Sunday, April 4, 2021

Three Big Things: Week Eight

It was the search for the white whale.  Only in this case Ahab was the great female 800 runner in Lee County history.  It seemed ridiculous that Jessica Edwards would go through her storied career without having broken five minutes for 1,600 minutes.  The Canterbury star was on course last season to break that barrier until Covid intervened.  Then last week, under good conditions against a great field, the 1,600 proved to be this super woman's kryptonite once again.  Then when you least expect it... the white whale surfaced.

1.  Jessica Edwards ran 4:58.14 at the Private 8 meet on Wednesday putting aside the mystical barrier.  I haven't spoken to her, but my guess under no stress conditions, this tough as nails runner put her mind to it and just did it.  Edwards then stepped up and ran in not one, not two, but three more events.  

Following her break through 1,600 Edwards had about 20 minutes of rest before winning the 400 in 60.29.  Then after about another 30 minutes Edwards coasted to a victory in the 800, 2:24.76.  She was saving not for the 3,200, no she opted to run the 200 about 30 minutes later.  She only managed second in 26.74.  Let it be known that Bishop Verot's Herrara Geraldine put a harpoon in Edwards the crazy quadruple.  Word is puking was involved after the intense 200.

2.  Kolton Pickard scored a nice double at the Panther Invitational.  The Estero junior distance ace anchored his team's 4x800 team to victory and then scored an easy win in the open 800 in 1:57.98.  Pickard will now have to decide whether he will focus on the 1,600/3,200 double along with relay duties or the 1,600/800.  I'm sure Coach Olitsky has a plan in place and my guess is the 3,200 plays better to Pickard's considerable strength.

3. The regular track and field season is all practical purposes, over.  The cut down District championships are next on the calendar in more than a week.  It brings to question why Lee County chose not to hold a county championship for its public schools?  It's a mixed bag with Covid in mind but a handful of Florida counties are holding championships.  Last year's seniors and this year's seniors have missed out on so much.  It seems a shame that some of Lee County's best track and field athletes aren't getting a chance to face off one last time. 



Monday, March 29, 2021

Three Big Things: Week Seven

This week of racing boiled down to these three big things: 1. Dunbar, 2. Dunbar, 3. Dunbar.  The inaugural Dunbar Tigers Invitational addressed one of my biggest pet peeves with high school track and field.  Coaches Guy Thomas and Ray Romero staged one mile races for high school boys and girls instead of the bastardized 1,600 meters usually run at high school meets.  One of my biggest grievances about the federations that rule high school track is they don't run either the mile or 1,500 meters rather than a distance, 1,600 that is run nowhere else in the world.  

My other grievance is that the silly high school rules forced any of the athletes who entered the mile races to run unattached.  I watched as freaked out athletes were told to pull off their uniform tops and turn them inside out so they don't face the risk of being disqualified for the rest of their outdoor track and field season.  It is an arbitrary and archaic rule that needs to go away.

I was on hand to watch the elite miles and both the boys and girls races lived up to expectations with one surprise.  The weather was decent, a bit warm at 76 with a touch of humidity and a brisk cross wind.  Javier Vento from distance powerhouse Belen Jesuit ran a picture perfect 4:09.26 timing his kick to perfection.  Seeing a boy break 4:10 in a high school only race doesn't happen often.  

Southwest Florida's top entrant, Kolton Pickard from Estero, never looked comfortable.  He had trouble settling into the pack and yo-yo'd around before throwing in the towel, literally walking across the finish line in 4:20.56.  Pickard is in sub 4:15 shape.  Pickard staged a nice comeback doubling back to win the 3,200 in 9:37.2.  He's going to be a major factor at the state meet.

The surprise came in the girl's race that held the promise of Canterbury's Jessica Edwards getting the chance to finally break five minutes over four laps.  600 meters in you could see the look of panic in Edwards eyes as Carly McNatt and Krystal Rodriguez broke the race open.  Rodriguez powered past McNatt to win in 4:57.8.  Meanwhile, a frustrated Edwards finished in 9th in 5:16.65.  

The big local story was Elizabeth Williamson.  The Cape Coral 8th grader ran 5:08.9 to finish fifth.  One area high school is going to get a certified stud next year.

The kicker to this day of distance running (excuse the pun) was a showdown in the girl's 800 between Edwards and Miami based stud Cha'iel Johnson, daughter of NFL great Chad Johnson.  Based on the mile one would think it wouldn't be much of a race.  But Edwards showed why she is the best 800 runner in the state clocking a 2:10.62 to beat Johnson handily.  Given it was her second race of the day and it came during the hottest part of the day, it's an amazing performance.  Sub-five can wait.  

Monday, March 22, 2021

Three Big Things: Week Six

We've hit the midway mark in Florida's high school track and field season.  This week held a lot of promise for some earth shattering races but sometimes things don't fall the way you think they should.  A lot of it had to do with the weather.  It was plenty cool, but the winds didn't cooperate.  In fact the combination of cooler than normal weather and wind made conditions more than miserable for competition, especially at the big meet at Satellite Beach.

