Thursday, March 19, 2020

Five Things: Week 5

Sorry for being late with this take on the Southwest Florida high school distance running scene but as the world has spun out of control, I've been more than a little distracted.  Running is a minor piece of the equation as our nation grapples with this calamity.  Yet I feel certain while a price will be paid for all of this that none of us has come to terms with, we will move forward and survive.
1.  It kills me that we have a handful of incredible athletes who probably won't get a chance to make history this spring.  I was looking forward to Canterbury's Jessica Edwards breaking 5:00 in the 1,600 and closing in on 2:05 in the 800.  I wondered how the Oliveira twins, Moriah and Sierra, would end their remarkable careers at ECS.  I can only imagine how crushing this must be for these athletes.

2.  On the boy's side I was looking forward to some battle royals between Ida Baker's Franklin Caceres, Estero's Kolton Pickard and Fort Myer's Liam Holton.  Liam is on the comeback trail and his progress has been amazing.  Caceres just posted an incredible tempo run to his social media.  I feel deprived of what could of, would of, should of been a hell of a showdown at the county meet.

3.  Despite the probable loss of a season, the athletes must continue to train.  Edwards, Pickard and Holston have more seasons to come at the high school level.  I believe in my heart things will be returning to normal by the time cross country season arrives.  I can barely wait.

4.  I take heart that I can see the work progressing at Cypress Lake High School on the new synthetic track.  Despite the closing of the schools, the workers are out there, under the sun, making progress on what should be a great new facility.  Let's hope we get to put this new surface to the test soon.

5.  I will diverge from the high school scene to mention how heartbreaking it is to see Krissy Gear denied an almost guaranteed All-American award during her first season at Arkansas.  Her Distance Medley Relay team probably would have won the whole thing at NCAA Indoor Nationals and there is no telling what Miss Gear could have done in the open mile.  The lone bright spot is that Gear and Florida's Hugh Brittenham will get an extra outdoor season of eligibility should they choose to use it.  That's the only good news in the world of sports that I've learned all week.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Five Things: Week 4

We're one third of the way through the high school track and field season in Florida.  Distance runners have enjoyed cool, albeit windy conditions for their races.  We don't have a complete set of results from over the weekend.  For reasons unknown, the results from the Edison Relays at Fort Myers High School have not posted.  This historic meet featured only four teams and its future is in peril until the school gets a good surface to run on.  There are too many other meets with better surfaces on the schedule now.

1.  It's no surprise that Canterbury junior Jessica Edwards would post the first top double of the season.  Edwards wanted to chase a sub-five 1600 at the CSN Invitational in Naples and gave it a good go clocking a 5:08.43 in a solo effort.  Even more impressive was her 800 opener in 2:14.05.  It was an easy eight second victory over ECS rival Sierra Oliveira.

2.  We've got to give a little love for Sierra's sister, Moriah.  She scored an impressive triple victory in the 100, 200 and 400 at the CSN meet.  Moriah's 400 was an impressive 54.53, a great time for this early in the season.

3.  Estero's Kolton Pickard ran the fastest 1600 of the season in Southwest Florida at CSN.  His 4:29.32 gave him a clear victory over Lehigh sophomore Evan Meyer who ran 4:35.2.  It's early in the season but Pickard is going to have to run sub 4:20 to make noise at the state level.

4.  We had an Ethan Tank sighting at CSN.  The SFCA junior had so-so races early in the season but at CSN he captured the 3200 title in 9:54.64.  He was chased to the finish by Estero senior Brandon Palamino who also dipped under 10 joining Pickard and Ida Baker's Franklin Caceres as the only athletes to do so this season.

5.  Fort Myers junior Liam Holston is on the comeback trail.  Illness ruined the end of his cross country season and foot woes hampered the start of his training for track.  Holston doubled at Edison in roughly 2:05 and 4:42 for the 800 and 1600.  Another month and training and he should be in the mix with Caceres and Pickard as one of the top distance runners in the area.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Five Things: Week 3

This was a weird week.  There were three area meets, a quad at Dunbar early in the week, a girl's meet in Punta Gorda on Thursday with the week finishing with a major relay only meet at Naples.  So some of this is speculation because I don't know who ran which legs at Naples.

