By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
DANA DONOVAN, CHARLOTTE
PUNTA GORDA — Go to any track meet this past season, and you would have seen Charlotte High School girls track sprinter Dana Donovan dominate the short distances and the relays.
And her credentials made her the easy choice for The Sun’s girls track and field athlete of the year.
The senior came of age as a Tarpon, winning the Bear Track, Charlotte, Tarpon and Wally Keller invitationals in the 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4×100 relay.
She was also part of the district and region champion 4×100 relay team that finished fourth in the state, as well as second in districts, third in regionals and fourth in the state in the 100 meters, and third in the district in the 200, good enough to set school records in all three events.
Not bad for a woman who showed little interest in playing sports until middle school.
Charlotte coach Jerry Voss said she was the most improved performer on the team thanks to her hard work in the offseason. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t working hard before that, having made it to states in the relay.
Voss said they sat down after last season to talk about how she could get to the next level.
“We talk to our athletes all the time about commitment to improving themselves, and the biggest improvement comes from getting stronger,” Voss said. “We talked about things that would get her to the places she set for herself and she did a great job at that.”
“I practiced and realized what it takes to get things done and my times dropped. I had to do something with college coming up,” said Donovan, who was fighting through having her wisdom teeth removed. “It took a lot of work in the weight room and focusing on what I had to do.”
That work was on full display at the Region 3A-3 track meet in Clearwater. Running the anchor leg of the relay, she chased down Hillsborough’s Jayla Walker down the stretch and helped her team win by a quarter second.
“I thought I was too far behind her to catch her. I really did. There just happened to be a miracle,” Donovan said after that race. “I had to do what I had to do for our team. Trying to get somewhere in life.”
Donovan described herself as a “girly-girl” when she was young, who liked sports but didn’t much participate in them.
“Basketball had been my thing and I tried out for track in the sixth grade but didn’t like it because it was too much work,” said Donovan, who moved to the area from Cape Coral in eighth grade. “I stuck with it and it got easier. The coaches all told me how good I was, and I fell in love with it.”
Once at Charlotte, she continued to progress. They wanted her to do hurdles at first, but that didn’t work out. Still, Voss was happy to have her on the team, and he pushed her hard to do her very best, culminating in her great 2017.
“There was a natural progression, but also she dedicated herself to working out between seasons and she benefited a lot,” Voss said.
Voss described Donovan as a quiet leader whom people gravitate to with her smile and positive vibe.
Donovan said she will continue running at either Bethune-Cookman or Southern Methodist, where she plans to get into physical therapy.
Charlotte • Junior
Was part of Charlotte’s 4×100 relay team that placed fifth in Class 3A with a time of 47.88 seconds and won District 3A-11 and Region 3A-3 titles. That relay team also won the Bear Track Invitational, Lady Tarpon Invitational, Charlotte Invitational, Tarpon Invitational and Wally Keller Invitational. Individually, she medaled at state in the 300 hurdles by finishing seventh with a time of 44.38 seconds. Won a District 3A-11 title in the event and placed third in Region 3A-3. Won the 300 hurdles at the Charlotte Quad meet, Lady Tarpon Invitational, Charlotte Invitational and Wally Keller Invitational. Also was a region qualifier on Charlotte’s 4×400 relay team.
North Port • Junior
Placed 10th in Class 4A in the long jump with a leap of 5.36 meters after finishing fourth in Region 4A-2 and second in District 4A-8. Was also a region qualifier in the triple jump, shot put and 4×100 relay. Won the long jump event at the Bobcat relays, Ram Invite, Charlotte Invite, Marcus Freeman Invite and Sarasota County Championship. Won the shot put at the Charlotte Invite and Sarasota County championship. Won the triple jump at the Bobcat relays, Ram Invite, Charlotte Invite, Marcus Freeman Invite and Sarasota County Championship. Won the 4×100 relay at the Sarasota County Championship and Marcus Freeman Invite.
