- April 16, 2023
Gerod Tolbert’s long jump championship was the highlight of the day as Flagler Palm Coast’s boys track and field team finished fourth at the Class 4A state championships Saturday, May 20, at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Six FPC athletes set personal records at the meet. Others fell short of their goals as they were aiming to lift the Bulldogs to their third state track title in school history.
The 4x400-meter relay team placed second. Ashton Bracewell was third in discus, and Zach Spooner (3,200) and the 4x800 relay team each placed fourth.
“It was a war, and we just came out a little bit short, but these kids put their hearts on the line in every single event,” FPC coach Dave Halliday said.
Early on, the Bulldogs looked like they could challenge Niceville for the championship, racking up 20 points in their first two events.
Senior Peyton Woodward, who helped the 4x800 relay team place fourth and later got to announce the boys 3,200 race, summed up how things were going.
“We’re cooking with Crisco right now,” he said.
Tolbert and sixth-place finisher Robert Harris combined for 13 points in the long jump. Jake Blumengarten and Colby Cronk added seven more points in the shot put with Blumengarten placing fifth and Cronk placing sixth.
Tolbert finished fourth in the triple jump at state last year while competing in the long jump just once during the 2022 season. This year, he competed in both events, but he and jumps coach Alex Giorgianni saw Tolbert's potential in the long jump when he finished third at the Bob Hayes Invitational at UNF on March 18. He jumped 6.69 meters in a torrential downpour.
“After that, I started getting the hang of it,” Tolbert said. “Coach G. kept telling me to get my foot down and keep it in front of me.”
Tolbert’s footing was perfect at state, though his landing wasn’t.
His first jump of 7.22 meters was enough to win the gold medal. In his fourth and final attempt, Tolbert jumped 7.43 meters (24 feet, 4.5 inches), despite landing on his backside instead of his feet.
“I got my feet out too far and that had me sitting in the air,” Tolbert said.
He improved his PR by 1 foot, 8 inches and won the title by 9.75 inches. The jump was less than five inches short of Wayne Clemens’ school record, which was set in 1989, Halliday said.
“Gerod probably would have had a school record if he doesn’t sit on that last jump. But it was an amazing jump; 24 feet is huge,” Halliday said.
By the time Tolbert took off on that final leap, he knew he already had the title in the bag, he said, so he didn’t show too much emotion.
“I think I got more excited than he did,” Giorgianni said.
Tolbert will play junior college football at New Mexico Military Institute this fall.
“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Giorgianni said. “There haven’t been many kids I’ve coached with his abilities.”
Harris also shattered his PR with a jump of 6.99 meters (22 feet, 11.25 inches). His old PR was 6.72 meters.
“In the hotel room, me and Gerod talked about jumping our hearts out and not thinking about what our results were going to be,” Harris said. “If you just trust your steps and relax, you can PR every single time.”
Blumengarten had his second-best shot put toss in his final competition at 16.09 meters (52 feet, 9.5 inches). Cronk was one spot back with a PR of 15.72 (51 feet, 11 inches).
Bracewell placed third in discus, though he was disappointed with his distance of 48.83 meters (160 feet, 2 inches). He fouled on his final throw.
“Right now he’s upset with himself, but when he reflects, he’ll realize how great a season he’s had,” FPC throws coach Paul Spegele said.
Bracewell, who will play football at Florida State as a preferred walk-on, had never thrown discus before this season. His distance was 2 feet, 4 inches off his PR.
“He PR’d almost every meet until today,” Spegele said.
In the night's final event, FPC’s 4x400 relay runners finished second behind Sanford Seminole with a PR time of 3:15.99. Seminole finished in 3:14.51.
It was very emotional for me, especially considering I'm not going to be at Flagler Palm Coast anymore. ... I'm going to miss Coach Halliday a lot. I'm really going to miss being a Bulldog, especially on the track." — D.J. MURRAY
It was the final event in a Bulldogs uniform for all four of the relay runners: Isaiah Joseph, Brandon Kalasnik and DZ Steward are seniors. D.J. Murray is transferring to Mainland High School to play football for the Bucs next season.
“It was very emotional for me, especially considering I'm not going to be at Flagler Palm Coast anymore,” Murray said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in. It's not really hitting me yet, but I'm going to miss Coach Halliday a lot. I'm really going to miss being a Bulldog, especially on the track. The track team was like a big brotherhood. When it comes down to it, we’re always going be there for each other.”
The 4x800 runners — Kamron Davis, Joseph, Woodward and Kalasnik — ran a PR of 7:53.42 for fourth place.
Spooner finished fourth in the 3,200-meter run. Spooner took the lead in the second half of the race, but Matt Ryan of Nease, who won by more than three seconds at 9:07.41, passed him and began running away from the pack.
In the final lap, Hagerty’s Jonathan Leon and Palmetto’s Bernardo Barnhart also passed the FPC senior. Spooner finished with a time of 9:16.54, about a second off his PR, which he set at regionals.
“He ran the middle of the race harder than he's ever run, and he just didn't have a kick,” Halliday said.
But his consolation prize may be more valuable in the long run.
“I got a text (after the race) from the FSU coach that says, ‘I'll have that kid on my team,’” Halliday said. “So it turned out to be a special day for him. We’ll find out next week, but it looks like he'll be going to FSU. So that's pretty awesome.”