One fan's preview of the 2004 City Track & Field ChampionshipsBy Gary Droze, Maclay High School Coach
Recent FHSAA reclassifications have only upped the ante on what has always been one of the most exciting meets of the season. Each size class now includes three area teams, so in addition to providing the opportunity for area bragging rights, the City Meet now serves as a dry run for the upcoming district competition. Leon, Chiles, and Lincoln are 3A this year, Godby, Rickards, and Florida High are 2A, and FAMU, North Florida Christian, and Maclay remain 1A.
On Tuesday, March 30th expect Chiles to make up for their lack of sprinters by taking all of the top points in the 800, 1600, and 3200 (thanks to Alex Miletich & Co.), and winning the 4×800. With sure points tacked on by Matt Wernke in the throws, Chiles can rack up over 90 points in just six of the 17 events (it typically takes about 150 points to ice a win at City). The only hope for the other 3A schools against Chiles’ boys is to prevent them from scratching out enough top-eight finishes in the other events to offset the sure sprint and field points from the established football schools. Actually, the best challenge against Chiles will come from 2A power Godby, whose athletes cover sprint and field events the way Chiles covers the distances. With Fred Cromartie and Roy Upchurch leading Godby’s sprint charge, specialists Damarius Carroll (hurdles), Ellis Gaulden (jumps), and Terrell Lewis (pole vault) add on enough help to ensure that Godby will total over 100 points.
Other 2A schools Rickards and Florida High simply lack the depth to hang with Godby this year. Similarly, 1A schools NFC and Maclay each feature a few talents that will generate points (Marcus Sims in the throws for NFC, Mike Camarda in the 400 for Maclay), but neither school has suited up enough point-getters this year to pose a threat to the larger schools. FAMU remains in a rebuilding status this year.
My guess on finish order: Chiles, Godby, Leon, Lincoln, Maclay, Rickards, NFC, Florida High, FAMU.
Chiles’ girls will follow a script similar to their boys’ strategy: rely on sure points from a few standouts (sprinter Kendria Strong, vaulter and hurdler Karla Savery, and miler Maria Hampton), and use their army-sized team to grab lower-finish points in nearly every event. But while the numbers approach should work for the boys, the girls must face a like-minded attempt to win from Florida High. On paper, Florida High is weak only in the distances, but they should offset that problem with loads of points from sprint and field event stars. Rickards looks even stronger than Florida High in the sprints, but may fall short of a win due to lack of depth in the field events. Godby’s 49-second 4×100 team evinces speed, and Sheree Carter’s 17-foot long jumping will help, but the Cougars may also fall just short on overall depth. Leon and Lincoln will be the real sleepers: both schools boast large squads, but the practice time they likely lost over spring break may keep them out of top points in nearly every event.
None of the 1A schools will challenge for the City title this year. Maclay’s Lori Bowen (pole vault) and NFC’s Michelle Jenije (triple jump) are candidates for individual wins, and Marauder Adriana Piekarewicz will press Chiles’ Maria Hampton in the middle distances. Beyond that, the smaller schools will see the City Meet as a chance to scout each other for the post-season.
My guess on finish order: Florida High, Chiles, Rickards, Maclay, Godby, Leon, Lincoln, NFC, FAMU.
NOTE: I have not included many individual stats, as you can get better updates by checking the statewide rankings at www.flrunners.com. By the end of the weekend, they’ll have the latest results from all meets included in their rankings.