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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Objective turns solely to advancement


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Heading into last Friday's Class 2A, District 7 Meet, Nature Coast had a two-pronged approach: win for the team, advance for the individuals.

A mere five days later, the Sharks, as well as representatives from Central, Hernando and Weeki Wachee, will have a far more singular objective: keep moving on.

Those four county squads will head east today to Orlando-The First Academy for the 2A-Region II Meet. The 1A-II Meet will be running simultaneously at the same venue, making for a long and busy day, with field events starting at 8:30 a.m.

The 4x800 takes place at 1 p.m., followed by running prelims at 2:45 p.m. and finals at 6 p.m.

Those that finish in the top four in each event will advance to the 2A FHSAA Finals on May 2 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Fresh off their third straight district crown, the Lady Sharks have 11 girls set to compete in individual events, as well as three relays.

"We're looking to advance them all. Looking at the results from districts, I think we've got a chance," Nature Coast girls coach Ryan Wilson said. "Hopefully we'll go out and perform well, and we're able to make it to states."

Junior hurdler Bronte Cameron was a state qualifier as a freshman, and likely would have made it last year if not for a hamstring injury suffered during regionals. She'll take part in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

The 4x100 of Alicia Gentz, Ashley Gentz, Nilsa-Marie Rodriguez and Kaitlyn Pierce, as well as the 4x400 of Crystal Burchhardt, the two Gentz sisters and Eboni Johnson, figure to have a strong chance of earning a spot in the top four.

Alicia and Ashley Gentz are also in the field for the 100 and 200, with Rodriguez joining them in the latter.

Johnson, a sophomore, will try to build on the district title she won in the 400. Brianna Horn made it in both the pole vault and 800, and has part of the 4x800 with Alyssa Deligio, Burchhardt and Alexa Lacy.

Burchhardt additionally qualified in the 1,600, as did Lacy and Kaylee Arvay in the 3,200. Zavana Schmit will compete today in the high jump and 100 hurdles, and Rita Jarque in the shot put.

"I think they all have good chances," Wilson said. "The thing I've got to get them to understand, no matter where you're seeded anything can happen. You've just got to be better than everyone else that day.

"A lot of them have been here before and there's no substitute for experience. They have a shot, they've just got to go out and take it."

Seven Nature Coast boys, and three relays, are in action, as well, paced by senior James Harkless, a regional champion and state qualifier in the 1,600 in 2012.

"Get anybody we can to go to states," Nature Coast boys coach Eric Milholland said of the approach. "A lot of people are on the bubble. But nobody just looks fabulous to go.

"James has probably our best individual shot, but he knows he's got to go in this thing full blast."

No Sharks are in line to make states based on the seedings, though Harkless' would advance in the 800 and 1,600 based on the virtual meet, taking into consideration season bests.

Sophomore DeShawn Smith qualified for this meet in the long jump and 100, freshman Brian Haygood in the triple jump, Anthony Jackson in the 110 hurdles, Jordan Burkes in the 400, Nick Conway in the 800 and Austin Mulyck in the 3,200.

Conway, Ronald Florkowski, Mulyck and Noah Remondelli are scheduled to run in the 4x800, Jalen McFarland, Smith, Haygood and Burkes in the 4x100, and Harkless, Burkes, Smith and Conway in the 4x400.

"We've got to run our best in order to make it and that's across the board," Milholland said. "We'd love to get James and a least one relay through. Anybody I can get. I'd like to get as many as I can through this thing."

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For Hernando, Lauren Plaugher finished third in the state in the discus a year ago, and Jasha Patrick was 14th in the 400. Those two juniors are looking to repeat that and more.

"Everybody has got to be sharper than sharp," Hernando girls coach Shawanda McCullough said. "If Lauren throws her PR (personal record) or close to her PR, she should make it out. I fully expect her to do that. She's put in the work and she's usually pretty good as rising when she needs to rise to the occasion."

Patrick is competing in the triple jump, 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, the latter in which she was a district champion last week.

"The 100-meter hurdles, there's zero margin for error," McCullough said. "She's going in fifth. She's got to rise a little bit to the occasion. She's focused. I expect her to be on point and pull it off.

"In the 300, she's fourth. I still expect her to be zoned in and rise. People behind her definitely want to overtake her."

The triple jump will be Patrick's greatest challenge, McCullough said, and 4x800 of Heavan Benson, Sierra Wells, Sidney Papa and Berkley Laporte is a realistic long shot.

Senior Connor Foradas made states as a sophomore in the discus. This time he'll try to go in the shot put. Also for the Leopards, Tyquaun Carr, Joel Wilson, Tyler Pantley and Mark Wilson will run the 4x800.

Jacob Tinch (discus) and Marcus Jones (110 hurdles), plus the 4x100 of Alicia Drumheller, Ashelie Campagna, Briana Lawing and Jenna Gouldey represent Weeki Wachee, and Austin Gray (3,200) is the lone Central athlete in the meet.

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The county's other program, Springstead, will travel to Lecanto today for the 3A-District 7 Meet.

Field events begin at noon, the 4x800 at 12:30 p.m. and running prelims at 2:30 p.m. Finals start 45 minutes after the completion of prelims.

Senior Wilena Little seeks a third consecutive district title in the 200 and second straight in the long jump. Leg injuries, though, have plagued Little, a state championship contender in the long jump.

"Wilena has been hurt all year but she's starting to come a little bit," Springstead girls coach Joel Myers said. "The last two times she's ran the 200, she's looked very good. She's down in the 25s. She looks like the old Wilena. She's running without pain.

"She hit 17-9 (in long jump) at FSU (Relays, March 21). Because of injury, her form is not the greatest in the world. She should be able to do enough to get out of districts and give us another week to work on it."

The top four in each event earn a berth in the 3A-Region II Meet April 23 at Lake Minneola.

Junior Erin Blackwell is another Lady Eagle who figures to be there, looking to make a third state trip in the 800.

"What I think we can get through should have a decent shot of going to states, also," Myers said.

Springstead's boys have defending high jump state champion Bobby Harris, and the senior should additionally advance in the triple and possibly the long jump.

Senior Tyler Mahla has been a standout all season in both hurdles races, and James Amodie paces the Eagles' district crew.

"Our mantra all year has been, 'Do better the next meet than the week before,'" Springstead boys coach Brandon Wright said. "We're taking the idea that this will be our best meet of the year.

"I'm excited. We've worked hard all year and this what you work for. . If everybody goes out there and we're setting PRs all over the place, I can't complain."

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At a Glance

What - Class 2A, Region II Meet

Who - Central, Hernando, Nature Coast and Weeki Wachee among the schools represented

Where - The First Academy, 2667 Bruton Blvd., Orlando

When - Today: Field events at 8:30 a.m., 4x800 at 1 p.m. Running prelims are set for 2:45 p.m., and finals start at 6 p.m.

At Stake - Team regional championship; top four finishers in each event advance to 2A FHSAA Finals May 2 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

What - Class 3A, District 7 Meet

Who - Belleview, Citrus, Fivay, Land O' Lakes, Lecanto, Mitchell, River Ridge, Springstead, Sunlake and Zephyrhills

Where - Lecanto High, 3810 W Educational Path, Lecanto

When - Today: Field events at noon, 4x800 at 12:30 p.m. Running prelims are set for 2:30 p.m., and finals are 45 minutes after the conclusion of prelims.

At Stake - Team district championship; top four finishers in each event advance to 3A-Region II Meet April 23 at Lake Minneola.

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