BAYSHORE GARDENS -- With just a few weeks to go before district track meets get underway, the participants in Friday's inaugural IMG Academy Invitational Track and Field kept working to lower their times in their quest to advance deep in the postseason.
"Our starters ran this just like the district qualifiers will be run," IMG director of track and field Loren Seagrave said. "So all of the rules, all of the specifications and things like that. Now is the time that they have to get accustomed to that and feel comfortable in this environment."
The event was the first track and field meet held at IMG Academy, but the second event conducted by the track and field program at IMG after a cross country meet was held last fall.
On Friday, area high school teams competed against programs from Sarasota and Charlotte counties as well as teams as far south as Fort Myers and Naples.
Punta Gorda Charlotte cruised to the boys team title, while Fort Myers Evangelical Christian captured the girls crown.
The top local teams were
Manatee (third place, boys) and Palmetto (fifth place, girls).
The Hurricanes were led by Samuel Vrinios (400-meter dash, 50.42 seconds), and the Hurricanes' 400 relay team that clocked in at 43.40 seconds to capture first place finishes.
For the Tigers, Jada Massie won the 100 dash and 200 dash with times of 12.70 and 26.71 seconds, respectively. Jessica McKinney (400 dash, 59.58 seconds) also registered a first-place finish for Palmetto, while Manatee's 400 girls relay team rounded out victories on the track side for local girls competing.
With Massie, who also plays softball, the drive to reach the state meet and join Jermisha Collins, who made the state meet last year and did not compete Friday due to a prior commitment for AAU basketball, is what fuels her.
Kelly said the goal is to get her to 12 seconds flat by the end of the season in the 100 dash.
"She's got split duties right now," Kelly said. "She is a great softball player, so she's on the softball team. She's splitting time with softball and track. Her parents are working with us ... about her running track and playing softball. That kind of hinders her a little bit, but Jada is a good kid and she's going to persevere."
In the field events, local athletes earned three victories. That included Palmetto's Lakevin Brice (boys high jump, 5 feet, 10 inches) and Southeast's Marline Valcin (girls long jump, 16-1) and Denqualyn Joyner (boys shot put, 44-4).
"I think if you're looking from the outside, it really ran pretty well," Seagrave said. "We've got two great starters and our timing crew is excellent. And our clerk, of course, kept things going. But as the meet director, you always know what things are going wrong and what things could be better and that kind of thing. I think overall it was a very, very well-run meet."