Ralph's Musings: The East Coast Classic

A century ago, there was another sort of track running through Bunnell, Florida--that of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, known as the FEC. Was it fate, or irony, that Flagler-Palm Coast HS (FPC) chose Flagler East Coast Classic (FEC) for the name of their meet? In choosing a derailed, but still famous, transportation line as its namesake, they certainly invited comparisons between the two tracks. And with the bright orange glow of dusk that immediately preceded the finals, Henry’s haunting became all the more evident. The finals schedule, once begun, gained momentum faster than a runaway train (both on and off the track, so to speak), and all you could do was leap aboard when it was your turn to run (jump, throw, or hurdle).
Henry I (Flagler), not to be confused with Henry II (Plant, whose west coast empire paralleled that of his right-coasted contemporary), grew wealthy (but not quite as much as he would have liked) giving people what they wanted--summer in the winter. His railway stretched the full length of Florida, and beyond, as it offered steam boat connections to Cuba. He was happy to include—for an additional price—lodging in hotels located in key cities along the route. He also ferried early automobiles—again for an additional price—and what followed were the beach races that subsequently gave rise to asphalt races, decades later, at the Daytona International Speedway, thus continuing a time-honored tradition of tempting Northerners—and with them their money—south.
Likewise, this meet promised coaches and athletes what they desired most: summer times in wintertime. The teams entered came from up and down Florida’s east coast—from Jacksonville to Vero Beach—but did not include a hotel stay. (Lodging is certainly one consideration that might be pursued; home for me was about as close as anyone’s, and I barely got in bed before the stroke of midnight.) In this century, we skipped the quest for speed on sand—except for a half-dozen field events—and went right to the asphalt. Still, the competition for space on the track was so fierce that the host school might have gotten more attention than they had bargained for, as the beach races of Henry I’s time proved to be. (With lots of land at their disposal, perhaps a second track might handle the overflow?) But as far as money goes, this is where we diverge. You got more than your money’s worth watching, than you would have riding. Shame on those spectators who tried to avoid the modest entry fee.
With the conclusion of this introduction, we finally part from that imaginary platform in my mind, and I leave you—alas, not for long—with some memorable names from the glory days of the FEC, such as The Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Dixie Flagler, South Winds, The Florida Special, and East Coast Champion.

The Silver Meteor falls to earth

It is not easy to argue with a running resume that included a 6.85 sixty meters and 21.01 200 (fastest in the country at the time) before the Florida track season even started. Thus FPC’s Tyler Cue came into the meet as a heavy favorite to win the sprints. But Buchholz senior speed merchant, Marquis Noble, had a simple solution; he ran faster.
“He is a rival in all of my events; 100, 200…,” he said after winning the 100 (11.03). “If he did the long jump, he’d probably be competitive there too. But that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about (at the present). I won the States (May 8, 2010; 24’6 ½”).” (And the Districts—23’1”—and the Regions—23’11”.
Noble continued, “The last time I was here, for the (4A) Districts, I ran the 100 in 10.82 (in the much faster prelims; he was second—in 10.97—to FPC’s Cory Shelling’s 10.82 in the finals).
“For me, going through high school, I didn’t have a strong start. I was strong in the middle, but I knew that I had to work on my beginning and end. My coach, Gary Evans, has helped me find my proper position in the blocks, to come out and take short, choppy steps, then extend my stride. I’m beginning to get the help I need, but I have a lot more work to do.
Noble followed his 100 win with another in the 200 (22.25), outsprinting a pack of FPC Bulldogs that took 2nd (Gilbert Asbolu in 22.30), 3rd (Chris Stubbs in 23.17), and 8th (Victor Dove in 25.01). These trainyard dogs later teamed up with Tyler Cue to win the 4 x 200 meter relay in 1:28.38.
In an effort that could best be summed up as, well, noble, Marquis added a 23’6” long jump to end his day three-for-three in individual competition.

