Track Tigers set to defend state title
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
T.R. Miller Tigers track coach Alan Baker knows his squad has a bull's eye pointed at it this season.
Defending state champions always have that problem. Then again, it is a problem every other team would love to have.
"Once you get to the top, you certainly want to do everything you can to stay there," Baker said.
The bull's eye on T.R. Miller is even larger than usual since the Tigers return all but three (Antawn Gomez, Neal Cheatham and Dawaun Johnson) of last season's Class 3A state qualifiers.
"We certainly hope we can be a contender (for the state title) again. It's a long season and it's constant work in progress," Baker said.
T.R. Miller has some experience back in both the field and running events.
Senior Demetris Preyer was a state qualifier in both the shot put and discus a year ago.
"Demetris got to state last season, but didn't place. This year's we'd like for him to improve enough to be able to place," Baker said.
T.R. Miller will have to rely on unproven personnel for its other throws with freshmen Justin Gomez and Nykeem Barton and senior Kevin Ard, a first-year thrower.
The javelin was an exhibition event last year, but becomes official this year. Junior Tye Walker earned a second place finish at state last year.
In the high jump, the Tigers must replace a state qualifier in Cheatham. Sophomore Antonio Gomez may be good candidate. Gomez earned a third place at this spring's indoor state meet. Seniors Trey Paul and Greg Bogan may also get a look.
"We're pretty much going to use most of the same people in all our jumps," Baker said.
Antonio Gomez won the state indoor title in the long jump this spring. He was fifth at state last year in that event. He will be joined by senior Skylar Fountain, junior Damien Jackson, Bogan and Paul.
Antonio Gomez's best event is probably the triple jump, an event he took first place at last
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year's state meet as a freshman. Junior Rodney Lane and Jackson also figure to contribute to the triple jump.
Senior Jason Maddox is T.R. Miller's most experienced pole vaulter.
Sprints should be a strength for T.R. Miller. Senior Michael Jones had a fourth place finish at state in the 100 meter dash and a sixth place mark in the 200. Fountain and sophomore Tim Atcher join him for the short sprints.
Lane won last year's 3A 400 meter dash and anchors that position. Lane will also see time in the 800 meters.
Sophomore Michael Hunt, sophomore Chris Byrd, sophomore David Mathieu, senior James McCracken and freshman Kelly Stallworth will also run middle distance.
A similar combination of Hunt, McCracken, Stallworth and Mathieu will handle the distance races.
Hurdles should be a big area for T.R. Miller. Antonio Goemz claimed the state crown in the 110 meter high hurdles and was third in the 300 intermediate hurdles last year. Fountain had a fourth place mark in the 110 meter high hurdles last year. Sophomore Javaris Drakeford is also exected to make an impact.
T.R. Miller Tigers track
Mar. 18 Escambia County, Central, W.S. Neal, Monroe County Home 3:30 p.m.
Mar. 30 Central Home 2:30 p.m.
Apr. 2 Challenge of Champions at Mobile
Apr. 6 Central Home 3 p.m.
Apr. 8 Home 3:30 p.m.
Apr. 15 Home 3:30 p.m.
Apr. 22 Sectional Home 9:30 a.m.
Apr. 30-May 1 State Meet at Troy State