Standing on the football field at Northside Christian, Jeff Goodwin was trying to explain the biggest reason for the girls track program’s meteoric rise the past six seasons when the answer was staring at him a few yards away.
Five seniors — Victoria Goodwin, Katelyn Greenleaf, Ashley Johnson, Asia Olds and Sarah Schultz — were running through drills as they geared up for the final state meet of their careers.
“They’ve been the backbone of this team,” Jeff Goodwin said. “They’re the biggest point scorers we have. And they’re a big reason we’ve had so much success.”
The five have helped the Mustangs dominate nearly every meet this season with team titles at the St. Petersburg City Championships, the Ed Wells/Kiwanis Invitational and the Bay Conference, district and region meets. More than bringing home a haul of medals and trophies, the five seniors also raised the profile of fledgling program to that of a state contender.
In 2006, Goodwin’s first year as coach, Northside had six athletes total among the boys and girls. Greenleaf, Johnson and Schultz were on that team as sixth-graders. Victoria Goodwin came the following season and Olds joined the program in 2010.
Now, the Mustangs have more than 100 athletes participating in track, quite an accomplishment considering the school has roughly 500 students kindergarten through 12th grade. Northside now has a middle school track team and an elementary school track club.
Next season, Northside will have a rubber, state-of-the-art, eight-lane track. Construction is supposed to begin within the next two weeks.
“I don’t know if the track is built without the work of these seniors,” Goodwin said. “They’ve brought a lot of notoriety to the program with what they’ve accomplished. And their parents have been a huge part of this, too, either as coaches or volunteers.”
Success has come with sacrifices. The girls did not have a home meet and had to practice on a makeshift track because the old one was torn up to make way for the new one.
“Makes us tougher, running on concrete,” Victoria Goodwin said. “Some other schools have been nice and let us use their track to train at times. It’s been a dream of ours to have this track built. We didn’t get to use it this year, but we’ll all be able to in the summer.”
The lack of a home track was a small price to pay for what could be the ultimate prize: a state team title.
Last week, Northside won its fourth straight region title, beating defending state champion Holy Trinity. The Mustangs will not be favored in many of the events. But they could have several top-three finishes, including Greenleaf in the 800 and 1600, Goodwin in the 300 hurdles and Sarah Schultz in the triple jump. The 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams also should do well.
“This year is the closest chance we’ll have of winning it,” Goodwin said. “We’re not going to be the favorite, but we should be within 10 points of it heading into the meet. We’ve got the girls in the right spots. Now we just have to have everyone do their best and we need things to go our way. If everything goes perfectly, we could be there.”
After the meet ends, the rebuilding begins.
“When these girls came in we knew they were going to be stars,” Goodwin said. “We have a lot of numbers now to keep the program going. Hopefully, these girls have served as ambassadors to the younger ones.”
State track Class A/2A
When: Friday, A. Saturday, 2A
Where: University of North Florida Hodges Stadium, Jacksonville
Admission: $9 per meet
Region track Class 3A/4A
At stake: The top four in each event advance to next week’s state meet at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Class 4A, Region 2
Where: Leto (Freedom host)
When: Wednesday. Field events start at noon.
County teams: Clearwater, Countryside, East Lake, Palm Harbor University, Pinellas Park, Seminole, St. Petersburg
Outlook: East Lake’s boys and PHU’s girls, who both won team titles at last week’s district meet, will have a hard time repeating that performance in a tough region. The Eagles, once again, will rely on their depth in the relays and sprints to stay within striking range in the boys meet. The Hurricanes need another strong effort from their distance runners. Watch out for St. Petersburg’s David Jones, who won district titles in the long jump, triple jump and 200.
Class 3A, Region 3
Where: Punta Gorda Charlotte
When: Wednesday. Field events start at noon.
County teams: Boca Ciega, Dixie Hollins, Dunedin, Gibbs, Largo, Northeast, Osceola, Tarpon Springs
Outlook: Several athletes could have strong individual performances based on district results. Boca Ciega’s Chaise Cook-Martin will be a factor in the long jump, triple jump and 100 hurdles. Gibbs’ Trayvon Bromell is a contender in the 100 and 200. And Osceola’s Alex Irwin is among the favorites in the 800 and 1600. But the county teams might have enough in numbers to compete for team titles.