North Port • Senior
Lost a five-way tiebreaker for third in the pole vault in Class 4A and settled for sixth place with a height of 3.20 meters. Finished second in Region 4A-2 and District 4A-8 and won the pole vault at the Bobcat relays, Ram Invite, Lady Tarpon Invite, won Marcus Freeman and Sarasota County Championship.
Port Charlotte • Senior
The Concordia signee won a District 3A-11 title in the triple jump and also won the event at the Booker Invitational, Tarpon Invitational and Marcus Freeman Invite. Also won the 800 at the Bear Track Invitational, Booker Invitational and Charlotte Invitational.
Lemon Bay • Senior
Won a District 2A-11 title in the discus with a throw of 31.48 meters.
Charlotte • Sophomore
Won the Region 3A-3 title in the pole vault to qualify for state, where lost a tiebreaker for first and settled for second place in Class 3A with a height of 3.50 meters. Placed second in District 3A-11 and won the pole vault event at the Charlotte Quad Meet, Charlotte Invitational, Tarpon Invitational and Wally Keller Invitational.
North Port • Junior
Became the first lady Bobcat to clear the bar in the high jump at the state meet, let alone medal. She placed seventh in Class 4A with a jump of 1.57 meters after placing fourth in Region 4A-2 and second in District 4A-8. Won the high jump at the Lady Tarpon Invite, Charlotte Invite, Marcus Freeman Invite and placed second at the Bobcat relays and Ram Invite.
Charlotte • Freshman
Won District 3A-11 titles in the long jump and 100 hurdles, qualifying for state in the latter. Was also a region qualifier in in the 300 hurdles and 4×400 relay. Season highlights included winning the 100 hurdles at the Wally Keller Invitational and the 300 hurdles at the Tarpon Invitational.
Lemon Bay • Senior
The Southeastern signee won Region 2A-3 and District 2A-11 titles in the 3200 before placing 10th in Class 2A with a time of 11:30.94. Was on Lemon Bay’s 4×800 relay team that won region and district titles before medaling at state with a sixth-place finish with a time of 9:56.58. That relay team also won the Ram Invite and Booker Invitational. Also took home a district title in the 1600 and finished second in the event in Region 2A-3 before placing 12th at state (5:29.99). Also won the 1600 at the Booker Invitational and the 3200 at the Charlotte Invite.
La Tisha Pereira
Charlotte • Senior
Qualified for state in the high jump with a second placed finish in Region 3A-3 after placing third in District 3A-11.
Lemon Bay • Senior
The Southeastern signee was on Lemon Bay’s 4×800 relay team that won Region 2A-3 and District 2A-11 titles before medaling at state with a sixth-place finish in Class 2A with a time of 9:56.58. That relay team also won the Ram Invite and Booker Invitational. Qualified individually for state in the 3200, placing 11th with a time of 11:34.70. Won the 3200 at the Wally Keller Invitational and was a region qualifier in the 1600.
Lemon Bay • Junior
Was the anchor on Lemon Bay’s 4×800 relay team that won Region 2A-3 and District 2A-11 titles before medaling at state with a sixth-place finish in Class 2A with a time of 9:56.58. That relay team also won the Ram Invite and Booker Invitational. Individually won a District 2A-11 title in the 800 and placed third in Region 2A-3 to qualify for state, where she placed 14th with a time of 2:29.05. Was also a region qualifier in the 1600 and 4×400 relay and won the 3200 at the Ram Invite.
Charlotte: Alexa Roughton (3200, 4×800), Kalyn Uebelacker (400, 4×400, 4×800), Jaliyah Underwood (long jump, 100 hurdles, 4×100, 4×400)
Lemon Bay: Chantal Fleming (shot put), Jackie Gomez (100, 200), Chloe Mitchell (800, 4×100), Kasi Shaffer (discus)
North Port: Nykevia Blakeney (300 hurdles), Kaley Boethig (800, 4×800), Lindsay Boethig (1600, 4×800), Emani Jefferson (high jump, 4×100 relay), Armani Seale (triple jump, 200)
Port Charlotte: Sariah Dempaire (discus, shot put)
All-Area team compiled by Jordan Kroeger