HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE OF THE WEEK

Webb ends stellar GHS career with state title


Published: Monday, May 6, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.

After traveling more than 23 feet through the air, Ralph Webb capped his final landing in the long jump pit with a spray of sand and a pair of shoe prints at last Friday's Class 3A track and field state finals.

While the evidence of his indentations were soon raked away for the next competitor, Webb made sure his closing performance in a Gainesville uniform left a lasting mark.

The senior athlete ended his decorated Hurricanes career with a second straight state title in the long jump, fueled by a winning leap of 23-04.50 that was nearly two inches clear of the event's runner-up.

“As far as I'm concerned, Ralph is one of the top athletes Gainesville High School has had, personally,” GHS coach Rod McNeely said. “He's our long jump record holder, and when you include his football career and track and field, you have to say he's one of our best in the last decade or two.”

Though Webb was 3 1/2 inches away from matching his personal record, McNeely said the wet conditions and Olympic-style long jump approach at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium were to blame for the meet's shorter distances.

Webb, who jumped 23-07.00 to claim the Region 1-3A championship on April 25 in Tallahassee, was one the lone athlete in the top-3 to not foul on an attempt.

“He was able to adjust himself, even though coaches are not allowed on the track,” McNeely said. “A lot of guys were slipping on the board, and they were not making the distances they normally do. He was able to maintain his balance and form and got our team off to a great start.”

A Vanderbilt football signee, Webb also flashed his breakaway speed by running the first leg for Gainesville's 4x100 relay team, which earned a second-place result behind the event's defending champion, St. Petersburg Gibbs High School. Along with three of his GHS football teammates, Webb helped the Hurricanes finish with a time of 42.46.

Fueled by 18 points from Webb's pair of events, the Hurricanes were able to tally a team total of 32 points and finish third overall out of 64 competing teams.

“We were hoping to be able to make a run at first or second overall, so we really need Ralph to step up,” McNeely said. “We needed him to win to even have a slim chance, and he did that for us.

With his time at GHS coming to an end, Webb will face a major obstacle if he wants to continue to compete in the long jump during his college career. Vanderbilt, a member of the Southeastern Conference in six men's sports, does not have a men's track and field team.

While McNeely said Webb's primary focus is on playing running back for the Commodores, he is interested in pursuing other avenues to participate in his favorite event.

“What Ralph plans to do, if his football coach allows it, is he quietly said he may try to compete unattached,” McNeely said. “So he still has an opportunity to compete if he wants to, but it will be as an unattached athlete. … I'm sure whoever coaches long jump on the women's side could coach him at the same time.”

Track and field

KENRIC YOUNG, GAINESVILLE: The junior sprinter finished third in the 400-meter dash at last Friday's Class 3A state meet with a final time of 49.82. Young also led the Hurricanes' 4x400 relay team to a runner-up result in 3:20.72.

CRYSTAL WILLIAMS, GAINESVILLE: In her first trip to a state meet, Williams claimed fifth overall in the 100-meter hurdles at the Class 3A championships in Jacksonville. Williams, who was seeded eighth out of 15 runners, surged to finish in 15.08 in the finals.

Athletes of the week are determined by nominations from area coaches. Coaches are asked to call in every Sunday between 4-7 p.m. For the complete list of athletes of the week please go to preps.gainesville.com.

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