BRADENTON — The line of cars to get into IMG Academy began building early Friday morning for the state high school track meet, which for the first time in modern meet history featured a massive turnout from all four classifications — Class A through 4A — competing on the same day.
Can you say, "Bottle neck?!"
By noon, when the first field events were scheduled to begin, the line of cars stretched more than a mile from the entrance of the IMG parking lot, out the front gate and down State Road 70. At that time it took almost an hour to get from the back of the line to a parking space.
Over the next few hours, the backup never let up, and some fans said the wait to get into IMG lengthened to well over an hour.
Dozens of athletes concerned about making their events' starting times jumped from cars and jogged passed the line of cars into IMG. A few athletes in the discus and shot put had to forego warmups after arriving late.
"I had my shot putter (Javon Livingston) jump out of the car and run to his event," Riverview coach Mike Thornton said. "He made it but it was a little unnerving. It's not the situation you want."
Then, after fans finally made it to the parking lot (some of whom had to park at Bayshore High across the street), two lines to buy tickets stretched about 100 yards in front of the box office. From the back of that line to the ticket counter took another 30-plus minutes.
"This is sooooo disorganized," said Nathan Williams, whose daughter was scheduled to run the 4x100 relay prelims in a few minutes. "They need to do better than this."
Florida High School Athletic Association public relations specialist Kyle Niblett said the FHSAA and IMG are trying to find quick solutions before Saturday' finals begin at 9 a.m.
"Fan experience is at the forefront of what we do. But with that said we encourage fans to arrive early for (Saturday's) event," he said.
High jump highlights
The high jump was one of the best overall events for Tampa Bay area athletes.
Four athletes from Pasco and Hillsborough County — Land O'Lakes senior Victoria Cannata, Mitchell senior Emily Gauvey, Tampa Prep's DeLany Barnard and Pasco's Brent Dawson — all took second place in their respective classifications.
Cannata and Gauvey, who have gone head-to-head more than 30 times in the past three years, tied for second in Class 3A, both clearing 5-foot-6 with two previous misses before failing at three attempts at 5-8.
"I felt like I could have gone higher, but the wind was tough," Gauvey said. "The wind was behind us but I'm better with a head wind."
After the event, the two hugged and said it's been great fun competing against each other.
"We're friends," Cannata said. "We've always helped each other out however we possibly could."
In the boys' 3A competition, Dawson cleared 6-4, which tied for highest leap of the day, but he placed second because he had one more miss through the competition than the winner.
In Class A, Barnard cleared 5-2.
Perkins goes out on top
Seffner Christian senior Noah Perkins, ranked as one of the top distance runners in the state, said he felt something would have been missing if he didn't finish his high school with at least one state title.
Perkins won the Class A 3,200-meter race in nine minutes, 28.59 seconds, well off his personal-best of 9:08, but well ahead of the runnerup, who crossed the finish line almost 20 seconds after Perkins.
The victory was particularly satisfying after Perkins struggled in the fall with a stress reaction in his foot before the state cross country meet. Perkins, who didn't train for weeks, finished third in cross country, a fact that motivated him for track.
"I wondered how I would come back from the injury," Perkins said. "I feel satisfied."
Shorecrest's Luke Peterson shook off an illness at regionals to qualify in both the 800 and 1,600 meters.
He laced up for the Class A 800 finals Friday and found himself in third through the first lap. Peterson started to close the gap and by the last back stretch he'd moved into second behind Westminster Academy's Patrick Sastre. On the final turn, Peterson made his move.
"I knew I didn't want to get out into the lead until the last 400 meters because of the wind," said Peterson, who won in 1:56.76. "I saw it was time (on the last turn) to give it my all and I saw an opening inside."
Peterson and every other athlete competing Friday faced a strong headwind on the home stretch of the track.
"I thought that this was the last 800 meters of the season, I had to give it my all," Peterson said.
A double for Brookover
Calvary Christian's Hannah Brookover had a great run in the girls Class A 800 final, just getting clipped at the line by Evangelical Christian's Sierra Oliveira 2:15.51 to 2:15.74. Brookover left no doubt in Friday's nightcap as she led the 3,200 the whole way, finishing in 10:55.86.
