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Highlights from Region 1-3A Track 2017

Jay Wallace, May 3, 2017

Just like at District 3-3A meet a week earlier, it was muggy and in the 80's for Regions on Thursday, April 27, 2017 at Chiles High School. This time, there was also a strong breeze alternating between a headwind and a crosswind heading down the homestretch (as well as the pole vault runway where I spent the majority of my day).  All athletes nonetheless had to endure the same conditions.  Once in the post-season, the main focus is on the competition and advancing to State (top 4 places at regions).  And competition there was.  Local kids fared well.  You can view the results below, especially if you're like me and enjoy reading through track results like a baseball fan does box scores.  Either way, read on below as I try to provide some highlights from my perspective.

Region 1-3ATrack Results 2017

Girls Distance: Last fall's 3A State cross country champion team Niceville displayed some strong performances particularly in the middle distance arena.  Senior Abbie Harrelson was a 4 event qualifier, winning the 1600 and 800, running a leg on the winning 4 x 800 team, and anchoring their 4 x 400 team that placed 4th in an exciting finish.  The 1600 was an especially competitive event.  All four qualifying girls - Lincoln's Alyson Churchill and Chiles' Ana Wallace among them - ran under 5 minutes.  It all came down to a tight finish, with 1.11 seconds separating Harrelson's 4:58.59 and Wallace's 4:59.7.  Out of all 16 regions in Florida spanning 1A through 4A, this was the 2nd most intense 1600 field. (Region 4-2A had four girls 4:57 or under).  Niceville's Hannah Schneidewind, who was 6th at State 1600 last spring, ran a personal best 5:03.64 but unfortunately missed in 5th place.  Chiles' sophomore Emily Culley ran a 7 second personal best 5:07.96 for 6th.  Culley will go to State with Chiles 4 x 800 relay team that took 2nd at Regions and no doubt will have many great performances in the next two years.  A digression: these times would have easily qualified for State out of most Regions, winning several.  I would strongly encourage FHSAA to adopt rules addressing such discrepancies; for example, allowing either a time standard or top 4 non-qualifying times to advance.  Word is that there is a move afoot in that direction.  Other states have a similar problem.  There is one region in Texas in which a boy didn't make it out with an 8:54 3200.  Wow. Back to Florida Region 1-3A results...  The pace was less blistering in the 3200.  This is because it was approximately 90 minutes after the 1600 and most competitors' doubled, their legs a bit spent.  Ana commented that their 1600 cool down also served as warm up for 3200.   Churchill and Wallace worked through the conditions and advanced.  In the 800, Lincoln senior Tamera Mason was the only local qualifier coming in 2nd with a 2:15.27.  Niceville showed their depth at that event with runners coming in 3rd and 5th in addition to Harrelson's win. 

Girls Sprint and Field Events:  District winner Jacqueline Jones of Lincoln won the 100 meter as the sole local qualifier in that event with a 12.17.  Lincoln junior Lonzetta Simpkins was the only local qualifier in the 400, pulling a 3rd place 55.85.  Leon senior Jymece Grimsley was in the unenviable position of having placed 5th in both the 400 and 200, just 0.07 seconds from 4th in the 200.  Lincoln junior Faith Tillman was the only local qualifier in a hurdle event, placing 3rd in the 300 hurdles in 46.06.    There was only one local qualifier in field events as well: Lincoln senior Leelah Wilburn gets one more competition, having placed 2nd in the discus with a throw of 35.12 meters (115' 3").  Lincoln had a fine showing in relays, winning the 4 x 400 (3:49.75), 3rd in the 4 x 100, and 3rd in the 4 x 800.  Chiles also advanced in 4 x 800 with a 2nd place.  Overall team competition in post-season is meaningless as it relates to advancement to State.  But for pride at having top notch programs, it is still a big deal.  And for that, Niceville can claim to have the top girls' 3A team for the northern quarter of Florida.  Lincoln finished 3rd.  At State, team scoring is more a function of how many elite athletes one can put forward, even if the main focus is on certain events.  Miami Northwestern is the perennial winner in girls 3A.  They are kind of the Florida girls track equivalent of UConn women's basketball.  They usually take State team competition by a lopsided score, most all powered by sprints, hurdles and field events.  There is virtually no distance program, although they do manage to put forward the top ranked 4 x 800.  Well, UConn lost this year, so one never knows what can happen....

