The tragic events surrounding this weekend's Florida State Track and Field Championships overshadowed the legacy that lies at the feet of Coach Jeff Sommer. His shocking death dimmed the incredible performances turned in by a handful of young women who will shape the next few years of high school distance running in Southwest Florida. Not surprisingly, their achievements are directly and indirectly the result of Sommer and the standards he set for his athletes.
First, there's Sarah Candiano, who graduates from Evangelical Christian added two state titles at 1,600 and 3,200 to go with the championship she won in cross country. She also anchored a 2nd place finish for her team's 4 x 800 team. On that squad are two extremely young, but incredibly talented girls. Sierra Oliveira, a mere 7th grader, finished 2nd in the 1A 800 meter in 2:15.62, a national class time. Her twin sister Moriah was 2nd in the 400 meter in 57.65 to go along with a 2:18 split on that 4 x 800 relay.
It is impossible to speculate on how good the Oliveira sisters could be, especially given their youth. This dynamic duo has the potential to re-write all of the records ever set in Lee County. They could be a twin version of the prep prodigy, Mary Cain.
Estero's cupboard is hardly bare. Back for another year of high school cross country and track are Daley Cline and Breeana Salcedo. Those two will team with junior to be Megan Giovanniello to carry on Sommer's legacy. This trio should help make next fall's cross country battles with Fort Myers High School epic.
Gear could be the best distance runner in Lee County since Sommer coached Footlocker finalist Bona Jones. Her ability to run off of a fast pace with a powerful kick could bring some out of this world times, before Krissy graduates from Fort Myers.
Next spring there could be as many as a half dozen Lee County girl's under 2:15 in the 800. Nationally, most state's don't produce even one girl under 2:15 in a given year. I don't believe we'd be seeing any of this without years of groundwork done by Jeff Sommer. Think about it.