Sense of team carries Naples to success at 55th Eagle Invitational

Naples High's boys track and field athletes failed to grab a victory Saturday at the Eagle Invitational, yet they still claimed a share of the overall title. GREGG HARDY/CSI

BY GREGG HARDY
CSI EDITOR

There are plenty of hurdles to be cleared before April — when the big prizes are on the line — but Naples High’s track and field team made a statement Saturday at its very own Eagle Invitational.

The annual meet’s 55th edition produced a day-long battle between the host Golden Eagles and the Tigers from Dunbar High.

Naples’ boys didn’t win a single event but scored well enough throughout the day to finish as co-champions with Dunbar for the second straight year. And while Naples’ girls fell four points shy of first-place Dunbar, they did win three events — 1,600-meter relay, distance medley and high jump — in what coach Bronze Bruland called a “phenomenal” performance.

PHOTO GALLERY: View images from the 55th annual Eagle Invitational

“Our girls gave up everything that they had today,” Bruland said. “They didn’t leave anything behind. They didn’t make many mistakes.”

Even though Naples’ boys were denied even a single victory, Bruland believes his team’s sense of togetherness — both on the boys and girls sides — was on full display Saturday.

“Dunbar has great, great athletes,” Bruland said. “They had a 6-8 high jumper; we’re at 6 foot. Fort Myers (High School) has a 200-foot thrower; we’ve got a kid at 185. So we’ve got good kids, but this meet in particular shows off the strength of your team. It’s just a bunch of them working hard for each other and working hard for their coaches, because their coaches love them, and they love us back.”

Naples’ other coach, Natalie Marker, said Saturday’s performance indicated that the Golden Eagles are starting to mesh as a unit after only a small handful of meets this season. She also echoed Bruland’s take on the team’s tight bond.

“We’ve got a lot of young kids this year with a good mix of veterans returning,” Marker said. “Those younger kids are starting to fall in line with what the veterans are saying — ‘hey, trust what the coaches are telling you’ (and) ‘do what we’re doing’ — and it’s starting to pay off.

“(The Eagle Invitational) is a big event, but they understand the concept of team with this. With everything being relays, it really shows them that if they continue to work hard, (then) come conference, districts, regionals that team concept really pays off. I think this helps them get ready in terms of that team concept, so that they understand that yes, what they do, even when it’s an individual score, it matters for that overall score.”

Gulf Coast High School also turned in a strong performance Saturday. The Sharks won three events — girls pole vault, girls shot put and boys pole vault — as the girls finished fourth while the boys took fifth.

Other Collier County teams to win events were Palmetto Ridge (girls discus) and Immokalee (boys 3×3,200 relay).

Girls team scores

1. Dunbar, 74 points; 2. Naples, 70; 3. Cape Coral, 46; 4. Gulf Coast, 44; 5. St. John Neumann, 41; 6. First Baptist Academy, 38; 7. Golden Gate, 33; 8. Barron Collier, 32; 9. Canterbury School, 30; 10. Estero, 28; 11. Lely, 26; 12. Ida Baker, 25; 13. Palmetto Ridge, 24; 14. North Fort Myers, 22; 15. Southwest Florida Christian, 20; 16. Lehigh, 14; 17. South Fort Myers, 13; 18. Immokalee, 3; 19. Village School, 2.

Boys team scores

1. Naples, 75 points; 1. Dunbar, 75; 3. Lehigh, 64; 4. Fort Myers, 52; 5. Gulf Coast, 51; 6. Ida Baker, 41; 7. Barron Collier, 36; 8. Lely, 24; 9. St. John Neumann, 23.5; 10. Estero, 23; 11. North Fort Myers, 21; 11. Golden Gate, 21; 13. Palmetto Ridge, 16; 14. Immokalee, 14.5; 15. South Fort Myers, 13; 16. Seacrest Country Day, 11; 16. First Baptist Academy, 11; 18. Cape Coral, 7; 19. Riverdale, 3; 19. Southwest Florida Christian, 3.

Follow CSI on Twitter at @239CSI or like CSI on Facebook at facebook.com/CollierSportsInsider. Email Gregg Hardy at editor@colliersportsinsider.com.