District track: Lima leads East Lake girls to title
CLEARWATER — With stalwarts and superstars, the East Lake girls track team has cultivated itself into a dynasty. And with a dominating victory over the Class 3A-10 field at a hot Clearwater High, the Eagles took home their fifth straight district championship.
Rolling up 153 points, East Lake easily outdistanced runners-up Venice (109), Boca Ciega (90.5) and Osceola (86.5).
"It's incredible," said Eagles coach Britt Taylor after the victory. "We have a lot of depth on the girls' side but it just gets outshined by our superstars. They're a great team and I couldn't be happier heading into regionals."
One of Taylor's superstars, senior Jennifer Lima, continued her reign of command as she repeated as district champion in the meet's three longest races.
On top of that, she used three different strategies to accomplish her three-peat. In winning the 1,600 meters (five minutes, 15.80 seconds), Lima kept Osceola freshman Taylor Stone on her right hip for much of the race before pulling away in the final 200 meters. In the 800 (2:18.50), Braden River's Alyssa Gagnon pushed the pace before Lima turned on the jets, passing Gagnon in the final turn before running away for a two-second victory. Finally, in the 3,200 (12:04.05), Lima battled the mid-80s heat more than the field, cruising to a wire-to-wire win before running the anchor leg on the second-place 4x400 relay.
"I don't have to run like that too often, the only times are the PCACs and now," said Lima. "And running earlier in the day definitely makes it a lot harder, but I realize how much stronger I've gotten. Personal records are getting harder to hit."
Back-to-back for boys: The Eagles and Venice have cultivated a nice competition in the two years they're both been in 3A-10. Like last year, East Lake prevailed with 163 points while Venice finished with 117.
Balancing track and spring football while rehabilitating from a ligament tear last fall, junior Joshua Bowers continued to impress as a two-time individual champion. He pulled away in the last 25 meters to win the 100 (11.13 seconds), then impressively shaved over a half-second off of last year's 200 time to edge Palmetto's Lazavien Walker in 22.23. Bowers also was the anchor for East Lake's victorious 4x400 squad.
Other victories came from Foster Perkins (300 hurdles, 41.61), shot putter Jack Pigozzo (47 feet, 1.5 inches), the 4x800 (8:25.52) and 4x100 (43.14) relay teams.
Home sweet home: Senior Sean Heera was the standard-bearer for the sixth-place hosts, taking top honors in the 800 (2:00.58) and 1,600 (4:26.52).
"In the 800, I like to take the lead, and in the 1,600, I like to sit back and kick late," said Heera. "It's all practice, working on speed and pace. I'm in good shape physically, and the Regionals are at my favorite track -- here. I love home meets."
This close: Only 2 inches separated East Lake's Kaitlyn Kirby from a third title, placing second in the high jump to Venice's Tanner Gauthier.
"It was my season best, and my attempt at (the winning height of 5-5.75) was pretty good," Kirby said. "I just clipped the bar at the end."
Kirby won the 100 (15.07) and 300 hurdles (45.84) and was runnerup in the long jump.
Bogie's best: Boca Ciega's Hannah Andrews held onto her titles in the triple jump (38-1.5) and long jump (17-2.25, almost two feet longer than last year's districts). She also ran a leg in the winning 4x100 as well as the fourth-place 4x400 squad.
"This meet is tougher," Andrews said. "Everyone is trying to get to regionals and giving it their best. I felt I could do a lot better, but I still did good today. Technique is key and I have to keep working on mine."