Somerset Academy, a third-year track program, pulled off the shocker of the District 14-2A championships when its girls’ 400-meter relay team knocked off American Heritage, the state’s No. 5-ranked team, at Coral Springs on Thursday.
The Patriots (47.25) were considered a shoo-in for the district title, but the Panthers’ quartet of Christina De La Cruz, Sarah Walloston, Kiana Jones and Chanel Freeman had other ideas, clocking a school-record 51.33 seconds for the victory.
“When our girls heard the announcer say it was a big upset, they got real upset about it,” Panthers coach Tomal Parker said. “Heritage is a great team, but our girls have worked hard all year.”
Pompano Beach finished second (52.48), Pine Crest took third (53.21) and American Heritage finished fourth (53.66).
That amounted to the lone misstep the Patriots made for the rest of the meet.
Heritage eighth-grade sensation Daesha Rogers opened her bid for repeat state titles in the 800 and 1,600 by cruising to victories in both. In the 1,600, Rogers separated from the Pine Crest duo of Ella Wurth and Julia Montgomery, the reigning 2A cross-country state champion, by the 300-meter mark and was never challenged to win in 5:06.13.
Heritage sprint stars, Diamond Spaulding, Deja Parrish, Jerimy Strainge, Khari Herbert, Walter Tucker and Khadeeja Dooling held up their end with convincing victories.
Spaulding swept the girls’ 100 and 200, Strainge won the boys’ 200 and Tucker showed his rare athletic range by winning the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the discus.
Dooling renewed her rivalry with North Broward Prep’s Kayla Burke and swept the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles titles. Burke finished second in both.
“In the 300 hurdles, I made sure that I got my stride pattern correct as soon as I came out the blocks,” Dooling said. “That meant I wouldn’t have to chop up my steps or have to alternate throughout the race.”
The top four finishers advance to the Region 4-2A championships at Glades Central High School on April 19.
There was drama in the boys’ 1,600 where North Broward Prep’s Jonathan Klumpp and University School’s Matthew Nelson ran shoulder-to-shoulder going into the final lap before Klumpp pulled away for good to win in 4:41.40. Nelson finished second and Coral Springs Charter’s Connor Hollander third.
Pine Crest senior Dani Pendergast celebrated her oral commitment to Syracuse by winning the long jump with a career-best leap of 17-11.50, shattering her previous personal best (15-1).
“A lot of girls were jumping with their torso out, it looked a little scary but I tried it and I improved,” Pendergast said. “I just had fun with it. I was not expecting to win it at all. I am so excited.”
Pendergast also finished second in the 400 to Parrish, and Julia Montgomery won the 3,200 to help the Panthers sweep the team titles.
The North Broward Prep girls’ 3,200 relay team of seventh-graders Katie Bishop and Katie Pinnell and eigth-graders Saige Horowitz and Jenna Shortridge provided one of the biggest surprises when it clocked a school-best 10:12.15 — the nation’s top middle school time to finish second to American Heritage (10:00.31). A week ago, Horowitz, Shortridge, Binta Olibisi and Pinnell ran a nation-leading 4:14.48 in the 1,600 relay at the Westminster Academy Middle School Invitational.