Flanked by coaches Tammy Loux, far left, and Justin Moomaw, far right, Reed Cunningham, Augie Kent, Drew Mclendon and Javier Silva each grab the baton after winning the 4x800 boys relay Saturday at the Florida Middle School Track and Field Championship. The four runners attend Gulfview Middle School but were competing as part of the Gulf Coast Runners Youth Team. SUBMITTED PHOTO
The pipeline for many of Collier County’s high school track and field programs looks to be flowing with future standouts.
Eight local athletes landed a coveted top-eight finish — and the medal that went with it — at the Florida Middle School Track & Field Championship, held Saturday at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Two girls — Heaven Cummings of Immokalee Middle School and Rebecca Weir of Seacrest Country Day School — led the Collier contingent with third-place finishes in the shot put and high jump, respectively.
Cummings earned her medal with a throw of 42 feet, 8 inches — some six-and-a-half inches behind the winner. Two weeks ago at the Collier County Athletic Conference middle school championships, Cummings set a CCAC record with a throw of 44 feet, 3.5 inches.
(Note: Collier County’s public school athletes competed under the banner of the Gulf Coast Runners Youth Team since CCPS does not send middle school athletes to state.)
Weir’s jump of an even 5 feet was six inches shy of the winner.
Gulfview Middle School eighth-graders Javier Silva, Augie Kent, Drew McClendon and Reed Cunningham took fifth place in the boys 4×800-meter relay. McClendon said he and his three running mates plan to participate in cross country and track and field when they get to Naples High next year.
“When we went to the race, we had a pretty clear idea of the competition, what we needed to get to (achieve) a top-eight finish,” said McClendon, who called Saturday’s performance the “highlight” of his middle school career. “We all performed pretty well, and we were very happy with fifth place.”
Grace Dean, an eighth-grader and three-sport athlete at First Baptist Academy, finished seventh in the girls triple jump with a leap of 33 feet, 10 1/2 inches. It was her first time using a take-off board 32 feet away from the sand pit, and she narrowly missed her personal record of 34 feet.
“It definitely pushed me to get farther,” Dean said of the 32 board. “It was very difficult for me because I haven’t done that all season; so for me to do that was a great accomplishment.”
Dean also competed in the long jump (14-08.00, 30th place), as well as the 100 hurdles (18:00, 24th) and 200 hurdles (31.83, 21st). Her effort capped a hectic seven-day itinerary, as she also competed at the high school state championships in Jacksonville last Saturday.
Really, it’s been a busy school year for Dean. She also plays volleyball and is a central figure on a Lions varsity basketball team that went 23-6 and was perfect in district play. (Despite a game-high 16 points from Dean, FBU suffered a three-point loss to Saint Stephens Episcopal in the regional semifinals.)
Asked if playing volleyball and basketball helps her performance on the track (or vice versa), Dean said, “Starting from volleyball to basketball to track, it all builds me up for track — speed-wise, in competition … and seeing all the different public schools.”
Lukas Furgason, an eighth-grader at Oakridge Middle School who will soon be moving to Kentucky, finished seventh in the boys 1,500 meters with a time of 4:25.90. That put him on pace to run a mile (or, 1,600 meters) in 4:43, which would have shattered his previous two CCAC record-setting runs — 4:52.91 at the CCAC championships two weeks ago, and 4:55.34 at a home meet on April 7, which eclipsed a nine-year old mark.
Besides the aforementioned medalists, there were several other notable performances by local competitors Saturday:
Here is a list of Collier County’s other competitors (school names, if known, are abbreviated) and how they finished:
Follow CSI on Twitter at @239CSI or like CSI on Facebook at facebook.com/CollierSportsInsider. Email Gregg Hardy at email@example.com.