Winter Park’s Rafaella Gibbons hadn’t found a way to outrun a tight lead pack in the Class 4A state championship 3,200-meter run until she was staring down three laps to go on May 2. Then the rest of the field found out about the extra set of legs she had to spare.
Gibbons’ second half of her 3,200-meter race would be fast enough to have given her 10th place in the girls’ state championship 1,600 meter run. By the time she kicked across the finish line with the fastest lap of anyone in the field — on her last lap — she had accelerated for more than half the race to outpace the field by more than 11 seconds, finishing in 10:51.27, as a freshman.
Gibbons would rip off a final lap six seconds faster than the one before, her last 400 meters disappearing in 75.050 seconds.
The win was her first state championship in high school track and field, in her first year of eligibility, on the heels of her first state championship in cross country that she earned in November with a 18:05.50 win in the 5K run.
“I feel very happy about it because I worked really hard this season to be able to win,” Gibbons said. “I’m glad all my hard work paid off.”
“I feel really accomplished, because I’ve accomplished so much so far.”
A middle distance dream team of Elizabeth Jenkins, Melanie White, Katherine Kuhn and Gibbons as anchor would beat the 4x800 meter relay field by four seconds, finishing in 9:19.61. White, a freshman, raced her way to the fourth fastest leg of 64 runners with a 2:17.968 lap.
In the girls’ pole vault Nicole Breske came just 6 inches from the state championship winning height of 11 feet, finishing third.
As a team the Winter Park girls would finish fourth overall of 12 teams to score points.
In the boys’ pole vault Winter Park’s Gregory Skage tied for second, six inches shy of the pole vault title, which was won by Lyman’s Sean Clarke at 15 feet high.
The Winter Park boys would finish 11th overall, just a few points shy of the podium.