ORANGE PARK - Middleburg High discus thrower Wyatt Underwood, St. Johns Country Day School distance runner Matthew Stratton and Fleming Island High distance runner Kameron Wallizada are among the top …
ORANGE PARK - Middleburg High discus thrower Wyatt Underwood, St. Johns Country Day School distance runner Matthew Stratton and Fleming Island High distance runner Kameron Wallizada are among the top names heading to region track championship meets on Saturday after area teams took on district meets this past week.
Underwood, who has battled with Keystone Heights High’s Caleb Moncrief in 1-2 fashion all season, has had to put together his own motivations toward the Class 3A state meet and with a 136 foot, 6 inch toss at his district 3-3A meet at Orange Park, Underwood is within a 10-foot swing of making a top four finish at regions. Currently, Underwoods toss at districts has him at ninth in region rankings, but Underwood has been able to summon up big tosses in big meets; going 1-2 with Moncrief at the Bob Hayes Invite earlier in the season.
Stratton, one of the top cross country guys in north Florida, has experimented with other races; 400s and 800s to try and build some race strategic confidence, and has tilted in the low 4:20 range for the 1600 and 9-plus minute range for the 3200; mainly unchallenged efforts efforts at districts that could hide his track prowess until needed. His little sis Rebecca can slide into a top four in the 1600 if the top runner; Laci Watford of University Christian (5:13) can burn the field down to a few and Stratton continues her faster time trend with four girls locked just at 5:30.
The other St. Johns guy, LOL, is Stanley Cowherd, who can jump the line in the sprints and jumps at regions. Cowherd is close enough to slide into the 200, the 400 and the long jump (missed district title by half inch). I’m betting he could probably throw a good javelin.
Wallizada, for the better part of his sophomore and junior seasons, toyed with minor injuries that hampered his performances, but the fearless frontrunner of a fantastic nation-leading freshman year may have re-emerged with his 9:22 3200 district race against Nease’s double barrel powerhouses; Rheinhart Harrison and Bradley Ball, both under nine minutes earlier in the season; both to finishers at districts at 9:13 and 9:17 with Wallizada just a few steps off at 9:22. Whether Wallizada has another gear for regions is an interesting bit of why that race may become a mid-distance battleground for the Eagle senior. Unfortunately for Wallizada, his freshman wingman, John Keester IV, did not make the region lineup despite a two week span of sub-10 minute efforts.
For the girls, Fleming Island stalwart Emma Millson in the distance and Isabelle Flores in the hurdles will be two to watch for Clay athletes. Millson is gutsy and fearless and had a sterling strength win over St. Augustine’s Reilly Barber a week ago in the 3200 and that confidence boost could be a jolt to the UNF bound runner. Millson is as fearless in the mile and could pull a double.For Flores, the 300 hurdles is her event and regions could be a good day to crack the evasive 43-44 second barries. The top seven hurdles in the 300 are within one second of each other with 45.68 the top region time. Flores is at 46.30.
Oakleaf’s corral of sprinters could make some noise; Arianna Eason in the 200 (and triple jump with teammate Tamira Briley just six inches away), Alyssa Williams and Taylor Silkert in the 400 and Sierra Barrera in the 800. Barrera is a strong finisher and could catch a few steps on the homestretch if needed.
In 3A, Middleburg freshman sprinter Nya Russell has piled up points in sprints and jumps and will be tested in the superfast region while Orange Park’s Markez Sermons has been a workhorse for coach Robert Garcia.
Ridgeview has two solid candidates for the girls in 800 meter runner Blythe Duchene who has broken out the past week with stellar finishes against more well known opponents and Zoe Whaley in high jump, one of the more consistent athletes on the Lady Panthers squad and a probable state meet returner. Whaley is tops in the region at 5’-5.75”.
Sermons has been on the 11 second 100 meter bubble, but will need to break that bubble with seven runners under 11 seconds on top of him; 10.66 the top time. Sermons is also a second or two away from top three in the 400 with Tallahassee Rickards, Leon and Lincoln fielding three sub-50s.
Ridgeview hurdler Rasheed Baker is a second away from the top tier of region hurdles in the 110 hurdles with a sub-15 second possible and needed. Joel Childs, Orange Park’s 300 hurdler, is one of the more solid technicians in that event and just missed under 40 at districts (40.06).
In region 2-2A, Keystone Heights miler Camryn Williams has the horsepower to crack the top four with her 5:10 from earlier in the year a top state time, but only a 5:32 needed at districts of concern. Top time is 5:06.71.