JACKSONVILLE — In the past year, Andrew Llewellyn has come to fully understand the strategy behind conquering distance races. Instead of hitting the accelerator, the Countryside senior applies the brakes.
At the start of the 3,200 meters in Saturday’s Class 4A meet, Llewellyn purposely fell off the chase pack, waiting until the seventh lap before he reeled himself back into contention. Though Llewellyn was sixth at that point, he noticed the race had become an agonizing slog for those who initially pushed the pace. In the backstretch, Llewellyn made a final surge, sprinting toward the finish with a devastating kick.
With his final ounce of energy, Llewellyn overtook Miami Coral Reef’s Kurt Convey. The only runner Llewellyn was unable to catch was Plant’s Jack Guyton, who also won the 1,600. Still, Llewellyn took second in nine minutes, 22.27 seconds, shattering his personal record by 15 seconds. He also did it at the University of North Florida, the school he plans to sign with in the next few weeks.
“For me, this race was not about who could go out the fastest,” Llewellyn said. “It was all about strategy.”
He started his day by teaming with Billy Fitch, Jordan Santa-Maria and Robert Davis to finish sixth in the 4x800 meter relay (8:01.93). Llewellyn also was entered in the 1,600 but ignored his coaches’ advice and dropped the event in order to concentrate on the 3,200.
There was strategy behind that, too.
“I wanted to see who was going to run the mile, and if they were entered in the 2-mile, as well,” Llewellyn said. “There were enough runners in both that I figured I would be fresh enough to do well if I just ran the 2-mile. I guess I played my cards right.”
Osceola’s Carson Waters not only wanted to win a state title in the pole vault, but break the state record of 16-8.
The senior didn’t come close.
He entered at 13 feet, which was the only height he cleared, to finish fifth.
“I was just off for some reason,” Waters said. “I was using the same pole I did last week when I cleared 15-6. This week, I can’t even get past 13 feet. It’s disappointing.”
Many of the best vaulters acknowledge they experience moments of failed assurance, fear or even a kind of competitive paralysis.
The rain was persistent, twice delaying the event. Waters also said he was having trouble with his takeoffs.
“The weather threw everyone was off,” Waters said. “For some reason I wasn’t able to get the drive that I wanted. It’s a tough way to end because I was hoping to least go 16 feet.”
East Lake’s George Campbell, a two-sport star ranked nationally as the top football athlete in the 2015 class, finished fifth in the 100 in 10.79. Teammate Chigozie Atavwigho was seventh in the 110 hurdles (15.25).
St. Petersburg’s boys 4x100 relay team of Lionel Hart, Darius Miller, Jon’Ta Edwards and Dawwon Conyers was eighth in 43.50.