The district track meet, for everybody in Osceola County, is on Tuesday in Lakeland.
For those who have ambitions of qualifying for the state meet, that’s when the “Excel, survive and advance” part of the season begins.
So it helps to be ready, be healthy and be competitive — and there was plenty of that on display Thursday at the Orange Belt Conference track meet at St. Cloud High School.
Thanks to Osceola’s girls depth in sprints and hurdles and St. Cloud’s boys long cast of distance runners, they claimed team championships in a solid dress rehearsal for the District 4A-5 and 3A-8 championships, both hosted by George Jenkins.
The Kowgirls (154 points) overcame strong efforts by Harmony (138), St. Cloud (135) and Liberty (125). Celebration (42), Poinciana (30) and Tohopekaliga (27) rounded out the field.
The Bulldogs (149) benefitted from filling the finals with distance runners and an OHS relay mishap to run past Osceola (141). Poinciana (117) jumped into third — literally, thanks to its jumping program — over Harmony (112), Celebration (60), Tohopekaliga (45), Liberty (20) and Gateway (3).
Osceola Coach Eric Pinellas, who coaches both OHS programs, was a little surprised at the outcomes.
“I thought it would come out the opposite,” he said, noting St. Cloud was without one of its faster boys sprinters. I thought the girls would be in for a dogfight with Harmony, but we had some girls come up really big and counter their depth in the distance and field events. We dropped a baton in the 4x100 relay, so there’s 10 points we could have gotten and we lost by eight. There’s the meet.”
Kowgirl sprinter Alliann Johnson “had a day” as Pinellas put it, sweeping the 100 (12.28 seconds), 200 (24.81) and 400 meter (57.44) sprints. Hurdler Amaya Phillips took both run-and-jump races, the 110 (15.15) and 300 (47.45). They also helped power the 4x800 relay team (4:08.16) to a win.
A couple of blue-and-gold surprises were Lanisa Gibson’s win (5:29.35) over Harmony’s Brooke Mullins in the mile run, and thrower Jakiyah Baxter (103 feet, 6 inches) winning the discus.
Liberty’s Christelle Bonzil accounted for over a quarter of the Lady Chargers’ points. She won the high jump (5’6”), long jump (18’2”) and triple jump (36’6”) and was third in the 200 meters. Liberty also claimed the 4x100 relay (49.47).
Harmony kept it close by taking three distance races. Alanie Rivera won the 800 (2:24.40), Vanessa Bolen closed out an incredible four-year OBC career by winning the 3200 (12:29.18) by 22 seconds over teammate Allison Hicks, and the Longhorns won the 4x800 relay (9:58.56).
St. Cloud got its girls wins in the shot put (Eno Inyang, 39’8”) and pole vault, where Haudi Whitson flipped over the bar at just over 10 feet, six inches to set a new OBC meet record.
On the boys side, Coach Kevin Harkema’s team beat the field with depth; the Bulldogs had a combined 10 athletes score points in the 1600 meters, won by Zach Cloud (4:31.30), the 3200, won by John-Anthony Hernandez (10:18.34) and the pole vault, who by Jesual Caraballo (12’7”). The Bulldogs also claimed the 4x800 meter (8:25.28) going away.
That was enough to overcome Osceola’s dominance of the sprints. Malachi Wilson (10.92) won the 100, Markevus Jackson won the 200 (22.40) and 400 (49.24) and Elijah Gotshall took the 800 (2:00.31). The Kowboys romped to victory in the 4x400 (3:25.20).
“Wilson’s win was a surprise, he’s been banged up since the end of football,” Pinellas said. “We had other guys who were hurt step up a bit, and we’ve got a 4x400 team now that’s set up pretty well going forward.”
Gabriel Amadis (42.18) was the winner in the 300 hurdles and Carlos Dorpko (128’5.5”) won the discus.
Poinciana swept the jumps — Guy Bond (6’1”) high jumped, Aaron Hernandez (21’2.5”) long jumped and Jonathan Sanchez (42’4”) triple jumped to victory. Hernandez (15.38) and Sanchez went 1-2 in the 110 hurdles.
Osceola’s 4x100 miscue allowed Celebration (44.22) to take that race. Shot putter Kaden Kalstek was the Storm’s other champion with a throw of 43’4”.
At districts, the top four in each event will move on to the Region 2 meet on April 27, also hosted by George Jenkins. Pinellas said the lineups would likely look different than last week’s.
“I try to put kids in the best events for them to advance (to regionals, then to state). I want to let the kids focus on their best events,” he said.