TRINITY - Every stride, every leap, every step, every movement executed in Friday's Sunshine Athletic Conference meet was done despite driving winds and bitter cold.
As the sun set and temperatures dropped at Mustang Stadium, athletes waited to throw off their blankets and bundles of T-shirts, sweats, jackets and pants until right before the start of their races. Then, after they crossed the finish line, it wasn't long before they were covered up again.
The conditions weighed on the minds of everyone, said Pasco sprinter LaShawn Vaughns.
"It was very tough," Vaughns said. "All the girls, we were all talking about having to run in that headwind. I told everyone just to keep their heads up, keep their form and run through it."
In the end, Pasco County's athletes had no choice but to do just that, whether it was battling those harsh winds from the top of the pole vault or fighting them in the last stretch of the 800 meters.
Despite the weather and wind, Wesley Chapel defended the boys and girls conference titles and county athletes still broke or matched 11 of the best times and distances turned in this season.
Vaughns, who led the county with four individual conference titles, set two personal bests. Her long jump of 16 feet, 2 inches and 400 meters time of 59.41 were her best of the year. She already held county bests in her other two wins, the 100 and 200.
Also setting season bests were: Ridgewood's Natricia Wade in the discus (108-31/2) and Mike Selfe in the high jump (6-4), Wesley Chapel's Isaria Ranson in the triple jump (33-61/4), Mitchell's Ashley Stager in the high jump (5-1), Anthony Napolitano in the pole vault (12) and Jeff Masterson in the 3,200 (9:44.42), Zephyrhills' Bryan Thomas in the boys' 400 (50.92), Hudson's Travis Miller in the vault (12) and the Wesley Chapel boys' 4x100 relay squad (43.95).
Wesley Chapel re-asserted its dominance in the county sprints against talented and fast Zephyrhills runners. Aaron Dickler won the 100 (11.62) and Bernard "B.B." Roberts the 200 (23.57).
The Wildcats' girls 4x100 team of Ranson, Jasmine Cabrera, Melissa Sams and Janice Williams ran a 51.46 to edge the Bulldogs by .12. Their boys counterparts, Dickler, Stewart, Nigel Bryant and Jason Wells beat Zephyrhills by .45.
Wesley Chapel's Lindsay Lucado, Janice Williams, Heather Bradley and Aisha Afre won the 4x400 (4:25.48). But Zephyrhills' boys 4x400 team held off Wesley Chapel, as Thomas, Sheddrick Cunningham, Dale Humphreys and Jose Espinoza ran a 3:35.99.
River Ridge swept the 4x800 relays. Samantha Jacobsen, Nicole Cashen, Emily Rowland and Danielle Coyle, who also won the 800, won their relay in 10:48.12.
As for the River Ridge boys' win in the 4x800 over Mitchell's talented group, coach Erik Hermansen did not see any surprise in the 8:39.02 run by Justin Coile, Alan Klyap, William Gonzalez and Brett Litak. "Maybe it's a surprise to some in the county," he said. "But not to me."
Friday saw Wesley Chapel girls coach Kristi Frye, a longtime assistant with the program, win her first SAC title as head coach. But what she really took pride in was the Wildcats' dominance of the boys and girls hurdles.
"Not only am I the head girls track coach, but I'm really the hurdles coach," said Frye, "and my goal was to win all the hurdle events, and we accomplished that. I'm so proud of them."
Jerrica Cabrera won the 100 high hurdles (17.89) and 300 intermediate hurdles (51.04). Teammates Heather Bradley and Megan Green finished second and third in the 300, while Green was fourth in the 100 and Misty Webster fifth in that race.
Travis Ugarte took the boys 110 hurdles (16.27) and Zach Carter the 300 (42.86). In the other hurdles races, both were fourth.
The Ridgewood girls didn't avenge the end of that program's 14-straight conference titles to Wesley Chapel last season. But coach Sue Vien still was upbeat and raved about the performance of the school's throwers under assistant coach Chris Taylor.
Natricia Wade, Tasha Holmes and Jennifer Galizia finished 1-2-3 in the discus, paced by Wade's season-best throw of 108-31/2.
"They did beautiful," Vien said. "They worked really hard all week, they did a lot of technical training. I want to give kudos to Coach Taylor for all this. Because of him our throwing program has stepped up big time."
River Ridge owned the boys' throws, going 1-2 in the discus and shot put. Phil Combes took the shot (47-3) followed by Steven Johnson, who also was second to teammate Adam Bulgrin in the discus (130-9).
MORE FUN AHEAD: It is spring break in the county, but that won't stop track practice for most since the postseason is almost here for the 2A squads. The Class 2A, District 9 meet will be held April15 at Hernando's Tom Fisher Stadium for Gulf, Pasco and Zephyrhills.
The Bulldogs' boys and girls teams should challenge for the district titles, while Pasco's Vaughns will use that meet as a springboard toward the April22 region meet, then the 2A state meet April30 in Gainesville.
For 3A teams Hudson, Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Ridgewood and Wesley Chapel, the regular season ends April16 in the River Ridge Invitational at the James Valentine Athletic Complex.
That will be the springboard for those teams into the postseason and the Class 3A, District 7 meet on April22.