Ralph's Midas Touch: Golden South Meet

Ralph's Midas Touch: Golden South Meet

By Ralph Epifanio


It was Memorial Day weekend, and once again, the gang was all there: the entire running family. We had Bible-thumping “uncle” Jim--from the (Kansas) Ryun side of the family--and his style conscious wife, Anne; brother “Bones” Albright and his sidekick Andy “Warbucks” Warden; cousin Tyreek “Coffee” Hill; jumpin’ “JP” Friday; distance cousins Andres “Señor Speed” Arroyo and Lily “Lupe” Williams, second cousin-in-law Erica “The Streak” Sergeant, and brother Chris “The Blackmeister” Hollis. And even though he couldn’t make it personally, Peter “Jersey Mike” Cancro “sent his best.”

Sidestepping the patriotic custom of a red, white, and blue Memorial Day weekend, Chris “branded” the entire affair with black and gold banners, all in the memory of that most successful of German relatives, Adolf “AdiDassler, who, as a result of loaning Jesse Owens a pair of spikes just before the ’36 Olympics, struck it rich with “die marke aut den drei riemen.”

A Grand Entrance by None Other than…

Jim Ryun. Just hearing his name sent shockwaves through the memory card market, and half-filled mine with photos of people I barely know. (“Hey, Ralph, could you take a photo of me and….”) Described as “the greatest high school athlete of all time” (by ESPN.com), who isn’t familiar with his legendary accomplishments? Well, just in case you belong to the i-phone generation, here are a few of his running milestones:

Ryun was the first high school runner to break the four minute mile, running 3:59.0 as junior in 1964. That same year he made his first, of three, U.S. Olympic teams. He went on to go sub-four four more times while in high school (the lowest being 3:55.3), and holds five of the top six high school mile times, all of which begin with a 3.

Despite not being able to compete as a freshman for the University of Kansas (an NCAA rule at that time), in 1966 he set world records in the half mile and mile. The following year, 1967, he won the NCAA indoor and outdoor mile, and set the (then) world indoor record in the half mile (1:48.3), outdoor mile (3:51.1), and 1500 (3:33.1). The following year, 1968, he won the NCAA indoor one and two mile titles. His anchor helped set three world relay records for Kansas, one in the sprint medley (3:15.2 in 1969), and two in the distance medley (9:33.8 in 1967, and 9:33.0 in 1969). He also won the NCAA indoor mile race that year.

Ryun finished his middle distance career in the short-lived professional International Track Association. From there he turned his attention, among other things, to politics (U.S. Representative from 1996-2007), charitable causes, and religious pursuits (Jim Ryun Ministries).

Nowadays, he visits major track meets and brings running legends to life. Which brings us to….

Florida Milers Extraordinaire

While the accomplishments of Chiles’ Lily Williams and Colonial’s Andres Arroyo serve to inspire long-winded track announcers, they also strike fear into the hearts of anyone aspiring to win a four lap race on tracks shared by them. As a result of the Boys Mile, incoming senior Josh Brickell--from way up north in Peachtree Ridge, Georgia--is now counted among the formerly fearless.

Brickell, the two-time GHSA Cross Country champ (15:40.68 in 2010 and 15:43.90 in 2011) is no stranger to Florida running. He has run Bale ’n’ Trail three times, and won last year’s FLRXII Race of Champions (15:02.14), but had yet to be introduced to Andres Arroyo on a Florida track.

Brickell came in with a 4:16.13 best in the 1600 (March 16, 2012 at the Georgia Coaches Invitational), but Arroyo’s fastest was 4:11.76 (March 22, 2012 FSU Relays), so if Josh wanted to win, he would have to do some gap-tightening in this slightly longer race (30.66 feet). He was about 90% successful, but Andres still held him off, winning by a little over half a second.

After the race, and still winded, Arroyo explained what he came here to do.

“This is a good meet, and I wanted to perform well, so I trained through the State Meet, trained deeper into June, and tried to PR.”

Arroyo’s best mile had been a 4:23.96 at this year’s early-season East Coast Classic (February 24th), so his 4:11.70 not only smothered that, but also slipped under his 1600 time by .06 second.  With still another year of high school track left, I asked him if he thought the state 1600  record—4:02.46 by FPC’s Sam Vazquez at the June 13, 2003 Adidas Outdoor Championships--was within reach.

“Definitely. If I put my mind to it, and stay confident, I can do it. Especially if God gives me the help.”