Dixie (chicks) at Flagler

In pursuit of a thorough coverage of track and field, one thing is certain; start with the Girls pole vault. Many of these ladies are still in the early stages of learning what can be best described as a very complicated maneuver:  while carrying a long fiberglass pole in an awkward grip, run as fast as you can down a narrow runway, plant said pole in the first box you see, prepare for the launch, hang on to your stick, turn, twist, push your pole away from your legs, avoid the cross bar, and watch where you land. At this stage of the season, only (roughly) half of the participants have mastered the art of going over the bar, so the event can best be described as adventurous. In short, it’s “over” or done with pretty quick. On the other hand, the celebration that followed each athlete’s first successful vault could easily be mistaken for that of a record-breaking height.
To add to the excitement, they were vaulting toward the rapidly sinking afternoon sun (directly behind the bar), and into a pretty stiff breeze. (Why, I wondered, didn’t they use the planting box at the other end of the runway?) Anyone got a big catcher’s mitt.
It was obvious, however, that the DeLand athletes (of both sexes) have spent a great deal of time on vaulting, and their performances are the product of good coaching.
“Coach Lowe(nstein),” CC was quick to point out, “keeps up with us really well, and is very supportive. He always makes sure he’s around when we vault…even though he’s having a tough year, having to be everywhere at once.” (Due to an illness in his family, DeLand has been—intermittently—missing its other head coach.
Finishing with the same height (8’6”), although listed first and second, respectively, were Tarryn Cornejo (dark hair in the photos) and Carolyn Coffey, or “CC” (blonde hair).
“We were seeded first and second, so we knew we’d be each other’s competition,” added the senior Coffey.
In last year’s 4A District 2 Meet, Coffey was third with an 8’6” height, and Cornejo sixth with 8’0”. CC upped that to a 9’0”, with an 8th place performance in the April 28th 4A Region 1 Championships.
“It’s really motivating to have someone to try to beat, who I can also ask for advice,” said the junior Cornejo.
Between gusts of wind, and the gun going off to start the many heats of the 100, the event was interrupted by frequent pauses.
“It was really hard with the wind,” Tarryn confirmed. “It was hard to decide when to run.
And then there was the slippery pole episode.
“We use the same pole,” explained Tarryn..
“I think I got a little sunscreen on it,” said CC. “It was an accident!” she added apologetically.
Perhaps like two sisters, which in at least this event they are, they have similar goals.
“To set a school record too high to beat; 100 feet,” joked CC. But then she got serious. “The school record, which is 9’6”, set by my sister Sarah.” (April 28, 2005 at the 4A Region 1 Meet, and duplicated at the June 4, 2005 Golden South.
“By the end of the season, I’d like to get 10’,” said her teammate.

South Wind

UFO DiscusMy day of track coverage began, and almost ended with the discus. Moving in on the outside of the roped-in portion, I narrowly avoided decapitation. For the rest of the afternoon, I repeatedly looked skyward, ever alert to incoming UFOs. (I have provided images of two to document the events that followed.
The wind, annoying in the pole vault, was downright disruptive in the discus. This implement is designed to be aerodynamic, but that only works if the athlete’s release is complementary to the intended trajectory.  In reality, what occurred on this particular afternoon was track’s version of the knuckleball. Probably because of the headwind’s effect, so many throws went awry (mostly front edge-up) that the ground between the sector lines--and also outside of it—was pockmarked with dozens of  narrow, knife-like slits; the grass appeared to have been a green-clad victim of Jack the Ripper.
In consideration of the failure of so many athletes to keep a level throw in bounds, the winning toss of Vero Beach’s Cory Horstman is that much more remarkable.
“I thought I’d launch a 170, but I think I was gripping it too hard. When I loosened up, and relaxed, I threw 152’.
Cody is coming off a 162-10 PR, which he set at a meet the previous Tuesday. That bettered both his winning 162-4 4A Region 2 (April 29, 2010) throw, and his third place 158-6 distance at the State Meet on May 8th.
“My first throw, in my first meet this year, was my new PR. It was in a relay.  (The February 22nd Merritt Island Relays.) It showed me that I have to work harder, and it motivated me.
“Coach DeLuke pushes me hard, and makes sure I work. Ever since ninth grade; it’s been a great ride, and he’s been with me every step of the way. I’m definitely going to miss him while I’m in college.
Part of Cody is looking past his final high school track season.
“I’m committed to play football for FIU; D-end and D-tackle. Right now I’m doing their football workouts. You lift four days a week, run two days a week, plyometrics—a lot of jumps for explosiveness—one day a week, and abs every day. It’s crazy. I’m sore now, because it’s my first week. I know that might be the difference in my throws here.
Football versus track. Which is his first love.
Cody sighed, followed by a long pause.
(Translation) “As long as I can do both, I’m happy.
Cody’s counterpart in the shot, and in the football/track relationship, is Dr. Phillips’ LaQuentin Smith. The senior was absent from the discus…
“I was supposed to throw the discus, but I wasn’t prepared for it. I haven’t been working out.
But he owned the shot put.
“I think the next closest throw was 44. (Actually 46’5”, by Colonial’s Armando Cruz.) My coaching has been paying off. Coach Jackson has been working me hard, making sure that I have my release right.
On his best attempt, his 12 pound golden ball finally came down 51’7” from the inside edge of the toe board. (Please remember that this year, SP volunteers.
Smith, like Horstman, is built to play football. To make the most of his 6’2”, 225 pound frame, he is, like Cody, following a workout schedule designed to prepare him for the punishment that comes with Division 1 football.
“I’m going to the University of Pittsburgh for football and track. They sent the workout schedule to me the Thursday after signing day—February 2nd—and I’ve been getting used to it. I got a day of rest yesterday.
Both big and fast—“I sometimes run the 4 X 1 when they need me; my fastest split was 11.4’—he has no problems with people crossing the track when he runs. Once at Pitt, the coaching staff there will have to decide between outside line backer and strong safety. But there’s always the possibility of his becoming the next Refrigerator Perry.
“I visited the college and met the coaching staff. That’s the place for me now. I had a lot of fun.
What about the weather, I asked.
He laughed.
“When I left the plane, it was ‘Whew!’ It was 12 degrees. I didn’t want to step outside. When I did, I saw snow for the first time.
His major.
“Sports management."

