GIRLS WINNER: Kimani Austin-Reese - Senior @ Miami Norland High School
The last time Kimani Austin-Reese competed in the hurdles was nearly ten months ago at New Balance Outdoor Nationals in North Carolina. She placed eighth in the 400 meter hurdles against the top runners in the country. She didn't take a break though. Her mom, Karen Austin, says her daughter was busy taking advantage of both athletic and academic opportunities
"Throughout the summer, Kimani trained in the weight room with a close family friend. We visited several universities after the New Balance High School Nationals, so she could gather information on academic programs and expectations for student athletes. Kimani also attended the NFL-Wharton PREP Leadership Program at UPENN and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Architecture Career Discovery Program in New York."
Upon her return she began training with Moses Washington. Washington, one of the top mid-distance runners in the mid 90's was a star at Miami Carol City and later went onto run for the University of Oklahoma. Austin-Reese transferred to Miami Norland for her senior season. Her mom says the switch to Norland has been a bit of a challenge, but one they have managed to deal with.
"It's been an adjustment because Norland is a further distance to travel. Since Kimani attends Design and Architecture Sr. High and dismissal time is over an hour later than regular high schools she arrives at practice later than her teammates."
At practice, her workouts have been focused on building strength and endurance using plyometric and kinesthetic exercises. That dedication to her craft has paid off. In her first meet, against a stacked field at the Louie Bing Classic, Austin-Reese cruised to a state leading time of 43.17 in 300 meter hurdles, an improvement on her 44.17 at this same meet in 2013. Washington says the game plan was to determine her fitness level and get a baseline determination.
"Kimani had a great start, but her coaches are not content. There is still much to work on."
There is an old adage that if you want to be the best you have to beat the best and none is truer in South Florida. An area loaded with speed and some of the top sprinters and hurdlers in the country, Washington knows Austin-Reese will be tested week in and week out.
"It’s always a plus when you compete against elite athletes. The competition pushes her to work hard and take advantage of every minute spent at practice."
Austin-Reese finished fourth in the 100 meter hurdles, an event she just missed participating in the state meet last year. Being a competitive athlete and not being able to run both hurdle events have motivated her to work harder. She will be competing at the Sam Burley Hall of Fame Invitational this weekend and also will attend the prestigious Bob Hayes Invitational in Jacksonville before preparing for the state series and postseason. Washington says the future looks bright for the future UCLA Bruin.
"Her short term goals are to continue working on the small things, get stronger and lower her times. In the long run, she hopes to compete at the NCAA Championships, USA Championships and Olympics."
BOYS WINNER: Keneth Pineiro - Senior @ Deland High School
The fact that Keneth Pineiro had no speed work training leading up to the 2014 season, only leaves more promise for the talented senior from Deland High School. Pineiro was injured the beginning of the 2013 cross country season and wasn't running pain free until October. He coasted through the postseason and finished fifth at the 4A Cross country finals. Coach Jim Lowenstein says the fact that he never really peaked allowed them to go into winter less stressed and less tired.
"It also allowed for more quality in both his distance and threshold runs. We've really been working on mileage base and lactic thresholds based on VDOT."
Pineiro's season debut almost didn't happen. Before, the East Coast Classic, Flagler Palm Coast was under a tornado warning forcing athletes to take shelter in the school's gymnasium. Most athletes might be fazed, but not the senior. Lowenstein says he was the ideal example of how to stay focused and not get caught up in the commotion.
"As soon as we went in the gym he went under the bleachers and went to sleep. I even pointed out to the new kids on the team that he was the example of what to do if you want success."
The pair joked that the thunderstorms paled in comparison to the down pour that occurred last year at the state meet in Jacksonville. Rain, or shine, Pineiro was ready to run. The temperature drop made it ideal. He kicked off the night with an impressive showing in the 1600 meters; 4:24.08 only five seconds off a new personal best. The Embry-Riddle bound runner followed that up with a 9:34.72 in the 3200 meters, only ten seconds off his best. Both times were state leaders for the young 2014 season. Lowenstein says he is pleased with what he saw.
"For the first time in two years he is coming in happy and healthy. He had offseason injuries the last two track seasons and two years ago he surprised me with his 3200 performances."
They plan on taking trips to Jacksonville for the UNF Spring Break Invitational as well as the Florida Relays in Gainesville. He says it's those bigger meets that give Pineiro the best preparation for the end of the season. The goals are to break 4:15 in the 1600, 9:10 in the 3200 and break the school record in the distance medley with his teammates. Lowenstein says that in his three years at Deland he has seen the standout distance runner go from a somewhat shy and quiet freshman to a confident team leader.
"There was a good portion of high school where he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life or with his running. He had a lot of adversity in many different forms from injury to coaching changes. Like a lot of distance runners he just pushed forward when things were hard and now he's coming up on the finish and he's finding his kick."