The meet is only in its third year of existence, but today's Vernon Korhn Hillsborough County Track and Field Championships at Jefferson High is one of the most important and competitive in the area.
How does such a young event carry such weight? Simple: Serious bragging rights are at stake.
If you win here - in a meet in which 30 public schools are represented and each athlete had to qualify to compete -- you've accomplished something. You're the county champ and, unlike an invitational or large relay meet, that tends to have some lasting prestige.
Action begins at 1 p.m. with the 4x800-meter relay and field events, followed at 3 p.m. by preliminary rounds in the sprints, hurdles and 4x100 relay. Running event finals are at 5. Hillsborough's boys and Wharton's girls are the defending team champions and are favored to repeat.
Some of the athletes to watch today include Chamberlain senior Dentarius Locke, the top seed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes; Sickles senior Derek Wehunt, who Saturday at the FSU Relays ran a state-leading 3,200 time of 9 minutes, 6.78 seconds; Wharton senior Amani Bryant, the state leader in the 300 hurdles; and Blake senior Marissa McElveen, who stands No. 1 in the state for the triple jump at 39-5.
CARROLLWOOD DAY RISING: It is a first-year program, but Carrollwood Day School's 20-member track team has been making noise this season.
Patriots coach Bruce Cox says two of his girls athletes have been exceptional: sophomore Brianna Knott, who has clocked 13.23 for the 100, and freshman Bailey Drury, who has run 13.33 for the 100 and 27.59 for the 200.
Cox says his top boys performers include Deuce Gruden, Matt Monteilh and Darius Bing.
FROM BEAM TO HURDLES: Two years ago, Tampa Catholic's Maddi Schmidt was on the verge of becoming an elite-level gymnast. But a fall off the balance beam left her with broken bones in both feet and in a wheelchair for a month.
Schmidt, now a junior, has since emerged as one of the area's top jumpers/hurdlers. Last season, she took the 2A-District 9 title in the 100 hurdles (16.42), finished second in the triple jump (33-4), fourth in the 300 hurdles (53.18) and fifth in the high jump (4-8).
It's the 100 hurdles where Schmidt has excelled. This spring, she has lowered her personal best in the event to 16.05. If she can continue to run times similar to that, Schmidt could find herself on the awards podium of the 2A state finals.
BELL LAP: Wharton's boys 4x800 relay team of John Grellner, Sean Obinwa, Nick Swain and Gilbert Rodriguez ran the nation's second-fastest time of the season at the FSU Relays with their winning mark of 7:55.54. The Wildcats also won the girls 4x800, with the foursome of Alyssa Franks, Erin Bailey, Shannon Meggs and Brooke Foley running 9:56.48. ... Wehunt's 3,200 performance of 9:06.78 Saturday was the third fastest ever in Hillsborough County, behind Rolf Steier of Berkeley Prep (9:03.25 in 2002) and Jesuit's Andy Biladeau (9:04.12 in 2005). Steier went on to earn All-America honors at Stanford and is studying and training in Norway on a Fulbright Scholarship. This week, his Norwegian club is training in Kenya. Biladeau is a senior at the University of Virginia, where he has won five All-ACC titles. He is taking a semester off to train in Tampa. Biladeau has one season of track eligibility remaining at UVA.