DOWN THE STRETCH Reanna Richards, center, takes the lead for good in the 100-meter dash. She and her Emerald Cove teammates took the overall county girls' track and field title to give their school its first sports championship in history. Richards outpaced Roosevelt's Nakiya Howard, left, and Don Estridge's Hannah Young. (submitted photo / June 15, 2012)
Emerald Cove jumped out to a quick start and never looked back as it captured the Palm Beach County Girls Middle School Track and Field Championships recently at Park Vista High School.
The memorable title-clinching performance secured the school's first championship in any sport in its five years of existence.
The Lady Pirates struck with a fury at the outset as Reanna Richards won the 100-meter dash in just less than 13 seconds, while teammate Amanda Carr bolted through the 1,600-meter run in about five minutes, 40 seconds.
Emerald Cove's Maijah Mathis also took top recognition in the 200-meter dash as she crossed the finish line in a fraction less than 27 seconds.
"I thought we had a chance to really do this," said Brian Tilley, who coaches track and field and is also the school's athletic director. "I am proud of them. Derek Walker runs a local track club [Fast Lane Track Club, out of West Palm Beach] and a lot of the sprinters run for [that club]. They travel all over the country."
Tilley said the 4-by-100-meter relay team of Richards, Mathis, Ti'auna Young and Ty'janique Green was steady all season. Nicole McGrath also contributed to the team's success.
Emerald Cove won the team title with 61 points, while Roosevelt and Jeaga middle schools finished in second and third place with 48 and 44 points, respectively. Two-time defending girls' champion Crestwood wound up in a tie for fourth place with Woodlands.
Richards, 13, knew she had a chance to be the fastest girl in the county after Erin Ford graduated and moved on from Crestwood to Royal Palm Beach High School.
"This is really fun," Richards said. "Being a county champion is amazing."
Richards knew she had the potential to reach her goal this year after finishing runner-up to Ford in last year's county finals. The former eighth-grader ran all three years but didn't make the county finals in her sixth-grade year.
"I put my mind to it, focused and practiced a lot," Richards said.
Carr, who will enter her eighth-grade year at Emerald Cove in the fall, used track and field to help condition her for swimming.
"I don't have a lot of experience in track because I am a swimmer," said Carr, who is a member of the Lake Lytal Swim Team in West Palm Beach.
Carr said she felt some pressure to do well but took it in stride.
"It surprised me that I won [the 1,600-meter run] because I didn't have a lot of experience," Carr said. "My dad supports me. He just reads me the splits, and it helped me pace myself. I was determined to win."
Crestwood's Arion Span was a double winner as she won the 100-meter hurdles (17.42) and the 400-meter dash (59.90) for the second year in a row. She prevailed in 1:02 last year, and this was the first time she broke a minute in the race.
"It feels great to [win two events]," said Span, who just completed her eighth-grade year at the school and has been running all three years. "Track means a lot to me. It is something that I find to be fun, and it shows teamwork is something that you need."
Span placed third in the 400-meter run as a sixth-grader.
"I like the feeling of winning," Span said. "It is fun to be with your friends, and at the end of the year we celebrate. I find that cool, too. We are really dedicated."
Polo Park's Alexa Flores wasn't sure what to expect in her first year of competing in track and field.
Flores won the girls' long jump with a leap of 15 feet, 9 inches to help the Stallions finish sixth with 35 points. She also finished in second place in the 100 meter dash (13.34) and the 400-meter dash (1:02.04).
"It was cool," said Flores, who recently completed the eighth grade at Polo Park Middle School and is also a talented soccer player. "I am going to do this in high school, too."
Flores admitted there is a slight difference between chasing a ball on a soccer field and chasing people in a race.
"You have to keep up your energy so you can stick through it the whole way," Flores said. "You have to keep thinking you are going to win, so you speed up more."
Other individual winners included Woodlands' Taylor Gregory in the high jump (4 feet, 8 inches); Western Pines' Serrina Paneto in the shot put (36 feet, 4.75 inches) and Jeaga's Hannah Mezidor in the 800-meter run (2:37.56).