For everything Nature Coast’s boys have accomplished this season, winning every time out until last week’s Class 2A, Region II Meet, today offers a chance to cap things off right.
The Sharks will have a presence at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, for the 2A FHSAA Finals.
When the meet begins with the 4x800 at 1 p.m., Nature Coast’s hopes of a state medal – given to the top eight in each event – will be put to the test.
“I think it’s huge,” Nature Coast boys coach Ryan Wilson said. “With the success we’ve had all year, if we go out and don’t receive a medal, I think it’d be extremely disappointing.”
The most realistic medal opportunities for the Sharks lie with their two relays, the 4x800 and 4x100.
Last year, Nature Coast finished eighth in the state in the 4x100 to collect a medal, and three members of that team return: Matt Breida, Jacquez Kincade and Frank Villaizan.
That trio of seniors is joined by freshman DeShawn Smith, and the group is seeded seventh with its season-best time of 42.59 posted at regionals.
As for the 4x800, Kevin Ciccone, James Harkless, Cody Van Natter and Wyatt Hessler are seeded eighth, having also run a season best of 8:12.97 in the region.
However, Hessler suffered a severe hamstring injury that day and will be unavailable, replaced by senior Stephen Murphy.
“The 4x1 and 4x8 are our best chance to medal, but they have to have good times and perform,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately races aren’t run on paper.
“They’re definitely peaking at the right time. Ever since districts the times have been dropping. They’ve been running their best and hopefully they’re saving the best for last.”
Additionally, Breida is seeded 15th in the 100 (10.92), Villaizan 16th in the 200 (22.75), and senior Frank Sampson ranks 13th in the triple jump (43-3).
“When you get to this point, it’s just about the kids going out there and doing their best,” Wilson said. “I think a good day for us is every kid goes out and performs at the highest level they can. If they PR (get a personal record) in their events, then that’s a successful day.”
For the Nature Coast girls, the 4x800 of Alyssa DeLigio, Crystal Burchhardt, Brianna Horn and Alexa Lacy are seeded 16th (10:21.37).
Plaugher ranks 12th in discus at 108-2, but at districts she notched a season-high toss of 113-10. Patrick sits 14th in the 400 (59.96). Both are making their first trip to states.
Plummer, a three-time district champ and four-time regional qualifier in the shot put, is likewise a state novice. Seeded eighth at 37-4, she has a legitimate chance to finish her prep career with a flourish.
“For Ebone, it’s trying to make the medal stand,” Hernando girls coach Shawanda McCullough said of the goal. “And for my sophomores, each has already made their goals for the year. Everything from here is gravy.
“We feel good that if we have our best day, we’ll get some people on the medal stand.”
At a Glance
What – Class 2A FHSAA Finals
Who – Nature Coast’s girls 4x800, boys 4x800 and 4x100, Matt Breida in the 100, Frank Villaizan in the 200 and Frank Sampson in the triple jump; Hernando’s Ebone Plummer in the shot put, Lauren Plaugher in the discus and Jasha Patrick in the 400.
Where – University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium, 1 UNF Dr., Jacksonville
When – Today, meet begins with field events and 4x800 at 1 p.m. Running prelims start at 4 p.m.; finals at 6:30 p.m.
At Stake – State championship and runner-up trophies; top eight finishers in each event earn medals.