For nearly a decade, Pine Forest girls track and field has reigned supreme atop district standings.
This year is seemingly no different, as FloridaRunners.com projects an 84-point victory for Pine Forest in Wednesday’s 3A District 1 Championships. But girls head coach Paul Bryan won’t pencil in the Eagles’ ninth consecutive district title just yet.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of drama at that district meet this year,” Bryan said. “It’s not a given with how many kids that are not with the team that started with us this year. It’ll be closer than people think, so I hope our kids learn a lesson from it.”
In what he described as one of the more difficult seasons of his coaching career, Bryan noted the unusual number of players his team had lost to injuries and departures during the season.
“It makes you wonder sometimes why you’re doing what you’re doing when you put all that time and effort into it, but there’s still good kids out there wanting to work hard,” Bryan said. “I’m not as worried about the ones that left as the ones that stayed.”
Even despite their current “hiccup season,” Bryan and his team still have sights set on their most attainable goals.
“This would be our ninth district championship in a row, and they’ve tried to make a big deal out of continuing that record,” Bryan said. “It’s not about winning a state championship or even a regional championship, because they understand the situation with losing kids this season.”
Bumps withstanding, Pine Forest will enter as favorites for a reason.
Hurdling duo Shaniya Sanders and Michaela Thompson have posted the top two district times for the 100m and 300m hurdles.
“They’re basically best friends that have grown up together and athletically they’re almost the same,” Bryan said. “One wins one week and the other wins the next week. They’re both capable, so hopefully they’re both on the same page on the same day.”
In the field, Pine Forest’s Alexis Lucas, Kaleah Strawder and Jada Whitaker hold the top three discus scores in the district. Lucas is also No. 1 in the shot put while Strawder and Whitaker are No. 3 and 4, respectively.
Bryan said he is also hopeful Gabrielle Fountain, the district’s No. 1 800m runner, will be fit enough to perform at districts.
“She’s really hurt right now and can’t run, but we’re hoping to get one race that won’t hurt her,” Bryan said. “That one race, the 4x800m on Wednesday, will hopefully get the team through and buy another two weeks to rest for regionals. Hopefully by then she’ll be good enough to have a chance to qualify for state.”
While this season may not have been the easiest, Pine Forest still has an opportunity to extend its sign atop the district.
“The district championship is really big for them,” Bryan said. “They want to put as many together as possible so nobody can break their record.”