The Windermere Prep 4x800 track-and-field boys relay team broke the school’s record not once, not twice — but three times in the last year.
Lorenzo Allwood, Dean Shuffield and Patrick Holden started practicing track at about the same time when they were in middle school. Brant Josephs started running cross country in sixth grade but didn’t join the track-and-field team until he entered high school.
Allwood and Holden are both sophomores, while Shuffield and Josephs are juniors.
“I love the brotherhood you develop with your teammates, because definitely we are experiencing the same amount of pain,” Holden said. “So it develops a friendship that is different than other (in) sports.”
“With it being an individual sport, the work that you put in shows better than in any other sport,” Shuffield said. “And then, (when) running the relay, obviously, the camaraderie between the four of us is really good. It’s like a bubble that we have — we are all just doing our own thing but also work together super hard.”
The boys competed at the state championships Thursday, May 12, at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where they set their last record of 8:10. One week before that run, the boys had set a new school record of 8:15 during the regional meet.
According to head coach Devin Bennett, prior to last year, the school record had been 8:38 for five years, until Allwood, Shuffield, Josephs and Holden recorded a new time of 8:30.
“They broke their own record, but they broke the record originally by a significant margin last year when they were younger, as well,” Bennett said.
“It feels so good, (because) we broke it by so many seconds,” Josephs said. “Made us all feel good.”
For next year, the boys have set a huge goal for themselves — to break the record again, this time by breaking eight minutes.
“It’s nice to have some records under our belt,” Shuffield said.
THE PLACEBO EFFECT
It’s not news that the Windermere Prep track team does not practice on a rubber track but rather on a grass field.
Holden, Shuffield, Allwood and Josephs, see this as the placebo effect.
“It definitely helps,” Holden said. “If we believe that we can run faster on a rubber track, then we will.”
The team uses the grass as their most significant trainer, because the terrain of the field they run at is uneven. So, maneuvering around the inconsistencies takes some time and focus out of their speed. But that also means when they get to run on a rubber track, they automatically feel faster.
“It’s harder to run on grass than it is running on a rubber track,” Josephs said. “So, we use that to motivate us to run even better when we get on a rubber track.”
“We don’t let the grass get in our way,” Shuffield said.
A DEEP BOND
The boys have formed deep and close bonds with one another. For Shuffield and Josephs, the team — and sports in general — have helped shape them into who they are today.
Shuffield grew up in Orlando and has played soccer his whole life. He learned he had alopecia early in life — when he was only 9 years old.
“(After) a couple months of losing hair, we shaved it off six or eight months after I figured out I had it,” he said. “When I lost my hair, I started doing CrossFit as well.”
He continued to play soccer and got even closer to his parents. By the time he entered sixth grade, he already had been running with his mom in the mornings, so he began running track at school. After that, he began doing cross country and started attending Windermere Prep, where he met Josephs — who remains his closest friend.
“I definitely found myself through these activities,” Shuffield said. “Growing up, with hair or without hair, you are still finding yourself, and my parents pushed me to do CrossFit and that helped me become who I am, working wise, and enjoying all aspects of sports. And so, really I would do all these things to become the best version of myself and see myself in the best way.”
Shuffield said he was confused when his hair started to fall out. But his parents and others around him always were there to make sure he was happy.
“I had a teacher in third grade, his name was Mr. Steiner, he actually shaved his head with me,” he said. “Which I was so grateful for, because he was my favorite person in the world, and he was just an amazing human being. … Being his student for two years in elementary school really helped me transition from being a normal child to becoming the person who I am today.”
Running and working out helped Shuffield build the confidence he carries with him today.
“I also do weightlifting for the school,” he said. “I’ve been lifting since I lost my hair, but then I moved that into bodybuilding-type lifting, and that’s definitely grown my confidence a whole bunch. Losing my hair at that age, you are growing, right? So your face has a weird structure and everything, so I always thought I was a little odd. But now that I’ve grown into my own body and lifted and worked out, I feel good about everything. … I like being a little different, I like standing out a little bit more.”
Josephs and Shuffield met through track back when they both were in ninth grade. Since then, they do everything together.
“We definitely motivate each other to be better,” Shuffield said. “I see him running, of course, day in and day out, and that makes me want to be better. He’s gone to this level where his consistency has increased, his ability is there, and it just inspires me, because I know him in and out, and I know how hard he works for it.”
The two friends even found ways to work out together during the pandemic, back in 2020.
“We actually biked to meet up and work out,” Josephs said. “Running is my thing, but on the side, I like to work out, and he knows a lot about working out. He’s probably one of the strongest people at school.”
Josephs found his way into Windermere Prep early in life along with his twin sister, Arielle, after their aunt — their dad’s sister, Beth Coban, and her husband, Cristian, took them in as their own kids, and not only have they provided them with their education, but also with cultural values.
“They were already with me during the summer and every holiday,” Coban said. “I see them as my kids.”
Josephs mom, Eleanor, died unexpectedly from a heart attack when he and his sister were only 5 years old. Their dad, Jo, died three years later of Stage 4 lung cancer. By that time, Josephs and his sister were living in the Cayman Islands, but after their father’s passing, Coban brought them to Orlando and enrolled them at Windermere Prep.
“I was really young, so it didn’t impact me as much, because I didn’t understand,” Josephs said. “Now I understand more, and that definitely motivates me to do more for them.”
Josephs said growing up in Orlando has opened myriad opportunities for him, including getting to know track as a sport.
“He loves sports very much so, he’s passionate about his track and field,” Coban said. “That takes precedence over his academics. He is very dedicated to that, he will get up at 5 in the morning and never ever be late to his practices.”
The best memory Josephs has from the time he shared with his parents was “being able to go out on the boat and play with them” back in the Cayman Islands. He is, to this day, grateful for his aunt and uncle.
“They want the best for me — that’s all they want,” he said. “They put their lives on the line for my sister and I, they do everything for us. They make sure to work hard everyday to be able to send us to this school.”