That sentiment might have been shared by at least some of the young ladies entered in the Girls Mile. Coming into the meet with three 2012 3A FHSAA Outdoor track titles (2:12.45 in the 800, 4:53.60 in the 1600, and 10:30.62 in the 3200), Lily Williams—who competed for the Chiles Wolves in high school--picked up where she left off in Jacksonville, and her expected competition melted away like a bag of Reddyice on a hot Florida track.

Contrary to the aforementioned meltdown, triple 6A Alabama State Meet winner (2:13.65 in the 800, 4:58.19 in the 1600, and 11:22.67 in the 3200, plus a member of McGill-Toolen Catholic’s 9:26.98 4 X 8 at this past May 4-5 meet), co-favorite Carman Carlos was still “solidly on track” as the race started. Likewise, Texan Jackie Choucair—with a 5:02.90 PR (which won the January 14, 2012 Carl Lewis Invitational)--hung tenaciously to the pace for as long as she could. However, by the last lap, Williams was so far ahead—she finished in 4:46.15, 13 ½ seconds ahead of second place finisher Carlos (4:59.55)—it proved, once again, that she is solid gold.

“Obviously, I wanted to win, and try to PR,” she explained to me. “I knew most of the girls because I had raced against them. So I knew I had to take it out in 2:20 and hold it from there.”

While Lily was holding onto the lead, the slowly setting sun was still holding onto the last of its energy-sapping rays.

“Everyone down south knows about the heat and humidity,” she continued, “but I didn’t feel it was too hot.”

On one of those rare days when Williams only ran one race, she had time to spare and shared her college plans with me.

“I’m going to Vanderbilt. I looked at a number of schools, but I felt most comfortable with Vanderbilt. I love the city of Nashville. I’m going to major in biology, (will probably) enter the field of research with it.”

But first she has one more summer race to run. After her win at GS, she received a “golden” ticket” (sans the chocolate bar) to the Girls Dream Mile in New York City (Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island), Saturday, June 9th. She enters as the #3 high school seed, “behind” Bronxville, New York’s Mary Cain (4:39.28 at the April 28, 2012 Penn Relays) and Homer-Center, Pennsylvania graduating senior, Angel Piccirillo (4:44.08 at the May 4, 2012 R&W Baldwin Invitational in Pennsylavnia).

Maybe it was a fateful (or mutually so) decision, but the runner who had the best chance at challenging Lily ran the 3200. But like the 1600 winner, Bridget Blake was unfazed by the competition in the longer race.

About her “easy” 10:54.92 win—a full half-minute ahead of the next runner—the incoming senior said, “It was off my PR (10:42.50 at the March 22, 2012 FSU Relays), and nowhere near where I wanted to be, but you can’t complain. You can’t take any race for granted. You never know when it will be your last.”

Incoming senior Lee Griffin of John Carroll High School, in Birmingham (the 2012 Alabama Class 5A 3200 meter champion in 9:48.35), set a 9:38.42 PR to win the Boys 3200.

Running Things for Others

Strategically situated around Orlando’s First Academy track were many reminders that this meet was put on by people helping people, specifically those involved with Orlando Regional Medical Center and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

“We volunteer with ORMC,” explained Hannah Kim, a pre-med/Health Science student at UCF. “Our manager sent an e-mail to us about two weeks ago, asking for volunteers.”

“We had to fill out an application and forward it to an event coordinator, who sent us a confirmation,” added Vanitza Campbell, a student at Lake Brantley High School.

These two young ladies managed one of the most popular events at the track meet, a free fruit stand. With temperatures hovering near ninety, what would taste better than mouth-watering, just-sliced, seedless watermelon, mouth-sized wedges of perfectly orange navels, or plump, golden ripe bananas? Yummy.

“People love our fruit stand,” said Hannah. “But they were very surprised to see us here.” I guess it’s something”--free fresh fruit—“that track meets don’t usually have.”

It should be in the rule book.

“But this is my first track meet,” continued Vanitza.

“But you will be back again?” I asked, accepting a Ziploc bag bulging with cold, sweet watermelon.

Hannah: “Yeah!”

Vanitza: “Yeah!”

(And in unison): “We’d definitely come back!”

So close, yet so far!

Most of the events at this particular track were in unusual--but pleasantly so—locations. For example, twin long jump pits ran parallel to the final 50 meters of the track, ending just before the finish line. (Requiring sweepers, as well as rakers, alongside the pits.) The pole vault and high jump were on the opposite (curved) ends of the track. The discus was contested just inside the first turn, and the shot just outside the fence of the far turn. In other words,  the, ahem, thicker  athletes—or the ones who could benefit most from the indulgences of Hannah and Vanitza—were least likely to know that a veritable “oasis” awaited them in the middle of the infield. Too bad for Nathan Milch.

