Ralph's Recap: FPC East Coast Classic

Lyrics of a song, no doubt inspired by A.A. Milne’s classic, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day:

Hum dum dum ditty dum
Hum dum dum

Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say
That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It sounds that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day today

From:  Winnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day
Written by: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Performed by: Sterling Holloway [Pooh]


A more scientific description for the cause of events on February 22nd might be the following:  A high pressure system located east of Cuba would interact with a low pressure system approaching from the northwest, creating a strong pressure gradient. One could expect a steady south to southwest wind of 15-20 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 30 miles per hour, their effects lingering throughout the afternoon. A 30 degree drop in temperature is expected overnight. For Flagler County: The National Weather Service is issuing a discus and pole vault warning until 6:00 PM….


Track and Duck

For those gravity-sensitive events such as the shot put and discus, the winds swirling around inside Sal Campanella Stadium—and those on its outside were far worse—could best be described as disruptive. Lifting hats—I left my trademark Panama in the car—bags, trash bins, tents, and small children, it wreaked havoc on the meet’s optimistically tight schedule.

Take the discus—but do so carefully. An ever so teensy-tiny change in the angle of a thrower’s hand could send the disc off like it was a paper airplane in fourth period English. One throw would go sailing up at a steep angle, then suddenly drop to the ground, embedding itself in the turf. The next, moments after release, would nose dive into the ground and roll away, barely eclipsing another throwing event—the shot put—as the longer toss. The worst throws—and I mean the worst—would curve left or right and come right back at you. Frequently enough, a shout of “Look out!” sent waiting throwers, spectators, pets, and cameramen scurrying for cover, as an out of control discus ran its course, well out of bounds. Oh, woe is the life of a Nikononite! (Could I have created a new word?)

“Once you step into the circle, it’s”—the wind—“right into your face, and it starts to intimidate you,” explained Armondo Bonheur. “It makes you think. I tried not to compensate, and change form. Instead, I tried to concentrate and aim low; not put it up high and have it come back at your face.”

“You had to keep your aim going low,” echoed Angel Alston, who, along with Armondo, accomplished a “double-double” with her fellow Fletcher athlete. Both won their event, while setting a new personal best: Armondo with a 136’ 11 ½” throw, and Angel finishing with 108’ 2”. Angel also came in second in the shot with a put of 33’ 11”.

“I’m satisfied,” she continued, “if you put in the wind.”

Armond: “It was okay, but it is only the first meet, so it’s only going up,” one assuming that he is referring, not to the wind, but to the distance of a throw.

Asked which event he enjoyed the most, the shot—which he threw 39’ 4”—or the discus, Armond smiled.

“Definitely the discus. I’m a big discus fan. Although it’s great throwing the shot, I love to see the discus sail.”

And that, no doubt, is a product of good coaching.

“Corey Yarbrough. He does all the weight events. He also played football. He was the starting center at UF when Danny Wuerffel played. I believe it was 1996. He has a championship ring.”

The University of Florida Gators finished 12 – 1 that year, avenging their only loss—24-21 to FSU—by beating them 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl, and thus winning the National Championship.

Like Yarbrough, Bonheur hopes to play Division I football.

“I have a full-ride scholarship to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ll be playing offensive tackle, and majoring in pre-med.”

“Dr. B,” Angel interjected.

“I like the ring of that,” said Armondo.

While throwers were ducking discs, female vaulters were squirming away from falling poles, crossbars, and the occasional wind-blown, low-flying bird.

“It was frustrating,” sighed Spruce Creek sophomore Kristen Gaines. “You’d want to go, and then the wind would come up, and you’d have to wait.”

According to Rule 7, Section 2, Article 5 of the 2012 NFHS Rules Book, “A competitor shall initiate a trial that is carried to completion within: (a) One and one-half minutes in the pole vault.”

