BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Flagler Palm Coast High School always fields one of the best local track programs.
The boys team won the Five Star Conference (big local track meet featuring Volusia and Flagler counties) last week and the girls finished a close second behind Spruce Creek of Port Orange.
“Both teams are doing well. Both teams are young. We don’t have a lot of seniors on either team like in the past. We’ve found kids to fill the void. I am pleased at how we are progressing. It was a great win for the boys. Our girls came up short, but I think they will be really good over the next two years. I am excited about that,” said Head Coach David Halliday.
Halliday is in his 13th season, leading the program and 23rd overall. He also coaches cross country at the school.
Halliday has led Florida Palm Coast to two boys track and field state titles, 10 district titles and 10 regional titles. He also has led the Bulldogs to a boys cross-country state championship.
“Our success has been simple. We work hard and have high expectations. We have a plan that we follow for practices and meets. I am fortunate to have had good coaches and good kids that buy into what I am teaching. We’ve been fortunate to be able to reload instead of rebuild,” Halliday explained.
For Flagler Palm Coast (FPC), it’s all about getting better throughout the season.
“We want the biggest and best meets. It’s OK if we get beat up and don’t win. We want to compete against the best. I’m not a trophy collector. The goal is to have kids performing their best during districts, regionals and state. About 90 percent of our kids normally do. It’s all about how many kids we can get to the state championships,” emphasized Halliday.
Senior Michael Peppin won the discus and shot put at the Five Star Conference. He was named Class 4A All-State for discus last season. Peppin also plays football and signed a letter of intent to play football at Appalachian State next year.
Senior Mark Bertrand won pole vault on a sprained ankle.
Sophomore Chris Musial was third and second respectively in the 400 and 800.
“Mark has been one of the best vaulters since he was a sophomore. What Chris did is a tough deal because those races are about 15 to 20 minutes apart,” mentioned Halliday.
Senior Queshaun Byrd (sprints), a football standout, anchored the winning 4×100 relay team at conference.
Senior Frank Clarke, a basketball standout, placed second in the long jump and third in the triple jump at the Five Star Conference.
“Byrd is really fast. He can run with the best, and I think that once we get into districts and regionals Frank will be one of the best jumpers,” added Halliday.
Freshman Summer Wells won the Five Star Conference 100-meter and 200-meter dash titles, finished second in the 400, and anchored the winning 4×400 relay team.
“She is pretty good and the fastest girl in the area,” said Halliday.
Junior Courtney Gales won the 400, finished fourth in the 800, and was a member of the wining 4×400 relay team.
Halliday added, “She actually sacrificed one. She’s actually probably the best 800 runner around but those races are about 20 minutes apart.”
Senior Anna Walls was third in the high jump and senior Grace Hyatt finished third in discus at conference.
With districts, regional and state meets next, FPC needs a lot to go well.
Halliday explained, “You need good athletes, good coaches and a little good luck. We have good athletes that are starting to figure things out and come along. Also, you never know if a kid gets injured or sick, which you have no control of. You need a little of all that to go your way.”
The Bulldogs face a district with Jacksonville schools like Sandalwood and Mandarin. The boys will attempt to defend their title.
The real competition is during regionals in the so called “Region of Death’’ that has Volusia County power Spruce Creek with teams from Jacksonville, Orlando and Seminole county.
Halliday said, “It’s no joke! A friend from down south who recently retired didn’t believe me. Now, he feels like our kids are being cheated and they’re much better than kids in some other regions. We have kids finish fifth or sixth at regionals and those marks may be the fifth or sixth best in the state, but kids still don’t qualify for the state meet because only the top four finishers qualify.”