Success at state track meet
The 2019 track and field season came to an end last weekend at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and a handful of North Pinellas athletes ran and jumped their way onto the podium.
Leading the local charge were the girls from Calvary Christian and East Lake, notably Jordyn Showers and Parker Valby. Both juniors participated in four events and came home with gold medals.
Valby, competing in the Class 3A meet with East Lake, turned in the best individual performance of all among athletes. The junior distance runner placed first in the 3,200-meter run (10:10.45) and set a new Florida High School Athletic Association state record in the process. The impressive time now pushes Valby up to No. 3 in the national rankings in the event.
East Lake’s star runner qualified for the 800-meter run, but registered a DNF (did not finish), and the 4x800 relay. The four-girl team placed 14th with a time of 9:54.70.
Calvary Christian got its gold from Showers the long jump (5.54 meters). The junior’s other finishes were seventh in the triple jump (10.85 meters), 10th in the 100-meter dash (12.80) and 10th as part of the Warriors’ 4x400 relay team (4:12.88).
As a team, Calvary placed 14th in Class 1A and East Lake came in at 15th in Class 3A. Pinellas County’s highest overall team placements came courtesy of the Admiral Farragut girls (fifth in Class 1A) and boys (eighth).
Six other girls joined Valby at states. Carly Bradley, Vanessa Galiano and Emily Rollins ran in the 4x800 with Valby, Anna Cincotta placed ninth in the long jump, Emma Grace placed 13th in the pole vault and Olivia Mackenzie placed 18th in the 300-meter hurdles. The Eagles boys were represented by triple jumper Jake Walsh, who placed ninth.
The Calvary girls sent eight total athletes to states. Joining Showers was Madison Doletzky, Callie Friske, Grace Galloway, Amber Kluber, Penelope Larosa, Lauren Reese and Danielle Smith. In addition to running in the 4x400 with Showers, Friske placed fifth in the 1,600, eighth in the 3,200 and 14th in the 800. The Calvary boys picked up points in the 400-meter run from senior Gabriel Dials.
Other North Pinellas competitors of note were Countryside’s Donovan Bernitt and Alec Latzke and Palm Harbor University’s Jackson Bjelland. Bernitt competed in three events, including a ninth-place finish in the long jump and 10th-place finish in the triple jump. Latzke finished seventh in the 3,200 and 11th in the 1,600. Bjelland finished 10th in the high jump.
FHSAA region softball tournaments get underway Wednesday and North Pinellas qualified five programs into their respective brackets, including three district champions.
This year’s league winners were East Lake (District 8A-7), Dunedin (District 6A-9) and Calvary Christian (District 4A-4).
After losing its second game of the season on the road to Bartow, East Lake has rattled off 25 straight wins. The Eagles (26-1) are averaging more than eight runs a night while surrendering fewer than two. That’s the type of combo teams need to make deep runs in the postseason and East Lake knows it needs to be firing on all cylinders right from the get-go.
The Eagles get to host District 8A-7 runner-up Palmetto (16-10) on Wednesday before an expected date with annual nemesis Bradenton Lakewood Ranch. East Lake’s seen its past three postseasons end at Lakewood Ranch and the 2019 Mustangs are ranked not only No. 1 in the state by MaxPreps.com, but No. 1 in the entire country. If East Lake takes care of business against Palmetto and Lakewood Ranch handles Pinellas Park, they’ll meet in the region semifinals in Bradenton May 14.
Calvary Christian (23-3) is enjoying its best season in program history and will host Orlando The First Academy (17-10) on Thursday night. A first-round win would send the Warriors into the Class 4A region final against the winner of Montverde Academy-Tampa Catholic.
Dunedin pulled off an upset by beating Tarpon Springs for the District 6A-9 title, but there was also an upset in District 6A-10. That means Dunedin will host Sebring (22-2) on Wednesday and Tarpon Springs, though having to travel, will get the less-daunting task of facing Lake Wales (18-8). Both are challenging matchups, however, and the Falcons and Spongers will need their A games to move on to the region semifinals.
Palm Harbor University came up short in its district-championship bid last week, losing 2-1 to Newsome. That defeat sends the Hurricanes to the east coast to face the winner of Vero Beach-Port St. Lucie Centennial. The District 9A-7 title game was washed out last week was scheduled to be played Monday. PHU and Newsome are battle tested playing in a tough, four-team District 9A-8 field. It would be no surprise seeing a district-title rematch unfolding at Newsome on Tuesday.