“It was really, really hot,” said the winner of both the shot and discus. “There was a little cloud cover when we were throwing the discus, but over here (in the shot), it was brutal.”

Nathan finished with a 52’ 6” throw, which was the best in the competition.

“I was hoping to get first in both events, and PR.  (Realistically) I didn’t really expect that in the shot” said Milch, who won the 4A Region 1 Meet with a 55’6”, and finished third in the state meet with 52’6”, “but hoped to do so in the discus.

“I threw 165’ 2” today. That was 8” away in the discus,” he said, referring to his 165’ 10” personal best in that event, which placed second in the state meet.

Milch, who is a junior, has come a long way in the two years during which he has competed in the weight events, and this summer he plans to lay a foundation for an even greater improvement in his senior year.

“I’m doing a thing in Clermont every Sunday. It’s like a training center. There’s a couple of other guys, and a coach named Andy. I’ve already begun to change a couple of things. I’m starting to learn the spin for the shot, so hopefully that will improve. And in the discus I’m learning the correct form, so hopefully that will improve too.”

In the Girls’ competition, Monique Griffin (first in the discus, and second in the shot) traded off with Lloydricia Cameron (second in the discus, and first in the shot put).

“This summer will make my third year throwing the discus,” Monique told me. “It was my coach’s suggestion—Chu Brown--to try it. I was doing a whole lot of different events, and hadn’t found my niche, so he tried me out in the discus.

“Just like anything,” she continued, “it was hard at first, but you have to put work into it and in the end it worked out for me. My teammate, Janelle Graham—who also does shot and discus—was there from day one, and helped me become better. We’ve become very close over the years.”

This year, Monique, who competed for Nova High School, won the 4A Region 3 Meet with a personal best 149’ 8”, then went on to win the 4A State Meet with a 140’ 5” effort. Her best in the shot put, which she did not throw at the State Meet, is 39’ 3” (4A District 11 Meet on April 20, 2011). At the Golden South Meet, her 148’ 2” throw won the discus, and 38’7” was second to Cameron’s 41’ 11” shot put.

Griffiths, who graduates next week, will be attending California State and majoring in pre-med.

“I’m on a (track and field) scholarship. There’s a possibility that I might throw the shot, but my main focus will be the discus.

“I’m in the middle of taking it all in. I’m excited because California is beautiful, but I’m a little sad about leaving Florida…but I’m still excited.”

Also excited about track…

…are Golden South organizers Andy Warden and Dr. Jay Albright.

Andy: “We have 600 athletes here today, including elite athletes, and we give them the opportunity to do what they do best.”

Jay: “It’s not just a track meet. It’s a community and family event.”

Andy: “I’m the executive director and benefactor (for the Golden South).  I help put up the money for the meet. This is my 18th year with this meet.”

Jay: “His generosity is the reason for the meet, and the reason that we can put on the meet. This is my sixth year being here.  ”

Andy: “Our foundation, the Bert Martin Foundation—contributes to organizations and children-oriented entities and education. We built the Champions for Children Emergency Department and Trauma Center at Arnold Palmer. When we first started, we built a hospital-centered playground so the kids could get out of their rooms and get some fresh air. We also like to get the community engaged.”

Jay: “For the last four or five years we—the hospital—have benefitted from their generosity. For me, it’s a natural fit, because we have a good personal relationship.

“My focus is to have better, safer athletes.  My passion is to make athletes better by making them healthier.”

Andy: “Like the Fram commercial says, ‘Pay me now, or pay me later.’”

Jay: “The best way that I can sum it up is saying that, without community leaders such as Andy and his family, it would be impossible to do what we do.”

According to the Golden South website:

Each year, more than 3.5 million children in the U.S. are treated for sports injuries. Because their bodies are growing, children require different coaching, conditioning and medical care than more mature athletes. Uneven growth areas in children leave young athletes more susceptible to injury. And when children focus on just one sport, they often incur injuries caused by excessive, repetitive stress.

To address the growing need for children’s sports medicine in Central Florida, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children provides comprehensive services...with the goal of providing care for and the prevention of athletic injuries in children, without concern for ability to pay.

(For more information, contact http://www.arnoldpalmerhospital.org)

Jay: “We go out and do lectures. (For example) I do talks to the HSAA coaches, lectures to community-based organizations, athletes, and parents (focusing) on preventive and informational information.

“My main focus is to prevent injury through such methods as proper hydration (when and how much), proper training, warming up and cooling down, and the avoidance of steroids.

