rogers. With her and great legs by the other three, they could challenge their own state meet record of 9:05.90 run in 2007. If you add up the 800m seasonal bests of Rogers, Lennisha Gilbert, Shiree Hinds and De'Andreah Young, you come up with 8:56.23. That would easily eclipse the all-time state record of 9:03.42 set by Orange Park in 1983.
Timetria Mitchell, Northwestern. 100m hurdles. She won last year's championship in 14.16. She seeded second behind Port Charlotte's Michelle Atherley who scorched a 13.76 at her region meet. Mitchell has the fastest wind legal time of 13.72. It will be a thrilling race to watch.
Jadzia Beasley, Lincoln. 100m dash. Beasley has a wind legal best of 12.19 this season, which is off her winning mark of 11.78 set last year. Ka Tia Seymour of Oakleaf has a wind aided top seeded time of 11.63 to lead the field. Twanisha Terry and Lakayla Harris ran wind legal times of 11.68 and 11.69 and will be in the hunt for the title.
Janae Caldwell, Spoto. 400m. Caldwell is seeded third with a time of 55.44. That's better than her winning mark of 55.50 last year. Janaya Chambers of Stanton Prep ran 54.49 at the region meet to just beat teammate Kayla Heard who ran 54.84. Lincoln's Tamani Wilson owns the best mark with her 54.17 at the Bob Hayes Invitational in March. She is seeded fifth coming into the state meet with her 56.40.
For the record books.
Daesha Rogers, Northwestern. 800m. She won two consecutive 2A state titles in the 800m in 2012 and 2013 running for American Heritage. She will be aiming for a third which will put her in an eight way tie for sixth most ever- a win would put her in a 19-way tie for 42nd most individual titles in state meet history. Just a sophomore, she can add more titles in future years.
Too close to call?! The 3A boys meet has six teams in contention for the state title. And possibly another two waiting in the wings should they falter. Leon, Chiles and Boyd Anderson each have six athletes seeded in scoring position; Charlotte, Creekside, South Fort Myers, and Lincoln have five; and Barron Collier has four. 12 points separates those eight teams.
Leon is projected to score 36 points and leads the way. They will rely heavily on their middle distance and distance crew which came up short at the 3A state cross country title this past fall.
The Lions Sukhi Khosla enters as the third seed in the 1600m and 3200m. The season has not gone as planned for Khosla who still could contribute big time on Saturday. After posting personal bests of 4:05.96 and 8:59.50 his junior season, Khosla, an Oklahoma State signee, has not felt as good in workouts and in races. His seasonal best of 4:15.89 at the regional meet garnered him third. His seasonal best of 9:03.57 in the 3200m won the FSU Relays over a who's who of Florida High School distance running so he is in condition to run well. The state final series, where his points will be invaluable, may be the spark that can get back that dominant form he showed last season.
Khosla is not the only source of points. Their 4 x 400m relay team is seeded first; senior Travis Amey is seeded fourth in the 200m; their 4 x 100m relay team is seeded fifth; and senior Hunter Scott is seeded fourth in the 3200m. Just outside of scoring positions are senior Teon Long who is seeded ninth in the 100m and senior David London who is seeded tenth in the 400m. What a fitting end it would be if this senior laden team was to go out with the title? It would be the first in school history.
The Lions will face familiar foes. Tallahassee neighbors, Lincoln, the Region 1 runner up, and Chiles, the Region 1 champion are projected to score 32 and 31 points respectively.
Lincoln's chances will hinge on Texas football signee John Burt. He comes in as the first seed in the 110m hurdles, second seed in the 300m hurdles, and is in a three way tie for third seed in the high jump. In addition, their 4 x 100m relay team is seeded third (Burt is a part of that team as well) and Vincent Johnson is seeded sixth in the 110m hurdles. A win for Lincoln will also be the first in school history.
At Port St. Joe, Chiles head coach Scott Gowan amassed quite a juggernaut for the Gulf of Mexico side school that that sits in a city with a population of just 3,400. His six consecutive team titles stands second only to FAMU who won 11 in a row. At Chiles, he won his first team title in 2003 and another last year.
