Senior Ashton Bracewell was a hurdler on Flagler Palm Coast's track and field team last season. But after gaining 40 pounds for football, he had outgrown the sprint events and decided to try discus.
Now, he’s a district champ and the fourth-ranked discus thrower in the state in Class 4A heading into the Region 1-4A track meet on Friday, May 5, at the University of North Florida.
Bracewell will have lots of company at the regional. The Bulldogs are sending 16 boys and nine girls to the meet. FPC’s boys team won seven events on the way to claiming the District 3-4A championship April 26 at Sal Campanella Memorial Stadium.
The girls finished fourth and won one event — the 4x400-meter relay — in an exciting finish.
The boys scored 157 points to win their 13th district championship. Sanford Seminole (130) was the runner-up with Lake Mary (102), Oviedo Hagerty (65) and Spruce Creek (63) rounding out the top five.
Winning the district trophy was not the goal but a welcome steppingstone for the Bulldogs who expect to be in the hunt for a state championship May 20 at UNF.
“We’re a top five team (in Class 4A),” coach Dave Halliday said after the Bulldogs hoisted the district trophy. “We had a good day across the board. The main thing was qualifying everybody that needed to get through. I don't really worry about winning (district and region). If we win the trophy, great. If we finish second to Niceville next week (at regional), I don’t care. I want to beat Niceville in three weeks (at state).”
BULLDOGS SWEEP THROWING EVENTS
FPC’s throwers amassed 56 of the boys’ 157 points and would have placed sixth if they were a team by themselves. In addition to Bracewell, who threw a personal record 47.98 meters (157 feet, five inches), Jake Blumengarten led a Bulldogs’ sweep of the top three places in shot put.
Elijah Thero won javelin to give FPC the titles in all three throwing events.
Blumengarten won shot put with a toss of 15.39 meters (50 feet, 6 inches). His Florida Relays mark of 16.42 meters ranks fifth among Class 4A shot putters. Drew Droste (second, 14.34 meters) and Colby Cronk (third, 14.32) will be joining Blumengarten in the regional shot put competition.
Blumengarten also qualified in discus with a fourth-place finish. Blumengarten and Bracewell are both first-year discus throwers.
“Coach Halliday told me to try it out,” said Bracewell, who will be a preferred walk-on for Florida State’s football team next season. “It took a good month or two to learn the form. It was getting it down with constant reps. I went from low 38 (meters) to 40 and now 47.”
Bracewell said he “ripped his finger open” in warmups, but still threw pretty well.
Thero, a junior who is a first-year track and field athlete, won javelin with a throw of 43.56 meters, which converts to 142 feet,11 inches. That is over nine feet short of his PR, set at the FSU Relays.
“I’ll have to do well (at regional) to qualify for state, but I think I can do it,” he said.
MURRAY WINS; 4x400 RELAY ADJUSTS
The other FPC boys’ event winners were D.J. Murray in the 400-meter dash, Zach Spooner in the 3,200, the 4x800 relay team and Gerod Tolbert in long jump.
Murray ran his fastest 400 of the season with a time of 48.57 seconds. He said he’s been working on the first half of the race in practice and has been competing in fewer events to be stronger in the 400 and the 4x400 relay.
“The 400 and the (4x100) are back-to-back,” he said. “After that, I felt a little bit dead. So, I’ve been focusing on running a good, clean 400 open and still have enough for the 4x4. Coach Halliday has us on a really good workout plan.”
FPC’s boys 4x400 relay is ranked fourth in the state. With Tolbert filling in for the injured Monte Curry, Isaiah Joseph, Murray, Tolbert and D.Z. Stewart finished second to Sanford Seminole, which is ranked No. 1 in the state.
Brandon Kalasnik will likely take over the third leg at regional if Curry isn’t healthy, Halliday said.
KALASNIK ACES 800 EVENTS
Kalasnik, a 400 runner the past two seasons, has been transitioning to the 800 and is now ranked ninth in Class 4A in that event. The senior is the anchor runner on the 4x800 relay, which is ranked second in 4A. Kamron Davis, Joseph, Peyton Woodward and Kalasnik won district by over 16 seconds with a time of 7:57.09.
