1. DREHER OUT FRONT
Last season, Brandon Sanders anchored the Blue Devils’ championship performance, but Dreher’s strong crop of juniors showed up big to prove their success would not be fleeting. This year, Bradford Lemmons is a senior who will lead the Blue Devils’ efforts in sprints and relays.
2. LOWER RICHLAND PUSHING BACK
The Diamond Hornets placed in the top five last season. But two seasons removed from their back-to-back titles, they will be unrelenting. Lower Richland has big contributors back, including Marcus Edmond, Jaylen Bacon and Taja King from their bronze-winning 1,600 relay.
3. CHAPIN GOES DISTANCE
With the graduation of several seniors, including Heath Lorick, the Eagles lost some of their strongest distance runners. This year, Chapin’s challenge is to beef up the distance portion of the lineup.
4. SHARIF LOOKING FOR MORE
Eau Claire’s leading distance runner claimed a 3,200-meter title and 1,600-meter silver medal in 2012, but he is not the type to be content with second place. Sharif has been one of the Shamrocks’ top performers for the past three seasons, and looks to finish with his best season.
5. ANOTHER ONE FOR LEXINGTON?
The Wildcats won the 2012 Class 4A title with a dominating distance lineup and a crew of unproven sprinters who turned in excellent performances. This season, Lexington has more experience and, having lost only Colby Coulter from its distance crew, looks well-stacked for another championship run.
1. SPRINTER TOPS FOR RIDGE VIEW
The Blazers got top three finishes in the 400 and 1,600 meter relays to power their way to a third-place finish and graduated just a few runners from that squad. This year, senior Shekara Martin — gold medalist in the 100 and 200 — is leading the way.
2. THROWER LEADS BLYTHEWOOD
Juniors Jena Alston and Brianna Pressley are at the top of a young Bengals squad that is looking to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish. It’s the final season for thrower Jai Lykes, whose medalist performances in both discus and shotput have been key to the Bengals’ success over the past few seasons.
3. DUTCH FORK FACES HURDLES
Two years removed from their Class 4A state title, the Silver Foxes have big hurdles. After last year’s seventh-place finish, the Silver Foxes lost top sprinter Raveen Golston along with several top-performing field athletes. Dutch Fork must find leaders among this year’s squad, including jumper Carmen Rolizzo, who notched fifth- and sixth-place finishes last year.
4. LOWER RICHLAND WANTS GOLD
Led by senior Imani Boatwright, who picked up gold in the 800 and silver in the 400 last season, the Diamond Hornets look to improve on last season’s Class 3A bronze medal finish. Boatwright is joined in her final season by young sprinters such as sophomores Imani Lloyd and Princess Hammett and freshman Makayla Keitt, all of whom were part of Lower Richland’s bronze-winning 1,600 relay squad.
5. MANNING LEADS DREHER
The Blue Devils’ boys squad tasted victory last season, but the girls missed. Dreher placed fourth in Class 3A, so now the Blue Devils have plenty of room to grow. Junior Jazzmine Manning leads the squad, but several state qualifiers are back, including Savannah Bass and Shay Frieson.
Akilah Imani Nelson