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American Heritage International : Palatka boys 4x400 team finishes 2nd, sets program record in event

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05/09/2017 | 06:51am CET

BRADENTON – For senior Robert Passmore, Saturday's final 4x400 relay saw his Palatka High School career come full circle.

Three years earlier, his team had the 13th-best time among the 16 competitors, but in the final, he and his teammates managed a 3:25.34 finish and that was good enough to get an eighth-place medal.

It set a personal best for the year and all members of the team and then-coach Steven Gonzalez were excited.

Cut to Saturday night and the 4x400 relay. The Panthers were the eighth seed, having to start out of lane 1. Even with that disadvantage, third-leg runner Treyvon Williams, the only non-senior on the team, gave Palatka a brief lead.

In the end, Passmore, Steven Simmons, Williams and DeMareyae Givens were a surprise second with an even "newer" best time – 3:15.63, seven seconds better than the team's winning Region 2-2A championship time nine days earlier and a perfect way to end three careers and a good way to end a productive day at the IMG Academy as Palatka finished sixth in the team standings with 25 points.

And for all the Panthers did in pushing Hallandale to do its best time of the year, 3:14.31, Hallandale still ended up state 2A champions by one point over defending champion American Heritage of Plantation, 57-56.

Before this year, Palatka had finished third in 2016 and fifth in 2015 under previous coach Gonzalez in team competition.

"Everything came together," Passmore said. "No doubt we left everything on the track in that event. We did all we could to end this way."

Passmore admitted being driven by a phrase that motivated the team.

"Last one, best one," he said. "We've done 3:19 this year, but we felt like we had a shot at 3:16 if we all ran what we were capable of running."

It also didn't hurt that for the first time in the postseason, standout senior Steven Simmons, who took home a fifth-place medal in the 100-meter dash earlier in the day, was able to run in the relays after dealing with groin and hamstring injuries. Simmons was able to take Passmore's handoff and make up a big difference between he and the field. By the time he handed off to Williams, Palatka had moved into third place.

From there, Williams battled with Hallandale'sClaudio Eveillard, going back and forth before falling behind by less than a second. Givens fought Hallandale anchor Willie White before White pulled away.

"I tried to bring it home," said Givens, who will move on to Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas where he will play defensive back on the football team. "I knew if we were going to win, I'd have to stick with (White) and I ran as hard as I could. But (Hallandale) was better in the end."

When the race ended, all four members of the team accepted hugs and slaps on the back. Even former coach Gonzalez, who finished is first year as North Marion High's head coach, hugged his former runners and confirmed the 3:15.63 was the best time in program history.

"I looked up at (the scoreboard) and saw the time," said Simmons. "We were all like, ‘3:15?' I didn't think we could do that."

But they did, a big part of it being Simmons being adamant about running both the 4x100 an 4x400 relays.

"(Simmons) is a big part of this team," said Passmore, who will move on to playing defensive back for the football team at Arkansas Baptist College next year. "He's a big part of why I'm taking home this (silver) medal."

Passmore said another big reason the team worked hard to get that program record was the work they put in with their coaches, especially girls coach Robin Reynolds, a 14-time state gold medalist in her career at Miami Jackson High School.

"We wouldn't have done this without coach Reynolds," he said. "I thank God the way he blessed us to have her be one of our coaches."

"It's a great blessing to have them," Reynolds said. "It's a 50-50 thing – they trusted the process and stuck to the task they were given and they did it."

After taking home four medals at last year's meet, Simmons won three on Saturday. He ran 10.95 against a strong field and a strong wind in the 100 as American Heritage'sTyson Campbell won in 10.76. In the 4x100 relay, the team of Simmons, Williams, Givens and Markel Rasher took second to Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons in 41.46, losing by .13 seconds.

"You have to adjust, drive a lot longer," said Simmons of going into the wind for the 100 final. Simmons moves on to Florida A&M on a full track scholarship. "You have to get your knees up higher. If you can hold up in that, it'll all be good."

Williams, a sophomore and the next big thing in the future of Putnam County boys track, ended up finishing fourth in the 200-meter dash in 21.96, going hard into a rough 1.3 mph wind. Campbell won the event in 21.35.

"I fell off after 100 meters," an exhausted Williams said after the race. "As for the future, I'm going to keep striving for greatness. I just thank God for my family and talents."

© Copyright © 2017 Palatka Daily News, Community Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved., source Newspapers

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