CLEARWATER — After Eileen Givens retired as boys track coach two years ago, Countryside lost its stranglehold at the top of the standings at the Ed Wells/Kiwanis Invitational.
This season, Givens has returned, and many figured the Cougars’ abdication was temporary and she would help them reclaim what they had lost when it came to one of the county’s biggest regular-season meets.
Sure enough, Countryside surged to the top, scoring 103 points to beat two-time defending champ Lakewood by 27 1/2.
“It’s a good feeling to win this one again,” said Givens, whose Cougars won the meet four straight years before she retired at the start of the 2012 season.
But this title was not easy. Countryside did it without Mekhi Reynolds, a long jumper and sprinter who was nursing a strained hamstring. And the Cougars did not have anyone in the finals of the 100 or 110 hurdles.
“We had to do a lot of maneuvering to get as many points as possible,” Givens said.
It started in the 4x800 relay. Givens shuffled the lineup, using only two runners from last week’s quartet that set a meet record at the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational.
On Wednesday, Ryan Bennett, Jordan Santa-Maria, Nick Sprague and Billy Fitch finished second in the event to Lakewood.
But that allowed Givens to use distance specialist Andrew Llewellyn in three individual events. Llewellyn, who was named the running MVP of the meet, won the 800 (1:59), 1,600 (4:37) and finished sixth in the 3,200 (10:59). Robert Davis won the 400 in 49.96 seconds, marking the second time he has run the event in less than 50 seconds at a major meet in the past five days. And Giovanni Negron took first in the shot put with a throw of 44 feet, 2 inches.
Gibbs’ chances of contending for a boys team title were hurt when Damien Daniels pulled out of the meet because of a strained hamstring. Despite his absence, the Gladiators still did well in the sprints as Jacquez President won the 100 (11.23 seconds) and 200 (22.33). But Gibbs did not have the depth in those events to pick up the necessary points for a title.
Dunedin’s Ahmad Middleton followed up his record-setting performance at last week’s USF/Steinbrenner meet by winning the 110 hurdles (14.89) and 300 hurdles (40.76).
On the girls side, East Lake won the team title with ease, beating Osceola 135-73. The Eagles were strongest in the distance events as Erica Lersch won the 1,600 in 5:27 and Julia Siegel took first in the 3,200 (12:05.14). East Lake’s 4x800 relay also won in 10:22.
Osceola’s Jeanna Cube won the high jump by clearing 5-5 to set a meet record. She also took first in the 300 hurdles (49.89), second in the 110 hurdles (16.23) and third in the long jump (16-1 1/2). Teammate Jennifer Kistemaker set a meet record, winning the pole vault at 11-1. Dunedin’s Olivia Welsh also cleared 11-1 in the pole vault and won the 100 hurdles in a meet-record 14.91.
Gibbs Jerosan Fletcher won the 200 (26.12), 400 (58.95) and anchored the winning 4x100 relay (4:16.49). PHU’s Sara Karuli won the shot put (34-2) and discus (109-5 1/4).