The race for the Class 3A state boy track championship should be a hotly contested affair Saturday at Lower Richland. There will be no such drama on the girls side where J.L. Mann, fresh from the greatest performance by any team of any gender, of any era in any classification, is in competition with only its own level of past excellence once more.
The top contenders in the boys division include Crestwood, Battery Creek and the host Diamond Hornets, with Wade Hampton and Hilton Head on the outside.
Crestwood, which cracked the Top 10 at state for the first time last season (45 points, 5th place), will pile up points based on depth, not individually brilliance. The 400-meter relay team was the only Knights entry to turn in a top time at last week’s state qualifying meet.
Lower Richland, on the other hand, will rely heavily on the individual scoring power, in particular from sophomore Kevin Shields, who has gold medal potential in four events – the 200 and 400 meters, the long and triple jumps. Shields was first in the long jump at the state qualifying meet, second in his three other events. Otherwise, senior Mark Jones is looking to score big in the two hurdles races and freshman Devin Wannamaker is the No. 2 seed in the 100.
Like Crestwood, Battery Creek has never won a state championship and only one Top 10 state finish on the books – a tie for second place in 1990.
Ultimately, Lower Richland’s lack of depth could be a telling factor in the race. The Diamond Hornets have no relay teams in the mix. It all could come down to a Crestwood vs. Battery Creek duel in the final event of the day – the 1600 relay.
Over the past two seasons, J.L. Mann has amassed an astounding 332 teams points with a gold gold medal haul of 18. Last year’s counts – 167 points, 11 gold medals – stand as the all-time records in South Carolina history. Look for another high point total and possible 10 event wins from the imperious Patriots tomorrow.
The rest of the Midlands story will focus gold medal runs by Dreher freshman Brandon Sanders (100, 200), Lugoff-Elgin’s Jonathon Watts (pole vault), A.C. Flora’s Darius Hammond (shot put, discus), Dreher’s Jorde Farmer (400, 800), A.C. Flora’s Emani Harrison (100) and Fairfield Central’s Tamisha Foster (long jump).