By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
BRADENTON — Late in the 2015 track & field season, a group of girls came over to North Port coach Phu Nugyen and asked if they could join the team.
With his squad already pretty much set in stone, Phu sent the girls out on a long distance run to see what they were made of only to stop them halfway through the trial to find out an interesting footnote about one particular girl.
That girl was Carly Lovett, who told Phu she participated in gymnastics until high school. Phu immediately sent her over to the high jump bar, a bar she’d clear again and again on her way to the medal stand as a junior Friday on the first day of the 2017 Class 4A state championships at IMG Academy.
Lovett’s highest jump was 1.57 meters, good enough for seventh place in the state. Not only did she end the afternoon with a medal around her neck, but she also found her name in the history books at North Port High School.
She became the first Bobcat to even clear the bar at the girls state meet, let alone medal.
“When she told me she did gymnastics, I was like ‘what?’ ” Phu said of when Lovett first came out to track in 2015. “I told her, ‘tomorrow I want you try out for high jump,’ and she hasn’t ran a long distance race since. She’s been strictly a high jumper.
“Now, she was one jump away from placing top four at state but top seven is still fantastic. It was her first time here and she did well for her first time.”
Lovett actually finished in a four-way tie for height, but lost out on fifth and sixth place due to missed attempts. Her leg hit the bar on one attempt and she later missed her final attempt when she failed to clear the bar entirely.
Otherwise, Lovett would’ve placed fourth. The top eight in all events received a medal for their performances.
“I expected to make the podium, but I also expected myself to do a little bit better than I did today. But I’m just happy that I placed,” Lovett said.
Lovett’s teammate, Alexis Francavilla, just missed medaling in the long jump after finishing seventh a season ago. Francavilla finished 10th and faulted on one of her jumps in the finals. Her best jump was 5.36 meters, 0.07 out of eighth.
“My legs were dragging behind me on my jumps and there was a lot of wind so that definitely could’ve been the difference between eighth or ninth or seventh and sixth,” Francavilla said.
Francavilla wasn’t the only area athlete to just miss the podium.
Charlotte’s Jack Fining finished ninth in the Class 3A shot put, with his best throw (14.77 meters) coming up 0.12 meters short of eighth place. But he still exceeded expectations considering he came into the event seeded 12th.
“I think you’re disappointed to get that close any time and not have things go your way, but he’s had a good year,” Charlotte coach Jerry Voss said. “Anytime you make it to the state finals you’re doing something pretty well in the state so he’s satisfied with his performance. We knew it was an uphill battle all day and to get to the finals was a great accomplishment.”
Lemon Bay’s Kelsi Ogilvie also had a shot at a medal but came up short. The soon-to-be Southeastern signee placed 10th in the 3200-meter race in Class 2A with a time of 11 minutes, 30.94 seconds. Teammate Kristen Robinson, who signed with Southeastern on Thursday, finished right behind in 11th (11:34.70).
“I knew there was a possibility of medaling, but that last lap I dropped 10 seconds slower,” said Ogilvie, who came into the event seeded 10th. “That last lap hit me. I have strength so I use a lot of my strength in the fourth, fifth and sixth laps.
“Those laps are my strongest because I don’t really have a strong kick and that last lap I didn’t have a kick and that’s what it came down to.”
All four of the state’s classes competed in some form Friday, either in preliminaries or finals.
Charlotte’s D’Vonte Price qualified for Saturday’s finals in the 110-meter hurdles with the third fastest time (14.61 seconds) as did his 4×100 relay team, which posted the eighth fastest time (42.37 seconds). For the lady Tarpons, Dana Donovan advanced to the finals in the 100-meter dash with the seventh fastest time (12.68 seconds) and her 4×100 relay team did the same with the fifth fastest time (47.88 seconds). Britney Augustin also moved into the finals in the 300-meter hurdles with the eighth fastest time (44:14).
Here’s how the rest of the area’s finishers did on Friday:
Charlotte: Eunice Noel (13th, 100M hurdles prelims), La Tisha Pereira (NH, high jump).
Lemon Bay: Maddison Welch (14th, 800M), Dylan Brady (13th, high jump).