Track stars aim high

This story was originally published in the fifth edition of The Lion’s Tale (March 14, 2019).

Whether with running, jumping or throwing, the Oviedo High School track team has had several state qualifiers in the past and has established itself as a successful program. 

Head coach Dave Tibbetts is one of only four coaches on the team, which includes over 100 athletes participating in a multitude of different events. Tibbetts said that the coaches make sure to maintain good communication with each other to help these athletes.

“Other schools will have many more coaches,” Tibbetts said. “Oviedo has gotten a very good reputation for training our athletes at a high level while having a very small coaching staff.”

While some people equate track to mainly sprinters and hurdlers, the team requires high placement in a variety of events to win meets. 

Top Talent

Senior Connor Cleveland has thrown shot put for the team since freshman year and often finishes with one of the top scores of his event. Despite not weighing as much as other athletes that participate in shot put, Cleveland was able to set the school record last year. 

“No one really expects someone like me to set a school record,” Cleveland said. “I didn’t even expect to come anywhere close to a school record. It was a pretty cool feeling, knowing that the hard work has paid off and knowing that I was being recognized for the effort that I put in.”

After just missing qualifying for the state championship meet last year, Cleveland looks to advance this time around.

“This year we expect Connor to come back strong,” Tibbetts said. “Coach Clark believes Connor will help lead our throwers to states again.”

Cleveland is not the only thrower on the team to contribute to the team’s success. Senior Ana Dovali qualified for states for discus in 2018.

“Last year, I became the Seminole Athletic Conference Champion in discus,” Dovali said. “My personal record is 34.52 meters, which is about 113 feet. My goal is to break the school record, which I am very close to doing.”

The higher rank someone finishes in their event, the more points they earn for  their team. Dovali contributes a significant number of points to her team.

“Ana has an incredible work ethic and she has already started the season strong with a second place finish in our very first Track meet this year,” Tibbetts said. “I believe Ana has a shot at a top-three finish at the state championship meet this year.”

Junior Angel Vicioso also was a state qualifier last year, taking third place in the 3200 meter race and four-by-800-meter relay, the latter of which set a new school record. Vicioso and his coaches share high expectations for his upcoming season.

“It’s been good because I’ve been able to place at very high-level meets,” Vicioso said. “At the same time, I’m really frustrated because I’ve never gotten a championship, so this year I want to be on top.”

As Vicioso looks to win a state title this year, a new addition to the track team looks to make his own contribution. Junior football player Keonte Coffie joined the track team in order to increase his speed, and his coaches have seen his talent.

“The change we’ve seen in his running is just remarkable,” Tibbetts said. “He is a gifted athlete and Coach Weeks believes Keonte will be instrumental to our sprints program.”

Another football player, junior Griffin Houck, is doing something out of his comfort zone by trying pole vaulting. 

“It’s different than other events in track because your run has to be perfect every time, or you’re not going to be able to jump,” Houck said. “It can be really frustrating because you have to do so many things right.”

Team Synergy

Vicioso shared that one of the things he enjoys most is just being a part of the team.

“For me, a large part of it is the teammates and the support you get from everyone,” Vicioso said. “I just love my teammates and the coaches are great. It’s just that environment, they put you in position to thrive.”

Coffie enjoys the camaraderie and competition that being on the track team brings.

“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a really good track team,” Coffie said. “It gets very competitive in events. People take it seriously.”

According to Vicioso, these athletes on the track team aim for personal bests while earning points for the team during meets. 

“Everyone’s trying to improve their inner selves, but at the same time, you’re put in a group of all the people trying to do the same thing,” Vicioso said. “When everyone’s moving in the same direction, you get synergy.”