LAKEWOOD RANCH — Well before they had even set foot on the track, Lakewood Ranch High distance runners Megan Reuss, Tracey Spronatti, Kelsey Grimaldi and Devin McDermott knew what they had to do.
The school record-setting time of 10:00.78 had been etched in the back of 3,200-meter relay team’s mind since it set a personal best time of 10:02.09 at the Class 3A regional meet April 30, smashing its previous personal record by 16 seconds.
Heading into the Class 3A state finals May 8 in Winter Park, the girls looked to drop nearly two seconds off their time — a feat well within reach for a relay team that was making its first trip to the state track meet.
“I hope to run the fastest time that I can, and hopefully we can break the school record,” Spronatti said before the meet. “We’re only two seconds away from it; and I think that with all of the competition there … I hope we’ll be able to do it.”
With Grimaldi, Reuss and McDermott each doing their part, Spronatti took the baton and zeroed in on the competition — and more importantly — the school record. Spronatti anchored the final two laps for the Lady Mustangs, crossing the finish line in 10:00.51 and establishing a new 3,200-meter relay record.
“Our 4x800 team is amazing, and each week, we just aim to improve,” Grimaldi said. “The people on the team — we all just know each other and work really well together because we all have the same goals.”
But the members of the 3,200 relay weren’t the only Lakewood athletes making headlines at the state finals. Seniors James Fulmer and Shanavia Jones and junior Leah Wierichs also advanced to the meet.
Jones finished 12th in the high jump with a jump of 5-0 and Wierichs finished 14th in the 300-meter hurdles in 50.05. Seeded fifth at the regional meet, Wierichs came from behind, finishing fourth to advance to the state finals for the first time.
“It was amazing because I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Wierichs said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing all the good people (competing) — I don’t really care where I place.”
Fulmer made his second trip to the state finals, competing in the 110-meter hurdles, his best event, for the first time after finishing second at the regional meet. He advanced to the meet last year in the pole vault, but a persisting shoulder injury prevented Fulmer from a repeat performance.
“I’m really excited, and I plan on running a lot faster than I have been,” Fulmer said. “A second in time is not that much, but at the same time it really is. Regardless of how I run at states … I have a time I want to reach, but if that doesn’t happen then I’m not going to get down on myself.”
Fulmer nearly ran a personal best, crossing the finish line in 14.57 for 4th place and earning a spot atop the medal stand in his final high school track meet.
“My training up until now … coach Bob (Campbell) has done everything to get me to this point,” Fulmer said. “He’s like a grandfather figure to me. We get on each other’s nerves and fight just the same, but he’s out here every day for us.”
Campbell, who resides in Michigan, began coaching track and field more than 30 years ago. He started the track program when Lakewood first opened in 1998 and has been coaching the team ever since.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Campbell said. “You don’t do it for the money. You do it for the love of the sport and the love of the kids.
After watching his Mustang athletes perform in the state finals, Campbell returned home to Michigan to prepare his local high school track team for competition. Campbell may not return to coaching Lakewood next season, but whether he’s on the track or not, the Mustangs always will remember the lessons Campbell has taught them since they joined the Lakewood track team.
“I really can’t express how much he’s done for me,” Fulmer said. “He’s been with me all four years and he’s just a great guy.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
Class 3A state finals
Boys 110-meter hurdles: James Fulmer, 4th place, 14.57
Girls 300-meter hurdles: Leah Wierichs, 14th place, 50.05
Girls 3,200-meter relay: Kelsey Grimaldi, Megan Reuss, Devin McDermott and Tracey Spronatti (alternate-Nicole Spronatti), 12th place, 10:00.51
Girls high jump: Shanavia Jones, 12th place, 5-0
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