“They don’t enforce it if it’s windy,” Kristen continued, “and when everyone knows it’s going to be tough. It would be dangerous. You could be pushed into a standard. Last year my friend was going over the bar and she hit her head on the standard.”

Gaines has a personal best of nine feet, which she first cleared at the April 25, 2011 FSU Relays, and repeated two days earlier at Creek’s first meet of 2012. At this meet she won with 8’9”.

“It’s kind of cyclical. Whatever you can do, you do. I’m going to try to get ten feet, or higher, this year. But whenever it happens, it happens.”

She also cleared 4’10” in the high jump—seventh place--which was won by SC teammate Allison Lampert in 5’ 2”.

While they were doing that, the boys took their turn at the pole vault. Dark by then, it seemed as if the wind was abating somewhat. And yet there were times when the crossbar began to vibrate, and had to be stilled by a long pole.

Coming in at twelve feet was a relative newcomer to the event. As his twin brother Derrick explains, Erick Knott is a natural in the pole vault.

“He started two months before the State Meet, and made it to the finals,” finishing 11th with a 13’6” vault.

“As a freshman and a sophomore, we didn’t know where to put him,” added his coach, Renee Plasencia. “He was explosive, but small. We put him in the 800,”—his PR is 2:07.64, which he ran at the April 22, 2010 4A District 4 Meet—“where he did well, and cross country (17:14 at the October 1, 2010 Great American XC Festival).  We knew that he was extremely athletic, and acrobatic, but not for the triple jump or the high jump—where he might go 6’2. So we decided to try him in the pole vault.

“He was absolutely amazing in the air. It seemed as if he was improving six inches a week. He finished at 13’6”--both at the May 7, 2011 State Meet, and the May 28, 2011 Golden South Classic—“and this year he opened up with 14 feet at Lyman. That’s where Bill Cashman coaches him, and where he practices.”

Erick takes it from there.

“His”—Cashman’s—“basis of coaching is ‘right over height.’ I see him two or three times a week. He started me at the lowest height, but with the right form. The height came (later).

“I feel comfortable in the air. I still need a little work. I would say ‘Let’s see what happens,’ but my goal—and it might seem crazy—is 16’6”.”

Erick Knott jumped far into the night, finally finishing at 13’6”, and won the event. A photo of his last cleared height is in the pole vault folder.

Hiding from flying debris

If there was one place that you could compete without interruption from the wind, it was at the long and triple jumps. Two runways, parallel to each other, are situated at the western end of the North Bleachers.

It was not, by any means, a continuous competition. Going in spurts, athletes came and went so that they could compete in other events. Early in the competition, FPC’s newcomer Willie Gardner gave promise of mirroring Erick Knott’s success in the long jump.

“This is my first year of long jumping,” he told me. “They recruited me because of football and basketball. The coach walked up to me and said, ‘I heard that you’re doing good in basketball. Would you be interested in coming out for track?’

“It wasn’t that hard. I like sprints the most. My coach (Keenan Hreib), taught me (to long jump) this past Tuesday. I only did it for one day, Tuesday.”

Three days later Gardner leaped 21’7” and finished third in the competition, 14” behind the winner.

“I’m happy, to be honest. First time doing it, and I got that far.”

Besides being able to leap high over long pits in a single bound, Gardner also plays football (wide receiver and free safety), and, as previously mentioned, basketball (center).

The winner in the long jump, interestingly enough, was none other than pole vaulter Erick Knott’s twin brother, Dereck.

 “I fouled on my first two jumps in the preliminaries and had to get a clean jump to get into the finals,” he explained. “I made it on the last jump, and came in with 21’6”.  In the finals my best jump was the first one, 22’9”. Then I scratched in the next two.”

Dereck also plays football.

“Track is my favorite, but football is going to take me to school. I play slot receiver, and just signed with Lehigh University, in Pennsylvania. I’m going to major either in architecture, or computer science. I haven’t decided.”

