Prep track and field | Lakewood Ranch girls collect more gold at Class 3A region meet

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 24, 2014 

Staff Photographer

Lakewood Ranch High School's Talia Falco makes her approach as she competes in the high jump during the Manatee County Track and Field Championship at IMG Academy Stadium. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

TAMPA -- Another meet, another championship trophy.

That's the type of spring it has been for Lakewood Ranch's girls track and field team.

First at the Manatee County championships. First during last week's Class 3A-District 10 meet in Clearwater.

And Wednesday night, first in the Class 3A-Region 3 meet at Tampa Leto.

The Mustangs totaled 77 points -- Naples Golden Gate was second with 44 -- and will be well-represented during the May 3 Class 3A state meet at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

"Huge credit to my coaches. I've got a tremendous coaching staff," said Lakewood Ranch coach Mark Napier, "one of the best I know of. We've got a lot of talent there, and I don't have to micromanage anything. That's nice to have."

Lakewood Ranch's fuel once again came from the Falco sisters, Talia and Sophia.

Talia, a junior, took first in the triple jump with a distance of 36 feet, 10½ inches. She also took second in the high jump, third in the long jump and third in 100-meter hurdles.

The top four finishers in each event qualify for state.

Sophia, a freshman, won the long jump (17 feet, 9½ inches) and took second in the 100 dash for Lakewood Ranch, which also qualified its 400 relay team, which took second, and the second-place 1,600 relay team.

"We both want to do well, but when we compete against each other, we try to push each other hard enough," Sophia said after running a leg for Lakewood Ranch's 1,600 relay team. "We kind of like work together, too, so it's kind of half and half."

After winning the county meet earlier this year, Napier talked about his desire to turn Lakewood Ranch into a well-rounded track team.

It has worked. Thanks to big performances in the track and field events, the Mustangs have spent the spring stuffing the school's trophy case.

"Everyone on the team has been awesome," Sophia Falco said. "When we have multiple events, we can rack up more points. And it's more versatile -- when you're good at one event, you're usually good at another. And it's good to find that other event."

The coach agreed.

"Now we're starting to find the sprinters and the jumpers," Napier said. "I like having a team like that, where everybody roots for each other. And we've got that type of program now, and we're extremely young."

As Ranch prepares for the state meet, Napier said this week is more about what's going on between his athletes' ears.

"There's not a lot you can do to improve on -- you just kind of what to maintain and shake out," he said, "and let them relax. More or less, keep them mentally strong."

Other local Region 3 qualifiers included Palmetto's Jessica McKinney, fourth in the 400, and Braden River's Michael Braxton, who also took fourth in the 400.

Leto also hosted the Class 4A-Region 2 meet, which featured Manatee as the only local participant.

Jessalyn Kinlaw is headed to state after taking second in the long jump. She'll be joined by Nicholas Peters, who was second in the 300 hurdles.

Also headed up north for the Hurricanes is Jacqui Armer, fourth in the shot put, and Kavious Price, who was fourth in the 100.

The Class 4A meet is also scheduled for May 3 at UNF.

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