Steinbrenner sweeps Ed Wells Kiwanis Invitational
The 54th Annual Ed Wells Kiwanis Invitational is typically a pre-Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet where Pinellas County powerhouses clash. The Countryside boys and East Lake girls have been the team champions the last couple years.
Since 2004, it has been all Pinellas teams winning the title on the boys side; since 2007 only Pinellas teams have won the girls title.
Friday's meet at Clearwater High School brought a bevy of Tampa track nostalgia. First off, the meet's 1600-meter record from 1994 survived the evening. That mark of 4:18 by former Gaither athlete Ray Friedman has still not been approached and Friedman now volunteer coaches at Countryside.
The Cougars were last year's boys team champion. Friedman even helps train Sickles' Paris Williams, who won the 3,200 in 9:50.86 on Friday. Steinbrenner swept both girls and boys titles, with the girls winning 159-88 over East Lake and the boys winning 112-78 over Lakewood.
Notably absent from the girls scores was Lakewood's Jamesha Moorer. Steinbrenner girls coach Ladd Baldwin was the Clearwater High varsity quarterback in 1981 where the Tornadoes went a record 11-1. It was Baldwin's work as head of the USF-Steinbrenner Invite that brought the Warriors to Clearwater.
"Clearwater came over for the USF meet a couple years ago and asked if we'd like to do Ed Wells," Baldwin said. "We were second last year (to East Lake) and it fits well with our spring break and being on a Friday."
The last bit of nostalgia came in as Ed Wells Kiwnais meet director Jim Eubank was present and was Baldwin's quarterback coach in '81.
The Warrior girls have some top-flight talent. All-around athletes Taylor Hotchkiss, Emma Stevens and Tiyera Joseph scored across multiple events. Hotchkiss and Stevens went one-two in the 300 hurdles at 46.37 and 46.49, respectively. Hotchkiss' 46.37 set a meet record, and Stevens' 46.49 was just off her PR from last season.
"This is great; we finally got a rubber track (at Steinbrenner), so we've been practicing on this surface," Stevens said.
Stevens has Hotchkiss to thank for pulling her into the hurdle events as a sophomore. Hotchkiss wanted some company after running the hurdles alone as a freshman and losing her junior year to knee surgery. Hotchkiss also took second in the 100 hurdles (15.12) behind Olivia Welsh's 14.97. Welsh also won the pole vault at 10-6 and took third in the 300 hurdles.
Joseph scored big in both the 200 and 400. She and East Lake's Cienna Nichols battled it out in the sprints with Joseph winning the 400 in 57.92 and Nichols right behind her at 57.98.
"We're both getting interest from some of the same colleges; we both visited Florida Tech recently and we're usually in the 200 and 400 together," Joseph said. "Cienna pushed me to PRs in both the 400 and 200 today."
It would be Nichols that took it back in the 200 at 25.40 with Joseph in second at 26.11. Nichols also won the 100 in 12.30 and took second in the long jump (16-4).
"It fuels me so much (having Joseph running against me)," Nichols said. "If not for her, there's no way I run that 57 (in the 400m)."
Athletes pushing each other to PRs was a theme on Friday as Lakewood's Terence Ware and Sickles' Andrew Vendrone had the closest finish of any race. Ware won the 100 to start off the finals at 10.79 and anchored the winning 4x100 relay. In the 200 final, Ware led through the turn only to have Vendrone catch him on the straightaway and dive headlong across the finish line in 21.94, with Ware at the mark at 21.95.
"I've been trying to break 22 (seconds) since last year," Ware said. "He (Vendrone) pushed me to a new PR."
Vendrone, with a slightly better effort on the straightaway, set a PR for himself, too.
"On the turn, I saw he (Ware) was in front and I always come off the turn last," Vendrone said. "My mind takes over when I see someone in front of me."
Vendrone, who admits he's not great out of the starting blocks either, crashed to the ground after diving across the finish line, picking up a nice road rash on his shoulder and a spike gash on his shin. Vendrone also won the 400 in 49.88. All in a day's work.
"I can't feel anything right now," Vendrone said.
Host Clearwater's Sean Heera won both the 1,600 (4:30.47) and the 800 (1:58.67), the only time under two minutes in the event. Heera used a similar strategy for each event, letting the lead runner tire out and then making his move late. Heera let Micthell's Austin Koos, who wound up setting a PR of 4:36.81, set the pace in the 1,600, making a few attempts to pass him, Koos fighting off each one until the back stretch of the final lap where Heera took the lead for good. Sickles' Williams moved into second.
"I saw him (Koos) in front and every time I pushed him, he'd speed up," Heera said. "Finally on the back stretch I figured there's not much left and just go for it."
Williams outlasted Shorecrest's Luke Peterson to win the boys 3,200 in 9:50.86, the only sub 10-minute time in the event.
Steinbrenner's Jacob Goncalvez won the high jump at 6-2, but cleared 6-5 earlier in the week and a home meet. Mitchell's Emily Gauvey topped her 5-8 from the Calvary meet a week ago, going 5-9, resetting her personal mark and moving into a tie for the third-best jump in the United States this season.
Samantha Davila won the girls shot put, throwing 34-7.25 but threw a 36-0 on Monday at a home meet. Dunedin's Victor Martinez won the boys long jump at 22-3. Lakewood's Jordan Williams won both hurdle events with a 14.67 in the 110s and a 38.51 in the 300s.
East Lake's Jennifer Lima ran her season's best 2:21.77 to win the girls 800, and Tampa Prep freshman Josie Garba won the girls 3,200 in 11:43.33, chopping off 11 seconds from her PR from just a couple weeks ago.