1A Girls Preview
Class 1A may be small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with great competition. On the girl's side Oak Hall is the favorite to win their third straight championship. Last year, the Eagles defeated Admiral Farragut by over 20 points. The battle for second will be much closer as our virtual meet projects the second through seventh best teams separated by less than points. Those teams include Evangelical Christian, Lakeland Christian, Bishop Snyder, Admiral Farragut, Clearwater Calvary Christian, and the Benjamin School.
Coach McTureous' Oak Hall squad has the depth and experience led by sprinter Ayanna Rollins and distance standout Grace Blair.It's hard to believe this will be Blair, a University of Florida signee's 7th trip to the state meet. She is a the defending state champion in the 800, 1,600m, and 3,200m run. In the 800m run, the event she's made it to state in every year, she has finished no worse than fifth, and is looking for her third title.
Sprinter Ayanna Rollins is also a senior on the team and hoping to close out her high school career with individual victories in the 100 and 200m dash. Rollins regional times of 12.18 and 24.97 are the fastest of any 1A girls over the past week. Her and teammate Jalesia Tillman will form a formidable 1-2 punch and contribute to valuable points.
While Blair stole the show in the distance events last year, the sprint queen was Saraiah Walkes of Out Of Door Academy in Sarasota. She made her mark on the meet as one of few 8th graders ever to win three events. Walkes, who qualified as a 7th grader as well, won the 100, 200, and 400m dash. This year she failed to qualify in the 200 and 400, so will that give her extra motivation to go all out in the fastest race of the day?
Jazmine Alderman of Admiral Farragut was the 100m runner-up and was third in the 200 last year and will also be a threat to spoil the party along with Moriah Oliveira of Evangelical Christian. Sophomore Moriah Oliveira of Evangelical Christian was runner-up in the 200m and 400m at state and is coming off the fastest quarter time regardless of anyone at regionals.
Oliveria's twin sister Sierra, is only entered in the 800m, where she will go head to head with Blair and Jessica Edwards. She is making her fourth trip to state after an absence as a freshman last year. As an 8th grader in 2016, she won the event after placing second as a 7th and 6th grader. Edwards is the younger sister of former standout Emily Edwards, who ran at Alabama and is now running at Florida State.
In the 1,600 and 3,200 Blair will be challenged by a pair of Circle Christian runners in Sinkenesh Parker and Brooke McEwen as well as Jacqueline Abanses and Lyda Friedman of Citrus Park Christian. We've mentioned the youth in class 1A, but Holy Trinity's Carly McNatt is only a 7th grader and has the best 3,200m regional time of the whole group. McNatt, who was 6th at the 1A Cross Country Finals, opted out of the 1,600 after winning that race at district to focus on the 3,200 and it paid off with a regional title. We'll see if that rest can help her to her first title on Friday night.
Freshman Loren Brown of the Community of School of Naples is the top seed in the 100m and 300m hurdles, but Lakeland Christian's Britain Musick is the favorite after winning both events in 2017. Music is also entered in the 100m as well. If she makes the final in both events that could make for a quick turn around and busy Saturday afternoon.
In the field events, Semaj McGhee of Bishop Snyder and Jordyn Showers of Calvary Christian will be key factors in how high their teams place. McGhee hit a 40 footer in the triple jump last weekend at regionals while showers went 38-1.75. Showers, is the reigning state champion in the long jump and is ranked first in the state currently. Showers teammate Morgan Brown, a Purdue signee, is the 2016 and 2017 champion in the pole vault and should win her third straight.
The throws feature Sydney Blackburn of Highlands Christian Academy who is ranked first in the state in both the shot put and the discus. A feature on our Athlete of the Week polls, Blackburn has won 12 of 13 meets in the discus this season. The only time she wasn't first was at the Florida Relays where she placed third. Her biggest competition will come from Rebekah Bergquist of Southwest Florida Christian Academy who threw 142-7 at regionals and Mt. Dora Christian Academy's Cooper Monn who swept both throws at last year's state meet.
1A Boys PreviewA quick glance at the 1A leaderboard and most of the names aren't athletes we see in the headlines every week. This weekend at the University of North Florida they will get to change all that at the state championship meet. The First Academy (Orlando) was third as a team in 2017and have the pieces to make a return to the podium. The Royals toughest opponent will be Northside Christian who is projected to finish runner-up and were 9th a year ago. Other teams battling for a podium spot are Mt. Dora Christian Academy and Citrus Park Christian.
TFA will score as many as 30 points from sophomore Alex Shields. Shields whose sister won a throws title in her high school career, and comes from an athletic family, is the reigning 1A 110m hurdle and 300m hurdle state champion. He was second in the long jump. His 14.07 and 38.62 in the two hurdle events are state leaders in 1A. Junior Suresh Black should add some firepower on the track. Black is the 1A Region 2 champion in both the 200 and 400m and will be a leg on the team's 4x400m relay. Mitchell Allen is a sub 2:00 800m runner who could be a difference maker in a close team battle.
Northside Christian will counter in the hurdles with Tyler Rhodes and Nick Roberts. Rhodes was runner-up the last two years in the 110's and runner-up last year in the 300m hurdles. I bet he'd love nothing more than to win a title as an individual and with his teammates in his senior season. The Mustangs X factor this weekend? The relays. Coach Jeff Goodwin's 4x1, 4x4, and 4x8 are in the top four in the state. Interesting fact, their 4x4 is the one that is 4th. Which squad has run the fastest? The First Academy.
The two other teams we mentioned as podium contenders will get their points in the distance events. University of Florida signee Trevor Foley, is a senior for Citrus Park Christian and one of the best distance runners in the state regardless of class. The 1A Cross Country Finals champion is trying for the triple having won regionals in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200. The only event of those he's ever made it to state in? The 1,600 in 2016 when he won his first and only outdoor track title. He set a new personal best 4:12.83 at regionals and dropped a PR of 1:57.82 in the 800 at the same meet. He and his coach Ray Friedman will tell you he's in the best shape of his career. Foley will have teammate Reed Legg with him in the 3,200m. If they can work together in that race, it could mean a nice haul of points for the Eagles.
Trying to crash that party will be Mt. Dora Christian Academy's triple threat of brothers Mitchell and Gabriel Curtis, and Jackson Pruim. They are no strangers to the podium as their team won the 1A Cross Country Finals. Gabe Curtis was 4th in the 1,600 and 6th in the 3,200m last year. The Bulldogs will also get an assist in points from thrower Jesiah Pierre. The reigning shot put state champion set a monster PR to win his regional with a throw of 161-10.
Other field event athletes to watch include pole vaulter Kane Aldrich and high jumper Berrick Jean Louis. Aldrich is the state leader in the event and looking for his third straight state title. Jean Louis of the Canterbury School in Fort Myers is the 2017 state champion in that event.