1.  Fort Myers sophomore Amy Meng  announced her arrival on the Southwest Florida running scene. Meng had popped off some impressive road race wins over the winter but Thursday she showed some major chops in the 3200.  Meng ran an impressive 11:35.57 to take second at the Lady Tarpon Invitational.  I suspect she's just scratching the surface.  She could run something big when the FSU Relays rolls around.

2.  I assume that Franklin Caceres turned in a big performance in Naples as Ida Baker took down Estero in the 4 x 1600.  Given Estero's distance depth it's a great showing for Ida Baker.  This is a program on the rise.

3.  Fort Myers distance ace Stephy Ormsby lost the 1600 finishing second by ten seconds in a respectable 5:30.89.   I would think at this time of the year Stephy should be easily able to run 5:15 but it's all a question of where she is in her training cycle and the current state of her health.  Please don't take my observations as a criticism, she is after all a high school athlete.

4.  It looks like Canterbury's Jessica Edwards enjoyed an unusual weekend double.  I'm guessing she had a major hand in her team's Distance Medley victory in Naples on Saturday.  Then she turned around Sunday morning and teamed up with older sister Emily to run a 6.5 mile leg in the Lazy Flamingo Half Marathon Relay.  Needless to say the Edwards sisters were the fastest relay team!

5.  I've got to turn away from the high school scene to talk about a couple of locals competing at the college level.  Estero grad Hugh Brittenham now at Florida helped his team to a scoring seventh place finish in the Distance Medley Relay at the SEC Indoor Championships.  He also qualified for the men's final of the mile, no mean feat for a freshman in the distance powerful conference.  Then there's the rejuvenation of Fort Myers grad Krissy Gear.  Her decision to transfer from Furman to Arkansas is paying off.  She anchor the Hogs to victory in the DMR at the SEC, qualified for the finals of the mile where she placed second and ran the 3000 to round out her Saturday.  Gear will run her first indoor nationals for the Razorbacks in the DMR.  I haven't seen the complete list of mile eligible athletes but she's also very close to being in that event as well.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Five Big Things: Week 2

Things are beginning to percolate around the Southwest Florida running scene.  A nice cool front offered distance runners to race under tolerable conditions but a strong north wind ruined any chance of fast times Friday night at Bishop Verot but it did hold temperatures down for Saturday's meet at Golden Gate.

1.  Friday night's girl's 3200 at Verot promised to be the first big race of the season.  Canterbury junior Jessica Edwards was stepping up in distance and would face Fort Myers senior distance ace Stephy Ormsby.  After a lackluster 800 leg in the 4x800 Ormsby scratched the 3200 leaving Edwards alone to face the winds and Estero's Mia Perez.

Edwards slowly but surely pulled away from Perez and ran 11:31.7 winning by 20 seconds.  Perez showed heart breaking 12 minutes in the terrible conditions.

2.  Sarah Schultz scored a double win at Verot, one coming in the rarely run 1200, the other in the 1600.  Her times were not world shattering, 4:10 and 5:38, but it shows that the Fort Myers senior is rebounding after an unsatisfying end to her cross country season.
3.  Franklin Caceres finally emerged at the Jim Smith Invitational at Golden Gate.  The Ida Baker senior ran the 3200 in 10:02.74, the second fastest time in Lee County behind Estero's Kolton Pickard.  Pickard opted for the 4x800 at Verot and an easy win in the 1600 in 4:39.7.  Estero's boys took every distance race save for the 800 at Verot.

4.  Lehigh Acres may have a super sophomore in the making.  Evan Meyer won the 1600 in 4:38.63 at the Smith Invitational.  The mark is the fastest in Lee County though it's very early in the season.

