With the FHSAA Finals a little more than a week away, a handful of athletes from Springstead will head east to Lake Minneola for today’s Class 3A, Region II Meet.
The event begins with the pole vault at 10 a.m., followed by the 4x800 at 11:30 a.m., remaining field events at noon and running prelims at 3:30 p.m.
Running finals start at 6 p.m. or 30 minutes after the completion of prelims, whichever is earliest.
The Lady Eagles are sending three individuals and a pair of relays to the meet, and nearly all of them have a good chance to finish in the top four and advance to states on May 3 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
“We’re hoping to get a few out,” Springstead girls coach Joel Myers said. “We need to run well, but we don’t have to run spectacular.
“All the girls I’m taking should make it out in something. I’d be disappointed if we don’t have a vanload again going up to states.”
Senior Wilena Little, a Florida International signee and two-time Hernando Today Athlete of the Year, appears to be shaking off the leg injuries that hampered her for much of the regular season.
Last week at districts she leapt a season-best 18-1 to win the long jump, the event in which she was the highest returning state medalist from 3A.
She’ll also run the 200 meter, hoping to return to states in that event after making it as a freshman and sophomore.
Not that Little didn’t deserve to make it in 2013. Though her regional time would have medaled at states, she was victimized by a brutally tough region featuring teams from Orlando and Tampa.
The Tampa squads are no longer in the equation after district realignment, making the path to states at least a bit smoother.
“She’s starting to come back,” Myers said of Little. “If she goes over 17 (in the long jump), she’ll make it to states and that’s the whole goal in long jump. Everybody gets three jumps; it doesn’t matter where you’re seeded.
“She has better form and she’s getting healthier. We’ve got her all taped up. She’s as healthy as she’s been all season. She performed pretty well in districts.”
Little also won a district title in the 200, with a 26.65. Still, while she’s the region’s top seed in the long jump, she’s outside the top four in the 200. However, since she wasn’t challenged at districts Myers noted that Little didn’t go all out.
“She should go faster in the 200,” Myers said. “It’s a pretty tough field. Hopefully she makes the finals.”
The junior Blackwell is seeded among the top four in the 800, putting her in line for a third straight state trip in that event. She finished second at districts with a season-best 2:22.80.
“She’s going to go (to states) unless she pulls a muscle during the race or something,” Myers said. “She wants to win that regional title, though.”
Senior Ty’Rhonza Harris qualified for regionals in the 400, but she is seeded near the bottom and Myers admitted she may not compete, instead saving herself for the 4x400.
That 4x400, featuring Blackwell, Harris, Little and Alexandra Ede, as well as the 4x800 of Blackwell, Harris, Julia Diven and Joy Jackson, are in prime position to move on.
“They need to run what they’re capable of running,” Myers said. “We ran a 10:23 in the 4x8 (at districts), that’s our best time of the year. But Blackwell ran a 2:29. We had second place wrapped up and we probably weren’t going to get first, so she took it easy. We can go a lot faster.
“We ran three bad legs (in the 4x400 at districts). But a 4:17 might get us out. We’ve run a 4:10 before. If we run that, we’re going to go.”
❖ ❖ ❖
Senior Bobby Harris, defending state champion in the high jump, leads the Springstead boys competing today.
Harris qualified in the triple jump, having taken second with a 42-9 last week, as well as his customary high jump, following a district title behind a 6-6.
Despite the fact that Harris has been a state runner-up and champ the past two seasons, he has strangely not captured a regional title.
“You’ll never find anybody that says they’re going into a meet hoping they don’t win,” Springstead boys coach Brandon Wright said. “Obviously that’s something he’d like to do. But the number one goal is to get to states.”
While Harris figures to advance in the high jump, he’s more of a longshot in the triple. Senior Tyler Mahla in the 110 and 300 hurdles, plus seniors James Amodie and Jai Jackson the 800, are also seeking state berths.
At districts, Mahla won the 300 (42.44) and placed second in the 110 (16.65). Amodie took first in the 800 (2:03.14), with Jackson in fourth (2:03.32).
The Eagles will have an entry in all three relays, the 4x800 of Amodie and Jackson plus Jeff Amodie and Josh Page; James Amodie, Jackson, Mahla and Matt McDuff in the 4x400; and Harris, Harry Bennett, Frankie Fontan and Diemonte Williams in the 4x100.
“If we go into there and do what we’re supposed to do, the goal is always to run a better race than the week before,” Wright said. “If we get PRs (personal records), you’ll see some smiling faces at the end of the day because that means some of these kids are going to states.”
At a Glance
What – Class 3A, Region II Meet
Who – Springstead’s boys 4x800, 4x100 and 4x100; girls 4x800 and 4x400; Bobby Harris in the high jump and triple jump; Tyler Mahla in the 110 and 300 hurdles; James Amodie and Jai Jackson in the 800; Wilena Little in the long jump and 200; Erin Blackwell in the 800; and Ty’Rhonza Harris in the 400.
Where – Lake Minneola High, 101 N. Hancock Road, Minneola
When – Today: Pole vault at 10 a.m., 4x800 at 11:30 a.m., remaining field events at noon, running prelims at 3:30 p.m. Running finals start at 6 p.m. or 30 minutes after the completion of prelims, whichever is earliest.
At Stake – Team regional championship; top four finishers in each event advance to 3A FHSAA Finals May 3 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.