BRADENTON — When the moment arrived for Evangelical Christian School’s Sierra Oliveira and Fort Myers’ Krissy Gear on Friday at the FHSAA track and field championships, they made sure to take it.
A state title was on the line.
Oliveira, an eighth-grader with the Sentinels, claimed her first state championship with a win in the Class A 800-meter race in 2:15.51, while Gear, competing in her first two-mile title race, finished off the 3,200-meter run late Friday at IMG Academy in Bradenton with her patented kick to finish in 10:50.55. It was the second state championship of her career.
Fort Myers’ Evan Babatz, who failed to qualify in the 800 season ago, dazzled in the boys Class 3A race with an outstanding final push to finish second in the Class 3A race in 1:56.24.
“I think the way she did it was spectacular because last week we basically said, ‘Hey, go out hard and overwhelm everybody,’” Evangelical Christian School coach Wes Penberthy said. “And this week she had to slow it down and run a more tactical race.”
Oliveira approached the first 400 meters steady, rounding the first lap in 68 seconds before coming back with even faster second split. She overtook Calvary Christian’s Hannah Brookover in the final 50 meters of the race.
“When I kicked it at the 200 I was a little worried,” Oliveira said. “But I just knew I could catch her and so I kicked it and caught her and I’m thankful for everything.”
Gear shook off a fifth-place finish in the 800 with a smooth showing in the two-mile. After a 76 second first lap, she settled into a calm that kept Dillard’s Brittany Gill in sight before she unleashed a 71 second final lap. She set a personal record by nearly nine seconds.
“Toward the end, I know I always have that kick,” Gear said. “So I can kind of switch it up on the last mile and go hard. Not many people can stick with it, so I try to stick with my strengths.”
Fort Myers coach Rob Strong says part of Gear’s success in cross country has transferred over to track.
“Even in cross country, she didn’t trust her strength,” he said. “Now she’s trusting that she’s strong and that kick is going to be there, no matter the race.”
Babatz played his cards perhaps a bit more risky, striding into the first lap significantly trailing the lead pack of eight runners.
But by the 300 meter mark, the Fort Myers junior was clearly in control of his race and burst past seven straight runners before finishing in second behind Creekside’s Joseph Storey.
“I was very calm through the first lap,” Babatz said. “I didn’t want to panic. And then when I was back with the pack with 300 to go, I made my move and went out.”
It was a more difficult day for others. Dunbar’s Seneca Milledge, who was a high seed in both the Class 2A long jump and 100-meter dash, was not cleared to compete following a visit to the doctor earlier in the week. The Tigers’ 400-meter relay team, which was anchored by Milledge, also scratched their preliminary run.
The Tigers freshman had suffered a hip flexor injury at the Region 2A-3 meet the week earlier. He had run a season best 10.47 second 100-meter dash in April at the LCAC championships.
“It kind of got us this year,” Dunbar coach Guy Thomas said. “It put a damper on the season.”
Dunbar senior Ezekiel Rose tied for second place in the high jump, reaching 6 feet, 4 inches.
South Fort Myers’ girls and boys relay teams also struggled, with the girls failing to reach the finals of the event on Saturday. The Wolfpack boys qualified as the eighth seed with a time of 42.20 seconds.
In the pole vault, Class 3A top seed Thomas Barselou injured his left hamstring on his first two attempts at 13 feet, 6 inches. He cleared 14 feet, but finished in ninth place.
“It happened in regions,” Barselou said. “I knew it was going to bother me, so I was icing it all week. It didn’t hold up. I could feel it every step.”
Ida Baker senior Drayton Diggs, competing in his first state meet, cleared 14-6 and finished sixth.
In the girls Class 3A 800, Estero’s Megan Giovanniello was 10th. South Fort Myers’ boys 400-meter relay team qualified for the finals with a time of 42.20 seconds.
Kylee Rullo earned a fifth place finish in the Class A long jump with a mark of 16-9.75.
FHSAA Track and Field Championships
at IMG Academy, Bradenton
Fort Myers – Krissy Gear, pole vault (12th, 9-0), 800 (5th, 2:16.87), 3,200 (1st, 10:50.55); Connor Jenkins, high jump (14th, 5-10); Evan Babatz, 800 (2nd, 1:56.24); Sam Hordinski, 3,200 (14th, 9:59.72); Josh Kennedy, 3,200 (9th, 9:49.59); Jeff St. Louis, 110 hurdles (14th prelims, 16.0)
Estero – Megan Giovanniello, 800 (10th, 2:21.17); Arye Beck, 3,200 (13th, 9:59.60);
Cape Coral – Gabriella Mora, 400 (13th prelims, 1:02.08)
Ida Baker – Drayton Diggs, pole vault (6th, 14-6); Luis Colon, 300 hurdles (14th, 41.58)
Evangelical Christian School – Sierra Oliveira, 800 (1st, 2:15.46); Kylee Rullo, long jump (5th, 16-9.75); Moriah Oliveira, 400 (1st prelims, 57.53)
South Fort Myers – Thomas Barselou, pole vault (9th, 14-0); 400 relay (8th prelims, E’Quan Dorris, William Scott, Althiery Leontes, Antonio Wimbush); Althiery Leontes, 300 hurdles (10th, 40.47)
Dunbar – Freneisha Crumbly, discus (14th, 92-3); Nazareth Battle, shot put (12th, 33-5.75); Ezekiel Rose, high jump (2nd, 6-4); Nahisha Alabre, 100 (11th, 12.87);
Canterbury – Jessica Edwards, 800 (7th, 2:24.30)
Southwest Florida Christian – Evan Williams, 800 (16th, 2:06.68); Tristian Upton, 100 (7th prelims, 11.35)
Island Coast – Alexandria Rankin, 400 (10th prelims, 59.44)