Last Chance!


Meet Results/Coverage

Photo Album by Ralph Epifanio (Over 500 Photos)



To someone who awakes each morning in Deland—a moment that should never be taken for granted—International Speedway Boulevard might be imagined as a(n approximately) 25 mile long, road to adventure. And like those tree-lined driveways seen in movies about rich people, such as that classic, The Duke of Muses, ISB (literally) begins at the Mainstreet Bank (where you can withdraw what’s left of your life savings), passes Tiger Bay (oh my!); jails, mental health facilities, bail bond buildings, and gatherings of hitchhikers (during which you repeatedly glance at the fuel gauge); The Daytona Flea and Farmers Market (“voted one of the top 5 in the country,” perhaps by someone with limited exposure to the genre); the Daytona International Speedway (where you can easily spend the aforementioned withdrawal in one very loud afternoon); City Island Park (home to the town’s version of minor league baseball-the underachieving Cubs of the Florida State League), and ends under the waves of the Atlantic Ocean (brake check!). A virtual Tour de Volusia in (give or take which weekend it is) 30 minutes.

On the morning of February 19th, I took just such a trip, planning to cover the ERAU Last Chance (to qualify for the NAIA National Indoor Championships). I was reminded that this was no ordinary weekend when I noticed that the (imaginary) trees along ISB had been replaced by dozens (hundreds?) of suspicious looking men holding (in one hand) a sign that read either Need Tickets? or Tickets Needed…and sometimes both. To reinforce the message, they displayed “official looking” tickets (in their other hand) fanned out like cards to reassure you that they could accommodate a party of any size. (Their cars, engine idling, stood a step away.) Banners on streetlamps announced The Great American Race, and signs taped to wheeled barbeques oxymoronically promised “gourmet wings!” Everywhere I looked, big trucks displayed toy cars for big boys; waitresses in open-air serving areas slung small portions in, ahem, small outfits, and brightly-colored brand names, emblazoned on the sides of trucks, all teased your eyes away from the rear of the car—and its intermittent brake lights--immediately ahead of you. Stop, go, stop, go, stop, go, stop….
And there I was, stopped at the corner of ISB and Clyde Morris Blvd., rubbernecking all this glitz and glamour, and trying to decide what to do. On the west side of Clyde Morris was the speedway, where cars running nearly 200 miles per hour covered the 2.5 mile tri-oval in well under a minute. On the east side was the Embry Riddle track, where Supersammy Vazquez covered 400 meters in roughly the same time. What to do?
When the light turned green, I turned right, realizing with a sigh that I liked my excitement in modest doses. Lucky you.

