TAMPA - River Ridge's Danielle Coyle not only proved she can compete among the state's best in the half-mile, but she learned she can run on a crowded track in Saturday's Steak n Shake Invitational at the University of South Florida.
After running a lackluster, middle-of-the-pack mile just two hours earlier, Coyle took out her frustrations in the half-mile. The senior rushed to the front and held off the remaining field of 16 with a strong kick in the final 200 yards, barely missing her personal best with a time of 2:24.86.
"When I saw the crowd at the start, I just freaked out," Coyle said. "When the race started, I knew I had to jump out to get ahead of everybody.
"I ended up going 1:06 in my first 400, and I've never done that before in my life."
Coyle's result was the only 10 points the Lady Knights collected in the meet, which was represented by 133 schools throughout the state. Miami Northwestern won the girls division with 150 points, followed by Orlando Oak Ridge with 127; Tampa Bay Tech was third with 35 points. Gainesville Buchholz took the boys title with 97 points. Northwestern was second with 85 and Lakewood Ranch third with 43.
The half-mile was vindication for Coyle, who, with Land O'Lakes' Danielle Shimer, barely had time to get their numbers on their singlets when it was time for the mile run.
"I think they started out too early," Coyle said. "I said to Danielle (Shimer), "I think we have to go now.' I didn't even have time to stretch out properly, and it didn't feel that good."
While Coyle was seeking redemption, Mitchell junior Jeff Masterson simply was looking to enjoy the meet. He was second in the 2-mile in 9:47, which was well off his personal-best 9:18.
"Coach (Jacki Wachtel) and I spoke before the meet and we decided that all we wanted to do was to have fun in this meet and take the pressure off," said Masterson, who was third in this event last year. "I know God gave me this gift to run and I just wanted to use it without any pressure today."