Former LSU runner Laura Kirkikis has jumped right in as the new head coach of the Panthers boys and girls programs.
DR. PHILLIPS Taking over the cross-country program at Dr. Phillips High — and following the veteran husband-and-wife coaching tandem of Jorge and Angie Fleitas — is no small task, but Laura Kirkikis has jumped right in to leading the Panthers.
Originally from the New Orleans area and a standout runner in high school who competed in college for LSU, Kirkikis was referred by a friend for the opening once the Fleitas’ relocated to Fort Myers, where Jorge Fleitas is now coaching at Bishop Verot Catholic.
“This one kind of fell into my lap,” said Kirkikis, who had previously been coaching as an assistant at her high school alma mater in Louisiana, St. Mary’s Dominican High School.
Now, after years of competing at a high level and getting her feet wet as an assistant coach, Kirkikis, 25, is embracing her first head coaching gig.
“It’s pretty awesome — just being able to kind of be in control of what the kids are doing and being able to make the decisions,” Kirkikis said. “It’s definitely been an adjustment, because there is a lot more responsibility, but I’m really enjoying it.”
Kirkikis inherits two teams that each competed at the state meet last year (Dr. Phillips’ girls placed fourth, and the boys placed 10th). But they also lost some valuable training time during the hiring process and graduated some key contributors from last year’s teams. At the Astronaut Invite in Titusville last weekend, the girls placed ninth, and the boys placed 17th; and at the DeLand Invitational to open the season, the girls placed fourth, and the boys place ninth.
Both teams are taking a bit of a long view this fall, with hopes of being in peak form by the time state series meets begin.
“(The slow start) doesn’t mean that we won’t get there; it just might take us a little longer, which I’m actually OK with because the state meet is where it really counts,” she said. “We have a lot of talent on the team.”
Kirkikis and her staff have circled the Oct.8 meet in Tallahassee, the FSU Invite, as a good measuring stick meet to determine how far the team has come. Run on the same course as the state meet a month later in November, the FSU Invite attracts some top competition.
Although new to campus, Kirkikis said she has noticed — and enjoys — the seriousness with which sports are taken at Dr. Phillips High.
“They seem to be pretty intense with all their sports, which is pretty awesome,” Kirkikis said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].