Track: Rain plays havoc with 4A meet
Rain and heavy winds once again wreaked havoc at the state high school track championship — this time on Saturday's Class 4A division in one of the strangest ways anyone could remember.
The weirdest turn of events came at 2:15 p.m. when meet officials at the University of North Florida looked at the massive blob of impending bad weather on the radar.
That's when it was decided the scheduled meet finals — already moved up two hours — would begin in 30 minutes, or at 2:45 p.m., or almost four hours before the originally scheduled time.
Meet officials unleashed massive messages in texts to coaches and through Twitter and Facebook.
Suddenly the preliminary running events were now the official finals, which meant state champions would be determined on the best times in the prelim heats.
For athletes like Freedom senior Sandra Akachukwu — who was attempting to be the first Hillsborough County athlete to medal in four events at two consecutive state meets (long jump, high jump, 100 and 200 meters) — it proved to be a difficult transition.
Akachukwu did take second in the long jump (18 feet, 5.25 inches), but things began unraveling in the 100.
In the 30 minutes following her final long jump, Akachukwu finished 12th in the 100 and failed on three attempts to clear her opening height of 5 feet, eliminating her from the high jump.
For several minutes on a bench next to the long jump pit, Akachukwu wept, and then, about 30 minutes later, she placed 10th in the 200.
“I was soaking wet after the long jump and then I had to run right over and get into the (100),” Akachukwu said. “I'm not making any excuses though. Everybody that competed had to go through this.”
Akachukwu's teammate, defending high jump champ Faith Woodard, said she felt helpless watching Akachukwu struggle through the crammed-up turn of events.
“I tried to talk about some technique things and keep her focused,” Woodard said. “I wanted to do anything I could to help. It was rough.”
Somehow, someway, Woodard kept her focus — despite checking out midway through the high jump to run the 400 — and won the high jump at 5-6.
“I knew what happened on Friday in Class 3A (when 14 of the 16 boys high jumpers failed to clear a height because of rain),” Woodard said. “I have to say I was a little more careful with my steps.”
The only other event winners from Hillsborough were Alonso triple jumper Quatasia Fantroy (38-9.75) and Bloomingdale's 4x800 boys relay team of John Bryant, Ryan Chadderton, Kevin Heron and Andrew LeBlanc, who won in 8:04.84.
Fantroy, who competed only in the triple jump, said her victory was satisfying partly because she overcame a sore hamstring that has been troubling her for weeks.
"It's a little (tight) now," Fantroy said standing in the drizzle toward the end of the meet. "But it was okay during the (competition)."
The quick turnover from the rescheduled events, however, appeared to have a brutal effect on LeBlanc, who came in among the state's elite in the 1600 and 800 meters, but on Saturday finished 15h in the 1600 (4:43.70) and 12th in the 800 (2:01.33).
"Winning the state title (in the 4X800) felt really great because it was with my teammates who have worked so hard together," LeBlanc said. "The rest of the day, well … I don't want to make excuses but the (change in meet starting times.)
This is not to say everyone from Hillsborough County struggled in Saturday's adverse conditions.
Some more highlights from the county locals included several from Plant: Julia Rodriguez (second in the 3200 meters, 11:04.34), Rachel Goding (second in the pole vault (11 feet), Scarlett Fox (fourth in the 1600, 5:10.77) and the Panthers' 4X800 relay team (Fox, Caroline Gibson, Caroline Bado and Emory Pitisci) who finished fifth in 9:35.64. Gibson followed with a seventh-place finish in the 1600 meters (5:15.67).
Plant's girls also finished highest as a team among Hillsborough County competitors, taking ninth with 19 points. On the boys' side, Bloomingdale's boys placed highest among county competitors, placing 12th with 19 points.
Other top-five county performers included Wharton's Mikayla Barber (third in the 300 hurdles in 44.35) and Tyler Watson (fourth in the 300 hurdles, 44.35), and Wildcat pole vaulter Britaney Smith, who was fifth at 11 feet because of more combined misses. Watson also took seventh in the 100 hurdles (15.02) and along with Barber and Stevondria Hardy and Kiana Outen helped the Wildcats to a sixth-place finish in the 4X400 relay (4:00.36).
On the boys' side, Newsome's Lars Benner came back from a tough 4X800 relay, a sluggish 1600 (after eating a sandwich and thinking he had several before the news of the meet change), to place third in the 3200 meters in 9:34.90. Teammate Todd Jackson also finished fourth in the open 400 in 49.49.
Bloomingdale's Heron also returned to place fifth overall in the 800 (1:58.62), edging Plant Kyle Groh (1:59.39), while Bull Gerard Trott was fourth in the long jump (21-4.5), and Alonso's William Taylor-Hanes pulled through with a third-place in the 110 hurdles (14.17 seconds) and eighth in the high jump (5-10).
Bloomingdale's girls 4X800 team of Kali Clemmer, Abigail Wingfield, Annie Barrett and Julie Roggeman finished seventh in 9:48.10, and Roggeman followed with a sixth-place in the open 800 (2:20.70).
Tampa Bay Tech's Caleb Chambliss was eighth in the 110 hurdles in 14.97 and teammate Deonte Williams took seventh in the 100 meters (10.94) and sixth in the 200 (21.80).
Durant's lone medalist was Darrien Kelly, who took sixth in the 300 hurdles (39.81)