Kalasnik (third, 1:54.96) and Davis (fourth, 1:56.11) also qualified in the 800, both with PR times.
“When I was deciding I would do the 800 this season, I didn’t expect this at all,” said Kalasnik who hugged his teammates and then his parents at the finish line.
The top two finishers in the 800 — Hagerty’s Miguel Pantojas and Apopka’s Noah Musselwhite — are ranked first and second in Class 4A.
“In previous races, I would go out too fast or too slow,” Kalasnik said. “But this race had two of the nation’s fastest, so I said, let them take me for a ride, and I just had to dig deep in my heart to finish.”
Tolbert set a PR with a long jump of 21 feet, 10 inches. Robert Harris also qualified with a second-place finish. Harris jumped a personal record 21 feet, 8.75 inches. Tolbert also qualified in triple jump with a fourth-place finish.
Joseph finished second to Lake Mary’s Markel Jones in the 400 hurdles in 55.17 seconds, just over a second behind Jones. The two hurdlers may face each other two more times this season. Jones is ranked fifth in Class 4A, while Joseph is ranked eighth.
FPC senior Ethan Sproull also qualified in the 400 hurdles with a personal record 58.72 seconds for fourth place.
SPOONER SCORCHES FINAL FOUR LAPS
Spooner’s plan was to stay with Hagerty’s Jonathan Leon for six of the eight laps in the 3,200 race, and then pass him. That’s exactly what he did.
“We just took it out too slow,” Spooner said.
Spooner ran a 4:50 for the first 1,600 meters and a 4:32 for the second half of the race, which is just about six seconds off his PR in a 1,600 race.
Spooner’s time of 9:22.71 was less than a tenth of a second off his personal record. Leon, who is ranked third in Class 4A with a PR of 9:11.07, finished second behind Spooner in 9:33.94.
I know if I stick with the guy in front of me, I’ll beat him, because I have the fastest kick on the track.” — ZACH SPOONER
FPC sophomore Braedyn Wormeck finished third with a 9:53.07 and will join Spooner at regional. It was Wormeck who began speeding up the pace, taking the lead on the third lap.
Spooner will be making his second trip to regionals. He also advanced as a sophomore two years ago when he was with Matanzas. He currently has the eighth best time among Class 4A runners.
With a faster pace earlier in the race, Spooner believes he can shatter his PR.
“I know if I stick with the guy in front of me, I’ll beat him, because I have the fastest kick on the track,” he said.
'WE WEREN'T GOING TO RUN IT AT ALL'
FPC’s girls 4x400 relay team almost didn’t run. One of the runners, Mimi Jeffers, was injured in the 400 and was replaced by freshman Karina Marcelus, who ran in the 400 hurdles about an hour earlier.
The rest of the team — Fabiola LaPlante, Cassidy De Young and Summer Barnes — was shuffled with Barnes running anchor for the first time.
“Everybody was tired. It was a long day, and we were scrambling at the last minute to find people to run,” FPC girls coach Alycia Williams said. “But they put it all together.”
Barnes passed Sanford Seminole’s Amirah Nock in the final few feet to give the Bulldogs the gold medal by .15 seconds.
The Bulldogs crushed their PR by seven seconds with a 4:04.31 as both Marcelus and Barnes ran under a minute.
When I heard everybody cheering, I said, ‘I can pass her. I remember leaning (at the finish). It was the best feeling.” — SUMMER BARNES
“When I got the baton, I just knew how close we were,” Barnes said. “When I heard everybody cheering, I said, ‘I can pass her. I always hold back; today I gave it my all. I remember leaning (at the finish). It was the best feeling.”
“I was so proud of her,” Williams said, “because she didn't give up. She just knew what she had to do, and she put it all together. They all put it together.”
Barnes also qualified in two other events. She finished third in the 100 (12.61) and fourth in the 200 (25.59).
“We didn’t plan on winning today,” LaPlante said. “We weren’t going to run it at all.”
Jada Dotson also qualified in the 100 with a fourth-place finish.
Haley McLeer finished third to qualify in in pole vault. Maya Tyson placed second in shot put, and Zoey Gotera placed third in javelin to move on.
Freshman Arianna Slaughter ran a PR 12:18.51 to finish fourth in the 3,200 and cried as she realized she’ll be running in regionals.