By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
TAMPA — The daily grind of a high school basketball career took its toll on Ronnie Blem, as the Lemon Bay forward developed tendinitis in his left knee by the end of his senior year in 2016.
It wouldn’t have been much of an issue for Blem, considering his time on the court for the Manta Rays was over.
It wasn’t until when Blem showed up to track and field practice that he realized the tendinitis also impacted his ability to compete in the high jump. Coach Joe Casale and Blem decided to switch his approach, and change which foot he jumped from.
“I didn’t want him to get out of his comfort zone, but we had to be cautious,” Casale said. “We’ve had other kids do that, but usually it’s not that quick. They don’t usually show up until the next year, but for him, it felt like it was more natural.”
Blem not only made the change work, but it transformed his abilities, and turned him into one of the area’s top jumpers.
The senior jumped six feet, six inches Friday afternoon to win the championship in the Region 2A-3 meet.
“I’ve been working hard all season for this and it finally paid off,” Blem said. “I started jumping lefty, and ended up doing really well. I thought it was over. I didn’t think I was going to excel (with the new way). I PR’d (personal record) that first time after, and thought, ‘wow maybe I can really get something here.’”
His win set the tone early for the Manta Rays who went on to win four events between the boys and girls, good enough for ninth and third places respectively.
With the top four finishers in each event qualifying for next week’s state meet, Lemon Bay will take seven event-qualifiers to Bradenton.
Led by Abigayle Weinfeld and Kelsi Ogilvie, the Manta Ray distance runners dominated the track on the girls 1600- and 3200-meter races.
“It’s special to have people with that kind of talent,” Casale said. “It’s one of those things you don’t want to take for granted because you don’t have it all the time. It’s more than just talent, though, because they work their butts off.”
Weinfeld and Olgilvie took turns finishing in first and second place in the two events, as Weinfeld won the 1600, with Ogilvie getting first in the 3200. Both were the runner-up to each other.
“We make each other faster,” Ogilvie said. “In practice and races, we’re always pushing each other. We’re competitive with each other, but we’re able to congratulate each other and be happy for each other, and I think that’s really important.”
Ogilvie torched the competition in the 3200, finishing with a time of 11 minutes, 37.11 seconds, or 5.64 seconds faster than Weinfeld. For the 1600, Weinfeld’s winning time of 5:17.74 was 1.36 ahead of Ogilvie’s.
“I love it,” Weinfeld said. “Kelsi is my best friend. We’re like sisters. It’s like that sister competition, where, of course we want to beat each other, but we’re so happy for each other.
The two also were part of the champion 4×800 relay team along with Kristen Robinson and Maddison Welch. The quartet covered the distance in 9:53.55.
Rob Cerami was the only other Lemon Bay boy to qualify for states with a fourth-place finish in the discus on a toss of 123-2. Welch and Lindsay Pohlman finished fifth and sixth, respecively, in the 800-meters, just missing out on advancing. Robinson also was fifth in the 3200-meter.
For the boys, the 4×800 relay team of Miles Rittenhouse, Albert Werden, Lucas Herranda, and Daniel Martinez finished in sixth in 8:32.51.
Rittenhouse was the No. 7 seed heading into the boys 3200, and held on to the projections with a seventh-place time of 10:30.67.
REGION 2A-3 CHAMPIONSHIPS
at Berkeley Prep, Tampa
Teams: 1. Berkeley Prep 105, 2. Lakewood 85, 3. Lemon Bay 61, 4. Lely 41, 5. Lake Wales 36, 6. Spoto 34, 7. Hardee 34, 8. Dunbar 30, 9. Southeast 28, 10. Tampa Catholic 24.
High jump: 1. Quiahja Williams (LP) 5-02. Pole vault: 1. Nicole Stambo (BP) 9-06. Long jump: 1. Rachel Hagans (TC) 17-06.50. Triple jump: 1. Amanda Dumar (BP) 35-09. Discus: 1. J’Djouna Pierre (I) 108-05, 7. Grace Leah (LB) 96-01. Shot put: 1. Valentina Estrada (BP) 35-04, 7. Katelyn Weston (LB) 31-10.50.
4×800 relay: 1. Lemon Bay (Weinfeld, Ogilvie, Robinson, Welch) 9:53.55. 100 hurdles: 1. Jakyra (LW) 16.13. 100: 1. Jamesha Moorer (LW) 11.97. 1600: 1. Abigayle Weinfeld (LB) 5:17.74, 2. Kelsi Ogilvie (LB) 5:19.10. 4×100 relay: 1. Lakewood (Paul, Speights, Hobbs, Moorer) 48.52. 400: 1. Maiah Walker (LW) 53.27. 300 hurdles: 1. Amanda Dumar (BP) 46.03; 800: 1. Chloe Davis (BP) 2:24.74, 5. Maddison Welch (LB) 2:26.82, 6. Lindsay Pohlman (LB) 2:32.59; 200: 1. Maiah Walker (LW) 24.74; 3200: 1. Kelsi Ogilvie (LB) 11:37.11, 2. Abigayle Weinfeld (LB) 11:42.75; 4×400 relay: 1. Spoto (Reid, James, Thomas, Shuler) 4:06.57, 12. Lemon Bay (Chaffins, Conlon, Mitchell, Welch) 4:25.28.
Teams: 1. Lely 89, 2. Lakewood 80, 3. Dunbar 76.50, 4. Tampa Jefferson 59, 5. Booker 55, 6. Immokalee 47, 7. Berkeley Prep 46, 8. Frostproof 33, 9. Lemon Bay 23, 10. LaBelle 19.
High jump: 1. Ronnie Blem (LB) 6-06. Pole vault: 1. Wyland Alleva (MA) 12-06. Long jump: 1. Seneca Milledge (D) 22-09.00. Triple jump: 1. Taejon Wright (Lely) 44-03.00. Discus: 1. Emmanuel Dasher (B) 138-06, 4. Rob Cerami (LB) 123-02. Shot put: 1. Jamal Watson (B) 47-01.25, 6. Brayden Curry 42-00.
4×800 relay: 1. Lely (Demalavz, Bartos, Garcia, Wagner) 8:10.52, 6. Lemon Bay (Delaney, Herranda, Martinez, Werden) 8:32.51. 110 hurdles: 1. Jordan Williams (LW). 14.38. 100: 1. Terrence Ware (LW) 10.60. 1600: 1. Antonio Gomez (F) 4:29.87, 11. Wyatt Chandler (LB) 4:58.18. 4×100 relay: 1. Lakewood (Williams, Adams, Pritchett, Ware) 41.81. 400: 1. Taijour Waldon (Ten) 51.10. 300 hurdles: 1. Giovani Margarejo (CC) 40.09. 800: N/A; 200: N/A. 3200: 1. Antonio Gomez (F) 9:54.33, 7. Miles Rittenhouse (LB) 10:30.67; 4×400 relay: 1 Berkeley Prep (Harvey, Fraser, Black, Forsmans) 3:39.61.