Hillsborough region/state track preview

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Mon. April 26, 2010 | Joey Knight | Email

SEFFNER — Adrenaline, laced with organic green tea, was percolating inside Erika Kolakowski.

When the sleek, muscular Plant City senior got the baton for the last leg of the 4x800-meter relay at Friday’s district meet, the Raiders were in third place, roughly 100 meters from the front. Near the final lap’s far turn, with roughly 200 meters to go, Kolakowski assumed the lead.

By the finish line, that lead had grown by more than two seconds. With that, the Raider Nation’s resident state title hopeful embarked on another day at her outdoor oval office.

“Running has always been in my family,” Kolakowski, the daughter of two former Gulf High track standouts, said a few hours later. “I’ve been running laps since I could run.”

Scan the list of area state championship contenders, and you’re unlikely to find a more complete package than the one whose junk-food intake consists of the occasional sip of root beer. An Auburn signee and Plant City’s valedictorian (with a 7.32 GPA), Kolakowski is a legitimate contender for the Class 3A girls crown in the 800.

Her winning time Friday (2:20.19) was the fastest of the four district champions who will converge at Punta Gorda’s Charlotte High for Thursday’s Region 3 meet.

“Right now I’m ranked about four or fifth in the state (in the 800) and I’m only about a second and a half off the leader,” said Kolakowski, who ran a personal-best 2:17.56 in winning the county meet April 6.

“So it’s not a ridiculous goal, it’s something very, very tangible and I’m hoping if I’m pushed by the other girls there in the upper-level performance, I’ll be able to perform my best and hopefully win.”

In a sense, Kolakowski is one Raider realizing her destiny. Her dad, Keith, is a physical therapist. Her mom, Lisa, a fitness instructor at Plant City’s YMCA, is a pioneer in women’s bodybuilding who finished eighth at the 1981 women’s world championships in Atlantic City.

Together, they produced three girls (Erika’s the youngest) who were competing for club swim teams by age 5 and diving into a plethora of other activities as they aged.

Though she focused on track and cross country as a senior, Kolakowski has played softball and soccer, danced and done gymnastics at various points of her 18 years. She started realizing her running ability when she’d smoke the girls and challenge the boys in the 1-mile fitness tests in elementary school.

“People would ask me, ‘Are you making your children lift weights? Because they’re really muscular,’ Lisa said. “I’m like, ‘No, they just do their sport, they’re just very active, they use their body weight and they’re always at home just cart wheeling through the house.’ ”

While Keith and Lisa never pushed their daughters into any endeavor, they sure as heck nudged them nutritionally. As Lisa says: “It’s really easy to make healthy food.”

Kolakowski starts her day with a banana, cup of green tea with honey and a whole-grain waffle slathered with organic peanut butter. Lunch is typically a turkey sandwich, some organic chips and at least two pieces of fruit. Dinner? Usually a grilled piece of chicken or fish accompanied by a side of pasta or rice, and plenty of vegetables.

When pressed, Erika said she couldn’t remember the last time she had a McDonald’s burger.

“(Eating healthy) wasn’t, like, something I did for running, it was just how I was raised,” she said. “I was raised to like those things, and that’s what my body craves. I can’t eat a bunch of crap; I feel awful.”

She will, however, enjoy a swallow or two of root beer — her primary weakness — from time to time. If the region and state meets go as planned, she may even chug one.

“This year I really focused myself on going for the win,” Kolakowski said, “so that’s my goal as of this moment.”

Region track meets
4A-2 at Armwood

When: Thursday, 11 a.m.
At stake: Top four finishers in each event qualify for next week’s state meet
Boys to watch (multiple-event district champs): Plant: T.J. Glover (400, 4x400, 4x100), Allen Sampson (4x100, 4x400, 200); Wharton: Nick Swain (800, 4x800)
Girls to watch (multiple-event district champs): Alonso: Alexandra Biver (high jump, triple jump), Maira Guadelupe (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles); Riverview: Ashley Favors (300 hurdles, 4x400), Faith Woodard (4x400, high jump); Tampa Bay Tech: Jasmine Wright (100, 200); Wharton: Stevondria Hardy (200, 400, 4x400), Erin Kocher (4x400, 4x800, 800), Shannon Meggs (4x400, 4x800), Abby Ritter (1600, 3200)

3A-3 at Punta Gorda Charlotte
When:
Thursday, noon
At stake: Top four finishers in each event qualify for next week’s state meet
Boys to watch (multiple-event district champs): Armwood: Richard Jules (300 hurdles, 4x400); Hillsborough: Terrence Mitchell (long jump, 100, 400), Carlton Walton (4x100, triple jump); Sickles: Julian Gines (800, 1600)
Girls to watch (multiple-event district champs): Durant: Grace VanDeGrift (1600, 3200); East Bay: Nakia Love (long jump, triple jump); Hillsborough: Narricka Williams (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4x400); Jefferson: Aliscia Buford (shot put, discus); King: Sandra Akachukwu (high jump, 200); Plant City: Erika Kolakowski (800, 4x800 relay)

State track meets
Where:
Showalter Field, Winter Park
When:
A, Friday; 2A, Saturday. Both start at 1 p.m.
Admission: $8 per meet
Local A boys qualifiers: Carrollwood Day: Darius Bing (long jump); Tampa Prep: Stephen Warner (800)
Local A girls qualifiers: Tampa Prep: Carly Reiner (triple jump, 100)
Local 2A boys qualifiers: Berkeley Prep: Auston Chen (discus, 110 hurdles); Jesuit: Pat Beane (pole vault), Miles Bennett (100, 200, 4x400 relay), Isaac Edwards (discus), Blake Lopez (800, 4x400 relay), Evan Rubinson (4x400 relay), Kyle Statz (300 hurdles), Jordan Williams (4x400 relay); Lennard: DeMyco Winston (400); Middleton: Arthur Casey (800, 4x800 relay), Frank Charles (4x800 relay), Willie Clay (4x800 relay), Nikoy Williams (4x800 relay); Steinbrenner: Zacariah Cesani (300 hurdles); Tampa Catholic: Hunter Joyer (shot put)
Local 2A girls qualifiers: Holy Names: Gina Barbato (4x800 relay), Colleen Doherty (1600, 4x800 relay), Katie Martin (4x800 relay), Ryann McEnany (300 hurdles), Amanda McWilliams (800, 4x800 relay); Berkeley Prep: Samantha Newhaller (300 hurdles); Lennard: Louan Benton (long jump); Middleton: Amber Brooks (4x800 relay); Steinbrenner: Alexis Wright (triple jump, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles); Tampa Catholic: Mari Ostrenko (pole vault), Maddi Schmidt (100 hurdles)

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