Teams to watch
1. Wiregrass Ranch
Despite a wacky offseason in which Don Howard first announced that he was stepping away from coaching and then not too long before the 2014 season began he returned to lead the Bulls, Wiregrass Ranch still has the top track and field squad in Pasco County. The Bulls lost Nikita Shah to graduation but the team still returns a slew of standouts from 2013. Casey Chitty (pole vault) and Madison Conway (1,600 meter run) return as the top performers for Wiregrass Ranch.
2. Land O’ Lakes
Much like Wiregrass Ranch, no matter who’s in charge or returning, Land O’ Lakes always produces a strong, deep team. Many region and state qualifiers return, led by senior Hallie Grimes, who placed third at states in the 400. The Gators should push the Bulls in early April for the Sunshine Athletic Conference title.
The Rams lost a couple key athletes from last season, including graduated seniors Tayler Jenkins and Alyssa Worsham. Ridgewood should overcome those losses and be in the hunt for the SAC crown.
For the first time in four years, Mitchell will not feature any competitors with the last name Cancello, as the twins have since graduated and are attending the University of Tampa. Mustangs coach Jeff Leavy believes his team is still one of the better units around and has a couple potential state qualifiers in Emily Kerns (800 meter run) and Alani Alexander (discus throw).
The Buccaneers are mostly known for having one of the top distance teams, thanks in part to Saint Leo University commit Kari Grippo. However, Gulf has some others to watch out for, including senior Brianna Rossi (200) and junior Mia Savino (800).
Keep Your Eye On
Casey Chitty, Wiregrass Ranch, Jr.: Last season, Chitty placed sixth at state in Class 3A and second at the 3A-Region 2 meet in the pole vault.
Ashley Dugan, Hudson, Sr.: Dugan had a strong junior campaign by qualifying for the Class 2A state meet and placed second at regions in the long jump.
Alfreda Steele, Pasco, So.: Steele placed fourth at the Class 2A state meet and took second at regions in the 100.
Emily Gauvey, Anclote, So.: As a freshman last season, Gauvey impressed and qualified for states in the high jump.
Hallie Grimes, Land O’ Lakes, Sr.: Grimes is primed for a big senior season, as she placed third at Class 3A state finals and third at the Class 3A-Region 2 meet in the 400.
Kari Grippo, Gulf, Sr.: Grippo returns for her senior season as the top girls distance runner in Pasco County. The Saint Leo University commit will look to make some noise and qualify for states in the 1,600.
Emily Kerns, Mitchell, Jr.: Kerns has her sights set on reaching states after finishing 10th at the Class 3A state finals and third at regions last spring in the 800.