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Track preview: County looks to send handfuls of athletes to state

Posted on Friday, March 9, 2018 at 4:18 pm

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

Several Osceola County reached the podium of their state track meets in 2017, including a pair of runners-up and a bronze medalist, and some of those are back for another swipe at the gold medal.

The postseason for the teams and athletes begins with the district meets (April 13-14 for Harmony, Liberty and Poinciana’s district, 3A-8) and April 17 (4A-5 at St. Cloud for the Bulldogs, Osceola, Gateway and Celebration.)

The Orange Belt Conference meet is April 5 at St. Cloud.

St. Cloud

Kevin Harkema coaches both Bulldogs squads, who have already been excelling this season.

Tristen Montalvo, who was fifth in the 3,200 at state last year, has already run the 1600 meter run in 4:19, which broke Mike Cruz long-time school record, Harkema said. Zach Cloud, Alex Miranda, James Rice and John-Anthony Hernandez are other members of a deep distance running group.  Seniors Brandon Taylor and Seth Johnson lead the sprint team and should make some postseason noise. Hurdler Matthew Velez hopes to return to the state meet. Daniel Peraza handles the throws we have jumpers Brenton Antoine, Chase Browning and Justin Smith.  Pole Vault is led by Sean Seery and Caleb Endicott.

“We have been doing well so far and have many other athletes working to progress in their events,” Harkema said.

On the girls side, seniors Valeria Villatora, Vianca Villatora, Amanda Kandravi and Deja Sheridan lead a solid distance program. “Valeria has already run her best times in the 1600 and 3200,” Harkema said.

Senior thrower Essance Tornabene placed third in the discus and sixth in the shot put and state, and freshman Eno Inang is pushing her.

Freshman Ashanti Ramirez and Simone Giggetts and returner Alisha Aristide lead the hurdling team. They lead other runners that include Tiana Rivera, Becca Benge, Hazel Rodriguez. The sprint crew includes Rosemanie Mertune, Olivia Young and Aurimar Soto, and returners Destinee Wright, Haudie Whitston and Alejandra Delgado are the jumpers Haudie had also moved into the pole vault with Kylee Anzueto.

“Our team is looking to compete at a high level the rest of the season,” Harkema said.

Harmony

Kyle Carr coaches a boys team that won the school’s first district championship in 2017, and he says this squad features “more speed, strength, and depth.”

Despite Seth Musselman, a USF signee, graduating, the pole vault is still a Longhorn strength — Eli Gunn has already gone 12-6, and Owen Wetzel, Edgar Ledeee Rosado and Jeremiah Odie all help to place at the OBC meet.

Our distance program has equal depth — Nick Morrison, Jerdary Ayala, Jesus Sepulveda Ruiz, and Gary Kelley are all sub-5 minute milers and will run multiple distance events at OBCs and Districts. The 4×400 meter relay team of Ahmeen Dinzey, Gibson Gaston, Christian Taylor, and Josh Grimes has already broke the school record (3:30) weeks before the postseason. Dinzey (800) and Josh Grimes (400) will run middle distances, and freshman Will Jacobson and senior Mason Moore will run the 110 and 300 hurdles. Junior Jayson Davis jumps all three jumping events, and senior Timmy Davis is the top thrower.

“There are many more boys that will contribute to our teams future success, that’s what makes our team so strong this year,” Carr said. “I would like to challenge my boys to break every record we can in order to accomplish things Harmony boys track has never done before.”

Girls coach Adam Kerns said the Lady Longhorns will rely on distance runners, including four-time district champion Vanessa Bolen (800, 1600, 3200, 4×800) to copy last year’s success (OBC champions, district runner-up). Sophomore Angie Santos was also a district champion shot putter.

The depth to win team titles will come from Allison Hicks and Claire Darrin (distance), Brooke Barber and Kiara Abbott (throws), Gabbi Botello-Cruz and Crystal Beckham (sprints), Rachel Shirah and Paula Guerrero (high jump) and Samantha Hizer (pole vault).

The freshman contingent includes Phoenix Done and Abigail Johnson (jumps), Brooke Mullins (distance), Julie Hicks (sprints) and Reigan Pellegrino and Cassidy Turner (sprint/jumps).

