RIKKA LOVELY, SR., GAITHER
After leaving the area briefly last summer with her mother, who is in the U.S. Army, Lovely returned to Gaither. That's a relief to her coach, Ladd Baldwin, as well as her Cowboys teammates who are expecting Lovely to carry much of the scoring load this season. Lovely went to the Class 4A state finals last season in four events - long jump, triple jump, 100 and 200 - and brought home medals in three of them. With personal bests of 18 feet, 81/2 inches (long jump), 37-73/4 (triple jump), 12.09 (100) and 24.88 (200), Lovely is knocking on the door of some major breakthroughs. She says her focus will be on the triple jump, an event she only started as a sophomore and didn't compete in full time until last season. If she can improve her middle phase of that event, Lovely already has the runway speed to be contending for a state title.
Amani Bryant, Sr., Wharton - Hurdles/Sprints: Florida-bound hurdler is the defending 3A champ in the lows and should contend in the highs.
Alyssa Franks, Sr., Wharton - Distances: Reached state finals last year despite being injured. Watch out, she's healthy now.
LeRia Jenerette, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech - Throws: One of the area's most dominant discus throwers the past two years.
Tanesha Maxwell, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech - Sprints: Consistent performer in the 100 and regional champion in the event.
Marissa McElveen, Sr., Blake - Jumps/Sprints: A state medalist since her freshman year, always a threat to pop a long mark.
Bianca Morrison, Sr., Sickles - Jumps: Tall and technically gifted. If her runway speed improves, she could reach the 40-foot mark.
Erin Bailey, Jr., Wharton - Distance: One of the most consistently outstanding performers for the Wildcats, Bailey usually saves her best for the big meets.
Morgan Scherschel, Sr., Gaither - Pole Vault: Worked hard in the offseason to improve and will carry the banner as the top girls vaulter from a county rich in tradition for the event.
Grace VanDeGrift, So., Durant - Distance: Rose to the occasion last year to medal in both the 1,600 and 3,200 at the 4A state finals.
LaShae White, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech - 400/Sprints: Stunned the field at the 3A state finals with a second-place finish in a lifetime-best 56.51.
WATCH OUT FOR ...
Brittney Barton, Sr., Hillsborough - 400/Sprints
Iesha Campbell, Sr., Alonso - Throws
Olivia D'Angelo, Sr., Berkeley Prep - Distance
London Enos, So., Wharton - Pole vault
Antoinie Eugene, Sr., Hillsborough - Hurdles
Kayla Kennedy, Jr., Plant - Distance
Amanda Leland, Sr., Chamberlain - Sprints
Shannon Meggs, Jr., Wharton - 400 / 800
Yesenia Perez, Sr., Gaither - Hurdles
Jasmine Pope, Sr., Plant City - Sprints/Jumps
Lauren Verbosky, Sr., East Bay - 400/Jumps
Rebecca Webster, Sr., Newsome - Distance
TOP 5 TEAMS
1. Wharton - Who else? Wes Newton's Wildcats have been the county's dominant girls program for much of the last decade.
2. Gaither - Ladd Baldwin's squad always seems to have talent and numbers.
3. Hillsborough - With Barton coming on board and returning talent, this could be the year the Terriers make a run at Wharton.
4. Tampa Bay Tech - The Titans have quality sprinters, jumpers, throwers.
5. Sickles - Gryphons always seem to have solid athletes for every event.
THE BIG MEETS
March 7 - Nash Higgins Relays, Leto, 8 a.m.
March 14 - Disney Showcase, Lake Buena Vista, TBA
March 14 - Charles Johnson Invitational, King, 8 a.m.
March 18-21 - Disney Invitational, Lake Buena Vista, TBA
March 20 - Jack Rice Invitational, East Bay, 4 p.m.
March 21 - Elite Invitational, Gaither, 8 a.m.
March 21 - Bob Hayes Invitational, Jacksonville Raines, TBA
March 24 - Western Conference Divisional Meets, Jefferson, Spoto, Armwood, 1 p.m.
March 27-28 - FSU Relays, Tallahassee, TBA
March 28 - Manuel/Griffin/Fraundorfer Relays, Hillsborough, 8 a.m.
March 31 - Vernon Korhn County Championships, Jefferson, 6 p.m.
April 3-9 - Florida Relays, Gainesville, TBA
April 11 - Distance Carnival, University of Tampa, TBA
April 13-18 - 1A/2A District Meets, TBA
April 20-25 - 3A/4A District Meets, TBA
April 22-24 - 1A/2A Regional Meets, TBA
April 29-May 1 - 3A/4A Regional Meets, TBA
May 1-2 - 1A/2A State Meets, Winter Park, 11 a.m.
May 7-8 - 3A/4A State Meets, Winter Park, 11 a.m.