Distance Dominates 4A-2, Steinbrenner, Lakewood Ranch Take Team Titles

On-Site Coverage

When Newsome's Bailey Hertenstein toes the line for the final time at this week's FHSAA State Track and Field Championships in Jacksonville, there will be plenty of people in the stadium who are sad to see her go. Riverview's Alyssa Hendrix and the rest of the girls in 4A distance running are not likely to be among them.

Hertenstein, who is the defending state champion in both the 1600 and 3200 meters, once again stamped her dominance on the field during the 4A Region 2 meet in Lakeland this past Thursday. The senior, who is headed to Indiana University to run this fall, swept the distance events while setting a new state-leading time of 2:12.65 for class 4A in the 800. She also anchored Newsome's winning 4x800 relay team. 

Right on her heels in the 1600 and 3200 was her best friend and biggest rival, Hendrix. "I probably couldn't have gone as fast I did without Alyssa by my side," said Hertenstein. "She always brings out the best in me." 

The final chapter of the Hertenstein-Hendrix rivalry will be written this weekend, and Hertenstein promises that race fans won't be disappointed. "Expect some damage to be done," she said.  

While Hertenstein has been one of the top individual runners in 4A-2 over the past three years, George Steinbrenner on the girls' side and Lakewood Ranch on the boys have been two of the dominant teams. And this week's regional meet again proved why. 

Paced by Ken'naria Gadson and Zayne Jack in the sprints and solid efforts all around, the Steinbrenner girls' team easily won the regional title, while the Lakewood Ranch boys used similar strength throughout their line up for an equally lopsided victory over their half of the field.  

Despite a lackluster start to the season, the Mustangs' Boys 4x800 relay team of Andrew Dean, Kyle Wray, Adam Scott and Jonathan Reid continues to improve. Thanks to a season-best time of 7:59.63, they edged out stiff competition from St. Cloud (8:01.62), Sarasota (8:02.23) and Newsome (8:07.04) to win the region and advance to states as a number 4 seed, something that seemed improbable just a little more than a month ago.

"It's all been really coming together for us," said leadoff runner Andrew Dean, who along with Reid finished 1-2 in the individual 800 as well. "We feel like we are peaking at just the right time for states."

Not to be outdone by the boys, Lakewood Ranch senior Karen Lyvers had quite a meet all by herself. In addition to setting a state-leading mark of 12'4" in the pole vault, she also took first in the 100-meter hurdles and joined with teammates Ava Klein, Josie Curtis and Madeline McNinch to win the Girls 4x100. 

It made for a busy day but was something that Lyvers said she enjoys. "It's extremely tiring, but it's fun. I'm pretty hyper, so doing lots of events kind of helps calm me down a little bit and keeps me focused."

Coming into the meet, two of the most anticipated races in 4A-2 on the boys' side involved the 1600 and 3200, and both lived up to the hype. In the 1600, Wharton junior Nehemiah Rivers used a strong kick over the final 200 meters to break away from the pack and outrace Lakewood Ranch's Jonathan Reid, St. Cloud's Tristen Montalvo and Sarasota's Benjamin Hartvigsen to the finish line in a winning time of 4:25.39.

Those four, along with George Jenkins' Brady Zimmerman and Newsome's Alex Bugielski who earned at-large berths, will join a highly competitive field in the 4A Boys 1600 Meter race at the state championships this week, where the times of the top 14 seeds are all under 4:30. 

In the Boys 3200, it was Montalvo who turned the tables. Pushing the pace over the final 400 meters, the St. Cloud senior captured the regional crown in a time of 9:21.37, followed by Rivers (9:25.77), Hartvigsen (9:26.97) and St. Cloud teammate Zachary Cloud (9:39.06). They will be joined at states by Walker Thomas of Plant and Davis Bly of Steinbrenner, who earned at large berths, with Montalvo, Rivers and Hartvigsen seeded first, third and fourth, respectively.

"The competition in this region and in 4A in general is so tough," said Montalvo. "Any one of us can win any race. It's that close."

Yet, despite the competition, Montalvo said he would like nothing better than to take home a state championship to top off his senior year. "Coming into this season, I worked really hard. I'd love to get a state championship, but either way I know I'm going to give it my best."