State track preview: LOL's Soto has big prize in sights, and many in hand

The Gators’ Felix Soto is trying to win his first state title this weekend. The senior will run the 1,600 and 3,200.

KERI WIGINTON | Times (2008)

The Gators’ Felix Soto is trying to win his first state title this weekend. The senior will run the 1,600 and 3,200.

LAND O'LAKES — As he enters the figurative final stretch of his quest for that elusive state championship, Felix Soto's mind-set is more of determination than obsession. A Land O'Lakes senior, Soto caps one of the North Suncoast's most decorated distance-running careers — one chock full of region, district and conference crowns — at Friday's Class 3A state track and field meet. And if his legs are as fresh as his perspective, the USF signee will have an excellent shot at his first state title. "If I don't get it, it will be a disappointment to me, but only for a day," said Soto, who will run in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. "And then I can reflect on everything I did and make a positive out of that." When Soto's reflection commences, it could last a while. Few local runners have accomplished more. The following is a recap of Soto's four-year run.

Best race

Soto says it's the regional cross country title he won in south Lakeland as a sophomore, when he formally stepped out of the shadow of ex-Gator Steven Bell, who also won a few titles. "I actually surprised myself going out there and winning that race," said Soto, the only runner in the field to eclipse 17 minutes. "So from there on I got in the back of my head that I've got to go and push myself, and I kept going and kept going. It helped me throughout the rest of the years that I've been running."

Race he'd like to have back

The 2008 region cross country championships at Polk Community College in Winter Haven. On an uneven trail on a muggy morning, Soto, a two-time region champ, finished nearly six seconds behind Plant's Trenor Wilkins. "I wanted that so bad but … if I could take it back I would go there and bust my butt to try to win it," Soto said.

SAC surplus

It is believed Soto will graduate with more Sunshine Athletic Conference titles (team and individual) than any athlete in Pasco County history. Our unofficial tally is 20. Here's the breakdown:

Individual

3 cross country titles

9 track titles (two in the 800, three each in the 1,600 and 3,200, one in the 4x800 relay)

Team

2 soccer titles

2 track titles

4 cross country titles

Soto near, yet Soto far

The closest Soto has come to winning a state title was his sixth-place finish (16:04) at the Class 3A cross country championships in Dade City in 2007. He has three top-10 finishes at the state track meet.

Felix at his fleetest

Soto's career personal-best times in his three primary races:

1,600 meters: 4:25.01 (at last week's Region 2 meet)

3,200 meters: 9:42.20 (at UT Distance Carnival on April 11)

Cross country (5,000 meters): 15

Looking ahead to Friday

Physically, Soto said he feels great entering his final prep track meet. Statistically, the outlook is nearly as bright. His winning regional time in the 1,600 (4:25.01) was the best of the state's four region champions, and his time in the 3,200 (9:47.55) was second best. "My whole body just gave out on me last year (at the state meet), and I haven't had the race where I was completely fresh where I could go out there and do my thing," Soto said. "And I think this year is going to be the year because I'm peaking at the right time and I hope that everything comes together."

fast facts

Class 3A/4A state meets

When: 3A — Friday; 4A — Saturday

Where: Showalter Field, Winter Park

Admission: $8 per meet

Schedule: Field events, noon; 4x800 relay finals, 1 p.m.; running event prelims, 4 p.m.; running event finals, 7 p.m.

Local 3A girls qualifiers: Central — Mikayla Bogulski (800); Gulf — Colleen McAuliffe (1,600); Land O'Lakes — Reta Woodard (discus, shot put); Ridgewood — Karissa Bertling (400), Brittany Ramey (300 hurdles); River Ridge — Kira Forbes (300 hurdles); Springstead — Kailey Genrich (4x400), Sasha Spalding (4x400), Taylor Tuomey (4x400), Jackie White (800, 4x400); Wesley Chapel — Dana Cannon (4x800, 400, 4x400), Jessica Furst (4x800, 1,600), Shaniqua Hill (4x400), Shantel Houston (100 hurdles), Renee Vaughns (4x800, 4x400), Kandice Watson (4x800, 4x400)

Local 3A boys qualifiers: Land O'Lakes — Matt Schwartz (3,200), Felix Soto (1,600, 3,200); Springstead — Stephen Philippeaux (high jump), Dominique Roberson (long jump); Wesley Chapel — Hunter Joyer (shot put), Kamran Joyer (discus, shot put)

Local 4A girls qualifiers: Mitchell — Caitlin Young (high jump)

Local 4A boys qualifiers: Mitchell — Brandon Mundy (high jump); Sebastian Ruiz (800), Ricky Trinidad (200)

State track preview: LOL's Soto has big prize in sights, and many in hand 05/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 9:08pm]

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