PUNTA GORDA -- Kristen Zarrella and Olivia Ortiz know what it's like to suffer debilitating injuries on track's biggest stage.
The Lakewood Ranch seniors also got to share some of the gratification that comes with their sport Thursday night in the Class 3A-Region 3 track meet at Charlotte High.
Zarrella won the 800-meter run and ran anchor on the Mustangs' 1,600 relay team that qualified for state with a fourth-place finish.
With tears flowing down her face, Ortiz created the meet's most emotional moment when she finished fourth in the 3,200 run to grab the final qualifying spot for next week's state meet in Jacksonville with a time of 11 minutes, 36.27 seconds.
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Ortiz broke her leg at last year's state meet, had a titanium rod inserted and was told to concentrate on college. Thursday's meet was her fourth of the season.
"I did not want this to be my last high school race. I want to go back to where the injury happened," Ortiz said. "I was ranked seventh in this race. I took off my watch during the race and told myself I am going to get fourth. Next week, I will try my best. To be on that track where I broke my femur is going to be emotional. But I was determined to get back to there. The doctors said it would be at least 12 months to get back to 80 percent."
It was a night of dramatic moments for several other Manatee County participants.
Running track for the first time, Palmetto sophomore Jermisha Collins, known for basketball, may have pulled off the night's biggest shocker, winning the long jump with a leap of of 17 feet, 5 inches and finishing fourth in the 200 dash in 26.01 seconds.
"This is better than what I expected in the 200. I know I had to push to make it. I just wanted to finish strong," Collins said. "I wanted to in make it in both, and it was my personal best in both. I was able to put it altogether in the long jump with speed, height and good technique."
Zarrella has won the 800 event in all but one of her races this season, but this was the most gratifying. She turned in a time of 2:14.06.
"More than anything, I wanted to win to give me confidence at states," Zarrella said. "I am not usually so pleased. I feel that all my hard work is paying off. I wanted to do the best that I could, and I think I did. I wanted to pace behind the lead group, but I took it out at the end because I felt so good. I thank Coach (Kristina) Bratton; she taught me how to work harder."
The Palmetto boys 400 relay team was missing its anchor, Josh Hicks, who was suspended from school and not allowed to participate, but Jacquill Daniel stepped in for him, ran the last leg and enabled the Tigers to place second with a time of 42.82 seconds behind St. Petersburg Gibbs (42.25).
"At first I was nervous, but got the adrenalin from my team. Josh told me it was on me and I believed him. This is my first year running the 4x100. I feel great. We are going to state," Daniel said.
The Lakewood Ranch girls 1,600 relay team turned in a time of 4:08.93. Ashley Platt led off, followed by Carolyn Super and Michelle Last.
Braden River's Zac Durso finished fourth in the pole vault when he cleared the bar at 13 feet.
Lakewood Ranch's Talia Falco qualified for states in the high jump finishing tied for second (5-2),third in the long jump (16-11.25) and fourth in hurdles (15.97).
Other Lakewood Ranch qualifiers included Amanda Johnson, who finished third the discus (89-02), and Wyatt McLeod, who was third in the shot put (42-1.25).