Manatee County track championships | Lakewood Ranch sweeps titles

Versatile Mustangs show strength with dominating performances

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 4, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Mark Napier calls them pocket teams.

It's slang for track and field squads that only excel at certain events.

And it's exactly what Napier, now in his fourth season as Lakewood Ranch's boys and girls track and field coach, didn't want his Mustangs to become.

Following Lakewood Ranch's performance Thursday during the Manatee County Track and Field Championships at IMG Academy Field, it's clear that won't be a problem. The Mustangs swept the team titles thanks to well-rounded performances in everything from sprints to distance events to field events.

"We have jumpers, we have throwers, we have vaulters, we have sprinters," Napier said. "We've always been known as a distance program, but now we're incorporating all the field events."

The boys team stockpiled 190 points to beat runner-up Manatee (129) and had at least one top-three finisher in each of the field events. Cameron Darby won the triple jump with a distance of 40 feet, 9½ inches.

The old stuff worked, too. The Mustangs boys won the 3,200-meter relay and crowned a 3,200 champion in senior Mitch Arnold, who finished in 10 minutes, 19 seconds to beat Bayshore's Canaan Meester-Kitterman (10:42), a three-time cross country state qualifier.

Meester-Kitterman won the 1,600 (4:43) by more than 12 seconds but was not in good health during the 3,200. He was coughing repeatedly as he rounded the track, and after the race, Meester-Kitterman congratulated Arnold, crumbled on the grass and coughed some more.

"I know he's not 100 percent," Arnold said. "But I was up to the challenge."

Arnold said he hadn't defeated Meester-Kitterman since a two-mile run in their freshman year.

"I beat him before I knew him," Arnold said. "He did really well sophomore year, and he's been up there ever since. I compete with him

a lot, and I always mess around with him, 'I'm going to beat you this time.' And it's never happened."

Arnold hopes to see Meester-Kitterman at the next level. He is going to the University of Tampa, and Meester-Kitterman will be at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Both plan to run track when they get there.

"We definitely joke around with each other all the time," Arnold said. "I'm hoping at some of the bigger meets that a lot of colleges go to, we'll be able to see each other and race each other for the next four years."

Samual Vrinios (400) and Nicholas Peters (300 hurdles) won for the Hurricanes, who beat out third-place Palmetto (98).

Adam Lester (110 hurdles), Kyle O'Halloran (discus) and Lakevin Brice (high jump) won for the Tigers, as did the school's 400 relay team.

Fourth-place Braden River had 73 points and was paced by county champions Victor Storhoff (800), Ahmad Dunbar (long jump), Austin Fox (pole vault) and the 1,600 relay team.

Southeast's Keith Timmons was the county's lone two-time individual winner on the boys side, taking first in the 100 and 200 dashes, and teammate Cecil Richardson won the shot put.

The Mustangs rolled on the girls side, scoring 246 points. Manatee was second with 101.

Lakewood Ranch took first in all but five events had a double winner in Sophia Falco (long jump, 100) and swept all the relays.

O'Neesha Shaw won the 300 hurdles for the Hurricanes, and Saint Stephen's Lauren Csubak took first in the 800 while fellow Falcon Janae Murrell was first in the 200.

Palmetto's Elizabeth Atkinson won the shot put, and Bayshore's Sierra Sanders was a county champion in the discus.

"It's a tough sport. For us to have that type of depth, it says a lot about the program," Napier said. "We've got a tremendous staff, which is a huge key. I don't have to micromanage or anything.

"I like having an entire track team. That's how you can be successful, and the kids can bond and learn a lot from it."

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