The Florida Runners team of Jason Byrne, Jeff Adams, Kyle Butler, and Barry Jones was on site. Summary of coverage will be posted below as it is completed.
Kayla Parker: On top of her game
Most teams would be thrilled to score 38 points at the state meet, but it wasn't quite enough to satisfy the goals of Kayla Parker of Port St. Joe. It's certainly tough to follow a sophomore state meet campaign that saw her win every event she was entered in--all four. This year she came back with those high expectations thrust upon her both by herself and all of the thousands of people who were in awe by her outing last year.
Entered in the same events as her sophomore campaign (the long jump, 100, 200, and 100 Hurdles) she started off with her toughest event, the long jump. Amanda Powell of dealt her a defeat in that event and Parker had to open her 2009 state campaign settling for a silver. How would that impact the rest of her night? Not at all according to Parker.
She shook it off and won the 100 meter hurdles decisively. And then literally as soon as she crossed the finish line and had a couple of seconds to celebrate, it was back to the start line. After all she had to compete in the next event, the 100 meter dash! It didn't matter, about 5 minutes after her previous championship she had her second. And later in the night she'd took the 200 as well.
Kayla Hale: 13+ State Championships Later...
When I first learned the name Kayla Hale, she was the number two runner on an upstart cross country team. They were young, talented, and scrappy and lead by a relative unknown coach name Doug Butler. They roared into town that day in Winter Haven at the flrunners.com Invitational and issued a huge upset to the well-favored and always dominant girls at Our Lady of Lourdes.
That was flrunners.com Invitational III..... we are on 10 this year. The year was 2002. Kayla Hale has been a part of Florida distance running almost as long as this web site has, and most of those years she has been winning state championships. In fact she learned tonight (she had long since lost count) that she has won 13 in all through her career--including relays, but not including team championships.
She made it to Footlocker Nationals not once, not twice, but three times. That is a feat that no Floridian has ever accomplished and only a handful of athletes, including the many Footlocker alumni who became Olympians, have accomplished. (Check out this 5K career graph)
Frankly, she has come to almost define the sport in the distance events... at least in the 1A. So while Kayla may feel like she has grown up with flrunners.com, in many ways I feel like flrunners.com has grown up with her! It won't quite be the same without you, Kayla. Good luck at Duke!
Back to the present (sounds like a Michael J. Fox movie), Kayla had work to do one last time. After competing with her team in the 4x800 earlier in the afternoon, it was time to take care of business. She was heavily favored in the 1600, but needed to fend off some tough competition and save something for the 3200.
From the gun she was pressured and the pack pushed the pace early. Hale fended off the agreesive pace set by Meredith Anderson for the first couple of laps, with the pack close in tow. They split 1:13 through the quarter and crossed at 2:31 at the half way point. From there the field got some air, but Erika Fluehr moved into second and rode the draft for the next lap, entering the bell lap in 3:48. Finally turning on the jets with about 200 meters left Kayle pulled away for her first state championship of the night in 5:02.68. (watch the race)
In the last individual race of the evening, Kayla was back to take on some starlets like Kathyrn Fluehr and Jana Stoling in the eight-lapper. Fluehur lead early, starting on the second lap, while Hale tucked in for second and Stolting just behind. The top three had about a 5 meter lead through the half mile, splitting a 2:42, which is just about the pace they needed to be for even splits.
By the mile mark, the top three did not change, but Fluehr and Hale had started to get some separation from Stoling-going through at 5:22. Fluehr started to make a bit of am ove during the fifth lap, but Hale quickly responded and closed it up. Fluehr again surged on the back stretch, opening up her stride, before Hale responded again and closed into her shadow once more. With 800 meters to go they were at 8:01 and about that time Kayle decided to stop drafting and asserted herself as the leader. With 600 to go it looked over. Hale's strength was apparent and her stride widened and Fluehr looked unable to respond after doing all of the work for the first 6 laps. Hale cruised in on the last lap to win her second state title of the night in 10:41, with Fluehr hanging on for second in 10:58, Stolting closed the gap and finished 3 second back in 11:01. (Watch the race)
Strickland Makes It Three in a Row
He's battled through adversity and injuries to secure the 800 meter state championships in his sophomore and junior years. So he wasn't about to let a year when he was injury free go to waste.
Strickland's top competition was to come from someone he knew well: Billy Naylor of Wewahitchka. Theirs is a friendly rivalry and they oft compete in meets in the Panhandle. But when you get on the track there is no friendly about it and all bets are off. They both wanted it.
The two wasted no time asserting themselves as the leaders with Strickland going out hard, while keeping an eye over his sholder on Naylor who refused to budge. They crossed the lap split in 56. And that much was apparently clear in the last lap of this classic race.
While they both attempted to hold on, knowing the other would certainly exploit any weakness they were both going on empty. Strickland seemed to have gotten a few steps on Naylor, but the coming down the last 100 meters the gap disappeared and with about 20 meters to go Strickland said after the race on one stride he brushed Naylor's arm as he struggled to respond with a last second surge. Strickland made it through the line in victory, while Naylor left everything on the track in collapsing over the line in second place.
Girls Team Battle: PK Younge Upsets Port. St. Joe
The girls team battle was one for the ages! Port St. Joe came in as the clear cut favorite, but PK Yonge was not to be detered by the odds. The two teams went back and forth all night long. PK had an absolute diversity of points including 18 points in the 400. PSJ had several strong events plus 38 points from Ms. Kayla Parker.
Entering the last race of the night, the 4x400, it was Port St. Joe with the slight edge with 65.5 points over PK Yonge with 65 points. Yes, just one half of a point separated the two! It all came down to who would win out in this race, even if just by one place. PKY took second in the race with PSJ taking fourth just 4 seconds back. What a battle!
So did it come down to Kayla missing the fourth individual title in the long jump? She will sleep better at night knowing the answer is no. The 2.5 margin of victory by PKY means that even with 40 points, PK would have still taken the half point win.
Congrats to both amazing teams!
We have lots more coverage
More coverage will be going up all weekend including race videos, video interviews, thousands of photos from all events, meet summaries, and results.