The Florida Special: 2 for one

The Girls half of the meet produced three double winners: Kadeidra Jackson (12.46 in the 100 and 26.05 in the 200); Anastasia Gabor (16.01 in the 100 hurdles and 5’0” in the high jump); and Natasha Stewart (18-5 in the long jump and 37-5 in the triple jump).
Jackson, who began high school at PK Young (where she was the 2009 1A 400 meter champion in 57.84), is now running for the Gainesville Hurricanes.
“I moved here two years ago,” she explained. “I consider myself a ‘shorter distance’ sprinter. I think I’m better in the 100; it’s my best race so far. In the 400, it’s a little ‘iffy,’ because I’m running 58, 59. My best is 57. But last week was my first full week of track. I just got done with basketball. Later in the season, I may be moving up to the 400.
The meet produced another freshman who, like Jackson, seems destined for success in the 400. Payton Ashe, ironically also running for Gainesville, was the only girl to break a minute (59.89).
“It’s my fifth year running track,” she confessed. “I trained at the UF track, with the Gainesville Striders. It’s an AAU team.
The 400 is her favorite event.
“I hit a 58.25 PR last year at the State Meet in Tallahassee.
The male winner, in a 49.38 PR, was Cecil Rolle of Buchholz.
“It’s the hardest sprint in track,” said Rolle. “That’s why I like the challenge. Not everyone has the strength to do it.
“My PR was 49.59, which I did at the Bolles Invitational last year (March 12, 2010). My top goal would be a 47 by the end of this year.

The Silver Streak

The 1600 was a complicated affair. With 24 entrants dancing into place, a 100 meter conga line maneuvered, stretched, and re-formed for two laps before three Dr. Phillips runners took control.
Logan Kruse, Josh Boggs, and Daniel Millay brought back images of their front-running 2010 cross country season, where they ran 1-2-3 (although in a slightly different order), to finish second in Districts through States. Lining up, one behind the other, they formed their own human train that was first to the station; Kruse in 4:27.27, Boggs in 4:31.26, and Millay in 4:31.91. The trio scored more points in four and a half minutes than three teams—together--scored in 10 ½ hours.
It was hoped, by all three, that the field was not the only thing that they had put behind them.
“It was mentally tough,” Logan explained. “I started up four weeks ago, after five weeks off with Achilles tendinitis. It was mentally hard to get past that. I came back and my 800 wasn’t that great today; I was the anchor in the 4 X 8.
Kruse isn’t the only one fighting back to health.
“Josh (Boggs) missed his last (junior) year,” Logan expanded. “Daniel Millay was in and out of cross country.
Boggs joined the conversation: “I had tendinitis in my big toe, and along the top of my foot. I had to take five weeks off in the summer. When that felt better, I tore my INT muscle (a little muscle between my second and third toe).
Kruse: “It’s my third year running. I hit 4:26(.62) last year in the (4A-1) Regionals, and I’m looking forward to the season. I’m not where I was before my injury, but I am working harder every week, and I hope that we will have a better track season.

The East Coast Champion (Yes, there actually was a train named the East Coast Champion!)

From the opening gun, there was much speculation as to which team would conquer all. For the Boys, first of all, you had Flagler. Their mascot should be a phoenix, because—by the end of every season—this 4A team always seem to rise from the ashes of the previous year’s graduations to establish themselves as the team to beat.
Next is Dr. Phillips, whose distance runners seem to know no limits. Despite injuries, graduations, and other unwelcome guests on their gravy train, they will find a way to be a contender.
Whether Dr. Phillips wins, places, or shows, Buchholz--riding a parallel track--makes it a race to remember.
And, of course, Colonial brings heart to every event, picking up points here, there and everywhere to sneak up there and challenge for the championship of any meet which they enter.
And the envelope please. Ahem. It was Dr. Phillips 143.5, Buchholz 134, Colonial 88, and Vero Beach 86.5. (Dr. Phillips had six firsts, three seconds and three thirds; Buchholz had five firsts, three seconds and two thirds.)
While the District 1 and 2/Region 1 teams were occupied with each other, the Vero Beach transports—after a (roughly) 146.32 mile trip--pulled into the bus area, unloading a sizeable female army, which proceeded to invade Sal Campanella Field. They scored high (seven firsts and six seconds), and they scored often. When the points were tallied, they had amassed a grand total of 159. Gainesville was second (108), Colonial was third (101), and Dr. Phillips fourth (90.5).


I wish to extend my condolences to two track families who recently suffered a loss; one over Christmas and one this past week. I hope our readers will pardon me for not elaborating, but the events that occurred are more of a private nature, and I wish to respect that.