Two Days of Fun for the Track and Field Fan

The meet was actually a two-day affair, beginning on Friday night with the opening events of a heptathlon: 60 meters, shot put, long jump, and high jump on Day 1. On Day 2, the multi-event experts would have hurdles, pole vault, and the ever-humbling 1000 meters.
Running concurrently with the hep shot—which was won by Doug Dieker with 11.47 meters (37’-7 9/16”)--was the javelin. And leading the throwers in this ever exciting—in a quasi dangerous sort of way—was Matt Tuffuor, from Morehouse University (Atlanta, Georgia).
“I’m not doing the hep,” he surprised me. “I’m really a decathlete, and getting ready for the outdoor season. It’s my senior year,” the finance major continued, “so hopefully I’ll be able to go out stronger.”
Matt’s winning toss was 56.50 meters (185’ 4- 1/2”). And yet….
“I’m a little disappointed. I’ve never thrown on grass before, so it shortened my approach. It took off a lot of my speed. I’m more of a speed thrower.”
And how far is he capable of throwing, I asked?
“Upper 190s. I’ve thrown 197 four times. Not officially, but 200; I’ve fired a couple, but I faulted. This year I’m working on more body control to keep my more powerful throws in.”
I didn’t ask him if he could hit a moving target at that range, but I was greatly relieved when an ERAU coach collected and stored the bright blue spear he had previously chosen from the school’s “quiver” that afternoon.
Making the 7+ hour trip with Matt was fellow Finance/Business major and Morehouse senior Turner Coggins, who like his friend, felt the trip worthwhile.
“We wanted to get out in the sun,” he said, warmly. “It’s really cold in Atlanta…and we also wanted to enjoy the Daytona 500.”
Almost as an afterthought, he remembered to add “It’s nice to compete, too.”
As it turned out, Coggins was the competition. He putted 14.50 meters (47’- 6 ¾”) and disked (is that a word?) 45.36 meters (148’ – 9 ¾”), winning both events. How does he excel in two completely different throwing events?
“I just stay ready all the time, and stay focused. I think, basically, you get in a solid amount of warm up, then visualize and understand the techniques. The shot is more of a power and aggression event. The discus is more fluid and smooth; something you don’t want to muscle.”
An excellent approach to the next event facing the dynamic duo: procuring the most coveted prize in sports--Daytona 500 tickets on race day.
Actually competing in the heptathlon was a “relative newcomer” to the sport, 64 year old Dr. Eric Hill.
“I didn’t compete in college,” explained the Aeronautical Engineering instructor. “My wife and I…neither one of us did it (track and field) when we were younger. (While in college) we didn’t have a car, and my aunt drove me back from practice every night. But she wasn’t too happy about that, so after a week and a half of that, we stopped.
“My wife didn’t start track and field until she was 47. I started when I was in my 50s. I didn’t think there was such a thing as Senior Games (over 50), just Master’s (over 40).
“I do a little bit of everything. The joke is, if I don’t do seven or eight events, they’ll ask ‘What’s up? You’re falling off.’ I’m kind of mediocre/good in a lot of things. (At the Nationals) I came in the top 4 in hurdles in the country. I won the Nationals in the 100 meter hurdles and 300 hurdles at the Air Force Academy in 2007. If you go to a meet, not everyone shows up, or is injured. They (the hurdles) are near the last event, and I’m pretty durable, because I do a lot of events. This last year I was ranked ninth in the 100 and seventh in the 300 hurdles.”
Which pretty much sums up his experience in this particular meet. He scored in six of the seven events—he had a NH in the pole vault—and beat all the 60 year olds….himself.

From One Extreme to the Other

While Dr. Hill was huffing and puffing through two long days of his competition, a pair of high school seniors—47 years his junior—breezed through theirs in mere seconds, not only establishing themselves as best in class, and best in the meet, but well beyond that of anyone in the state of Florida.
First there was Winter Park’s Joy Gilmer, who was competing as an unattached athlete; a condition she recently found may last through what is left of her high school career.
“I’m a senior at Winter Park High School, but running unattached at this meet,” she explained. “I am running with my trainer, Randall Scott King. I was training with him over the summer, and it worked well for me, so I thought I’d continue it to open up more possibilities for college.”
Right now she is looking at “Texas A & M…I visited Georgia Tech as well;
USF…Villanova…Louisville, and Hampton University. I want to major in kinesiology or psychology, on a pre-med track.”
But with a winning time of 56.76 in the 400, a more immediate goal may have taken form: defending her current (as of this writing) #1 ranking in the country in (if it is indeed counted as such, as it was accomplished on an “oversized,” for indoor—400 meter--track) the outdoor 400.
“I qualified for the New Balance Indoor Nationals at the New York Armory the weekend of March 12th. Between now and then, I’ll probably do some AAU meets, but my main focus is the Nationals.
“She’s now ranked #12 indoors, nationally, for high school girls,” said Randall King. “This (her time today) should put her in the top five.”
Unfortunately, this outstanding achievement may come at the expense of her teammates on the Winter Park Girls team, not that she had intended it to be so. As it stands now, her status as a WP track star is in limbo, due to an administrative decision there. Further information on this situation will be forthcoming.
Joy’s male counterpart in the shorter, but no less breathtaking 200, was Flagler-Palm Coast senior, Tyler Cue. Who, it would seem, has had a dramatic impact, not only on his team, but on the early track rankings. In the first meet of only his second year, his 21.01 is currently the best high school 200 meter time in the nation. (And he outran the entire college field!)
“Last year,” he began, “my basketball teammates kept pushing me to come out (for track). I was the fastest one at school; I had run a 40 in 4.3 seconds. We (sometimes) go on the track to train…do stadiums and all that.”
Was it Dave Halliday’s birthday, or what?
“I had to figure out which event to do. The coaches put me in different events to see where I was better. I’m pretty much a sprinter.”
They tried him in the 100, 200 and 400. As the season progressed, his times steadily dropped. By the 5 Star Conference Championships, he lowered his 100 to 11.04 (winning that event) and his 200 to 21.77 (placing second). Continued success at the April 20th 4A District 1 Meet (2nd in 21.95), and the April 28th 4A Region 1 Meet (second in 21.95), paved the way for a 2010 PR of 21:38 200 (third in the May 8th 4A State Meet).
Knocking on the door of a sub-21 200 in this 2011 pre-season meet (first place in that event), and a 6.85 in the 60 (second), both against college-level competition, point to a possible 100/200 double at the season’s finale.
“After the (2010) season, my coach—Garfield Ellenwood, who trains Olympic athletes— got me an invitation to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Basically, I learned some techniques, like ‘standing up tall’ (stand on your toes, with your body straight). That motivates me to leave everything behind (such as distracting thoughts), and keep the race ahead of me. My hope is to get a 20-point (200) before the season is over.”
And then?
“Maybe North Carolina A & T. I want to major in engineering.”

