In what will be the final race of his high-school career — and perhaps the last track dash he'll ever make — FSU football signee Levonte "Kermit'' Whitfield — looks to beat the odds and repeat as the Dream 100 national champion at Saturday's Adidas NYC Grand Prix professional track meet at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island.
The Jones senior was sidelined for a month by what he said was tendinitis behind his right knee, but he came back to look good in running a 21.08-second time to win a prelim race in last Saturday's Golden South Classic.
"I feel like I can do enough to win," Whitfield said Monday.
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Three other area athletes also are headed to New York City, making it a record contingent. The girls Dream 100 includes Clermont East Ridge ninth-grader Kaylin Whitney, the undefeated Class 3A state 100 and 200 champ; and Lake Highland Prep junior 2A 100 champ Deanna Hill, who won her "golden-ticket," expenses-paid trip by winning at the Golden South.
Colonial senior and UF signee Andres Arroyo, a state champion in three events and national leader in the 800 and 1,600, is in a loaded boys Dream Mile that analysts think could see multiple runners go under the magical four-minute mark. Only five high-schoolers all time have eclipsed that gold standard.
The trip is a new experience for Whitney, Hill and Arroyo. This is the third time in the Dream 100 for Whitfield. He placed fourth as a sophomore in a sprint won by his cousin, former Boone standout Marvin Bracy, who recently left FSU's football team to embark on a pro track career.
Unlike Bracy, Whitfield always has said he is a football player who runs track. He intends to try track at FSU, but his participation in a second sport will depend on his football progression and training schedule.
If Whitfield does sprint at the next level, he will be a force. He attacked the curve with vigor last week, then seemed to relax with first place in his heat in hand.
"The fact that he can run 21 shutting down, that bodes well for where he's at," said First Academy coach Ricky Argro, who trains Whitfield. "We've been trying to tweak some things in his form to find ways to take some of the pressure off his hamstrings and his leg."
Whitney skipped the Golden South because of illness, but said Tuesday she is feeling better.
"I'll be ready to go by Saturday, no doubt," she said. "It's just an honor to be one of the nine girls invited. Obviously I'd like to PR [set a personal record] and stay up with the rest of the group. And have a good time."
NBC's live TV coverage Saturday from 1-3 p.m. typically includes only the pro events. The high-school races can be seen at adidasgoldenstripes.com.
The girls Dream 100 is set for 12:35 p.m., followed by the boys Dream 100. The boys Dream Mile will go off at 3:12.
Atlanta Braves reliever Jonny Venters underwent major elbow surgery for the second time last week and is expected to be out of baseball for at least a year. The former Lake Brantley left-hander first underwent reconstructive Tommy John surgery in 2005.
Venters, 28, made the All-Star Game in 2011, when he was 6-2 with five saves and a 1.84 ERA. He led the NL with 85 appearances for 88 innings.
He was limited to 58 2/3 innings because of arm troubles in 2012 and has not pitched since exiting a spring training outing March 26 due to pain. Surgery showed the tendon was torn again.
"I've talked to Jonny and his dad," Lake Brantley coach Eric Entrekin said. "They're just happy they found out what it is. Guys come back from this. Jonny's attitude is, 'Okay, let's do this. Let me get better'."