Warrior of the Week: McDaniel, Concepcion

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(Photos by Todd Grasley and John Calderon)

BOYS WINNER: Josh McDaniel - Senior @ Lakeland

Lakeland senior Josh McDaniel started training at Pole Vault City in Merritt Island as a sophomore. Coach Bobby Haeck had taught his uncle at South Lake High School and when McDaniel became competitive in the sport, his uncle mentioned he seek a personal training coach. Haeck stepped in and says his technique has progressed in the past three years.

“We are proud of his advancements. As a football player for Lakeland High School his weight has been an issue, but we have managed it well throughout the three years. Our pole selection has allowed Josh to progress from being mediocre as a sophomore to being the best vaulter in the state at this time.”

This time in 2009, McDaniel cleared 10-0 to place second at George Jenkins Senior Night. Fast forward three years later and the Lakeland senior cleared 15 feet for the first time in his career. His mark of 15-6 is the best in the state of Florida and a new personal best. Haeck calls his performance the perfect meet.

“Much like the perfect storm it all came together for him at the Brian Jaeger Elite Classic. He made every bar on his first attempt and was very close to making 15’9” on two of the three attempts. He prepared for his first meet as a test run for his district competition. Attention to making bars on first attempts was his primary goal. After 14’0 it was all gravy.”

It was McDaniel’s third meet in nine days. The prior meets he went 14’9 to win the Polk County Championships and then 14’6 to finish second at the UF Pepsi Relays. Since then he has moved a new 15’ Pacer Carbon pole. Haeck knows the results it produced, but realizes there are more important meets on the horizon.

“Although this is the number one vault in the state it doesn’t count toward the state series so after relishing in the accomplishment it was back to work to prepare for districts. Josh understands that he must be solid through the rounds of district and regionals in order to have a shot at a state championship. You can’t win if you aren’t there.

Training at Pole Vault City allows McDaniel to train with some of the top male vaulters in the state like Shelton McClean, Corey Smith, Marcus Blessing, and Winston Perry. Haeck believes that camaraderie and competition between athletes pushes him to be a better vaulter and that his legacy of the states’ best will be determined in the coming weeks.

“I have coached many state champions and state record holders. Only three vaulters in the history of the state have vaulted over 16’0 at the state meet. Two of them were mine and both were state record setters, Riley Egan at 16’7” and Mike Vani at 16’8”. His performance at the state meet will ultimately determine where he ranks among Pole Vault City Vaulters and in state history.”

After vaulting 15’6” the college door has swung open for McDaniel. The Dreadnaught star is considering UNF and Louisiana Lafayette. Haeck says he is fortunate to work with such a great person who makes everyone around him a better person and hopes his pupil can go out on top.

“He has made our program better by being a part of it, For him to go out as a state champion would be a tremendous feat for him.

Josh's Athlete Profile

GIRLS WINNER: Natalie Concepcion - Senior @ Ferguson

Ferguson senior Natalie Concepcion is one of the most versatile track and field athletes in Florida. Concepcion is capable of scoring  from the 400 to the 3200 meters, long jump, as well as relays. According to coach Ryan Raposo it's a great quality to have. He says her versatility is important for a number of ways.

"First it allows her to help the team score points in areas that we might not be as strong like the long jump or even the 400 and she's pretty good in the long jump. More importantly is her development of speed work that has allowed her to have that great range in her track events even up to 3200 meters by being able to finish strong  even when she's give it all."

Concepcion gave one of her best performances of the season at the Brian Jaeger Classic. Nicknamed Wolverine she proved tough as nails picking up key points by winning the 800 and 1600 and placing third in the 4x4, and long jump. Raposo calls her a work horse and says her overall performance was tremendous competing in four events.

"She's done long jump the past four years and went out and jumped 17-7.5. In the 1600 we thought she was going to race Bridget Blake so I thought it would be a good opportunity for her to try and go sub 5:00, but then we realized Blake was doing the 800 instead. It became an opportunity for her to go for the win and get close to the 5:00 mark and then come into the 800 and really get that strong double."

The Ferguson senior went 5:05 for the win and followed it up with a 2:14 in the 800. Concepcion ran negative splits for the two lapper going out in 68 seconds. and coming back in 66 seconds.  Raposo says her growth, hard work, and dedication over the past three years have allowed her to get to where she is at today.

"As a freshman she came in pretty talented and was one of the better runners in the county and she had the drive and work ethic to make her one of the best in the state. As a sophomore she was running 5:13 and finished fifth in the state. Junior year she went through some overtraining during cross country season so in track we focused on her speed and middle distance training. While working on her speed she became a stronger 400-800 runner rather than 1600-3200 runner like she was as a freshman and sophomore. We allowed her speed and endurance to come together and she performed well in cross country this year and is shining like she should in track."

Now that the postseason is in the mix for Ferguson, Concepcion is peaking at the perfect time. Raposo predicted by season's end she will break the five minute barrier and run close to 2:10 in the 800. The pair have discussed the game plan for the state meet and have decided that the senior will only run of the two events. Raposo says they are learning towards dropping the 1600.

"I think she's capable of doing both, but when it comes time to the state championship we are going to pick one in order to go for the individual gold. Right now I think she is going to run the 800 because she feels so much stronger in that event and we've been working hard with her stamina and speed to make that 800 as successful as possible. Her goal is to go for Skyler Wallen's state meet record of 2:09.44. She'd enjoy winning gold at the state meet and breaking that record."

Natalie's Athlete Profile