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Liberty is fastest in 3A

Posted on Friday, May 9, 2014 at 3:39 pm

medal-stand

News-Gazette Photo/Donald Lamb
Liberty’s 4×100 Class 3A state champions are, top, second from left,

Chargers run 41.3 to take the gold
By Donald Lamb
For the News-Gazette
Liberty High’s 4×100 relay ignored the dreary weather and brought home the Class 3A state championship Saturday at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Weather has not been a friend of the athletes the state tournaments the past two years, but several Osceola County athletes worked their way onto the medal stand.
The Chargers 4×100 ran 41.33, just off the school’s record time of 41.20 set earlier this season at the Bob Hayes Invitational. Seniors Justin Winkler and Joshua Wilson, and juniors Kyle Sharman and Devarius Turner gave Liberty its first state championship of the school’s seven-year history.
Liberty began the day with team title aspirations, and they got brighter when the 4×800 team of Tim Caceres, Ryan Yarde, Gardy Joisil and Rogelio Araiza (8:03.75) placed fifth. More important, though, was the poor performance (ninth) of state favorite Miami Northwestern in the 4×800, leaving the door open for Liberty.
But, the Chargers developed problems of their own when Turner did not qualify in two events he was seeded in, the 100 and 200 sprints.
The jump pit was another potential gold mine for points for Liberty, but the team generated only three points after Wilson  finished sixth (21-10.75) in the long jump. Neither Wilson nor Markel Brown placed in the triple jump.
Chargers Coach Robert Pauley was proud of the 4×100 team’s performance, but he lamented the Chargers’ overall effort.
“If we had an average meet, we would have won it. Just average,” Pauley said. “We let it slip right through our hands.”
Tallahassee Chiles (37) won the meet. The Chargers (17) were 12th.
But, when it became apparent that Liberty couldn’t win the team state championship, Pauley told the 4×100 team to block out the other distractions and concentrate on
the race.
“I told them to shake it off and get over it quickly,” he said. “They did exactly that. They ran really well and won.”
Winkler, a senior who recently signed with Cumberland College in Kentucky to play football and run track, opened up the 4×100. Until the Bob Hayes meet in March, Wilson had been the lead leg, but assistant coach Chris Kelly decided to switch the sprinters midway through the season.
“We felt that Wink was our best guy out of the blocks, so I thought we could shave a few tenths there,” Kelly said. “Josh is a really good 200 runner and I knew there was less of a chance of Dee running away from him.”
That proved to be a great call by the coach. A nationally-ranked time, a prestigious trophy from the Bob Hayes and a state title is proof.
“It feels awesome to be a state champion,” Winkler said. “We put in lot of work this year under Coach (David) Aubrey and Coach Kelly. We were doing something every day to make this group better.”
Winkler said the 4×100 team was confident entering the season.
“I felt that we could win a state title after we ran at Golden South last year and set our school record,” he said.
Liberty ran a 41.40 and placed third against some created dream teams at the 2013 Golden South Classic.
Winkler said adjusting to the lineup change at midseason wasn’t difficult.
“I was so used to being No. 3, but all the reasons made sense for the switch,” he said. “I felt the coaches made that switch after the mishap at Osceola.”
Several other Osceola County standouts made the trip to Jacksonville with title hopes on their minds, namely Celebration senior jumper Jhonny Victor.
He qualified in three jumping events (long, high and triple). His best event was the high jump. He jumped 6-10 at the St. Cloud Invitational in March and never lost a meet leading into the Class 4A state meet, which was held simultaneously with the Class 3A meet.
Like last year, wet weather hampered Victor’s performance. He scratched on two of three high jump attempts, but he did manage to hit a 6-2, good for
third place.
“He actually slipped on his first and third attempts. The officials wouldn’t let him jump again because they said if his spikes were better, then he wouldn’t have slipped,” Celebration Coach Joel
Fox said.
He did make finals in the triple jump to finish eighth (44-1.25) but he did not make the finals of the long jump.
Victor announced Wednesday that he will accept a track scholarship to the University of Florida, the 2012 and 2013 national champion.
Celebration’s Alexis Escotto took fourth in the 300 meters hurdles.
“Alexis was second until the seventh hurdle. He was trying to catch the leader and pushed a little too hard. Considering where he was seeded, it was a great day,” Fox said.
The Storm (11.5) was 17th in the Class 4A standings behind St. Thomas
Aquinas (76).
Osceola’s Traquel Hazley placed eighth (15.48) in the 110 hurdles in a loaded field. Every person in the high hurdles finals qualified under 15 seconds on a rain-
soaked track.
St Cloud’s boys (3:26) ran a season best in the 4×400.
New Dimensions high jumper Georges Chery (6-0) took third place at the Class A meet, held on May 2 at North Florida.
Rick Pedone contributed to this story.

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