“We’re very excited about the freshman class and first time girls who we look forward to contributing to team,” Kerns said.

Osceola

Among Coach Eric Pinellas girls athletes, junior Amaya Phillips hopes to return to state (seventh place) in the 300 hurdles.

Senior Sadae Davidson defends her 200 and 400 OBC titles and 400 district title, although Pinellas said she’ll run more 200 this year. Sophomore sprinter Alliann Johnson shows potential in the 100 and 200. Senior Virginie Beljour, the state champion weightlifter, runs the 800.

Juniors Dezha Walker and Shanaiya Wright were regional qualifiers in the jumps, and freshman Isabella Pancake is shaping up to be one of the county’s leading throwers.

Others to watch are Ana Mendez and Jaeda Ray (Jumps) and Zabrina Bryant (throws).

“Overall a well rounded team, the perfect mix of skill and youth. I expect a pretty good season,” Pinellas said.

Celebration

The Storm’s headliner is thrower Hunter Hummel, who led the discus competition at state until its final throw. The USF commit is on a mission to win the Class 4A gold.

Antonio Franco looks to lead a new 4×400 team back to states for the third year in a row.

“We have younger student athletes in Hudson Rucker, Oscar Newman, and Joshua Steelman that will make an impact for us this year,” Coach Cliff Branch said.

On the girls side, returner Taylor Velez will lead the sprint/hurdle group along with Nyla Caramouche, Tava Goerner, and Ashley Wright. The distance group will be lead by Gabriella Macado, Melanie Podborsky, Jaden Teow, and Willow Speiser. Nicole Temple, Nahiely Rodriguez, and Zaina Ashafei are the top throwers.

Liberty

Alfonza Smith coaches the Chargers, and has returning seniors Richmeal Augustin and Misael Serrano who placed last year in the long jump and triple jump at the district and regional meet, and state qualifying hurdler Niles Hunte. Transfer Jonathan Rolon, a jumper, will be in the mix.

“My boys team is full of talented kids that are not experienced but I’m excited to show them the ropes and how to take this season and make the best out of it,” Smith said.

On the girls team, returning seniors Queen Washington and Khadijah MccLean lead in the 400 meter and 4×400 relay which placed at states last year. Returning juniors Alani Jacobs and Alandi Jacobs and sophomore Emily Edouard return in the short sprints.  Rreturning seniors Alana Mayo (high jump and triple jump) and Juliaris Roman (long jump and triple jump) and Christelle Bonzil (high jump, long jump, triple jump, relays) is a transfer with postseason potential.

“This is definitely our year for the girls it’s been a long time coming I think this is the year that they could make a strong Run for the OBC title and District Champs,” Smith said. “I’m very excited to see what this season has to bring.”

Gateway

Omar Phillip coaches the boys team, led by juniors Andrew Carrerra (400 and 800), Tyler Tyrell (100, 200) and Anas Khamichi (1600) and freshman Jorgr Pitre (1600).

Girls coach Heather Piper said her team is a work in progress.

City of Life

Coach Dewrie Buggs has a handful of Warriors that could take District A-10 titles this year, including pole vaulter Justin Harris, thrower Kayla Hefner, middle distance freshman Omega Payton, triple jumper Debra Buggs (who will run hurdles with her sister Reyna) and sprinter Kenny Payton. Asia Harvey holds school record in the shot put.

Poinciana

The Eagles are coached by Cathy Esposito. The girls team finished second in the Region 2 meet, and returns many of the pieces that got them there.
Shaneylix Davila won the 300 hurdles and placed second in the 100 hurdles, and she, Marley Ross and Shyann Jackson and Jendaya Nesbitt helped win the 4×400 at district and region.
Nesbitt was fourth in 300 hurdles at the Class 3A state meet, and should requalify for that and get into the 110 hurdles mix.
“The girls have a shot of winning region, if Jendaya can come through like she did last year,” Esposito said. “Shaneylix ran cross country this fall and is much stronger has a shot of winning both hurdles events at state.”
Among the boys, Charles Pierce won the 800 at districts, and he will team up with Jose Ramos to give the Eagles a shot at making noise in the 4×400.