Approaching the second leg of the 300-meter hurdles in the regional final on Thursday, April 26, the Bulldogs’ Namiah Simpson was cautious. In last year’s finals, Simpson clipped the second hurdle with her trailing leg and tumbled to the floor on her way to a last-place finish in the event.
Flagler Palm Coast coach Dave Halliday looked on as Simpson neared the jump.
“I was holding my breath,” he said.
She cleared it.
“Once she got over the second one, it was on like Donkey Kong,” Halliday said. “She was competing, and it was a heck of a race.”
Simpson finished third in the event with a time of 44.49 seconds and was one of several Bulldogs who punched their tickets to the Class 4A State Meet, held May 4-5 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Summer Wells advanced in the 400-meter dash. Zoe Putney, who missed the school record in the pole vault by 1/4 of an inch, placed second in the event to advance to states. Verneal Henshaw advanced in the discus. And Nelson Paul, who set a school record wit ha 15.94-meter toss in the shot put, finished second to make it to states.
In addition, the girls 4x800 and 4x400-meter relay teams qualified for states with times of 9:41.64 (fourth) and 3:55.32 (third), respectively — both school records — and the boys 4x100-meter relay team, which finished eighth in the event, qualified with an at-large bid.
“The ones we were expecting to advance did,” Halliday said, “and the once we didn’t expect didn’t.”
Anna Walls was the last lady Bulldog to advance to the state meet, doing so in the high jump in 2016. Before Walls, the drought for the girls reached back to 2010. Halliday said the at-large bid, which was instituted by the FHSAA this year, made the difference. Instead of just the top-four finishers advancing, the remaining top eight in each event in all four regions will qualify, as well.
“Our fifth place would be a regional champ somewhere else,” Halliday added. “It wasn’t that the girls were bad. We were good. We just weren’t good enough in a ridiculous region.”