“Certainly, my personal focus is different from 99% of orthopedic surgeons in the state. Perhaps there are only fifty orthopedic surgeons in the country that have done a fellowship in children’s orthopedics, as well as sports medicine.”

Incidentally, while a college student, Andy Warden competed for the University of Florida as a long jumper. One of his pet projects is an alumni association for former Gator track members. Readers who wish to join The University of Florida Track and Field Alumni Association may contact them at: http://www.trackmenarchives.com/.

Two Meets, One Venue

Although the Golden South offers a platform for the region’s most accomplished athletes (called “Classic” races), in the early hours of the meet it also held a number of events for those who did not make the Classics requirements, in a format called “Prep” events. Among them was the pole vault.

The Boys’ winner was Spruce Creek’s Kolby Davis, and finishing with the same height—12’ 0”—but separated by misses, were two members of Bill Cashman’s Thin Air Vault Club, Chris Tiedge (second), and Carlos Guillermo (third).

Kolby: “My teammate at Spruce Creek, Austin Bubb, competed in it last year and he told me it was a really good meet. But he hurt his shoulder, and he asked me too ‘win it for him.’

“The conditions were absolutely great. As opposed to the vault at our school, where there’s always a head wind, today there was just a little breeze, which felt nice.”

Davis, an incoming senior, whose 13’ personal best won the March 30th 5 Star Conference event, had a little ‘break’ in his training.

“I haven’t jumped in two weeks—practice included—so I just wanted to come in and give it my all.”

For most vaulters, summers are a time for fine tuning the intricate techniques in this event, and Kolby is no exception.

“I’ll be working out every day this summer at my high school with Coach Mallory, Austin Bubb, and Will Kulakoski.”

All dressed out in bright, brand-spanking new—some kind of blue—club shirts, Chris Tiedge (Casselberry) and Carlos Guillermo (Edgewater) came in with similar bests: Carlos cleared 13’ 1”, his current best, at the Metro (Orlando) Freshman/Sophomore Championships this past March 17th.

Carlos: “(I came here because) it’s a high quality meet with plenty of good jumpers.”

Chris: “I thought it”—the meet—“was pretty nice. There weren’t too many people (in the prep pole vault), so you didn’t have to wait as much (between jumps). And the runway felt really fast, as compared to most, and it wasn’t as windy as it usually gets, so I was able to get the top portion of my jump better.

“It’s good practice. There are not too many meets now.”

Carlos, an incoming junior, was surprised that his identical 12-0 placed third. In fact, he looked to be two feet above the crossbar at that.

Carlos: “I was ‘crushing’ my pole. By the time I got to vertical, I was hitting the crossbar and I didn’t have the time to get rid of my pole.

“It’s the weight of the pole. My coach, Bill Cashman, said I was inverting very well. I just didn’t ‘get rid’ of my pole. I didn’t bring a bigger one; I thought I didn’t need it. A stiffer one would have given me time to get off it quicker, without blowing through the crossbar. With the one I had—as I was vertical—I was already into the bar.”

Summer plans for the two include lots of vaulting practice.

Chris: “We’ll definitely jump.”

Carlos: “Train six days a week.”

Chris: “(Attempt to) make it to the junior Olympics.”

Carlos: “I’m hoping to get 14’ 6” or 15’ by the end of the summer. I should be able to, if I get a bigger pole. Coach Cashman will be a big part of it. He’s a great coach, and treats us like family. Our club, too, is a family group, and we take care of each other.”

Chris: “He’s (Cashman) really dedicated. He loves pole vaulting and still practices.”

Carlos: “He jumped at the Jacksonville Running Club (JC) Meet.”

Cashman was still around to see more of his jumpers compete in the “Classic” competition. The Girls’ winner—for her nineteenth straight meet—was Erica Sergeant of Lake Mary. In fact, it was at the 2011 Golden South Classic where she first cleared 12-0, and that she last finished lower than first.

“I wanted to get the meet record, which was 12’ 10”,” she told me after the competition ended. “But I was pretty much happy because, in my last jump”—she was at 12-6—“I gave it my all and it was my best jump of the whole meet. I actually cleared it, but was too far in front of the bar and came down on it.”

Erica, who will be a junior next fall, is credited with a cleared height of 12’ even, and with that the PV win.

“My next meet? I might go to the New Balance Meet in June (the NB Nationals, June 14-16, at North Carolina A & T University). I’m doing the USATF Junior Olympics in July (Baltimore; July 23-29th).”

In the interim, Sergeant will practice, practice, practice.

