Whale Branch Early College High School's chances at winning a second consecutive Class 1-A boys track title could tip on a few throws Saturday.
At least home field is on the Warriors' side.
The school will host the Class 1-A Lower State boys and girls track championships Saturday, with the Warriors boys hoping to qualify enough athletes to have a shot at a state championship in Columbia next week.
The group is a different makeup than the 2012 champions, who were led by their sprinters. The points are more spread out this year, coach Brad Taracuk said. He expects some of the Whale Branch boys throwers to be on the cusp of finishing the fourth place or better needed to advance to state.
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"It's going to be a dogfight for the boys," said Taracuk, whose boys won the Region 5-A meet. "We could easily come out and win Lower State, which would set us up to repeat, or we could have a couple guys fall off where they should be, which would put us behind the 8-ball."
Taracuk hopes for a top-three finish at Lower State from his girls, who a year ago qualified only three for Lower State.
The girls program has not sent an athlete to the Class 1-A state meet. But the Warriors broke through to win the Region 5-A title and qualified 15 athletes and three relays for Lower State.
"It really started last year," Taracuk said of the Warriors' transformation. "The core of girls who came out really bought into the program. They were able to pull the freshmen up, pull a lot of girls from the school who didn't come out last year. Just by getting the different girls out there, we've become a lot more competitive."
CLASS 1-A LOWER STATE TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP
What: Whale Branch Early College High School hosts the Class 1-A Lower State track meet
When: Today, starting at 11 a.m.
Where: Whale Branch Early College High School track, behind the school.
Details: Meet serves as a qualifier for Class 1-A state meet, May 10-11 at Lower Richland. Warriors are the defending Class 1-A boys state champions.
Whale Branch qualifiers
BOYS-- Devonta' Glover (1600, 3200), Wesley Murphy (1600, 3200), Charles Jiles (800), Damian Brown (800), Devin Brown (110 hurdles, 400), Dee Delaney (400 hurdles, high jump, 100), Ezekiel Carter (400 hurdles), NyQuan Gumbs-Smith (high jump), Howard Allen (long jump, triple jump), Javon Gardner (long jump, triple jump), Eric Butler (400), Travon McKee (shot put), Casser Middleton (shot put), Nyles Pinckney (shot put), Trevon Bryan (discus); Relays-- 4x100, 4x800, 4x400.
GIRLS-- Jewel Roberts (1600, 3200), Monae 'sha Hamilton (800), Kemoni Jenkins (100 hurdles, 400 hurdles), Kenyada Moultrie (high jump, 200), Shaniqua Johnson (high jump), Nichole Smalls (long jump), Daja Smalls (triple jump, 100), Alexus White (triple jump), Akaila Wilson (triple jump), Marshayia White (100, 200), Mercedes Smalls (400), Donique Lyles (discus, shot put), Renee Smalls (discus), Shatayia Clark (discus, shot put), Jonae Riley (shot put); Relays-- 4x100, 4x400, 4x800.