Osceola a strong contender again after rare '18 boys tie
If this year’s Orange Belt Conference track meet has the same intrigue and unpredictability as last year, then you’ll want to check the meet out today at St. Cloud High. Running and throwing preliminaries will start at noon; running event finals should begin around 2 p.m.
Last year’s OBCs had it all: repeat champions, new talent, three kinds of weather during the day’s longest race and, for the first time, a tie in the boy’s team standings, brought on by a fluky ending in the final relay race.
Osceola, the likely favorite going into last year’s boys event, tied with St. Cloud, and the Bulldogs won the girls event based on the strength of its distance running program.
It’s definitely no slouch this year. The 4x800 team of Zach Cloud, Alex Miranda, Aidan Cuddy and Andrew Carrera went 8:06.20 for eighth place in Saturday’s ultra-deep Florida Relays at the University of Florida. Angelo Gutierrez and John-Anthony Hernandez, the latter a mainstay of St. Cloud’s cross country team that’s been to the state meet the last two years, should gobble up points in the mile and two-mile races.
In the sprints the Bulldogs have Seth Johnson, Javon Shackleford and newcomer Hayden Taylor, who also jumps with Jackson Shirah. Yomi Adegbile is in the hurdles and Jesual Caraballo will be solid in the pole Vault.
While St. Cloud is strong in the field events, Coach Kevin Harkema said, defending its title may be tough against the depth of Osceola and Harmony’s runners. Haudi Whitston likely will qualify for state in the pole vault, and will also triple and long jump today. Five of Harkema’s throwers — Eno Inyang, Page Alise, Abigail Roc, Kylie Macdonald and Alexis Santiago — could all score today. who should score at OBCs. Alejandra Delgado, Kayla Blackwood and Rakela Cummings are consistent jumpers. Simone Giggitts is their top runner in the hurdles, “Or pretty much any event we put her in. She has been great for us,” Harkema said.
Distance runners Hazel Rodriguez and Gabby Lugo should be in the mix.
Osceola will battle again and could take the boys and girls; both teams are now coached by Eric “EP” Pinellas.
Sprinters like sophomore Markevus Jackson, who won the 100 and 200 meters as a freshman last year, and senior Marvin Gatlin (400, relays) should be fun to watch. Sopomore Jymon Coleman could go in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump. Junior Elijah Gotshall transferred from Ridge and gives the Kowboys a shot in the 800 and 1600, and thrower Carlos Dorkpo should score in the shot put and discus.
For the Kowgirls, Alliann Johnson qualified for state in four events last year after winning the 100 meters at OBC and anchoring the 100 and 200 relay teams. Amaya Phillips will be a threat in the hurdles, Lanisa Gibson runs the 800 and 1600 and rookie Jetzymar Rivera is a wild card in the sprints and relays.
Pinellas has two solid discus throwers in Isabella Pancake and Jakiyah Baxter, who currently share the school record.
Look out for Harmony’s pack of distance runners who Coach Adam Kerns can put into everything from the 800 to 3200: Vanessa Bolen, Allison Hicks, Brooke Mullins, Ariana Ramos-Mercado, Alanie Rivera, Claire Darrin and Madison Burkhalter.
The lineup also includes sophomores Julie Hicks and Reigan Pellegrino in the sprints along with Vanieles Ramos, Regina Younassoghiou, and Ashley Burzotta; junior Amelia Carey and ophmores Cassidy Turner, Abigail Johnson, Phoenix Dones in the jumps, pole vaulters Jalen O'Boyle, Ainsley Heyward and Caroline Munns and throwers Kiarra Abbott and sophomore Chloe Challacombe.
Celebration will be led by distance runner Gabriella Macedo and hurdler Helena Huyke. The boys team is an amalgamation of top athletes from other programs, like soccer player Oscar Newman and wrestler Keyshawn Peterson.
“I feel our guys can compete at the next level in our district, regional, and state,” Storm Track Coach Cliff Branch said. “I really like what I'm seeing from both of our teams.”