"This (3,200) was a good race, a personal record by two seconds," Brookover said. " I wanted to go out, take the lead and never look back."
Second on a sore foot
Admiral Farragut's Katie Barnett did not have her best day in the long jump as she's jumping with a fractured bone in her foot. Still, she was plenty good enough to take second at 18-3.5 with her signature event, the triple jump coming today.
"Right before districts was the worst time of the season to get injured and I got a bad cold right after regionals but I'm still happy with how I jumped," Barnett said.
Shark still fleet of foot
Riverview sophomore Bailey Hertenstein, the defending 4A state cross country champion, may not have won a state title in Friday's state track championships, but she still ran well.
Hertenstein took second in the 800 meters in two minutes, 13.30 seconds (a second behind her personal best), and third in the 3,200 in a personal-best 10:44.65.
"I ran as hard as I could," Hertenstein said. "I'm happy."
Hertenstein came into the state meet seeded third in the 800, 3,200 and 1,600, the latter of which she will run Saturday.
PR falls in vault
In the Class 3A boys pole vault, River Ridge's Garrett Jerothe hit 14 feet, 6 inches on his first attempt to set a personal record. It was a solid day for the senior, who took second place based on number of scratches.
"I didn't have any scratches at all until 15 feet," said Jerothe, which also happened to be the height of the winning vault. South Fork senior Cole Colazzo was the champ.
Gaither's Carter Palasti was third (14-6).
Wind no friend to Welsh
Dunedin's Olivia Welsh, who will be running in the 100 hurdle finals today, placed third in the Class 3A pole vault at 11 feet.
Welsh could not hide her disappointment after going a personal-best 12-2 at regionals, but a wicked cross wind hindered all vaulters Friday. The winning height was 11 feet; Welsh tumbled to third based on her number of scratches.
"The wind was more of a mental thing," Welsh said. "My warmups were great. I was really hitting it."
A PR for Lima
In the 3A 800 finals, East Lake's Jennifer Lima grabbed sixth, going 2:16.87 to extend both her personal and school records.
"It was crazy out there how fast they were going," Lima said. "I wanted to go 65 (seconds) on the first lap but I was just trying to keep up."
Lima followed up her 800 performance by going 11:00.87 to take third in the 3,200, topping her school mark.
Heera so close
In the 3A boys 800 finals, Clearwater's Sean Heera made a desperate attempt to catch the leaders as he moved up several spots both on the final turn and straightaway, surging from the middle of the pack into third place in 1:56.57, less than a second off his personal-record 1:56.15 from regionals.
"I wasn't sure if I could catch the lead, I should have gone out earlier but we were all close in time anyway," Heera said. "I knew I had to go when I did or I would get stuck, so I picked it up and just went."
East Lake's James Hasell went a PR 1:58.85 to take seventh.
Former state champion Alfreda Steele of Pasco High was scheduled to compete in three events Friday, but Steele ended up competing in only a portion of one: the high jump where after leaping into the sand she pulled up lame with a wrenched knee. She was assisted out of the pit and in the following hours did not compete in her 100 and 200 prelims, events she was favored to win.
Rally on the rails
Sunlake sophomore Jamila Cardwell, who holds the school record in the 3,200, had an off day in the 800 meters but came back with a vengeance in the 3,200 nightcap.
Cardwell pushed out into an early lead but ran into trouble with a very fast heat. Cardwell, trying to keep to the inside lane, hit the rail at one point, nearly losing her balance.
"I wanted to get out fast but they were just going so fast, when I started to fall back, I just wanted to keep as much as I could to stay in the top eight," she said. "I wasn't going to give up."
Cardwell, came back and took sixth in 11:14.30, destroying her old school record of 11:40.
Odds and ends
Also notching top-three finishes Friday: Riverview's Reed Service in the 4A boys long jump (third, 23-7.25) and Plant's Rob Leverone in the 4A boys 3,200 (second, 9:27.70).