“If I keep doing meet after meet, I don’t have time to prepare properly. But if I train repetitively, I get to work on my problems and get better. I jump, maybe, two or three days a week. The other days we do technique.”

Landing on the other side of that philosophy is Alatoona, Georgia (near Kennesaw) pole vaulter Tray Oates.

“My dad and my coach set up a summer schedule, and they select ‘local’ meets,” he told me. “This (GS) was one of them. This was my first so far, and I have seven more.

“There’s a lot of practice in between meets, but it’s mostly to stay in shape. I definitely jump higher in meets than in practice. Practice is just for tweaking my jumps.”

Tray has had a progression of PRs that include 10’ his freshman year, 12’ 6” his sophomore year, and 15’ 6” this, his junior, year. His winning jump at GS—15’ 6”—exactly matches his winning jump at the Georgia Olympics on May 10th.

“I just do the pole vault. I don’t like running at all, so I went to pole vaulting…but my coach has me do the 100 sometimes.”

A “Solid Gold” 100

With the GS “Classic 100” planned as a kind of prelim to the Adidas Grand Prix “Dream 100”  on June 9th, there was more than a little hype in the days leading up to this event. Boone’s Marvin Bracy, never a stranger to attention, got even more of it when he pulled something important in the State Meet, and decided to give it time to heal. (He and I both agree that photo of him holding onto his hammy also needs to be “scratched.”) There with his B-cap and huge diamond earring, Marvin must have been riveted to the events unfolding on the other side of the spectator fence.

The potential field actually included 21 guys who finished the prelims in under 11. Not meant to play favorites, Levonte Whitfield (the 2011 GS Champion with a 10.31, a 10.21--Florida #2--at this year’s Pepsi Relays, and 2012 2A FHSAA State Champion with 10.49), Tyreek Hill (2012 Georgia 5A Champion with a 10.44), and Kendal “Super Soph” Williams (FHSAA 2A State Champion with 10.57) figured to be the three most likely reaching for that one “golden ticket” to the “Dream 100.”  That ticket—which looked suspiciously like that “won” in a Willy Wonka Chocolate Bar--would guarantee a trip to NYC’s Icahn Field, where, in 2008 Usain “Lightning” Bolt set the (then) 100M record of  9.72. (Bolt struck twice more, lowering it to a 9.69 Olympic record in 2008, and 9.58 in Berlin on August 16, 2009.) Wouldn’t these guys like to be like Bolt!

Hill, who runs for a high school named after America’s favorite breakfast beverage—hence the aforementioned pseudonym—“illuminated” the track with a lightning-like 10.19 in the prelims, which became the new #1—non wind aided--age group time in the US this year.

In the final, however, Whitfield was first to the ticket booth in 10.38, which was a new PR for him.

“I messed up a little,” Levonte admitted, “right here,” he said, pointing to the exact spot on the track where I was standing. “I wobbled a little, and I knew it was going to be close. But I knew I had him, because he had to run against me. I had the advantage. I train hard, and the blocks and my transition are my strongest part of the race. I also feel that I have the best coaches, Zee (Zzream Walden), (Fred) Ray, and (Phillip) Riley, and the best trainer, Ricky Agro.”

Finishing second in the “one ticket race” was more than enough to re-charge Hill’s battery.

“I came here just to race against Marvin Bracy and Whitfield, but Bracy backed out,” explained Tyreek.

But then came the 200, where his winning time in the 200, 20.14, was the #1 200 in 2012, and the second fastest—to Roy Martin’s US all-time 20.13 (run in 1985)—by .01 second. According to information provided at the meet, the two—10.19 and 20.14—are the two fastest under age 20 times in the world.

“I really wanted to break 20, to get a 19, but I was close. I turned it up a little late, and then gave a burst at the end. I think if I ran the whole thing the same way, I would have gotten a 19. But that time—20.14—looked good up there.”

The Girls 100 winner, graduating senior Tristie Johnson, looked no less stellar in running her 11.28. She later joined her “Young Achievers” teammates—graduating senior Shayla Sanders (23.44 in winning the 200), incoming senior Kali Davis-White (she had the top time—23.57—in the 200 prelims, and was second to Sanders in the final), and graduating senior Keana Gray—to win the 4 X 100 with a dazzling 44.39.

Go Pro!

The Jamaicans are coming, the Jamaicans are coming….and a few other International favorites. For additional “flavor,” the meet had two world-class 100s; one for the men, and one for the women. They might have saved some time--and a few false starts—by having one heat each, but with these human locomotives speeding by, the extra heat—both the running and the human kind—allowed our eyes to become accustomed to the “fast forward” mode.