Jordan Poole is the Timberwolves only number one seed. His mark of 164-10 in the discus is eight inches better than Pace's Chris Clark. Cole Upthegrove is seeded sixth giving Chiles 15 projected points. Upthegrove is seeded ninth in the shot put too and could add valuable points on a good day. Georgia Tech signee, Avery Bartlett comes in seeded first in the 1600m and sixth in the 800m. Allan Hernandez and Tyson Murray are seeded eighth and ninth in the 3200m. Others who could contribute are: Abraham Barnes who is a few tenths out of scoring position in the 300m hurdles where he is seeded eleventh; the tenth seeded 4 x 800m relay team, the seventh seeded 4 x 400m relay team. This team is well balanced and if a few of their athletes can step forward, they could come out with the third title in school history.
Boyd Anderson last won a team title in 2001. It was the third title in school history. This year, they have a formidable group who are projected to finish with 29.36 points.
The Cobras distinctive uniforms will be in display during Saturday's championship as they pepper the stadium in six events. They will get things started with the number one seeded 4 x 800m relay team. That team is anchored by senior Javon Patterson who is also the number one seed in the 800m. Others who could contribute are: Phillip Lee who is seeded in a seven way tie for sixth in the boys high jump; Glenn Durosier is seeded fourth in the 110m hurdles; and Lenny Laguerre is seeded seventh in the triple jump.
Looking out for number two. Last year's state champions looking for a repeat.
Tyler Byrd, Naples. Long jump. He won as a soph with a leap of 23-07.50. He is seeded second this year, just four inches shy of Lecanto's Darius Sawyer. Sawyer's mark was wind aided. Byrd has a no wind indicator mark of 24-03.50 and the best wind legal mark of 23-05 set at regionals. Four athletes have jumped 23 feet or better this year, so it could come down to the sixth jump to determine the winner.
Dwayne Lawson, Hillsborough. Triple jump. Lawson won last year's event by over two feet with his 47-06.75 mark. He is seeded tenth entering Saturday's competition. Spoto's Marc McCoy is seeded first with his 46-02.50 mark from regionals. He jumped 47-01.50 at the Florida Relays finishing just behind Joel Sampson who leapt 47-04. Sampson comes in seeded twelfth. Lawson will also have history on his side. Hillsborough has won the last three triple jump titles.
Sukhi Khosla, Leon. 1600m and 3200m. Khosla swept the titles last year with a superlative 4:05.96 and 9:05.75. That was the fastest winning double in Florida state history, all classifications. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, those two times were also the fastest recorded in the 3A state meet. Khosla is seeded third in both events. In the 1600m, Avery Bartlett and David Cash Tampa finished within a second of him at regions. In the 3200m, Merritt Island's Steven Cross owns the top mark from regions with his 9:31.00. Each of the fields is stacked with fast finishers, so if the race goes out slowly and it is left to the last 200m or even 400m, two to three runners can win.
Northwestern. 4 x 400m. On paper, Leon comes in seeded number one. However, the Bulls own the fastest time in 2A with their 3:13.92 in finishing second at the Florida Relays. Christopher Othelot is the only returning member from that team. Booker T. Washington owns the 3Astate meet best time of 3:13.96 set in 2007.
Avery Bartlett, Chiles. 800m. Bartlett, who is seeded sixth entering the finals won last year's race in a time of 1:52.27. His season best is 1:56.62. Boyd Anderson's Javon Patterson was runner up last year and has improved to 1:52.49, the best time in class 2A and the second fastest in the state.
Top events to watch.
100m and 200m. Charlotte's Devin Quinn owns Florida's best all conditions time of 10.31 and won the Florida Relays in 10.76 into a 2.4 meter per second wind (5.4 miles per hour). In that race, he beat number one seed Adrian Killin sof Mainland by .11 seconds. Killins will try and turn the tables in the 200m, where he and Quinn both enter with the same time of 21.31.
110m hurdles. Lincoln's John Burt ran a no wind indicator time of 13.56 to win the Region 1 meet. That's the best all condition time in the state. His only loss this year came at the Florida Relays where he finished second to all classification state leader, Damion Thomas of Northeast.
4 x 100m relay. Seven teams under 42 seconds and one under 41.00? That is very rare. South Fort Myers became the first team this season to dip under 41 second with their 40.99 victory at the Region 3 meet. They'll again face Naples who chased them to that time with their season best of 41.24. Leon ran 41.18 in the Region 1 preliminaries, but in the finals finished third in a time of 41.37 behind Region 1 winner Lincoln, 41.28, and Ed White, 41.31. Devin Quinn will anchor Charlotte which should be fun to watch as he tries to gain on some superfast teams. Raines own the state record for this size school with their 40.86 mark in 1998 when Class 3A was named Class 4A. Don't ask me why the reason for those classification changes.