It’s been a banner year for Freeport winter track and field, as the Red Devils are sending eight athletes from its boys’ and girls’ teams to compete in six events at the state championships in Staten Island next month.
“Between the boys and the girls, they’ve really worked hard,” said coach Charles Gilreath. “I’ve been at Freeport 22 years, this is probably the most kids we’ve had at the state meet since I’ve been coaching there.” He added with a laugh: “They make me look like I know what I’m doing sometimes.”
The accolades began at the county championship meet on Feb. 6 at St. Anthony’s High School. Senior Kevon Smith was the champion in the 600 meters with a time of 1:22.12, and senior Jahmel Maynor-Mendez was champion in the in the 300 meters with a time of 35.84. Smith and Maynor-Mendez also placed third, respectively, in the 300 meters and the triple jump.
Maynor-Mendez missed a chunk of last season with a torn hamstring, but came back strong this year. “This winter he’s just been on fire,” Gilreath said. "He trains like a champion. When he goes the rest of the team goes.”
Senior Jordan Jackson finished third in the 55-meter dash. In the 4x400 relay, Smith Maynor-Mendez, Jackson and senior Trevon Campbell took the top spot. Overall, Freeport finished in second place out of 18 schools.
The girls’ side was just as dominant in the same meet, with two individual county champions and a relay championship. Junior Alexandria Yarbrough won the 300-meters with a time of 40.52, and junior Efe Omokeni won the long jump. Yarbrough also took second in the 55-meter dash, sophomore Enyero Omekeni – Efe’s sister – placed third in the 600-meters, and junior Quinci Easter came in third in the triple jump. Their championship 4x400 relay team comprised the Omekeni sisters, Yarbrough and senior Nyah Porter.
“This group of girls is young,” Gilreath said. “Probably the most balanced team that we’ve had in Freeport in 20 years.”
Both teams rode their success into the state qualifying meet at St. Anthony’s on Feb 14. On the boys’ side, Smith placed first in the 600-meters, Maynor-Mendez won the 300-meters, and choosing to run the 4x200 rather than the 4x400, Smith, Maynor-Mendez, Campbell and senior Justin Lescouflair took home first place.
For the girls, Yarbrough won the 300-meter dash, setting a school record at 40.28 seconds, Efe Omekeni placed second in the long jump, and in the 4x400 relay, the Omekenis, Yarbrough and Porter won first place.
With the boys’ and girls’ teams being a tight-knit group, Gilreath said its no coincidence that both are succeeding at the same time.
“They’re feeding off each other and rooting for each other. It’s like a family,” the coach said. “They put the foundation in over the summer and they're starting to reap the benefits of training. I can give them the tools but they’ve got to see it and believe in it, and they have.”
The state championships will take place on March 2 in Ocean Breeze.
“They’re ready to handle the big lights,” Gilreath said. “They’re ready to perform against the best of the state now.”