5.  Fort Myers junior Liam Holston made his first track appearance of the season racing the JV 800 at Verot.  Foot issues has hampered the start of his track season following an exceptional fall in cross country.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Five Big Things: Week 1

Track and field have gotten underway to Southwest Florida.  I am going to attempt to stay on top of the Lee County distance scene while noting former area athletes who are competing elsewhere as we head into the season with Five Big Things that I take away from the results of the week.

Thing 1:  Canterbury's Jessica Edwards appears ready and loaded for bear.  She started the week with a respectable 11:32 3,200, an event she loathes and fashioned a fine 4:51 and 2:17 1,500 and 800 double at Ida Baker.  Folks, she's made the opening statement that she's the class of Lee County distance running.

Thing 2:  The Missing in Actions this week were ECS and Oliveira twins.  They were scheduled to compete at Neumann but did not.  The other MIA was Ida Baker's Franklin Caceres who didn't run at his home opener.  Let's hope he's healthy.

Thing 3:  Fort Myers senior Stephy Ormsby ran a puzzling 800, 3000 double at Ida Baker.  It appears she sandbagged her 800 head to head with Edwards running 2:43, a jog for her and opted for a hard effort just minutes later in the 3,000 running a 10:46 which equates to a sub 11:30 3,200.  She's still on pace for some fireworks as the season progresses.

Thing 4:  The return of Estero's Kolton Pickard could be something. He popped off a fine 9:14 3,000 opener at Ida Baker which is well under 10 minutes for 3,200. He's a runner with fire in the belly and I want to once again apologize to him for letting him down last week at the Strides 5K when he was trying to accomplish something special.

Thing 5:  Fort Myers senior Ryan Murphy was on the roads this weekend running a solid 17:36 at the Edison Festival of Lights 5K.  No, Ryan's not going to set the world on fire but I've watched him work over the last four years and finishing second at this race is nothing to sneeze at.  Way to go Ryan.

I could do a whole Five Things on the start of Krissy Gear's season at Arkansas, but I think we'll save that for the SEC indoor championships.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Track 2020

This week marks the official start of high school track and field practice in Florida.  2019 was epic and 2020 could be reach heights beyond our wildest expectations.2019 could be a historic year for high school middle distance running in Southwest Florida.  Sorry guys, this is the year of the woman.

Any one of a half dozen boys could be the it distance runner in Lee County this year. Estero's Hugh Brittenham's large shadow that dominated the state for the last two years.  He's now lacing them up for Florida so that begs the question, which runner or runners will dominate the scene.

Track and cross country really are two different sports so that doesn't mean the boys that owned the area during the fall of 2019 will show up in the spring.  Fort Myers has two runners capable of running dipping under 4:30 in the 1600 and 9:40 in the 3200, Liam Holston and Colsen Palmer.  Ida Baker senior Franklin Cacerces should be a handful as well.

SFCA's Ethan Tank is a year older and a year stronger and the junior distance runner showed a lot of promise as a sophomore.  And who knows what will rise out of the Estero fleet of distance runners.  Colton Tucker has a lot to prove going into his senior season and I like his chances.

The question is will a wild card emerge among the boys?  A couple of sophomores could emerge, Evan Meyer from Lehigh or Jacob Fritz from Ida Baker.  A season of cross country could help an injury free Oglar Bartolon from Dunbar as well.

The smoke show will come from the gals.  The Oliviera twins will leave ECS after this season as legends.  Both will compete next season for the University of Miami.  Moriah will keep her focus on the 400 which is a shame because her 800 potential is off the charts.  That leaves Sierra to make a little more history at the longer distance before graduation.  Sierra clocked 2:11.04 which is national class.  If she breaks 2:10 she will only be the third Lee County girl to do so.

Unfortunately for Sierra, another local stud stands in the way of her for a state title.  Canterbury's Jessica Edwards ran a 2:08.4 to defeat Oliviera for last spring's 1A state title.  With two more years of running at the high school level in front of her, Jess could do all sorts of damage to the best ever lists for Lee County girls.

