Trevor Foley and Kyle Manuel figure to become well-known names on the prep track and field scene as freshmen next season.
But first they finished out their careers donning Challenger K-8 uniforms last weekend, and did so with a flourish.
On May 9, the pair of eighth-graders helped the Navigators capture the Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference Championship Meet – the girls won as well – combining for three individual titles.
The next day, they both traveled to IMG Academy Stadium in Bradenton for the Florida Youth Running Association Middle School State Championship.
They each walked away from their final middle school event with multiple medals, given to the top eight finishers in each event.
“They performed awesome,” Challenger track coach Jason Kean said.
This isn’t new turf for Foley. He competed at states last year, finishing fourth in the 1,500 meter with a time of 4:29.42, which according to flrunners.com was the fastest in the nation for seventh grade.
This time he moved up to second in the 1,500 in 4:21.66, and placed third in the 800 (2:06.33) and fifth in the 3,000 (9:54.43). The times in the 1,500 and 800 are new personal bests.
“I feel like I did good, but I didn’t do my very best,” Foley said.
The 3,000, he said, didn’t go as planned because his personal coach, Hernando High grad Drew Martucci, got caught up in traffic and couldn’t arrive in time for the race.
Foley admitted to getting overcome with emotion, considering it was the last time he and Martucci would formally work together.
Martucci did eventually make it to the venue, and Foley was able to pick up the pace over his final two races. Yet the 1,500 provided some obstacles, as well.
“Right when the gun went off, I got boxed in early for the first 700 meters,” Foley said. “I was in ninth place. I figured if I want to win this thing I need to go make a really gutsy move and I got into second.”
He lost to Joseph Fitzpatrick, who ran a 4:19.09, though he was still happy with his overall showing.
“From last season to this season I improved nine seconds,” Foley said. “My goal was to improve 10 seconds. I lost that extra second, but I’m OK with that.”
Martucci told Foley “to go for it” in the 800 and it resulted in one last piece of hardware.
Foley said he had to fight through fatigue following the county meet the day before, when he won the 1,600 (5:27.46) for the third straight year and repeated as champ in the 800 (2:20.33).
Additionally at county he ran the final leg of the 4x400 relay, producing a personal best of 55 seconds, notching another first place for Challenger.
“It was very tiring,” Foley said. “Six races in 24 hours.”
Foley’s fastest 1,600 of 4:42.85 at the St. Petersburg Middle School Championship in March ranks him first in the state, according to flrunners.com.
“He’s definitely gotten more serious, which is difficult for him to do from where he was,” Kean said. “He’s so dedicated to running it’s ridiculous.
“He has a fantastic stride and fantastic pace. His stride is the most beautiful stride I’ve ever seen.”
Kean said Foley’s stated goal is to run at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. First, he’ll compete for Nature Coast starting during cross country in the fall.
“I’m really excited,” Foley said. “The team is looking really good. My goal is to make states as a team. I want to get top five as an individual as a freshman.”
❖ ❖ ❖
Manuel placed second at states in the discus (149-1) and fourth in the shot put (42-9), on top of his county title in the discus (140-10).
“That kid has worked his butt off,” Kean said. “In sixth grade he didn’t throw. In seventh grade he couldn’t break 100. He asked me for a discus to take home over the summer and he worked his butt off.
“His technique is the best technique I’ve ever had. He’s so fluid, there’s no jerky motion. It’s all fluid and he explodes at the end. And he’s just a coachable kid.”
Manuel said he just enjoys the discus, and has indeed put in the practice time to improve.
“My goal this season was to get past 130,” Manuel said. “I’m feeling really good knowing I worked hard enough to get past that.
“I have to get better if I want to make it to high school states next year. I have to get 10 times better.”
He’ll attend Springstead, which is the only program in the county that competes in Class 3A. All others fall into 2A, presenting the Eagles an even greater challenge in the state series.
Manuel, though, indicated he’s looking forward to the experience, even as he says goodbye to the Navigators.
“I’m sad about it, but I know greater things are going to come in high school,” Manuel said.
His coach these past few years at Challenger believes both Manuel and Foley will find success at the next level.
“They’ll absolutely be contributors in high school,” Kean said. “The two of them love track. Kyle is literally obsessed with discus, and Trevor is kind of the same way.”