Power Program Index: Navarre ranked No. 3 – The Northwest Florida Daily News
SETH STRINGER @SethSnwfdn
There are areas where Navarre’s athletic program is so talented, so well coached that the Raiders have the potential to be the Power of the Panhandle.
This is both a compliment and a wake-up call for the peripheral sports.
Garrett Bagley’s girls weightlifting program is a dynasty with three straight state titles and four in five years.
The football program has made two Final Fours, won three district titles, and hasn’t missed the playoffs en route to a 50-13 record since Jay Walks took over in 2012.
The Navarre girls soccer team wins at least 20 games every year and, highlighted by the Final Four run in 2014, has developed into a perennial title contender under Rob Simon.
These three programs are ironclad powerhouses, the best examples of the prowess and talent that can surface on the Panhandle. But Navarre is still a young athletic program, a program that hasn’t yet found its stride in terms of top-to-bottom depth.
That was proven in the postseason-less campaigns by the softball, baseball, boys soccer, girls basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis and cross country programs.
But there were small victories elsewhere.
Austin Epstein won three district titles — both in the 1600 and 3200 and in cross country en route to a 23rd-place finish at state. District titles also came for Sam Bassham in the triple jump and 110 hurdles, Abigail Pantlitz in the 100 and 200, Lee Jones in the 200, Dante Wright in the 400 and also the 4×100 boys relay, which then won a region title. The Raiders finished runner-up to only Niceville in the team races, and Khiara Newton added a sixth-place finish at state in the pole vault.
The boys basketball program also made the regional quarterfinals under Taf Bentley, and the aforementioned girls soccer program advanced to