Dutch Fork’s girls team and Blythewood’s boys are the best Midlands bets to make serious runs at Class 4A state track championships this weekend at Lower Richland.
The Silver Foxes expect to be in the thick of a hotly contested girls team race with defending state champion Spartanburg and Northwestern. Spartanburg edged NW by a scant 68-66 margin a year ago, while DF did not crack the Top 10. Spartanburg is looking to secure its fourth straight big-school title, its seventh since 2000.
This is all uncharted territory for the Silver Foxes, who have managed just one Top 10 state finish in program history – 10th with 23 points in 2005. But if top seeds Niki Klasnic (1600, 3200) and Taina LaPorte (high jump) indeed strike gold, and there no slippage and just marginal improvement in DF’s other six scoring events, the Midlands may well be celebrating its first girls state championship team since 2005.
Blythewood, the defending Class 3A state champ, figures to do well in its first showing at the highest level of competition. The Bengals, however, need some help to pull off the rare feat of winning back-to-back state track titles in two different classifications, especially in the case of moving up one level. Wando enters the meet as the prohibitive favorite, based on a pronounced qualifying edge over the Bengals in the distance races and in the field events, especially pole vault. Moreover, Blythewood does not have a 1600 relay team qualified, which would negate a dramatic Bengals move in the final race on Saturday. The outcome will probably be decided by the time the 4x400 rolls around.
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In any event, Blythewood, Spring Valley and Irmo all have realistic shots at Top 5 state finishes. Dutch Fork and Ridge View are the best bets for Top 5 efforts on the girls side.