It was quite a weekend for Talia Falco.
The Lakewood Ranch junior qualified for four events in the Class 3A state track meet at Hodges Stadium on Saturday on the University of North Florida campus.
She was hopeful of gaining points in two, maybe even three of the events. But earning 26 total points -- more than all but three teams' score -- was surprising to most, none more so than Falco herself.
"No, it hasn't sunk in it yet. I still can't believe it," Falco said. "It's been a great weekend. I went to prom last night, and then my mom and me drove here afterward. We got here about 2 this morning."
That didn't leave Falco much sleep time before she had to be at the meet and ready to compete in two events, the long jump and triple jump, starting at 9 a.m. It didn't phase her though. Alternating between the two jumps, she turned in a winning effort of 38 feet, two inches to grab the triple crown and used a jump of 17 feet, 9 inches to finish third in the long jump, a quarter inch ahead of younger sister Sophia.
Talia later started the 100 hurdles race, but only jogged a couple feet before walking off the track. An athlete must start a race that he/she has qualified for or they would become ineligible for all other races in that meet.
"I pulled out of the hurdles in order to conserve my strength and focus on the three field events," she said. "I've competed in four events a lot of other times before this. But I find that it tires me and that by dropping out, it really helps my results in the field events."
It did this time as well. Shortly after foregoing the hurdles race, Falco turned her attention to the high jump. She and two others all cleared 5 feet, 6 inches, Falco making the height on her first attempt. All three girls failed to clear the next height however, leaving them deadlocked and forcing the judges to revert back to fewest misses on previous heights.
"When he called us together and read us the order of finish, I was shocked," Falco said. "I know the other girls who I was jumping against at the end and they're a lot better than me. It came down to fewer misses which is often the case in determining high jump winners."
That capped her day with the 26 points and helped lead the Mustangs to a third-place finish with 35 points, just two points behind runnerup Carol City but well behind Miami Northwestern which ran away with the title in accumulating 154 points.
The Mustangs had a five-point lead on Carol City heading into the final event of the meet, the 1,600-meter relay but could only manage an eighth-place finish while Carol City earned eight points with a runnerup finish in the event.
The Mustangs gained points in the 400 relay along with the 1,600 relay and Sophia Falco's points in the long jump. The younger Falco is a freshman. Palmetto's Jessica McKinney and Braden River's Michael Braxton were 400 meter entries, but neither qualified for the finals.
Manatee had four athletes qualify for the state meet with Jessalyn Kinlaw's sixth-place finish in the long jump the best showing. Nicholas Peters (300 hurdles) and Kavious Price (100 meters) earned single points with eighth-place finishes while Jacqui Armer finished 10th in the shot put.