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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
ST PETERSBURG - Neidra Covington is not big on self-promotion and was too busy to celebrate at the Disney Showcase in Orlando last weekend.
She did, after considerable coercion, give her teammates and coaches sufficient cause for applause.
"She doesn't tell us," Boca Ciega coach John Ingram said. "Her mom has to drag it out of her how far she jumped. She keeps everything inside herself."
Covington's triple jump of 39 feet, 7 inches was good enough for first place.
In the long jump, the junior cleared 19 feet, beating her nemesis, Jenna Utecht of St. Thomas Aquinas, by a foot.
"I wasn't sure about the high jump," Ingram said. "We hadn't had the competition we needed. She wanted to keep going. She wanted to go for 20. I'm hoping she can get 20 by the end of the season."
Ingram insisted Utecht's presence had no motivational effect on Covington.
"Neidra focuses more on getting better each time," Ingram said. "She focuses more on herself and getting better rather than focusing on anyone else."
But her best jump came in the finals after watching Utecht.
Covington scratched on a 20-foot jump before successfully clearing 19 feet, almost 3 feet farther than her season's best. She skipped a couple of jumps because of some pain in her hip, which may have been associated with fatigue. She also placed second in the 200-meter dash (26.34) and is on the 4x400 relay team.
"She is a leader by example," Ingram said. "She trains the young girls. She works with the younger girls and teaches them the drills."
Those drills include visits to the steep hills behind All Children's Hospital. Covington and company run 16 to 18 banks during their weekly visits and the hard work seems to be paying off.
Boca Ciega's 4x800 relay team shattered the school record by 25 seconds. Juniors Tiffanie Williams (2:25), Alexandra Kincy (2:32), Kendra John (2:40) and sophomore Lindsey Brooks (2:27) topped the previous mark of 10:39 set last year. The 10:14 was good enough for second place behind Wharton.
St. Petersburg's Tyler Hendry also was at the Disney Showcase and took second in the 100 meters (10.93).
EXCEPTIONAL COUGAR: Countryside's Ian Evans took first place in the shot put (47-6) and second in the discus (133-8) at last week's Ed Wells Invitational. At 250 pounds, the 6-foot-4 Evans is far from diminutive, but he is the smallest of the Cougars' top three throwers. He also is the best.
Fellow juniors Seaver Brown (6-6, 295 pounds) and James Boyd (6-5, 275) are bigger, not better. Brown threw 41-6 in shot and Boyd reached 126-5 in discus. They both finished fifth in their events.
All three are NCAA Division I football prospects, with Brown and Boyd ranking among the top 20 offensive tackles in the state. But only Evans, who plays both defensive end and tight end, has been around track and field all of his life.
According to Countryside coach Todd Belisle, Evans' mom, Kim, is a successful AAU track coach. Her influence was not lost on the Cougars coach.
"Ian Evans has been into track and field since he came to us as a freshman when he moved from California," Belisle said.
"Last year as a sophomore he went to regionals and finished fifth. This year we look for him to go to states in both shot and discus."