Pirate adds spice to the field events

Published May 7, 2005

CORAL SPRINGS - Before, the girls triple jump was just a filler for the eyes, an hourlong saga that most fans would glance at between other events.

Then came Boca Ciega's Neidra Covington and Jacksonville Ed White's Tiara Swanagan.

The two slashed down the runway and erupted into the air during Friday's Class 3A meet with leaps that were so breathtaking, people didn't watch for a second or two. They stayed for the entire event.

Most were there to see Covington and Swanagan, two of the nation's top triple jumpers who were trying to supplant each other in their marquee event.

For the 100 or so spectators there to witness it, the triple jump was over on the final leap.

Swanagan soared to unseen heights, clearing 42 feet, 83/4 inches to shatter the state record of 41-71/2 set in 1998 by Shannell Miller of Miami Northwestern. Covington came agonizingly close with a leap of 41-6 to finish second.

Covington might have had a chance to equal Swanagan had she saved some energy.

Earlier in the day, Covington catapulted past the competition in the long jump, winning the event with a leap of 19 feet.

Though Covington already wrapped up her first state title, she wanted more. She used all her jumps to try to set the state record of 20-23/4 set by Nicole Irving of Davie Nova in 1991. Covington came close. On her final attempt, her toes crossed the scratch line on a jump that would have measured 20-2.

"She used all her jumps in the long jump, and there was some fatigue in the triple jump," Boca Ciega coach John Ingram said.

But Covington couldn't think about what might have been. Her state plate was still full. The junior also ran anchor legs on the 4x100 relay team that finished third and the 4x400 relay team that was fifth. Covington helped the Pirates finish fourth as a team with 28 points.

Covington was not the only state champion. Largo's Grant Scelzi cleared a personal-best 15 feet to win the pole vault. He also took eighth in the high jump.

Boca Ciega's Jamar Newsome was third in the long and triple jumps. Teammate Eric LeShore was fifth in the triple jump. Countryside's Tiffany Blum was seventh in the high jump and Lakewood's Alexandria Crabb was eighth in the 3,200.