LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch High distance runners Megan Reuss and Kelsey Grimaldi thought they had laced up their competitive track shoes for the final time this year last month.
After setting a new school record in the 3,200-meter-relay at the Class 3A state track and field finals May 8, Reuss and Grimaldi thought their track season had come to a close. The girls hadn’t planned on competing in any more track meets this year and instead were focusing on other matters.
Having recently graduated, Reuss had planned on spending the next few weeks with her family and friends before heading off to Sweden to participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Meanwhile, Grimaldi, who will be a senior this fall, was planning on enjoying a few weeks of rest and relaxation before the official start of cross country practice.
But that all changed when the girls received a call from Manatee High cross country and track coach Rae Ann Darling Reed asking them to participate in the 2009 USATF/Florida Regional Junior Olympic Qualifier June 18-20 in Altamonte Springs.
After giving it some thought, Reuss and Grimaldi agreed to fight the blazing sun and compete for Runnergirl.com, which Reed created. Joining Reuss and Grimaldi will be Manatee’s Diana Nelson, Nicole Inglesias and Jessica Pate and Palmetto’s Jessica McKinnis.
“It’s another meet, and I’m just looking to get more experience because I’ve never competed at this level before,” Grimaldi said. “It’s a new experience, and we’re all really close, so it’s going to be a lot of fun and hopefully we’ll just run and do our best.”
Reuss and Grimaldi will team up for the final time in the 3,200 relay and also will both compete in the 800 meters. Reuss also plans to compete in the 1,500 meters for the first time.
“It’s just for fun,” Reuss said. “This will be my last meet, and I’m going to set a personal record in the 1,500 because I’ve never ran it before. It’ll be automatic, so it’s nice.”
With their track season officially behind them, both Reuss and Grimaldi have spent the past few weeks trying to get back into the swing of competitive racing. The girls have participated in Tuesday night beach runs on Siesta Key and try to get in at least one or two runs a week.
The top three finishers in each event will move on to the national meet in Greensboro, N.C. July 28 through Aug. 2, but both Reuss and Grimaldi aren’t concerned with how they finish as much they are about enjoying the experience with their friends and at times their rivals.
“We hang out with everyone, so it’s cool to be able to get together and not have the team rivalry thing going on,” Reuss said.
“At first it was like ‘Oh gosh another meet,’ but now it’s kind of dawning on us that it’s a week away,” Grimaldi said.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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