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District track: Spoto's Eric Moate up for next challenge

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Mon. April 8, 2013 | Joey Knight | Email

District track: Spoto's Eric Moate up for next challenge

TAMPA — An authentic senior portrait of Eric Moate would call for more grimace than grin.

For a solid year, pain — to some degree — has been affixed to the Spoto senior with all the profundity and permanence of a forearm tattoo. It fades, yet never vanishes. Sort of like his dreams.

This time last spring, Moate had reason to dream big.

He was coming off a 1,200-yard rushing season and 100- and 200-meter titles at the county track meet. His mom, who never had seen him perform in high school, was set to be released from eight years of incarceration after a manslaughter conviction.

But all his promise was supplanted by a protective boot. Abruptly, Moate discovered college hopes can be as fragile as a hamstring.

“I feel like it’s life,” said Moate, an Ace bandage wrapped around his left thigh. “Life brings you challenges and it’s up to you to let them make you or break you.”

It’s with such resolve that Moate (5-foot-11, 171 pounds) will nestle himself into the starting blocks Thursday for the Class 2A, District 10 meet —- origination point of his calendar year of adversity. Injuries have cost him velocity, elevation and perhaps a bit of his edge.

But they might have helped him gain even more.

“I’ve learned that I can’t ever give up, I’ve just got to be strong,” Moate said. “Even when I look down and out, I’ve still got people that support me.”

Moate was nine days removed from his sparkling performance at the county championships last year when he pulled up midway through the 100 finals at the District 10 meet with a severe hamstring pull.

A prospective state qualifier in three individual events, he qualified for regionals only in the high jump — which he finished prior to the 100 final — but didn’t compete.

“My inside hurt worse because I saw all my friends out there running track still,” Moate said. “I wanted to be out there with them and couldn’t.”

Atonement, most presumed, would arrive in the fall.

As a junior, Moate had fused sleekness and sturdiness to establish himself as a Division-I prospect, amassing 1,225 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. But any chance of replicating 2011 ended in the first quarter of his first game of 2012.

Moate was attempting to catch a screen pass against Riverview when a Sharks player landed on his left foot. Three bones on the top side of the foot were fractured.

He missed roughly two months, making only a couple of cameo appearances in November. But even as his career hit a pothole, his captaincy hit a zenith. Moate attended every contest and more than 80 percent of Spoto’s practices, coach Dale Caparaso said.

“I thought he handled it exceptionally well,” Caparaso said.

“It killed Eric to come to practice every day and not lead this team, knowing we were depending on him so much. I think it bothered him because of the relationship he and I share. I think he thought he let me down, and of course he didn’t.”

National signing day dawned and departed without Moate — who owns a 4.03 weighted GPA, qualifying test scores, but no senior-season film — even brandishing a ballpoint. When track season arrived, hamstring soreness lingered, and still does.

The results have been mixed. With his mom, Trakennia Goldsmith, watching him compete for the first time at the prep level, Moate placed third and second, respectively, in the 100 and 200 at the Charles Johnson Invitational in late February.

At the Western Conference’s Federal Division meet two weeks ago, he placed second in the 100. He was leading in the 200 before pulling up down the straightaway when the hamstring flared up, finishing fourth.

A similar fate unfolded at last week’s county championships. Moate ran a season-best time (10.81 seconds) in the 100 prelims and placed fourth in the finals, but again pulled up in the 200 finals. Spartans coach John Rhodas said he’ll run at districts Thursday.

“He feels a little (hamstring) twinge and he’s scared to push it, like he’s going to pop it,” Rhodas said. “He can definitely go to state in the 100 and 200 if he runs the way he’s capable …but you’ve got to put it on the track and do it.”

Moate gets it. On Thursday, he hits the straightaway of his senior year with the chance to end with a flourish. A state berth clearly is conceivable. Moreover, at a recent small-college football recruiting fair, Caparaso said roughly 20 programs showed interest.

And as any competitor worth his cleats will attest, it’s really all about how you finish.

“My realistic goal is to push hard in prelims but not too hard; do enough to get to the finals,” he said. “Then in the finals — ’cause if I don’t make it to regionals, I know it’s going to be my last race — I give it all I’ve got.”

Joey Knight can be reached at jknight@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.

District meets
Class A-8

Where: Calvary Christian, Clearwater
When: Friday, 3:30 p.m.
Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Bayshore Christian, Calvary Christian, Cambridge Christian, Carrollwood Day, Indian Rocks Christian, Seffner Christian, Tampa Bay Christian, Tampa Prep
At stake: Top four finishers in each event advance to Region 2 meet April 18 in Orlando

Class 2A-9
Where: Berkeley Prep
When: Friday, noon
Teams: Anclote, Berkeley Prep, Fivay, Academy of the Holy Names, Jesuit, Middleton, Robinson, Tampa Catholic, Weeki Wachee, Wesley Chapel
At stake: Top four finishers in each event advance to Region 3 meet April 18 in Titusville

Class 2A-10
Where: Spoto
When: Thursday, 11 a.m.
Teams: Sarasota Booker, Arcadia DeSoto, Wauchula Hardee, Lakewood, Lehigh, Bradenton Southeast, Spoto
At stake: Top four finishers in each event advance to Region 3 meet April 18 in Titusville
 

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