TAMPA — The weather gods smiled on the more than 2,000 track athletes at the 81-team USF/Steinbrenner Invitational on Saturday.
Typically a scorching meet, the wind and mild temperature opened the door for records to fall.
While no North Suncoast team challenged for the team title, two athletes pounced on the favorable conditions and smashed meet records.
Springstead junior Bobby Harris broke his personal record and the meet high jump record by clearing 6 feet, 7 inches to edge Hillsborough sophomore Dwyane Lawson for the title. The previous mark was 6-6 by Armwood's Leon McQuay in 2010. Harris' jump was just an inch off his best ever, which came in a practice. Harris is eyeing a state title after finishing third at state a year ago at 6-4.
"I had no idea I would break the (meet) record at 6-7, I was just trying to top my PR for the year," Harris said.
Wiregrass Ranch senior Nikita Shah smashed the meet record in the girls 3,200 meters, running her fastest time of the season (10:55.21). But Dr. Phillips senior Bridget Blake was faster, taking first in 10:49.60. Olivia Ortiz of Lakewood Ranch set the previous mark last year at 11:00.03.
Still, Shah took more than seven seconds off her winning time from the Osceola Kowboys Invitational from a week ago. Teammate and senior Ermius Bireda took third in the boys' 1,600 meters in 4:27.02.
"I always run faster when I run against Bridget (Blake)," Shah said. "I love the competition and I hope it pushes me to a state title this year."
Other place winners for the Suncoast region were Land O'Lakes junior Hallie Grimes taking third in the girls 400 meters. Grimes ran 57.38, setting a season best and knocking three seconds off her time from the Anclote Invitational. Gators teammate and junior Tyler Stahl set a personal record of 4:27.03, taking third in the boys 1,600. Wesley Chapel senior Courtney Pregnaman cleared 5-6 but had to settle for second place based on her number of misses. River Ridge senior Brittany O'Leary took third in girls shot (37-3). Teammate Evan Bales tied for third in the pole vault at 14-6.
Pasco's Alfreda Steele took fourth in both the 100 meters (12.10) and long jump (17-2).
"She (Steele) ran against some of the top runners in the state and didn't falter," coach Norman Graham said. "She ran consistently and wasn't overwhelmed by her competition."