By Kyle LoJacono
Land O’ Lakes track and field ran away with the Class3A-District 6 meet despite having to wait several days for the officialcrowning.
The Gators had a 54-point lead April 20 at Central when the 11-teammeet was postponed. Three events remained: the 3,200-meter, 4×400 relay and discus.
The remaining events were run April 23. Land O’ Lakes didn’t win any of them, but the Gators had already done enough to win the title by scoring
Land O’ Lakes first-year boys coach Bill Schmitz said the depth has been key.
“Our team looked completely different in January,” Schmitz said. “We had kids like Jackson Cannon, Shadow Williams and Ethan Weilant from the football team who decided to do track, plus Josh Davis from the soccer team. That gave us so many athletes, which lets us score in all 17 events. Plus I’ve got great coaches.”
The Gators got three individual titles at the meet. Chris Wilkinson won the 800 (2 minutes 2.98 seconds), Henry Parrish claimed the 400
(52.67) and senior Darin Patom earned his first career gold by running the 300 hurdles in a personal record 40.59.
“It was a great feeling,” Patom said. “I was seeded fourth coming in, so I knew I had to kick it in and push harder than ever.”
Patom, who placed second in the 110 hurdles (15.2), has run track since his freshman year. Land O’ Lakes has had one of its most successful seasons, winning all but one meet, which makes his final campaign more satisfying for Patom.
“We’ve never in school history won conference and districts in the same year,” Patom said. He added, “We have kids who at the start of the
season we didn’t know if they were going to make the team. Now they’re scoring for us and helping us stay on top.”
Parrish was unsure he could run track this season after tearing the ACL in his left knee playing football. The junior was third rounding the final turn of the 400.
“I was thinking it’s time to kick on the jets, Parrish said with a smile. He added, “I wanted to do everything to help the team. Being a team
member has been great. Everybody puts in the work together and are unselfish. Everything is for the team, and I think that’s why we’ve done what we’ve done this year.”
The Gators also won the 4×100 relay in 44.1. Land O’ Lakes beat second-place Sunlake (44.7) and Wiregrass Ranch (45.02), which finished first
and second, respectively, at conference three weeks ago.
“That was motivation,” said Isaac Cabrera, the 4×100 anchor. “We’ve been working on our handoffs a lot since then. We just had to come out and execute.”
Cross-town rival Sunlake got two championship thanks to powerful junior Travis Manecke, who claimed the shot put and discus titles for the second straight year with a launch of 48 feet 2 inches and 147-10, respectively.
“I was trying to go for 50, but just couldn’t get it,” Manecke said of the shot put. “I knew there was competition for it here, so I put a lot into it. … Last year I got 51, so I want at least 50 again. I really want 55.”
Sunlake finished fifth place (71.5) when the meet was suspended. Wiregrass Ranch was fourth (51) when the meet was suspended, but made a huge jump up to the runner-up spot.
The Land O’ Lakes girls were led by sophomore Hallie Grimes, who won the 400 (59.38) and placed second in the 200 (26.05).
Grimes won the 400 at districts last year and qualified for states as a freshman. The early success compelled her to work harder in her second season.
“I was hoping to get first because I set such high expectations for myself last year, and I knew there was really good competition,” Grimes said. “I felt a lot of pressure to do better than I did last year.”
The top four in each event advance to regionals at Leto April 25 starting at noon.
–Results as recorded by the Florida High School Athletic Association