Engineering the Under-utilized

If there is one event with the greatest untapped potential for winning points at a track meet, it is the race walk. Perhaps that was the reason why ERAU coach Peter Hopfe tacked on a 3000 meter race walk to the tail end of this meet. That, in turn, attracted the attention of Ave Maria head track and cross country coach, Mike DeWitt.
DeWitt, for those who think the race walk only belongs in international competition, is the man who has put many such athletes in that prestigious position.
According to DeWitt, “The first year for the race walk in the NAIA was 1972, and it was introduced by Larry Young and his father. Young won the 50K bronze at both Mexico City in 1968 and Munich in 1972.”
In 1972, his first year as an NAIA race walker, he was an All-American, placing in both the first-ever NAIA indoor (3rd) and outdoor (2nd) walks. He walked in the 20K Olympic trials in 1972, and the 50K trials in 1984, 1988, and 1992, finishing 8th, 9th and 10th, respectively. DeWitt was one of the 15 members of the 1989 World Cup team, a group that also included nine others that he had, at one time or other, coached. Two thirds of the entire team had a direct link to DeWitt.
Mike began coaching at Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1981, a position he held until 2010. In all, he coached six Olympians--Michelle Rohl, Deb Lawrence, Tim Seaman, Jim Heiring, Andy Kaestner, and John Nunn—30 Olympic Trials walkers, and well over 75 men and women All-Americans.
This season he introduced the sport at Ave Maria--where he now coaches--and to Brian Stine. Brian, a philosophy major, admits that “I am more of a runner. This year, because of a leg injury, my coach said, ‘Why don’t you try the race walk?’ I did, and I enjoyed it.”
He went on to say, “This is my first one (race). I’ve done some time trials, but this is my
Stine starts his career one-for-one, winning in 16:45.83. Embry Riddle’s Nicole Bonk
went with him, stride for stride, until the last lap, and finished second in 16:54.60. The other two walkers—Danny Vivas (21:30) and Marya Haegler (23:07.35) are both from Ave Maria.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” admitted Vivas. “I’ve played college basketball, but this is a lot harder.”
Vivas, although on the mend from an injury, had a day full of firsts.
“This is my first season running track, ever,” the junior economics major confessed. “And today was my first 600. I injured my left shoulder playing basketball and had surgery. I missed the whole season.”
In watching him run the 600, I can honestly say that he fooled me there. In fact, the “hidden talent trick” allowed him to close within three seconds of the winner, Kevin Bray of ERAU (1:21.57), although Vivas competed in a second, unseeded section.
“I expected to do 1:27,” Vivas said after the race. “But I got 1:25(.77; seventh place overall). I want to get down to 1:22 or 1:23. I’m pretty far away from it now, but I’m improving. In the 800 I started out at 2:14, got down to 2:07 at this meet last month, and 2:03 at UF (Jimmy Carnes Invitational on January 30th). I’m hitting 2:01 in training.”
Speaking of hitting…

