By Kyle LoJacono
Freedom has yet to make a dent in area girls track and field, but the 2012 squad is out to change the program’s perception.
“Freedom is here to show up and show out,” said junior Jasmyn Perry.
Part of that excitement comes from the greater numbers. The Patriots had about 25 athletes last season, which has swelled to 45.
“We’ve got more kids this year, so we told some of them they wouldn’t be competing in a lot of the events that limit entries,” said Freedom coach Dwight Smith. “We let them know, the younger ones, they would only get into about four meets, but they’re still out here. That shows real commitment.”
The Patriots have also benefited from two junior transfers, Perry from Tampa Bay Tech and Sandra Akachukwu from King.
“I feel very comfortable at this school; way more comfortable than I did at Tampa Bay Tech,” Perry said. “I love the team.”
Akachukwu said that growing togetherness will pay dividends when it matters most.
“We’re trying to work together and bonding to get closer,” Akachukwu said. “I think that’ll help us. Our goal is to be district champs.”
Akachukwu competes in the 100- and 200-meter races, the 4×100 and 4×400 relays and the high jump, an event she finished tied for 6th at the Class 3A state meet last year.
Perry runs the 100 and 300 hurdles along with the 400. She also has experience at states, making it for the 400 as a freshman.
“They had to tell me to stop shaking because I was so scared,” Perry said of her first states trip. “I was regional champion as a freshman in the 400-meter and district champion in the 400 and triple jump.”
Dwight said the new talent complements what the team already did well.
“I think we’re much more athletic this year,” Dwight said. “We have new freshmen and sophomores plus the transfers who have made a difference in the sprinting events. As for the distance runners, the cross country team did very well this year getting to states for the first time for the school, and they’ve carried that over.”
Senior Ashley Smith, Dwight’s daughter, said having more sprinters like Akachukwu and Perry lets everyone focus on their strengths.
“Last year we didn’t have a lot of sprinters, but now we have some new kids and the younger girls are stepping up,” Ashley said. “Now the distance runners don’t have to do the sprinting events.”
Ashley does the 4×800 and 4×400 relays plus the 800 and 1,600. Her favorite event is the 4×800.
“We’ve gotten to states my first three years in it,” Ashley said of the relay. She then added, “If one person slips the other has to pick it up. In the end you all have to work together to do well, but you can pick each other up too.”
The Patriots will compete in the Class 4A-District 6 meet at Leto on Wednesday, April 18 starting at 1 p.m.
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