Each of the most recent indoor and outdoor city track championships have added to the friendly rivalry between Latin Academy coach Brian Leussler and O’Bryant coach Jose Ortega.
The upcoming city championship on May 13-14 -- in which both coaches agree they’re the top contenders -- should be no different.
“For so long at O’Bryant, they were dominant," said Leussler. "They were winning indoor, outdoor, they were never losing anything, and when I started coaching, I would say to [Ortega], ‘This is the season, we’re going to get you this time,’ and I think it makes it more fun."
While Latin Academy’s girls are the reigning outdoor city champions, O’Bryant edged out a victory in the boys' competition by a half a point last season, 79.5 to 79.
Leussler said the loss provided motivation for both teams.
“It inspired the kids from O’Bryant, it [taught] a friendly rivalry between our schools,” Leussler said. “It’s good for the kids to finally have lost a meet on our team. It will kind of inspire them even more.”
Leussler noted junior shot putter Damien Cruz and hurdler/long jumper Xavier Hill among those motivated athletes. Both of them compete in field events, which Ortega believes wil be the key.
“We've just got to make sure that everyone that competes falls into the position that they’re supposed to fall into to get points,” said Ortega.
Ortega expects Brian Donna, who throws the javelin, to take charge in the field events.
Regardless of which team does better in the field, the O’Bryant coach believes it will be another tight final result.
“We’re looking at a 4-5 point difference between winning or losing for us or for [Latin Academy],” Ortega said.
However, the coach would not rule out a potential surprise performance from another squad.
“[South Boston] is not that far behind because [coach James] De Mello, who’s retiring this year, I know he would love to win it and I know his kids would love to win for him, but he’s going to have a tough time, too,” Ortega said.
As for the girls, Leussler has full confidence in his team. He said Brittany Firmin (triple jump), Ashley Lewis (400 meter dash), and Katherine Van Even (1 mile) should all win their events, and his 4x4 relay team should be “unbeatable.”
He has a good reason to be confident. The Latin Academy coach calculates the outcome of events by documenting the times and performances of his athletes throughout the season.
“It’s not like baseball, football, basketball where you get an idea how teams are but you don’t really know how they match up against each other," he said. "Track stuff doesn’t lie."
The fact that his girls are undefeated this season also helps.
“Latin Academy girls are undefeated once again and they have a shot of winning the city championship again, which should be quite interesting,” Ortega said.
No matter who wins the championships, another chapter will surely be added to the friendly rivalry between Latin Academy and O’Bryant.
“It’s fun to go against another exam school," said Ortega. "It’s all about bragging rights."
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