Lucheyona Weaver wants to end her prestigious high school career with her first state championship.
It will not be easy. With the state final schedule tightly shortened due to the COVID protocols, it may be more difficult than ever.
Weaver, a senior in Dunbar, takes part in a maximum of four competitions – the 100 meters, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the 4×100 relay. Every event is an absolute sprint to the finish, where Weaver pushes her legs to the limit.
And due to this year’s schedule, she has to take all four grueling physical tests in just 70 minutes.
After the coronavirus pandemic, the FHSAA shortened the schedule for the state finals and reduced the number of athletes per event. The idea is to have fewer people in an area for as short a time as possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
This means that athletes do not have much recovery time from multiple competitions. However, you have to be at their best – thanks to the elimination of the preliminary round, every race this weekend has a national title on the line.
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The state finals in each of the four classifications will be held separately and sequentially on Friday and Saturday at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
The final of class 1A will take place on Friday morning. When these athletes are done, they will make way on Friday afternoon to make way for the 3A final. The 2A final takes place on Saturday morning, followed by 4A in the afternoon. The field events in each class run over three hours, followed by three hours for the ongoing events.
In previous years, the events of all classes were mixed and spread over two days.
At the last state finals in 2019 (last year’s season was canceled due to the pandemic), Canterbury distance runner Jessica Edwards won the 1A title in the 800 on Friday and the state championship in the 1,600 on Saturday.
This year Edwards has to do their three events on the same day. Your two top events, the 800 and the 4×400 relay, start within 55 minutes.
Edwards will be so busy that she decided not to defend her 1,600 title as of 2019. She wanted to be fresh for the 4×400 in hopes of ending her high school career with a relay championship and partying with her teammates before heading to the University of Florida.
“I really wish I could have added the 1,600,” Edwards said, “but as the schedule is, it wouldn’t have worked.”
Weaver has possibly the most intense schedule of any local athlete. She takes part in the 100 hurdles on Friday at 7 p.m. and then has the 100-meter run at 7:20 p.m. Weaver’s 4×100 team runs at 7:45 a.m., their last race is the 300 hurdles at 8:10 a.m.
It is Weaver’s last chance to win gold after finishing second in the 100 hurdles twice as a freshman and twice in his sophomore year.
“I would have won last year,” said Weaver if the spring sport hadn’t been canceled.
Knowing that by the end of the meeting they will be tired, Weaver and Edwards say they are ready. Teams were made aware of the new FHSAA Finals schedule ahead of the season. That’s why they trained their bodies to be ready and recover faster.
“I did the 100 hurdles and 100 jumps in a row all season,” said Weaver, who finished first in the 100 hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles. “I know what to do to get ready and have enough time to warm up for the next event.”
Edwards added, “With the way we trained, I tried to recover faster (between races). It’s going to be a little harder than in years past. I don’t have to take it out until after the 800. “
Jacob Panzarella, Junior of the First Baptist Academy, is another athlete who will see a quick turnaround between events. At the 1A final on Friday, Panzarella will compete in seasons 100, 200, 4×100 and 4×400 within two hours.
“It’s going to be tough, but I think we’ve trained really well,” said Panzarella, who was first seeded in the 200. “That prepared us to run back to back so I think we’ll do well.”
FBA trainer Ryan Mitchell said one of the benefits of having limited rest is that athletes’ heart rates stay high so they don’t have to warm up as much.
Every race is for gold
So that each state finale lasts three hours, there are no preliminary rounds this year. Every race this weekend will be a final with state championships on the line.
This means that the athletes have to give their best in every race. In the past few years someone could have an off-performance, not win a preliminary round, but still be fast enough to get to the final. Now runners only have one shot at a state medal.
Most events have two preliminary runs divided by the qualifying times. A runner could win the state out of the slower heat, but it would be difficult without the fastest competitors surrounding them.
“It’s all final so you only get one round,” said Weaver. “When you’re not in the fast heat it’s hard to get that boost (to win).”
But no preliminary round means that the athletes have to run fewer races. This is a good thing when the schedule is so short with little recovery time in between.
“I think not having a preliminary round relieves me,” said Panzarella. “Now I just have to concentrate on one race and that is the only race I have to win.”
Fewer athletes in the state
Another change in this year’s state finals is that there are fewer athletes per event. Typically, the top four participants in each Regionals event automatically advanced to State, and the top eight times that did not finish in the top four were given general bids. That meant 24 participants per event.
This season only the two top finishers in the Regionals received automatic offers. The total of eight commandments remained the same. That means 16 athletes per event this weekend.
Guy Thomas, coach for boys and girls at Dunbar, said he had 13 athletes who finished in the top four of the regional but won’t show off. For the past few years, those 13 were in Jacksonville on Friday with the other 23 Tigers.
As with the new schedule for the finals, however, the reduced number of qualifiers was announced ahead of the season. The coaches had time to adapt to the new rule and the athletes knew what to do to assert themselves.
“If this were a normal year, we would certainly be taking more children with us,” said Napoli coach Bronze Bruland. “We didn’t discuss the old format with the children at all. There is no point in focusing on something that cannot be controlled.
“It’s the same as every year – if you can manage to say it, great; If not, be happy with the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made. “
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