Track Sharks shine as first-time hosts

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By Jenna McKenna

Sharks track and field tasted success at their inaugural home meet Monday, hosting Branford, Seven Rivers, St. John Lutheran and Bronson at the first Cedar Key Relays.

Branford was the overall winner, with the girls' team scoring 80 total points and boys' team scoring 84. Cedar Key girls were runners-up with 68 points, and Cedar Key boys placed third with 46 points.

"I feel pretty good about our performance," said track head coach Brad Penney. "It was a tough meet. We have eight girls on our team; Branford has 53. We needed six first place finishes out of 12 events to win; we got five firsts and they got seven."

Penney said irrespective of the outcome in points, he was very pleased with the performance of both the boys' and girls' teams.

"We've had good individual performances the last three meets," he said, noting that Monday, as at the last meet, some individual and school records had been set. Shawna Fenton set a new school record in girls' shot put, with her long throw of 30'2". Samantha Beckham PR'd in the triple-jump with a finish of 34'0", also setting a new school record.

"She did that after running the half and the quarter," Penney said. "That was the amazing thing. Normally she'd be all gassed out."

The boys showed good effort, but suffered from a personnel shortage due to a baseball game. Senior hurdler Justin Speegle was missed as he recovered from having his wisdom teeth out.

Penney said the team is focusing on the county meet April 1, hoping the girls will three-peat as champs. The boys have also been runner-up the last two years, and hope to meet or exceed that mark.

"Chiefland has a greatly improved squad, and Williston and Bronson have new coaches, so no telling what will happen," Penney said.

The Sharks will also host the county meet, and are hoping for the kind of good weather they saw Monday - "Sunny, with enough breeze to drive away the sand gnats," although Penney acknowledges that the wind is a challenge to vaulters, and a full-on gnat attack might well constitute a genuine home-field advantage for the Sharks.

He's also hoping that the kind of great scores the Sharks are showing in the early season are a good benchmark for the improvements they'll need to be competitive at districts and beyond.

"This season, we've had six state medal-type performances, based on prior years' state meets," Penney said. "I hope we can keep improving. Of course, the competition keeps improving too."

Team scores: Girls: Branford, 80; Cedar Key, 68; Seven Rivers, 34; St. John, 26; Bronson, 10. Boys: Branford, 84; Seven Rivers, 48; Cedar Key, 46; St. John, 38; Bronson, 0.

Event winners for Cedar Key: High Jump: Kacey Miller and Caely Hibbits

Pole Vault: Samantha Beckham, Deanna Littlefield

Triple Jump: Samantha Beckham, Caely Hibbits

Low Hurdles: Samantha Beckham, Deanna Littlefield

Medley (200/200/400/800): Shawna Fenton, Megan Stuber, Samantha Beckham, Kacey Miller

Shot Put: Ryan Lumley, Kail Rivera

Discus: Ryan Lumley, Josh Lumley

Pole Vault: Joshua Loyd, Joseph Bishop

Sharks track will be at Chiefland Thursday.