The Northland High School girls track and field team already has a meet title under its belt, but its best still could be to come this spring.

All four athletes who competed at the Division I state meet last season have returned for the Vikings, who scored 78 points to win the Northland Relays on April 5.

That being said, two of those athletes have been battling injuries as Northland looks to defend its City championship and put together another strong postseason.

"We're very deep and could be better than we were last year if we can get everybody healthy," 14th-year coach Tom Fast said.

"This year out of the gate it's going a little slower, but we'll be better later this season. I think it'll help us peak at the end."

The top returnees are senior Drake Kirkland and juniors Iyanna Ross, Jordan Saffold and Jeana Weatherspoon, who combined to finish 15th in the 800-meter relay (1 minute, 44.33 seconds) at state last year. Ross also placed 15th at state in the 400 (59.84).

Kirkland has run 15.6 in the 100 hurdles as well.

Saffold has been out with an injury and isn't expected back until April 24 when the Vikings are host to the Northland Invitational, which should have close to 20 teams participating.

Also later this season, senior Monet Martinez will join the program after transferring from Centennial. She ran on the Stars' 400 relay that was sixth (51.4) at regional last season.

Her sister, sophomore Michole Martinez, and freshman Shaniya Samuel are other top sprinters.

Weatherspoon is the team's best high jumper, junior Malia Williams is strong in both the high jump and long jump and junior Charlea Henley is another strong performer in the long jump.

"Drake really hasn't practiced much, and Iyanna Ross is a little banged up," Fast said.

"Our (800 relay) is a work in progress right now, but we do have the luxury of having Shaniya Samuel, who is sizzling fast."

Northland won the City League title last season, scoring 120.5 points to finish ahead of Centennial (94), Eastmoor Academy (80), Whetstone (66), East (59), Walnut Ridge (55), Independence (37), Beechcroft (30), South (22), Linden-McKinley (16.5), Briggs (12.66), Mifflin (11.33), West (9), Africentric (4) and International (3).

The Vikings snapped Eastmoor's three-year hold on the title.

The Warriors have a strong group of returning sprinters that includes senior Madison Johnson, junior Jennaia Williams and sophomore Tyler White. All three ran on the 800 relay that placed seventh (1:44.64) at regional last season.

Also at regional, Williams finished 11th in the 100 (13.0) and White was 10th in the 200 (25.98).

Junior Ashley Williams and freshman Jalin Bradshaw are other key sprinters for Eastmoor.

"As always, we want to get to the state meet, but we also want to get a bunch of (personal-best times) and develop," coach Mark Anthony said. "We always have a lot of accomplished kids. It's going to be an interesting season."

Eastmoor boys track
team again has depth

The Eastmoor boys track and field team has returned two individuals who ran on the Division II state-championship 1,600 relay (3:18.62) last season in seniors Malik Crockett and Michael Keels.

The Warriors, who placed sixth (23) at state, also should be strong in the middle-distance and distance events after their cross country team made it to the state meet last fall.

"We're looking really strong," coach Jason Lewis said. "We're pretty confident in what we've got from 400 all the way up to the 3,200, and with all our relays."

Keels and senior Anthony Cobb were on the 800 relay that placed seventh (1:30.53) at state last season, while Cobb also ran on the 11th-place 400 relay (43.687) and Crockett finished 12th in the 800 (1:58.5).

Junior Richard Wright is another strong sprinter.

Runners who can compete on the 3,200 relay include Crockett, Keels, senior Lamont Fields and juniors Omavi Hamilton and Sean Hathorn.

Junior Chris Chandler and sophomore Bushra Bonkiye are other strong distance runners.

Juniors Taevion Kinsey and Tariq Brown, who helped the boys basketball team reach a Division II state semifinal, have shown promise in the high jump, while sophomore Wesley Prater is the team's top hurdler.

"Our goal is to get guys on the podium and get over that hump at the state meet," Lewis said. "Dayton Dunbar is loaded and Heath should be good around the area (in Division II)."

The Warriors have won six consecutive City titles and eight in the past nine seasons. They scored 156.5 points in last year's league meet to finish ahead of Centennial (67.5), Walnut Ridge (63.5), Beechcroft (62), East (59.5), Independence (45), Whetstone (39), Northland (36.5), South (28.5), Marion-Franklin (18), Linden (16), Mifflin (14), Briggs (6) and International (6).

Winning league titles last season were Hamilton in the 1,600 (4:40.88), Bonkiye in the 3,200 (10:45.06) and Crockett in the 800 (2:00.5). The Warriors also won the 400 (43.67), 1,600 (3:23.21) and 3,200 (8:15.21) relays.

Northland boys track
team looks to improve

The addition of a pair of young sprinters is boosting the Northland boys track and field team's hopes this season.

Freshman Kalil Branham won the 110 hurdles (14.9) at the Northland Relays on April 5 as the Vikings won the title with 65 points, finishing ahead of Watterson (46), Centennial (40), Marion-Franklin (40), Whetstone (39), East (29), Mifflin (21), West (12), Africentric (10), Horizon Science (7) and Independence (1).

"(Branham's) a phenom," second-year coach Gerald Baker said.

Sophomore J.J. Branham, Kalil's brother, must sit out the first half of the season after transferring from Whetstone. He is eligible to play for the baseball team all season, however, and plans to compete in both sports later this spring.

Other key athletes for the Vikings include seniors Darius Dean (shot put) and Quentin Jones (high jump), junior Michael Williams (sprints) and sophomores Mark Lee (sprints) and Jesse Prewitt (sprints).

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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