A “stone’s throw” from the long and triple jump pits, the shot put was being contested from twin circles. Fortunately, the sector lines ran away from the long jump runways.

Coming into the competition with a personal best of 53’ 1/2” was Gainesville’s Dennis McGee. McGee finished third in the 3A State Meet last May 6th, 1’ 3 ½” behind the winner (Adonis Kirkland), who has since, along with second place finisher Daniel Forgoney, graduated.

At this meet, McGee’s throws consistently cleared the…what is the area between the sector lines called?  They need a name, like drop zone. Anyway, his attempts landed well beyond the designated landing area, and bored holes into the ditch beyond. (You can see a photo of this exciting development among the Shot Put photos, in case you think I’m exaggerating.)* His best was 54’ 1”, which on hard ground might have been close enough to Kirkland’s to invite being called bocce.

“(Last year) I didn’t think I’d be good enough at the State Meet, but my family and friends inspired me,” he told me during our interview. “I look forward to it this year. I’d like to hit 60’ this year.”

Hopefully he will be throwing away from any of the other competitions.

The winner of the girls’ shot put was Jalai Jenkins, from Santa Fe High School.

“I also throw the discus,” she said.

Jenkins threw 110’ 7” in the discus. Between the two weight events, she and Angel Alston swapped first and second places.

Asked about the climatic conditions on the other end of the field, she responded, “It was my first time throwing into the wind. It made things a little harder, but I got through it.”

In the shot put, “I was trying to beat my best”—35’ 1” at the April 1, 2011 Florida Relays—“but I got a 34 (feet, one inch). A good season opener.”

That sentiment was shared by Spruce Creek’s Terry McMillon, winner of the 110 hurdles.

“This meet is what we look forward to,” he said after his race, “to see what we have and what we need to do. I liked it. It was a nice temperature,”—the finals were run at night—“and competition was stiff, which made me work hard.”

McMillon’s counterpart in the girls’ 100 meter hurdles was sophomore Abreona Cabell, who attends Atlantic Coast High School, in Jacksonville. AC (on their uniforms) has only been open two years, difficult to imagine considering that on the girls’ side alone, their athletes and relay teams scored in the top three places ten times.

She explained her school’s presence, so far from home: “This meet had a lot of competition, and kind of jumpstarts the season.”

Cabell, who started running in Middle School, mentioned that she was steered towards the hurdles by Coach Murphy because of her height. She also pointed out that one of their current coaches, Dione Thomas--who ran for UCF--has Olympic aspirations. Cabell, too, has a bright future ahead of her. As a member of her school’s basketball team, she averaged 18.3 points per game, and was recently named to the Gateway All Conference Team.


And the Shadows deepen…

As it got darker, it seemed as if the runners got faster…at least, amid the growing gloom, faster than my camera’s shutter speed. Most notably in the distance events, runners seemed to “disappear into the night,” Andres Arroyo, for example. Just ask the other runners: “Wait, now he’s behind me!”

Arroyo has every intention of picking up where he left off last year. In point of fact, his last 1600 race of the 2011 spring track season was a 4:24.67 in the FHSAA 4A Championship on May 7th.  His first race in 2012 was a 4:23.96 win in the “East Coast Mile”, a new PR.  (A mile is 1609.34 meters, or 30.6430 feet longer than a 1600, so the “same time” in each would require a 1.7 second adjustment in one.)

“There was wind today, so I thought I had to race for place,” he told me afterwards. “But by the time the race came up, the wind was less intense than during the 4 X 8, so I changed my plan again, in order to get a good time for the beginning of the year.”

I asked him if he had a broader plan for 2012, now that he had firmly established himself in cross country.

“My coach and I were talking about it. This year I will need to set my own pace, and run by myself. However, we also know that there will be good competition.

“Team-wise, we’re looking for everyone to do well in their own event. I think we have good people in the two mile, plus they’re running with me in practice and getting better. We’re looking for the entire team to come together and do well. I think, like my coach said, we might have a chance to go to the state, team-wise. I don’t know, but we do have a pretty good team.”

