BAKER — Nine Baker School track and field athletes will bid for state honors Friday, when they travel to the Class 1A state track meet at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
It's the fourth consecutive state trip for Baker boys' 4-by-800-meter relay team of Dylan Scott, Malcom Griffith, Wilder Kersey and Richard Stroheker.
High jumper Jon Beck, triple jumper Justin Shaw, girls high jumper/long jumper Kaitlin Herring, girls triple jumper Paige Miller and girls 1,600-meter/3,200-meter runner Maya Espinosa, a sixth-grader, will join them. Scott also will compete in the boys 1,600 and 3,200.
Gator Coach David Oglesby hopes for big things from all his athletes, but especially for his veteran relay team.
"This 4-by-8 team has been together since they were in the seventh grade and they are all seniors," he said. "My prayer is they will get on the podium (finish in the top eight) this year. They were one place out of it last year."
Kersey, a multi-sport standout at Baker representing the Gators one last time, echoed Oglesby's sentiments.
"I expect us to get on the podium — without a doubt," he said. We have been working ourselves so hard — pushing ourselves so hard. Coach has been pushing us to the limit.
"I want to go out sweet and be the first 4-by-8 team on the podium. I want to go out with a bang. I don't want to go out except being on the podium."
Miller, a senior, will make the trip she's dreamed about for the first time.
"I'm very excited," she said. "To be able to make it my senior year is such an amazing feeling. This is what I've been trying to get since sixth grade, so it's a great feeling.
"I expect to at least (achieve) PR (personal record). I want to at least get a 34- or 35-foot jump. If I reach that goal, maybe I can get on the podium, too."
Espinosa, the youngest athlete representing Baker, will be the youngest runner in either of her events at the state meet.
It's surprising to make the state meet, she said, but she's just as focused as her older teammates.
"It was kind of scary running against the older girls at first, but fun," she said. "I didn't think I'd make state, but I think I can place if I push myself."
Oglesby sets the bar high for all of the Gators competing in the state meet.
"I'm looking for some great things from all of them," he said. "I think they all can perform and have a chance of getting on the stage."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.