1.  The Viking Relays held a lot of promise.  I was hoping for a showdown between in the girl's 1,600 between Ava Povich and Jessica Edwards.  Instead, Edwards opted for relay stints and Bishop Verot's Julia Reitz stepped up to make it a battle of sophomores when she toed the line against Povich.  Reitz came out on top over the ECS distance ace winning in 5:23.65, just a couple of ticks faster than Povich.  

2.  Canterbury's Jessica Edwards is putting in a monster season.  She started last Friday off by anchoring her team to a win in the 4x800 in a respectable 9:52.85, the fastest time so far this season in Southwest Florida.  Edwards blasted a 2:11.35 split.  The senior backed it up with a 5:21.62 1,600 carry in helping her team win the Distance Medley Relay.

3.  Satellite Beach was host to Rheinhardt Harrison's much hyped attempt at breaking 4 minutes in the mile.  Estero junior Kolton Pickard found himself in that race eying four laps in under 4:15.  The weather was miserable and Harrison paced himself to a 4:06 while Pickard battled the conditions to finish third in 4:27.52.  It was a rough trip to the east coast for Lee County distance runners although Fort Myers High Paul Kolson managed a respectable 1:59.79 800 and another Fort Myers senior Anna Fischler ran a 1,600 PR in 5:29.71.  

Another big mile is on tap Saturday afternoon at the Dunbar Invitational.  It will be interesting to see who decides to show up for a traditional mile rather than the 1,600.  Plus the weather will play a role.  If the cool temperatures stick around look for some fast times.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Three Big Things: Week Five

Southwest Florida's track and field season is going full bore and the great weather in mid-March offered athletes a chance to deliver some stellar performances.  As the temperatures begin to heat up the opportunities to run fast will be fewer and farther between and with no big meet showdowns at Florida State and Florida local competition will have to do.

1.  Estero junior Kolton Pickard is beginning to look like he can be mentioned in the same breath as Wildcat legends Erick Montoya and Hugh Brittenham.  After anchoring Estero's 4x800 team to victory at the South Fort Myers Invitational, Pickard rolled to a 9:29.9 3,200 as the sunset on a breezy Friday evening.  The time puts him a good 20 seconds up on the next fastest Lee County boy.  Given the path that Pickard is on he could become one of the few runners to break 9:15 and 4:15 in Lee County history.

2.  Ethan Tank took down another school record at North Port.  This time Tank rolled to a 4:33.11 1,600 in placing a respectable third.  The SFCA senior now owns both the 1,600 and 3,200 records for the Kings.  If he keeps progressing through the season a podium spot in one of these two events isn't out of the question at State.

3.  Jessica Edwards will grow tired of me writing about her close but no cigar running when it comes to her efforts to break 5 minutes over 1,600.  The Canterbury senior was pushed at the North Port meet but her victory only netted her a 5:03.88.  More impressive is Edwards doubled back with a 2:12.8 over 800.  Based on her 800 Edwards is capable of running well under 4:55, but I'm pretty sure she's tired of hearing about it.

As an aside so far four Lee County boys have broken 10 minutes for 3,200 meters.  Besides Pickard and Tank, Dunbar's Ogler Bartolon joined Fort Myers junior Colsen Palmer in the sub 10 club.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Twins

I'm old and I forget stuff.  I have been shamefully woeful in tracking the freshman indoor track season of the greatest dynamic duo ever produced by Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers.  Of course I speak of the Oliveira twins, Moriah and Sierra.  The 400 and 800 meter specialists respectfully signed with the University of Miami.  The U is a pretty stout track and field power.  While not at the level of Florida and Florida State. Miami produces great track and field athletes.

I am opiniated about what I think these two sensational runners could accomplish.  I felt that both needed to move up in distance, Moriah to the 800 and Sierra to the 1500.  I think they did a heck of a job of proving my opinion wrong.

Miami had a shortened indoor schedule but the twins were front and center in their meager schedule leading up the ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships were they shined.  We'll start with Sierra were she dropped a major PR bomb in the 800 running 2:07.81 to qualify into the finals.  Meanwhile Moriah was doing her thing in the 400 prelims running 54.52 to qualify for Saturday's finals when both girls would run.  And boy did they.

Moriah was up at the track three weeks ago in Clemson smashing her PR running 54.08 to place second in the ACC.  A great accomplishment for a freshman in a conference full of super sprinters.  Sierra followed a short time later in the 800 where 2:08.36 to score points with a respectable 8th place finish.

The fireworks came at the end of the meet when the twins led the Hurricanes to the ACC title in the 4x400 meter relay.  Both girls ran splits in the 53's and Moriah earlier in the season split a sub 53 in a relay.  The Hurricanes finished second in the race for the team title thanks to the 19 points scored by the twins.

The Oliveira Twins have made an amazing transformation from a small school track and field program into a NCAA Division I powerhouse without skipping a beat.  I suspect they are future All Americans in the making.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Krissy's Big Weekend

More than a year ago Krissy Gear's running career was at a cross roads.  Out of high school, the Fort Myers grad had taken a scholarship to run for Furman, a second tier distance power in South Carolina.  Her decision led to a couple a spot on the U.S. junior national team her freshman year after winning junior nationals in the steeple.  She ran in two NCAA outdoor championships and despite an injury plagued junior year ran on Furman's NCAA championship qualifying cross country team in the fall of 2019.

