ST. PETERSBURG — After tabulating the scores leading up to the final four events, Lakewood boys track coach Anthony Snead was startled to discover his team was trailing by 15 points.
“I thought we were winning,” Snead said.
The Spartans made up enough ground to give themselves a chance to win the team title in the final event of the West Coast Invitational. All Lakewood had to do was win the 4x400 relay and have Naples Lely finish last. The Spartans did their part, taking first in 3 minutes, 36.60 seconds. Only problem was, Lely finished fifth to beat Lakewood 109-108.5.
“I was proud of the guys for the way they responded and came back to give us an opportunity at the end,” Snead said.
Last year, the Spartans did not have too many close calls. Blessed with the tremendous talent, Lakewood won its first state title. But 12 athletes who made up the nucleus of that team have graduated, including Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin and Tim Holmes.
This is team is decidedly different, with different athletes who specialize in different events.
“It’s tough to lose that many guys,” Snead said. “The Griffin twins did so much in the field events and relays and Tim was a great hurdler. Now, we’re stronger in the middle distances and the throwing events.”
Devontae Persha came up big for the Spartans with a first-place finish in the 800 (2:03.60) and anchoring the winning 4x400 relay. Lakewood also won the 4x100 (43.85) and 4x800 (8:36.11).
The only events the Spartans had trouble with were the 1,600 and 3,200. That was where Lely scored enough to provide a cushion.
Other athletes who won multiple titles included Dunedin’s Ahmad Middleton in the 300 hurdles (40.22) and long jump (21 feet, 4.25 inches) and Gibbs’ Damien Daniels in the 110 hurdles (14.62) and 100 (10.87).
Lely also won the girls meet thanks to its depth, topping Osceola 181-112.5.
Gibbs’ Jerosan Fletcher won the 200 (26.36) and the 400 (1:01.19) and Largo’s Daisha Brown took first in the long jump (16 feet, 10.5 inches) and triple jump (35-7.5).
Dunedin’s Olivia Welsh won the 100 hurdles (15.00) and the pole vault by clearing 11-1 to set a meet record.