By Kyle LoJacono
Hallie Grimes admitted she felt so nervous that she was shaking as she prepared to start the 400 meters final during the Class 3A track and field meet May 3.
The Land O’ Lakes junior had won state medals as a freshman and sophomore and didn’t want that trend to stop.
“I was extremely nervous because freshman year I got fifth, and then last year I got sixth, so I definitely wanted to get a better place than that,” Grimes said.
She overcame her anxiety to finish in 57.59 seconds to place third despite constant rain and gusty winds at the University of North Florida.
“I was actually thinking third was going to be possible today,” Grimes said. “With the weather, that usually doesn’t affect me so, if it brought down anyone else with their times, I thought I could do it. I just knew I could do it if I ran as fast as I can.”
Gators coach Rock Ridgeway said Grimes took third despite suffering a leg cramp during the prelims. He added that her ability to overcome the weather, cramping and the pressure speaks volumes about her.
“She’s just a solid girl, and the best one I’ve ever had,” Ridgeway said. “Nicole Woodard did more events, but she’s the best one in one event. She’s just super, and I’m glad to have her back next year when she’s a senior and wins the state championship.”
Grimes said the performance gives her confidence moving forward.
“I’m extremely motivated to get better, and I want to get my whole team motivated so we can get more of us to state next year,” Grimes said. “Hoping to have the 4×400 come next year, so I want to get them pumped up.”
Land O’ Lakes junior Tyler Stahl captured a medal in his first state appearance by placing seventh in the 1,600 (4:27.05).
“I’m really happy,” Stahl said. “I knew getting top eight would be tough, but I did and I’ve still got next year to do even better.”
Stahl was near the back of the pack halfway through the race, but made a push forward midway through the third of four laps.
“The competition was so great, and I think that’s what really pushed me,” Stahl said. “At first I thought that maybe I should hang back, but I felt like I had something left to get in the top eight.”
Gators’ pole vaulter Colin Defant was unable to compete in the event after earning his first state berth the week before at regionals. Land O’ Lakes coach Bill Schmitz said the senior was taking his International Baccalaureate (IB) English exam that morning, which is a test that cannot be made up.