Eagles track set for end-of-season peaks

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 4/7/21

BARTRAM TRAIL - Fleming Island High’s track crews; girls and boys, led by Emma Millson for the girls and John Keester IV or Jack McDade depending on the event, is steadily holding back on flooring …

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Eagles track set for end-of-season peaks

Posted

BARTRAM TRAIL - Fleming Island High’s track crews; girls and boys, led by Emma Millson for the girls and John Keester IV or Jack McDade depending on the event, is steadily holding back on flooring the gas pedal prior to the post season run of districts, regions and state.

Note: In an FHSAA press release, the University of North Florida is set to once again host the Florida High School Track and Field State Championships on May 7 and May 8. District meets are set in the last two weeks of April with regions set for May 1.

“We would like to thank the City of Jacksonville and the University of North Florida for their commitment to providing a first-class championship experience for our student-athletes, coaches and spectators,” said George Tomyn, FHSAA Executive Director. “As we continue our comeback of high school sports this year, a return to Hodges Stadium for this year’s state championship event will provide nearly all spectators who wish to attend, the opportunity to do so.”

For Fleming Island distance coach Dave Allen, those two days have been the target since day one of track season.

“The guys are working really hard since the beginning and we still don’t know what we are going to run them in yet,” said Allen, as he watched his boys; Jack McDade and Danny Sakowski, run near two minute 800s at Bartram Trails’s True Team Championship event held Sat., April 2. “We have to sit down and see who we want to put where. We got three guys that like the 800; McDade, Sakowski, Jayden Scherer, a handful of near-4:30 milers and two 3200 guys; Keester and Kameron Wallizada. The only solid choice is Kam and Keester in the 3200, at this point.”

Allen’s dilemma of sorts is that past meets have displayed a depth of talent in the mile with the 800 being a strong suit by choice.

“The nice thing to watch is that all these guys like each other and race hard as part of the team,” said Allen. “That goes a long way when you want to do well for the team.”

At the Bartram Trail meet on Saturday, in heat two of the 800, McDade and Sakowski came in 1-2 with both in the 2:03 split time with Scherer, punching in a solo 2:03:36 in his heat one effort and Michael Lyon, in the fastest heat, taking a courageous first lap assault and still finishing at 2:01.88. Lyons heat featured Buchholz senior Nathan Bailes smacking in with a 1:55.20 to set a meet record on a day that had near 20 mile head winds on the finishing stretch.

“The 800 and 1600 for us is going to take some thought,” said Allen. “Each week, somebody else steps up for a big race.”

Not at Bartram Trail was junior Alex Bendig, who won the Clay County title at Orange Park a week prior with a 2:00.26 to give Allen five legit two minute 800 runners; a formidable 4 x 800 relay squad and good finishers for a possible mile.

Also at the Clay County Championships, Allen got Scherer, Sakowski, Lyon, Keester and Wallizada all in between 4:33 and 4:43.

“We have been doing a lot of hill repeats; we like a 150 yard repeat session as our main workout,” said Allen. “We also have been pretty healthy.”

In the Bartram Trail 1600, Scherer took on the first two laps for additional speed work before Nease High’s Rheinhardt Harrison, who has chased the four minute barrier all season, won in 4:12.24 with a 55 second final lap.

Nease is in the Fleming Island district 2-4A lineup with Bartram Trail and Mandarin thus creating the Allen dilemma of where to go after points.

In the Bartram Trail 800, two Bartram Trail runners finished at 2:00.07 and 2:00.19 behind Buchholz’ Bailes.

In the very windy 3200, run as first event of the day, Keester finished fifth in 9:48.00 with Bartram Trail and Creekside, also a district foe, in at 9:42.50 and 9:45.51.

“John has not had what would be a bad race all season and a 9:48 on a windy day like this is not a bad bad day for him,” said Allen, noting Keester’s school record 9:40 from earlier in the season.

Note: Keester and Wallizada finished 1-2 at the Bob Hayes Invitational 3200 with splits of 9:40.99 and 9:43.56.

“All of these guys have been running hard with little taper time,” said Allen. “We are expecting some nice breakout runs come districts and regions. We are in one of the strongest lineups in both. Our depth will be the key.”

For the girls distance events, senior Emma Millson, a 3200 champ at the Bob Hayes Invite in late March in 11:32.52 and a double winner; 1600 and 3200 at the Clay County Championships, has been the most consistent runner for Allen with equal success in the 1600 and the 3200. Millson’s power up front leads a strong crew of runners; Lauren Schaudel, Grace Adams, Mei Chiang, Marisa Kortright and Allie Knotts who were part of a strong cross country season for the Golden Eagles. Millson was fifth in the 1600 at Bartram Trail in 5:27.09. Chiang ran 5:27.77 at the Bob Hayes 1600 but did not run at Bartram Trail.

“We could have some late bloomers for the girls with minor injuries keeping us away from full strength,” said Allen.

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