In the first heat of the Mens’ race, Trinidad’s Keston Bledman matched his previous PR (9.89 at the Clermont Olympic Training Facility on June 4, 2011), but to the referee it looked like he tried to pick up an extra .01 in the blocks, and was subsequently disqualified. Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade “filled in” for his sub-10 in the finals. But by sacrificing .01 off his PR (9.96, also run at that June 4, 2011 meet), he finished in 9.97 to win.

For the ladies, Aleen Bailey’s 11.25 took home the win.

The Master of Dazzle

No matter what you call a track meet, it takes more than a name to be truly “golden.” That part is left to experts like Chris Hollis, who has been an Adidas man for six years.

“I am the ‘Next Generation Manager’ for Adidas, out of Portland, Oregon,” he told me. “We had a long-standing relationship with Arnold Palmer Hospital, and this meet, long before I came on the scene. The people at the hospital are good people, and we try to help them. This is what we do for a living.

“Ken Brauman”—who will be the manager of the 2012 Olympic Track team—“is an excellent meet director. Tracey Stein does a great job at Arnold Palmer. But we have resources that they don’t have, and can bring them to the table.

“We give it a better ‘feel,’ and make it look like a professional meet. We try to give prizes, so that when they win, they feel special. We give shoes and polos (shirts) to the volunteers, and provide an athlete’s lounge. We also provide awards, official gear, and ‘branding,’ or signs, banners, and labels. In other words, we try to make it look nice. Kids think it looks way cooler to see all those signs and flags.

“We also defer some costs, such as printing. These are not glamorous, but help the hospital.

“The way we pick the meets to become involved in is to choose the ones that have a good reputation, and good exposure for our brand. I’ve just spent two years scouting meets, seeing which ones we’re a part of in order to expand our participation, and encourage the meet. Our interest is to support the athletes. We want to make them feel special. (After all) they train hard, day in and day out, and we want to encourage that. Anytime we see kids participate in sports, and having fun, we’re happy. Our one and only objective is to make track and field exciting, so kids will participate.

“The Adidas Grand Prix—on June 9th--is in New York City, and is part of the IAAF Diamond League track circuit.  Two years ago I was about to add an all-high school mile (14 runners) to the meet line-up, and last year I was able to add an all-high school 100 meter run (9 runners).   

“Both races are set up with the intent of making history. In the 100 meter races, we just try to get the best kids on the track, and at the same time see if they can break the national record(s). The Boys’ mile is “rabbited” through the 800 at a 1:59 to 2:00 (Sub 4) pace, and the Girls’ mile is “rabbited” at 2:16-2:17 (national record pace).” 

No matter what the final outcome, Adidas—through Chris Hollis—has already laid the foundation for an extraordinary event. Oh, for that golden ticket!

Jumping to New Heights…

If anything, the heat of summer improves a jump more than anything…well, other than a good “set of springs.”

That in a nutshell, was the Girls’ high jump. In the end it came down to Spruce Creek graduating senior Allison Lampert, and Ponte Verde High School outgoing freshman Nicole Greene. Neither is a stranger to the “heat” of competition, and both seem to get better with it. Nicole came in with a 5’6” FHSAA 3A title (May 4, 2012) and four straight 5-8s in the weeks leading up to it. Allison came in with a year-old 5-6 best (4A District 2 on April 20, 2011), but a firm commitment to graduate from Creek with the school record.

Both earned a victory with a new PR; Allison leaves SC with a 5-8 (and a tie for the school’s best Girls’ high jump)….

“We were in the weight room every day since the state meet,” explained Allison.

….and Nicole’s 5-10 won the GS title, coming to within two inches of six feet, and leaving the meet with three more years of high school track to clear them.

“I changed my approach since the state meet,” Nicole said. “I moved back more, and made it a sharp turn coming in.”

Like Greene, Rasheed Tatham is an outgoing freshman (at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale), and tied his best (6’4”) to win the Boys’ jump.


Colonial’s JP Friday received his “golden ticket” earlier than the other competitors, but then his train will be heading south, rather than north.

“I’m very excited,” he confided in me. “I can’t believe that happened to me, getting a full-ride scholarship to the University of Miami. I’m going to major in communications and broadcasting. I’d like to be a sportscaster, and work my way up as high as I can. I know ESPN is a reach, but I’d like to try.”

Athletically, he’s still “riding the train.” Despite a slight groin muscle pull in the LJ run-throughs, he hung on to finish fourth (22’ ¼”)—the event was won by Fayetteville, North Carolina incoming senior Frank Quarles with 23’ 10”--then recovered in time to win the triple jump (46’ 9-1/2”).

