THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Now the fun really begins in track and field.
It s officially put-up or shut-up time this week as district track meets across the state present the settings for neighboring competitors to strut their stuff.
The Division I district meet at St. Francis de Sales today (preliminaries) and Saturday (finals) annually looms as one of the area s bigger spring sports drawing cards. This year figures no different.
The stage is set for the likes of Rogers Chanelle Caldwell, Anthony Wayne s Erika Schmidt, Bowsher s Princeton Bryson and Central Catholic s Sharice Calhoun to display their talents.
Caldwell, a defending district champion, is coming off one of her best meets ever. She established a City League meet record for the 800 meters by crossing the finish line in a time of 2 minutes, 16.97 seconds. She broke a record that had held up for 21 years.
You ve got to love to see those old records go, said Rogers girls track coach Joe Souliere. The old mark of 2:18.8 was set in 1986 by Dawn Eidson of Rogers.
Caldwell enters the district in arguably the best shape of her career. The senior spent much of her junior year nursing a stress fracture that bothered her throughout her freshman and sophomore years when she was at Bowsher.
We knew with a stress fracture she needed a little rest, Souliere said. She seems to be 100 percent, right now knock on wood. There s no pain there.
Caldwell has the potential to make it painfully discouraging to her competition, particularly in the 800.
Her CL meet record represents her best performance of theseason, but it s not her personal best. She has a personal-best time of 2:13 while at Bowsher.
Despite limited participation a year ago, she closed out her junior season running well enough to reach the state meet where she finished 14th with a time of 2:21.76.
Caldwell has continued to make strides this season. Prior to the league meet, she had already posted a meet record of 2:19.6 at the Piqua Invitational during the season. She recorded the same time for a third-place showing in the 800 at the Dayton Roosevelt Invitational.
Caldwell, who will attend Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, has also shown this season more of her versatility winning the 1600 at the University of Toledo Invitational with a time of 5:36.
She can do anything, Souliere said. She can sprint. She can run the distance races. She s one of those track athletes who can do anything. I don t think she is even close to her potential.
Schmidt, a sophomore, is far from experiencing her best track days.
Schmidt, who is already recognized as the fastest female in Anthony Wayne history, enters the district as one of the favorites in the sprint events. Her resume isn t long, but it s still pretty impressive.
Last year as a freshman, Schmidt placed fifth at the Division I state meet in the 200 with a time of 24.80.
Erika is the best sprinter I ve ever worked with, Generals coach Jim Lopez said. She had the talent last year. She was a little intimidated, but she hung in there as a freshman.
Schmidt made a major statement at the Northern Lakes League meet about her progress from a year ago. She swept the 100 (11.9) and 200 (24.0), setting meet and school records.
Just look at her times and see how she s competing right now, Lopez said. She s a lot stronger mentally. She s got the talent and she understands she has the talent.
Schmidt, who was a key player off the bench for the basketball team that claimed the school s first NLL championship, has been a key contributor in the Generals winning a second straight league championship in track.
Schmidt is the top returner for the district meet in the 200. She ran second a year ago to Notre Dame s Chantell Cargile (24.80) by crossing the finish line in 25.0.
That race didn t include Meshawn Graham of Bowsher, the 2005 Division I state champion in the event.
Graham, who won four individual events last week at the City League meet, was hampered a year ago and didn t run in the 200 district finals.
I haven t had much competition this year, Schmidt said. I m looking forward to racing against Meshawn Graham.
This year I haven t really been neck and neck with anyone. I think it ll give me a chance to push myself and hopefully I can improve my times.
Schmidt s long-term goal for the season was to advance to state in both sprint races.
If she can get through this week she ll understand what she ll have to go through for regional and state, Lopez said. That[district] is two clicks underneath the state tournament. If you make the top four you re considered among the best in the area.
The top four finishers in each event qualify for the regional at Amherst.
Princeton Bryson hasn t ever been considered Bowsher s top boys sprinter. That is, until now.
Bryson enters the district as the favorite in the 100 and 200 after sweeping both races at the City League.
His teammate, Aeric Clay, a two-time state runner-up in the 100, suffered a hamstring injury at the City League meet and his status for the meet is uncertain.
Bryson turned in winning times of 10.86 in the 100 and 22.05 in the 200.
Calhoun, a junior, is also riding a wave of momentum into the district meet. The Central Catholic junior swept hurdle races (100 and 300) at the CL meet. A past state qualifier, Calhoun ran second to Courtney Siebenaller of Whitmer at district a year ago.