Boys Distance events:   Creekside senior Matthew Clark has been coming up just short of Chiles' junior Michael Phillips all track season.  Both are among Florida's best in 1600 and 3200.  At Regions, Clark picked up the win in both with Phillips close behind at 2nd.  Times were at 4:24 range in 1600 and 9:36 range for 3200, far from their season's best (see above notes about warm conditions and short turnaround), but again all one needs to do is advance and they ensured they stayed at the top.  Chiles junior Matthew Newland, who has been having a breakout season, pulled into state with 4th place finishes in both races.  The 3200 was not without some drama as Newland and Leon senior Matthew Cashin barreled through the final 400 in roughly 61 seconds in a mad dash for the final spot.  Cashin ended his high school career just 0.2 seconds shy.  These two have competed against each other since Cashin was at Raa and Newland at Montford.  It has been a good rivalry.  I am happy to report he will be competing in college at the University of North Florida.   One local runner qualified in the 800 and that was Lincoln junior Clayton Carlson with a strong 2nd place 1:54.55. 

Boys Sprints and Field Events: Perhaps the biggest story of the sprint events was Leon senior Leander Forbes breaking 46 seconds in the 400.  His 45.95 places him among the top 3 in the state across all categories.  Florida being one of the most competitive states in the nation, this also should put him on the map on a national level as well.  Lincoln sophomore Trevor Wilson, who beat Forbes at Districts, also advanced with a 3rd place finish. Lincoln senior Marquel Pittman was another highlight, winning both the 100 (10.64) and 200 (21.59).  Lincoln senior Trejan Huggins took 3rd in the 100 and Leon sophomore Jaden Jones-Riley made it in 4th for the 200.   Boys had two local qualifiers in the hurdles. Chiles' senior Rock Wester powered to a win in the 110 High Hurdles with a 14.78.  Leon senior Justin Peter won the 300 hurdles in 38.01.  Chiles' Jordan Poole was the local highlight in weight events, qualifying in 2nd in both shot and discus.  He threw a very respectable 47.12m discus (154' 7").  But perhaps the single most dominating individual in any event was Niceville's thrower Edwin Shelikoff who hoisted the discus a remarkable 58.91m (193' 3").  In the high jump, Leon sophomore Jaylen Taylor moved on with a 2nd place finish.  Leon sophomore Sebastian Campo endured a tough field and the windy conditions to make it to state for the first time with a 4th place 3.95m (12' 11 1/2").  He made 10'6" as a freshman.. a 2 1/2 foot improvement in one year.  There were two local qualifiers in each horizontal jump.  In the long jump, Lincoln senior Trejan Huggins added to his 100 meter qualification with a win, jumping 6.90 meters (22' 7 3/4").  Leon senior Justin Peter took 2nd with 6.68 meter (21' 11").  In the triple jump, Lincoln junior Charles Williams took 2nd with a leap of 13.1m (42' 11 3/4") and Chiles' junior Tyrek Robinson set yet another personal best with a 3rd place 13.05m (42' 9 3/4").  Relays:  As one might expect by all those sprint events, local teams shone in the relays.  Lincoln took 3rd in the 4 x 100, just 0.23 seconds off the winning time.  Leon, powered by Forbes, won the 4 x 400 with a strong 3:16.1.  Lincoln was not far behind in 3:17.7.  For a bit of perspective, four 50 second 400 meter legs would be 3:20.  It is quite an accomplishment to put together a team of 4 high school guys averaging 49 seconds per 400.  Chiles ran a strong 3:21.79 for 4th.  In the 4 x 800, Lincoln was the winner and Chiles 4th. 

Anyone want to guess the team winner in boys?  On the strength of their outstanding sprinters and field event athletes, Lincoln took the honor with Chiles 2nd and Leon 4th.

Boys team competition at State is usually closer than in girls.  Chiles has managed 3 consecutive championships with a fairly balanced approach, relying on distance stars like Avery Bartlett and  Phillips, hurdler Justin Cromartie (one of their current assistant coaches, no doubt some relation to Wester's success), and throwers like Poole and Cole Upthegrove (also lending a hand with some coaching this year).  Could they make it four?  It would be tough, but no one gave them a chance last year after Bartlett was gone.

Regardless of team competition though, just making it to State is a great honor for a young athlete making it through these two layers of qualifiers.  It will be fun watching the competitors mentioned above as well as local qualifiers in 1A and 2A compete at IMG Academy in Bradenton May 5 and 6.  Check up on results at www.fhsaa.org or, if you have a membership on milesplit, you can watch live.