Going for the Long Haul

5000 winner Austin Rey of Nova Southeastern has run a longer, steeper road than most distance runners, but he hopes it has finally leveled off.
“I had surgery last year, and didn’t run track,” he explained. “But I have one more year left. I’d like to make the qualifying time (for Nationals), but it’s a tough one: 14:35 is provisional, but based upon last year’s times, the A grouping would be 14:23, and 14:26 will be what gets you in.
At this meet, he won “comfortably” in 16:06.32, despite an unseasonably warm day for mid-February.
“We run in south Florida, so it’s always humid. But it wasn’t that humid today.”
Then again, had he known how much WIU’s Brandon Scott had closed on him in the final stretch—to within 3.28 seconds—it might have felt a lot hotter. In the end, those three seconds were superfluous.
Time, unfortunately was not as kind to Ellie Staker. To the ERAU freshman, the meet was, literally, her “last chance” to make the NAIA qualifying time.
“It was 3:01 for an A,” she said, “and a 3:03 for a B. I ran 3:07(.66). We started out too slow; it was a 78 (first lap), which ruined our time. The rest of the race, we were on pace.”
Like the 1000, Embry Riddle dominated the 800, taking the first two spots in the Women’s race (and five of six), and the top three in the men.
For Baleigh Hyatt, the women’s 1000 was her second win of the afternoon.
“I did the 600 earlier in the afternoon, and qualified for the B standard, hitting a PR
(1:38.13),” she said. “In the 800, I started, “got stuck” and couldn’t get out. The coach always tells us to get out early, and I didn’t. So I had to swing out wide and finished in lane three. I got them (the competition), but I missed (the qualifying time) by a second.”
Brett Galloway, one of two ERAU runners that broke two minutes in the 800—Adam Vetere was the other, in 1:58.71—is the elder statesman of the team.
“I started at ERAU back in 2003 when there wasn’t track,” he explained, “and took a long break, joining the military. I was a para-rescuer in the Air Force. I took classes while I was there, got my two year degree, and transferred back here because I remembered the dedication of the coaches, and the opportunities and atmosphere that the school provided.”
Being almost 26—his birthday is on March 21st—Galloway has the commitment to do well, but admits to being headstrong at times.
“My coaches think I’m a distance runner, and I think I’m a sprinter. I’ve run the 600 (a PR of 1:28.09 at the January 22nd Indoor-Out Meet), but I’m not fast enough for that. The 800 seems to be my race for now.”
With a 1:58.06 win—and a new PR—the sprinter may have been won over by his coach’s way of thinking.

Chasing the Sound Barrier

No coverage of an Embry Riddle meet could possibly be complete without a Sammy Vazquez story.
With all the hoopla surrounding that “other” track race--such as the eardrum-shattering sound of 43 (pre-crash) supercharged race cars; planes towing signs, the Goodyear Blimp, and other UFOs invading Embry Riddle’s air space, hardly anyone seemed to notice the jet after jet taking off from Daytona International Airport (which is directly across Clyde Morris Blvd. from the college) and flew in a northeast direction over the campus.
And then, before the 1000, came two Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Attack Jets thundering right over the track. Well, this being Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, everything just stopped—as hundreds of ERAU students and athletes looked skyward--until the formation
passed completely out of sight, followed by the sound of their GE F404-GE400 low bypass turbofan engines. It was certainly a salute, but to whom?
It wasn’t long after that when the 1000 began and Vazquez—with the human equivalent of a “low bypass turbofan engine”--followed the exact same course; up one side of the track and back along the other. His time on the track, 2:24.65—according to Coach Peter Hopfe--was the fastest “indoor” 1K in the country so far this year.
“I was going for time,” Vazquez said. “I was trying to get the fastest time in the NAIA, which I think I got. It helps my confidence.”
If you had to sum the meet up into one phrase, it would have to be: Sammy and the jets.
Trust Vazquez, however, to provide an encore.
“Today was actually his first time this season in the 4 X 4,” explained leadoff runner, Reagan Beal. “He’s been doing other events. We wanted to make the A standard, so we put him in.”
Beal provided an opening leg lead, which may have shrunk a tad in the middle two legs, but when Sam got the baton in the last exchange, he emphatically sealed ERAU’s win with a blistering 48.71 (coach timed) anchor; pretty darn close to the time that the 2011 field of the Daytona 500 were running 2.5 mile laps on the other track across the street.
Hmm, if we could get a closed-circuit TV connection between the two tracks, simultaneously start Trevor Bayne (this year’s winner) and Sammy, and use FAT to judge the race, we could bill it as The Daytona 2000; a race between man and machine. One lap decides all. Vrooom, vroom; gentleman, don your Nikes!


The next meet in the series is scheduled for March18-19. Entries are due in by March 15th. For information, contact Head Coach Mike Rosolino at (386) 323-5008 or