Lily Wockenfuss and Jataevion Reed from Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School won regional titles during the Region 1-1A track and field championships last weekend in Jacksonville.
The two earned automatic advancement to the state Class 1A track and field championships this weekend at the University of North Florida.
Wockenfuss, just a ninth-grader and the reigning state middle school champion, won the pole vault while Reed finished more than a half-second ahead of the field in the 300 meter hurdles.
Additionally, Madelyn Gortemoller and the Port St. Joe boys 4 by 400 relay team also qualified for the state meet.
Both qualified based on time: the top four in each of four regions advance to state along with the next eight top performances among all the regions.
Gortemoller was sixth in 400 meters at the region meet and the Tiger Shark relay of Reed, Octavious Russ, Rickey Forbes and Isaiah Wright was fifth.
“We didn’t run our best,” said Coach Keion McNair. “In some cases it was a case of young athletes having nerves, in some cases they just didn’t run well.”
And, McNair added, that was almost to be expected of a painfully young Port St. Joe team.
The vast majority of the girls’ team and the majority of the team’s top performers were barely of high school age.
The team was dotted with seventh- and eighth-graders.
There was also the condition of the facilities at Port St. Joe.
The track grounds were used by law enforcement around the state in the weeks immediately following Hurricane Michael and the track, already in need of repair, was damaged significantly.
“It was already one of the hardest tracks because it is asphalt and not a rubberized surface,” McNair said. “And then after the storm, the law enforcement people just tore it up.
“We couldn’t even (practice) much in the grass because of all the holes left behind. It was pretty bad.”
Further, due to the storm, this young team with damaged facilities competed in just two meets before the district and regional meets this month.
“As a coach you want to build your kids’ confidence as the season goes along,” McNair said. “Especially with such a young team, you want to steadily build them up.
“We couldn’t do that this year. Not being able to run as much, and they were so young, they weren’t mentally ready (for regional competition). That’s on the coaching.”
Other results from the Region 1-1A meet:
For Port St. Joe, Mason Hobbs was 10th in the boys’ pole vault, Emily Lacour was seventh in the girls’ high jump and Jade Cothran 10th and Quinci Elphinstone 13th in the triple jump.
Zoe Gerlach, Hannah Dacosta and Savannah Burkett finished 11-13 in the 800 meters, Dacosta was 10th in the 1,600 meters and Katie Schwiekert 11th in the 3,200 meters.
The Lady Tiger Shark 4 by 400 meter relay team finished ninth and the 4 by 800 meter relay 11th.
For Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School, Elijah Shackelford was the highest finisher taking fifth in the discus.
Zach McFarland was seventh in the 3,200 meters, Shurrell Jackson was seventh in the 100 meters and Mario Cole was 11th in the 800 meters.