A two-man battle for supremacy at the 4A Cross Country Championship (November 19, 2011) was won by Arroyo in 15:13.74. Chris Godwin of Buchholz was second in 15:37.40. For today’s meet, Arroyo and Godwin ran separate races, Chris winning the 3200 in a sizzling 9:38.52. Basically alone most of the way, Chris still had his eye of Dr. Phillips’s Logan Kruse, who was somewhere back there, pushing.

“I was looking for a 9:30; something good,” he said. “I thought that Andres Arroyo was going to run it, but he didn’t. Still, Logan Kruse did, and he helped. It’s nice having someone to run with. It’s always easier (to do well).”

With a (current) PR of 9:34.60 (at the April 1, 2011 Florida Relays), Chris was only four seconds off his best, and the season is brand spanking new.

Bridget Blake is running in that rarified air (for girls) of a ten-something 3200. Her PR of 10:43.17 at last year’s Florida Relays, points out that few, if any girls in the state are currently running her track times. And, like Godwin, Blake came prepared to accomplish a set goal, and her plan was to run a controlled race in order to do so.

“My goal was even splits,” she explained. “Whoever wanted to come with me, could come with me. I went out in 5:30, and finished in 11:00.” (11:01.16, officially.)

What was even more impressive was that she had anything left to run in the very next race, the 4 X 4. After that spectacular 3200, she filled in for another runner and ran an all-out 400.

“Possibly a 61,” she guessed when I asked her. “I haven’t raced a 400 since 8th grade, but this was kind of fun.”

Already the best at what she does, still in her junior year, and with more in the gas tank when it is needed, she has to be one scary opponent.

Sprint City

Although Payton Ashe had a fairly “comfortable” margin in her 400 (her 1:00.74 was about a second and a half ahead of second place finisher Lyric Schmalz, in 1:02.23), it might have been the youth in the field. There was only one upperclassman in the final; the other seven included two freshmen and five sophomores.

The Boys’ 400 was a classic. De Land’s Stefan Guire and Jeremy Gloston (Colonial) not only exchanged leads in the final few meters, but neither could be sure of the final outcome. It went in Guire’s favor by .04 seconds.

“I put on 25 pounds this summer,” he said, breathing hard after the finish. “I worked out three hours a day this summer, then took weight training as a class. A lot of upper body strength.”

The results are obvious, both physically and competitively. Although the junior’s times steadily showed a downward trend in his first two years of track, he ran two 50-point 400s in his last two meets, in two days’ time. It is difficult to determine who is more excited--Stefan, or his coaches.

The 200 was an even closer race. Gainesville sophomore Kendrick Young won in 22.18, a .03 space between him and DP’s Reggie Glover (22.21).

“I had to come back and lean in,” he decided, “put my arm out.”

I felt compelled to tell him that his arm didn’t count.

Although, technically, the 800 is not a sprint, under the right circumstances it can become one. Such was the case of both the boys’ and girls’ races.

Tori Ehrhardt, Spruce Creek: “I kind of got caught and didn’t want to waste the energy passing, so I waited. I kicked from the last 300.” (Tori finished first in 2:27.20.)

Moises Diodonet, Colonial: “My coach wanted me to be in front for the last 400, and go all out in the last 300.”  (Moises finished first in 1:59.96.)

Team Results

Spruce Creek has steadily built up quite a win streak, both in cross country and track. That continued into the new year. Both their Boys (122.5 points) and Girls (176 points) team had a sizeable cushion over the other teams competing.

Among the other Boys teams, Colonial, with 101.5, held off Gainesville (92).

Atlantic Coast (second with 101) held a similar position in the Girls’ team championship. Behind them, it was a nail biter: Colonial and Dr. Phillips tied with 86, and Gainesville had 85.5.


*Exaggeration is too strong a word…I just see things differently.