“I didn’t compete in the high jump,” an event that he won in the 4A Region 1 meet (a 6’8” PR) and finished third at the FHSAA Meet (6’4”).

“Coach Plasencia wants me to go to the Nationals, but I still have to talk to him about that. I’m going to start my studies (at Miami), and get a head start. I’m going in July, coming back in August, then I go back to start school at the end of August.”

In the Girls’ competition, Danielle Phillips (incoming junior, Rockledge; 19’ 6-3/4” in the long jump) handed DerRenae Freeman (graduating senior, West Orange, 19’ 6-1/4”) a rare defeat. In the TJ, Apopka graduating senior Laila Foster’s 39’ 4” PR effort fell a few inches short of Howard HS—in Macon, Georgia--incoming senior Anasterasia Terrell’s 39’ 8-3/4” jump.

“I came to the meet last year,” Anasterasia said. “There was some great competition”--as an incoming junior, she was third in the 100 hurdles in 14.54, and second in the TJ with 39’ 1- ½”—“and I liked it. This is where the elite people are, so I asked my coach, Sherri Marks, if I could come again. She said yes.

“My best time in the 100 hurdles is a 14.10 (second in this year’s Georgia 3A Olympics), and in the triple jump 41’ 2” (first in the Georgia 3A Region 2 Meet). This time, my ankles were kind of hurting.”

After getting the win in the TJ, Terrell sagged to fifth in the hurdles (14.73).

…And New Bests

In the 110 hurdles, recent Apopka graduate Kimlon Davis leaves high school with a senior year in which he was a 110 hurdle winner in ten of the twelve meets in which he was entered. That performance record included sixteen 14 second performances, plus two 13s when it mattered most: a 13.93 to win the FHSAA 4A title on May 5th, and a 13.86 to win the Golden South.

“(Today) it’s a PR; the best time I’ve ever run,” he said afterwards.

But then we were interrupted with a question: “Kimlon, is it true that you’re going to give up track for football?”

To him: “This is it. No more track.”

To me: “I’m just blessed to come out and finish with a win, and to give my team a win in the 4 X 1 (41.08).”

Incredulous that he would abandon so much well-established talent, I worded my question a little differently.

“After all that you’ve accomplished, are you sure about that?”

“Track will always be there, but I’ve been in football forever. The first thing they put in my hands was a football.

“My coach is mad because I have to hang it up for football. Track has definitely helped me in football. It gave me that extra step, and that extra speed in the open field. So we’ll have to see….”

So there you have it, straight from KD’s mouth; maybe.

The Girls’ hurdle winner—Devynne Charlton of Nassau, in the Bahamas--also ran a 13.86 (.04 off her best). Now what are the chances of that? Perhaps higher than one might think, as girls run only 100 meters, but rare nonetheless.

“I had to fight for it,” she said afterwards, “after 15 meters, when I came up from my drive phase.”

In researching Charlton, I found that she has a history of “surviving the odds.” Back home, the BAAA stages an “Odd Distance Classic,” and this young lady is an age group—17—champion in the 150 (17.63), and 250 (32.56) meter races.

The longer hurdle event was rarer still; they ran 400 meters, instead of the 300 competed in high school. Graduating seniors Paul Barrett (52.97) and Nnenya Hailey (59.02; US #1) emerged victorious.

In the open 400, all eight finalists cracked 50, so it is “easy” to understand why the winner, graduating senior Aldrich Bailey (Mansfield Timberview HS, in Arlington, Texas), might be inspired to run a 45.58. However, that time is still .39 off his best--45.19, the US #1 prep time and an automatic Olympic trials qualifier. Sizzling.

Next in the wow! category was Miami Jackson graduating senior Robin Reynolds’ 53.61. She, too, is a US #1 with a 52.19--at the 2A Region 4 meet April 18th—which is a provisional Olympic qualifier.

Sampling the Best Life Has to Offer

How far would you drive for a good sandwich? How about a “Jersey Mike’s” sub? No, I’m not suggesting that you drive that far, but for a couple of hours during an afternoon pause in the Golden South track meet, free samples made the trip a lot shorter than you would expect.

“Jersey Mike’s is a franchise, with two stores in Orlando—one on Sand Lake and one on Conroy—owned by Raul and Lisa Ceide,” explained Jennifer Miller, their marketing manager. “We work with Arnold Palmer Hospital, and have provided 130 subs for the volunteers, and catered for the officials—all complimentary—and offered free samples to expose our brand, and talk to people about it.”

