The Capital District meet kicked off yesterday with field events and trials of running events and will be holding the remaining field events and running finals today at Lee-Davis High School. The unquestionable favorite to win the boys' team title is Atlee as they have dominated the district with a countless number of district titles over the years. This year's group is no different with Anthony Easter leading the Raiders into district competition. Easter is the favorite in the 400 meter dash as the state leader in the event (48.49) and figures to score high in the 200 meter dash with teammate Jackie Deshazo. Easter also will be anchoring the top 4x400 meter relay team in the area (3:21.34) to conclude Thursday's Capital District Meet. Atlee will also expect to get big help out of their distance crew with junior Daniel Williams (1600 meter run), junior Chris White (800 meter run), and senior Chris Clarke (3200 meter run) as the top seeds in their events. Atlee's versatility does not stop there with Andre Ford in the long jump and Bryan Jones in the triple jump as district leaders in their events also.
Like their male counterparts, the Atlee girls are also defending district champions as they will be counting on their depth and not star power to push their away to another district team title. Distance runners Alicia Kemmler, Nici Thomas, and Kelly Payne are expected to be strong contenders in all of the distance races they compete in for the Lady Raiders, while Jenna Clarke is favored in the 400 meter dash and also expected to pick up major points in the 200 meter dash.
Atlee's try at defending their title will be no cakewalk with many other teams vying for the title. One of those teams that poses the greatest concerns to Coach Jim Triemplar's team is Armstrong with the multi-event talented Pettes sisters. Malaika, a senior, and Shoshana, a junior, could very well finish 1-2 in every jumping event as they are the top two seeds in the long jump, triple jump, and high jump. However, while at the regional and state meet it may take only a few individuals to win a meet, to win a district meet you truly need good size of bodies, which Armstrong lacks with the Pettes sisters being practically a two person team. Thus the advantage tilts overwhelmingly towards the defending champs at Atlee, who have a handful of athletes competing in nearly every event at the district meet.
While the Capital District Meet appears to have an odds-on favorite to win with Atlee on both the boys and girls side, the same cannot be said about the team battle that will be waged at the Colonial District Meet this Wednesday and Thursday at Douglas Freeman High School. Last year's champion, Patrick Henry, was heavily hit by the graduation of Sherrod Lewis, who was a district champion in three sprint events last year and appears to be out of the title hunt this year despite having star 400 and 800 meter runner Eric Joyce leading the team. Oddly enough, the team that finished near the bottom of the district last year, Hermitage (finished 7th out of 8 teams), appears to be the favorite coming in after going undefeated in district competition this spring. Panther senior Cary Chaffee figures to be a favorite in any distance race he chooses to compete in, while hurdler junior Melvin Edison is the top seed in both hurdle events. Fontel Mines and Joe Jean-Pierre are also favored in their horizontal jumping events for Hermitage, but the largest amount of points Hermitage seems certain to gain is in the throws with Daryle Jones and Duane Brown as two of the best throwers in the region.
Last year's district runner-up, Maggie Walker, looks strong once again this year with their distance runners expected to score plenty of points for the Green Dragons. Sophomore Brandon Herzog is area's second fastest at 800 meters with a 1:55.99 personal best. Junior Daniel Howard and senior Jonathan Charlesworth figure to give Chaffee a run for his money in the distance races. Maggie Walker sprinter Brian Glover will also be the favorite in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes. The Green Dragons also have defending district high jump champion Luke Hostetter to put together a squad that has a realistic shot at challenging Hermitage for the title.
On the girls' side of the coin, the Hermitage girls are the defending champions and are favored to repeat as champions. The Lady Panthers have a good balanced team with capable athletes in the field events, sprints, and distance races. In the jumps, sophomore Tanique Carter in the long jump, sophomore Jasmine Major in the triple jump, and junior Michelle Jones in the high jump, all will be in contention to win their respective events. At 100 and 200 meters, Carter is the defending champion, but will be especially challenged by her own teammates in senior Loretha Brooks and freshmen Queen Harrison. Both 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays are top seeds in the district and are expected to win. In the distance events, sophomore Rebecca Sheppard leads the group as she is one of the top distance runners in the district.
The Maggie Walker girls will be looking to improve upon their third place finish in last year's meet as much like their boys' team, will depend heavily on the performances from their distance runners. Ritchie Vaughan is the leader of the distance crew at Maggie Walker as the top seed in the 1600 and 3200 meter races. Teammate Stella Askin is also one of the best in the area at 800 meters. Maggie Walker pole vaulter Lauren Stewart ranks second in the area in her specialty.
Last year's runner-up, Douglas Freeman will have to rely on depth, instead of event winners, in order to stay in the team title hunt. Liz Arnold will challenge Maggie Walker's Stewart in the pole vault and junior Amanda Kerns is the third best in the area at 400 meters and will be the favorite in the event at the Colonial District Meet.
At the Central District Meet, which concludes today at Dinwiddie High School, Thomas Dale will find out what they are truly made of the next couple of weeks as they will be making a run at high team finishes at the regional and state meet competitions. The Knights will be riding on the performances of their two stars in jumper and sprinter Dennis Boone and distance stud Alex Tatu. Boone heads into the district meet as the area's top ranking athlete in the 100 meter dash (10.94) and long jump (23-09.50), which his long jump best is also a state leading mark. Tatu is favored to win any distance race of his choicing as he is the state leader at 1600 and 3200 meters, and his personal best in the 800 betters any time posted by anyone in the state thus far this season. At the district and regional level, Tatu will be doing the triple of the 1600, 800, and 4x400 meter relay to maximize the amount of points he can contribute to the team effort.
As the Thomas Dale boys are predicted to run away with the boys' district title, the same prediction holds true for the defending district and regional girls' champions, Prince George. Pole vaulter Rhian Jenks ranks as the area's best in the event, after clearing 11-6 at the recent Southern Track Classic in Dinwiddie last Friday night. Jenks is also one of the top jumpers and hurdlers in the Central District. The Lady Royals also possess another point scoring star in Shareese Woods. Woods can be competitive in any event from the 100 meter dash to the 800 meter run, but her best event is in the middle of those two extremes with the 400 meter dash. Woods is the defending regional champion in the event and currently has the fastest time in the region by a good margin with her 57.12 season best.
While the team and individual favorites in the districts come in with overwhelming odds in favor for them, those odds can quickly turn against them in a matter of a seconds such as an injury to a team's top star or a underdog team's rise to the top. Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's races, next Wednesday and Thursday's Central Region Meet looks to be one of the most exciting and competitive ever.