She's capable of running 2:05 for the 800 and well under 4:50 in the 1600.  Edwards will dip her toes in the 400 where she wants to run 55 or better, that's stupendous speed for a middle distance runner.  The capper will be if she can overcome her reluctance at the longer distance where a sub 11 minute 3200 seems well within her grasp.

That brings us to the biggest question mark moving into the spring.  Can Fort Myers senior Stephy Ormsby capitalize on her stunning fall in cross country.  Ormsby was a 300 meter hurdler as a freshman.  She rounded into a state caliber 800 runner over her sophomore and junior years.

But Ormsby is a completely different athlete than the one who ran for the Green Wave last spring.  She transformed her body, leaning out, improving her endurance and becoming a real threat to take down some pretty big barriers this spring.

A healthy Ormsby will have no trouble running 2:15 in the 800, under 5 in the 1,600 and under 11 in the 3,200.  The question is, can she touch any of Krissy Gear's times.  Breaking 2:10 in the 800 would be monumental.  Running under 4:50 for 1600 is within reach.  I like her chances of running under 10:40 for the 3200.

To run those times Ormsby will need competition which she will only get at the FSU Relays and Florida's Pepsi meet.  My guts tell me she will focus on the 1600 because it's a more glamorous event.  I've seen a lot of great high school girls over the last 50 years and I think under the right conditions Ormsby could run under 10:30 for 3200.

Regardless, the distance women of Lee County will own this spring, mark my words.

Friday, January 10, 2020

750

As we roll into 2020, I roll into my 50th year as someone who identifies himself as a runner.  Evidence of it exists in the photo above.  I sit in the second row, on the left, the second in with the sweatshirt on because I wasn't good enough to merit a singlet.  I wasn't good enough to run any of the varsity events.  The only one I had a shot at was 440 yards and my 63 seconds was about three seconds too slow.

I went out for track with visions of Jim Ryun dancing in my head.  I had seen him run the previous spring at the Kansas Relays on a world record setting distance medley relay.  I wanted to run the mile, but it didn't exits at that time in the world of eigth grade high track and field.  I had the stubborn determination to be a distance runner.

I would spend my summer running about 200 miles in preparation of joining the Abilene High School cross country team.  I would make the varsity on a team that would eventually place third in the state of Kansas.  Unfortunately, I would transfer to another junior high in Lawrence, Kansas before that trip to State happened.

But I was a runner, probably logging north of 300 miles in 1970.  The total was certainly well less than the 750 miles I logged in 2019.  That total is the lowest I have run since 1971 when I ran my first competitive mile, a school record at South Junior High and a city record for one, very short year.  I would make the Lawrence High varsity cross country team as a sophomore that fall.

2019 marked only the second time since 1971 that I ran less than 1,000 miles in a year.  Having knee surgery at the end of November 2018 didn't help.  A brutal summer of heat didn't help.  Having a grand daughter nearly killed in a car crash didn't help.  And turning 64 didn't help either.

I managed to run only one race in 2019.  A 58 minute 10K in Naples that I thoroughly enjoyed my slowest time ever by four minutes.  It matched my total number of races from 2018, a half marathon in Riga in 2:04 that I thoroughly enjoyed, my slowest time ever by 10 minutes.  I know that if I forced myself to race more, I would train more.  My duties with the Fort Myers Track Club and owning my own running store has actually hurt my ability to race more than it has helped.  But that's a me problem.

The fact is, I am still a runner.  I may have plugged away at a barely sub 40 minute four mile this afternoon but it was a run nevertheless and I rue the day that I might not be able to lace up a pair of running shoes and hit the road.  I kept threatening to stop running and racing throughout my 40's and by the time I turned 50 I began to realize what a gift it is that I can still run and race.  I don't care about my times... much.  I just enjoy the feeling of pushing myself, something that I rarely if ever do in training runs anymore. 

I see it as a gift and one that is not to be taken for granted.  Here's to another 1,000 plus miles in 2020.