The girls team won gold in the 3A unified 4x400-meter and the 4x100-meter relay.
Before the Sandcrabs’ unified relay teams took to the track in the state finals on May 5, they could feel the butterflies in their stomachs. The crowd at Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida was buzzing. Everything the Sandcrabs had worked on all season boiled down to this one moment.
“They were worried about dropping the baton during the hand off,” Seabreeze unified track coach John Coppa said. “I just told them to remember what we’ve worked on all year.”
There wasn’t one drop. And for the third year in a row, the Sandcrabs’ girls team won the 3A unified 4x400-meter relay. The girls also won the 4x100-meter relay for the first time in school history, while the boys team finished third in both events. Both teams were honored at a banquet on Wednesday, May 9, at Elks Lodge in Ormond.
The unified events during the state meet are part of the Special Olympics.
“It was awesome. That feeling you get watching them run around the track with no one ahead of them is special,” said Coppa, who is in his third year at the helm of the program. “Our kids don’t get many opportunities like that too often, so when they do it’s always special.”
The girls team is composed of Mandy Brock, Alauna Neely, Tennia Collins and Jasmine Taylor, while Sean Gilbert, Mitchell Sampson, Jaquan Miller and Jordan Lilley compete for the boys. Taylor is a four-time state champion for the Sandcrabs.
The athletes practiced twice a week under the guidance of Coppa and assistant coach Walter McCoy. McCoy, an alumnus of Seabreeze High School, won a gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay for Team USA in the 1984 Olympics.
“I call Jasmine the most decorated athlete to come through this school,” McCoy said. “She’s a great kid. It’s just a thrill to see them in the general population and letting everybody see how much they want it and how hard they have worked to make it happen.”