Right after the McCall trial concluded, sentencing David Williams to life in prison on April 10th, the Spartan’s hosted The Ryan McCall Invite on April 11th with a substantial Olympic presence.
The Spartans host this invitational every year in dedication to their teammate Ryan McCall, who tragically lost his life over five years ago.
“The athletes are aware of Ryan McCall and his favorite event was the 800 meters. They put 100% effort into this event and the meet,” said head coach Jarrett Slaven.
The women’s team finished first with a total score of 89, followed by Saint Leo’s 48 and Webber with a score of 25. The men’s team finished second with a total score of 57. Saint Leo placed first by only more one point, with a total score of 58 and Nike finished third with a 56.
While the McCall family was unable to attend this year due to the trial concluding the day prior to the invitational, everyone’s primary goal was to run the best they could in honor of him.
This is especially true for assistant coach Dror Vaknin and the rest of the coaching staff who have remained close to the family over the years.
“For me, since I coached his brother Kevin and Ryan himself, it’s another reminder of how each member of our team is a family member and how much you really miss a kid when they are no longer here. The impact on the team is not as strong for them since it was over five years ago, no one on the team knew Ryan. But they still understand that someone in our family was lost,” said Vaknin.
The Ryan McCall Invite had a surprising turnout of Olympic champions and potential trial athletes.
“We were surprised but happy that the athletes and coaches decided to attend our meet,” said Slaven.
Linford Christie won gold medals for the 100 meters in the Olympics and coaches several athletes. Justin Gatlin has also won gold medals for the 100 meters and ran the fastest time in the world in the 200-meter.
There were many other honorable mentions from Nike and other teams including Candyce McGrone, Femi Ogunode, and Coach Dennis Mitchell, who won a gold medal in the 4X100 meters.
The Spartans had competitive times and a few personal records. “The irony was the closest race came in the Ryan McCall 800 Invite, a special 800m race since that was Ryan’s event.
Our Senior Steven Dennig lost by a hair after a slow start. Steven is also just about two seconds from qualifying for the NCAAs,” said Vaknin. Junior Chantalle Blundell walked away with first place in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 18:31:03.
The Spartans have another home meet and the University of North Florida meet left in the regular season schedule.
Their goals for these races are to get fast heats out of those runners who are still close to the NCAA qualifying mark before heading off to the NCAA Championships at the end of May.
Erin Townsend can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org