LEHIGH ACRES — After the Lely High girls track team ran a victory lap with their Class 3A-District 12 championship trophy Friday, they brought the hardware to the man they call Grandpa.
Assistant coach Gary Smith, “Grandpa,” made the trip Friday to the meet at East Lee County, his first meet after major back surgery. He coached from a wheelchair as his girls racked up 112 team points and three event titles.
“He’s like a father figure to the girls,” senior captain Lisa Nicolas said. “He pushes us, yells at us a lot. ... He just got out of back surgery, so this means a lot to them.”
Naples placed third with 86 points, Gulf Coast was fourth with 78, Barron Collier was fifth with 69.5 and Palmetto Ridge was eighth with 43.
Lely girls advance competitors in 11 events.
Palmetto Ridge led Collier County schools in the boys meet with 87 team points for third place. Naples was fifth with 81.5 points, Lely was sixth with 48, Barron Collier was seventh with 43 and Gulf Coast was ninth with 23.
The top four athletes or relay teams in each event qualify for the regional meet, which is Thursday, beginning at 1 p.m. at Charlotte High in Punta Gorda.
“The girls are awesome,” said Smith, who works with the Lely jumpers and hurdlers. “They are. A great bunch of kids.”
Smith downplayed his presence as a reason for the Trojans’ performance, but that didn’t stop the girls from giving him credit. Senior Liciane St. Jean, one of the team’s captains, said that seeing him at the meet helped give her the confidence to get her foot on the board for the triple jump, which she did for the first time this year, winning with a distance of 37 feet, 2.5 inches.
“That probably inspired me.” St. Jean said of Smith’s presence.
The Trojans won both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, setting a school record of 49 seconds in the 4x100. St. Jean started the race, but it was Nicolas on the second leg who shot ahead, giving the Trojans the lead for good. Strong legs were run by Shantoy Williams and Kayleen Wilson.
“We were just going for it,” St. Jean said.
In the 4x400, freshman Lauren Hanscom took the lead from Cape Coral on the last leg, leading Lely to a winning time of 4:03. Joining Hanscom, also freshmen, Christy Thorstenson, Taylor Fetzer and Johann Charelus.
The Trojans also saw an addition to the record books on the boys side, as senior Nesly Olbrice tied the school mark with a 6-6 high jump in winning the event. Anderson Joseph qualified in the 300 hurdles, coming in second. The Lely boys 400 and 3200 relay teams also advance.
Overall, Nicolas qualified for the regional meet in the 100 and 200 dashes and 4x100 relay. St. Jean, long jump, triple jump, 100 and 4x100 relay.
Thorstenson advances in the 800 and 4x800 and 4x400 relays. Williams advances in the long and triple jumps and 4x100 relay. Fetzer and Hanscom is in the 4x800 and 4x400 relays. Hanscom 400 dash and 4x400 relay. Darvelyn Dorcelie is on the 4x800 relay team.