The senior competed in five events at each meet this season, the maximum allowed, and won two state titles.
By BOB PUTNAM
Published June 7, 2003
As she has done for four years, Lakewood's Nadia Covington underwent the rigors of competing in five events at every meet this season.
She had no choice.
Spartans coach Eileen Givens scoured the school for more recruits, envisioning a day when she wouldn't have to spread her star athlete so thin.
It didn't happen. Instead, Givens usually ended up watching girls run away from Lakewood's track, not on it.
Some decided not to participate, such as Shaquita Gibbs. Others, who were zoned for Lakewood, transferred to magnet programs at other schools, such as St. Petersburg's Ashlee Kidd (International Baccalaureate) and Boca Ciega's Tiffany Williams and Neidra Covington (medical magnet). Neidra, a freshman, is Nadia's younger sister.
So rather than relying on a multitude of talented athletes to win individual titles, Givens relied on Covington, an individual who won a multitude of titles.
The leader on a team with 13 participants, Covington was counted on to do a lot. The versatile and multitalented senior competed in five events, the maximum allowed.
Participating in the preliminaries and finals of the long jump, triple jump, 200 meters, 400 and 4x400 meant Covington ran six races and made six jumps at each meet. Covington did just about any event because she said she wanted do whatever she could for her teammates.
"We only had four seniors, so I knew I would have to be more of a leader this season," Covington said. "I'm not real vocal, so the best way for me to lead was to compete in as many events as I can."
By competing and winning a number of events, Covington scored points in bunches for the Spartans. She accounted for more than half of her team's total at every meet and her efforts helped as the Spartans finished in the top three at the conference, district and region meets.
At state, Covington took on an even greater role. Not only was she one of nine Lakewood girls to advance, she also represented the county's best hope of bringing home a title.
She didn't disappoint. Covington remained undefeated in the long and triple jumps by winning both events at the 3A meet.
Rocking back on her heels, Covington went 40 feet, 6 inches on her second attempt in the preliminaries of the triple jump to win. It was the first time Covington had jumped more than 40. The mark also was a school record and was 2 inches farther than defending state champion Faluke Akinradewo of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Covington had similar results in the long jump, going 18-73/4 on her second attempt in the preliminaries to set a school record.
"I just knew I was going to win," Covington said. "It was something I was determined to do."
The next step for Covington is college. She signed with Florida A&M and will leave for school in August.
Her departure means more work for Givens.
"Nadia definitely made my life easier," Givens said. "She competed in 10 of the 17 events during her career. All I did was find five events and put her name beside them. She'll be a hard one to replace."