The “Jersey Mike Story,” whether the product of a proud mother, or a silver-tongued PR man, goes something like this: After working for three years in a local, Point Pleasant (Jersey Shore) sub shop, 17 year old Peter Cancro decided to buy out his boss. Supposedly, in three days, Cancro raised 125 grand and Mike’s became Pete’s…but was still Mike’s…in name only. Fast forward and today there are literally hundreds of “little Mikes,” all franchises, all over the country.

I tried two kinds of their subs, Italian and turkey (of course, only so I could report back to our loyal readers).  On the outside, they looked just like any other sub, but was over flowing with so much tasty stuff, I really wished I was a volunteer.

In any case, their subs are pretty darn tasty, and long about dinner time, I was hoping they might still be around, but weren’t. That’s too bad for me, but considering the size of those overstuffed subs, it was probably in the best interest of the athletes--and their expected performance--that Mike’s vamoosed before the Classic competitors began arriving.

Running on a Full Tank

As middle distance runners go, Otneil Texeira and Daesha Rogers couldn’t be any more physically different. Otneil, a graduating senior from 4A Lake Brantley, is somewhat large for a middle distance runner, and seems to be growing still. Daesha, from tiny 2A American Heritage, looks every inch the seventh grader that she is.

However, on the track, each dominates the 800, their strongest event. Both entered the meet as their class’s (respective) state champion.  In fact, Rogers won two races--the 800 in 2:12.75 and the 1600 in 4:54.03--and helped Heritage win a third, the 4 X 8, in 9:13.53.

In this meet, neither ran a PR (Otneil’s is 1:51.43 and Daesha’s 2:09.44), but neither had to, as both won by a solid two seconds: Teixeira in 1:53.68 and Rogers in 2:10.69.

In conversation, Otneil shrugged off yet another win, as he was well in control of the pace.

“We went out in 57, so I came back in 56. Anderson Charles (second in 1:55.46) did the whole first lap with me.”

When asked about the rest of his summer, Otneil responded “I’m still going to do mileage in the summer, and try to make the US Junior team”--the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be held at Indiana State, July 15-17—“then go to the Worlds in July”—the IAAF World Junior Championship is in Barcelona, Spain, July 10-15—“and make the Brazil team in July.”

Ken Brauman, the meet director: “Do you have a passport?”

Texeira: “Yes, three of them.”

Brauman: “Bring the US one.”


Daesha also talked about her race.

“I wanted to run a 2:06, or 2:07. When I passed the 400, I heard someone say 62. (After that) my legs got really, really tight.”

Now, it’s not every day that an athlete as young as Daesha Rogers is so successful at this level of competition, so I had to ask her about it.

“Track is very important to me,” she replied. “I started running at five, and it’s (still) a big part of my life. During the school year I run for American Heritage, in Plantation, and with a track club during the summers.”


Not everything about track and field is about winning. In fact, just being there is half the fun. The other half is making an impression, and what better proof of making a statement than catching the attention of an exhausted photographer who was juuuust about to put his camera away for the season? But hark; he suddenly sees his “parting shot.”

I won’t mention where Team Faru (pronounced fah-rooo) finished in the 4 X 1, but that they did it with panache. Here we have Jillian Valentin, Natalie Concepcion, Stephanie de la Guarda, and Rachel Licea explaining the true significance of team spirit.

Jillian: “Our coach, Ryan Raposo, thought up the idea.”

Natalie: “We liked it. So he made up those shirts first, plus the name is catchy; FARU.”

Stephanie: “(Orange and black) our coach’s favorite colors.”

Rachel: “We were all for it.”

And where did this revolution in fashion originate?

Natalie: “We go to Ferguson Senior High School, in Miami.”

When you, the reader, study the complexities of their work, please note the following details: (a) the striking color contrast, between their bright orange tops, and basic black shorts, which can be seen from anywhere on a track, or even from a low-flying plane; (b) the exotic name—FARU—whose initials stand for some mysterious secret society known only to its self-limiting membership; (c) those clever little handlebar moustaches on the lower part of their shirts, acknowledging mustachioed men in general, and their coach in particular…or maybe a subliminal message, beckoning the camera’s lens of a certain photographer who also sports one;  (d) their arm tattoos (obviously, they have given serious thought to my essay on competing the 2012 state cross country championship at the Daytona International Speedway…either that, or they were trying to attract the attention of the Adidas guy giving away free promotions).  

So with that, I bid adieu. Like the big meets of summer, I will, forthwith, head north to cooler climes, and thus rest my overworked imagination ‘til fall…that, I’m sure, to the relief of editor and reader alike.