The follow is my opinion.  I don't know what was going on at Furman with her coach but I thought that Gear's career was being mishandled.  Gear had shown great promise in the 800 and mile indoors.  Yet every outdoor season she was forced to focus on the steeple.  I was disappointed that she was never given any serious consideration to try her hand in the 1500.

Gear is a marvelous athlete.  She was a state caliber pole vaulter in high school.  I suspect Furman's coaches believed that her athleticism made her the perfect candidate to steeple.  I could be wrong in interpreting the situation but even Colorado steeple sensation Jenny Barringer was given the opportunity by the coach's at Colorado gave her opportunities to run flat races.  Barringer has gone on to the greatest middle distance runner in American history.

I'm not saying Krissy is Jenny Barringer.  But I suspect Krissy was frustrated at Furman's reluctance to let her run more outdoor 800 and 1500 races.  That and other personal reasons led Gear to transfer to Arkansas at the end of the 2019 cross country season.

You could immediately see the change in atmosphere was just what Krissy Gear needed.  She was poised to run her first indoor NCAA championship last winter when Covid brought her season to an end.  The wait was on.

The wait paid off this weekend Fayetteville where a very busy Gear helped her Razorback team win a national title.  Krissy ran three races.  Her weekend start with the mile Friday night where Gear ran a masterful 4:40.92 to win her heat and move into Saturday's final.  ESPN showcased Gear cheering on her teammates who ran the next prelim trying to join her in the finals.  Her love and passion for her teammates was brimming over.

 About an hour later she was back on the track for the finals of the Distance Medley Relay.  Gear with a race in her legs was given the baton for the final leg neck and neck with Brigham Young's Courtney Wayment who was running on fresh legs.  A half mile out, Wayment made a major surge gapping Gear by 15 meters.  You could tell Gear was gaging her effort making sure that the group of team trailing her in third didn't cut into her sizeable margin over that pack.

With a lap to go it Wayment had stretched her lead to 40 meters while Gear held her form and keeping her position and nailing down a second place finish for the Razorbacks.  Gear could now call herself an All American.  Wayment would follow up Friday's run by winning the 3000 Saturday night.

Saturday night also brought Gear back to the world class facilities in Fayetteville where she would face Colorado's Sage Hurta. The Buffalo senior had not run in the Distance Medley so she had one less race in her legs.  By the half it was clear the race would be between Gear and Hurta with the Colorado ace slowly pulling away over the last three laps to a personal best in 4:30.58 to win and Gear taking second in her second best time ever in the mile clocking 4:32.37.

The Razorbacks wrapped up the national title by scoring a boat load of points in the 3000 and Gear was track side to celebrate with her teammates.  You could tell the team championship meant more to Krissy than anything.  Plus, Krissy is now a two-time All American at a national distance, track and field power.  Not bad for an overlooked and under recruited track legend from Fort Myers High.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Three Big Things: Week Four

Just when you thought it would be a relatively quiet weekend of high school distance running all heck breaks loose.  The usual suspects were on hand playing beat the clock along with some new names.  It was a pretty awesome week.

1.  Ava Povich, come on down.  The ECS sophomore standout scored a sparkling double at the CSN meet in Naples on Saturday.  First Povich tangled with the top dog in the girl's 1,600, Canterbury's Jessica Edwards.  For Jess it was another close but no cigar performance running 5:01.4 in her endless quest to break five minutes.  Povich ran a fine 5:18.19 to place second.

The sparkling run from Povich came in the 3,200.  Povich ran the fastest time so far this spring by a Lee County girl crushing an 11:18.54 to win. It's seems almost certain Povich should run under 11 minutes by the end of the season.  

And in case you were wondering, Jess Edwards doubled back in the 800 running a fine 2:17.18.  That's a powerful double so early in the season.

2.  Estero junior Kolton Pickard ran a stunning 1,600 Friday night at the Edison Relays.  On an awful track Pickard clocked 4:18.66.  Put him in spikes on a good track and that's worth sub 4:15 easy.  Just add icing to the cake Pickard doubled back on Saturday in Naples to anchor Estero's Distance Medley Relay.  Word is he ran around 4:23.  We don't have word on any other splits he might have recorded or if he ran in the 4x800 or 4x1600.

3.  Ethan Tank took down his school record in the 3,200.  Running 9:46.97, the SFCA senior now has the fastest 3,200 of the season in Lee County.  If Tank stays healthy low 9:30's should be in his future.

Finally, a shoutout to Fort Myers senior Anna Fischler who ran a big PR in the 3,200 at the Purrish Meet in North Fort Myers on Thursday.  Fischler's 11:54.74 puts her behind teammate Amy Meng and Povich as the fastest girls in the 3,200, although Edwards ran easily under 11:30 last spring in her lone 3,200.