The Venice High boys and girls track and field teams defended their home turf well on Thursday in the Venice Track and Field Relays, with each Indians team finishing comfortably in first place out of the 10-team field that included local teams such as North Port, Lemon Bay and Imagine School.

The Venice boys made their impact largely in the field portion of the event — winning the long jump, the triple jump, the shot put and pole vaulting events. The girls, on the other hand, excelled in the relays and other running events of the day, winning the 400 meter and 800 meter relay races along with the 100 meter hurdles, the 800 meter sprint medley relay and the 1600 meter sprint medley relay.

“We told our kids at the beginning of the year that we expect to win a lot of meets,” VHS girls track and field coach Tim Weidlein said. “Obviously our main goal is to get prepared and win a district championship, and you’re not gonna beat a team like East Lake (in Tarpon Springs), which has won six districts in a row, if you don’t win meets like this one.

“We’re gonna try and win every meet we enter this year.”

Venice freshman runner Juliana Courville was the anchor for two of those relay wins, and she made up a big gap in the girls 4x400 meter relay to win by less than two seconds.

“The different mindset you have to have is that you’re the one who has to keep pushing to the end,” Courville said of running the last leg of relays. “Run your best, God will take care of the rest.

“You just have to keep going. You can’t just be like, ‘I’ve got time.’ You have to be like, ‘I’ve gotta go. I want to win this.’”

While the VHS girls dominated in the running events on Thursday, they also had some athletes place in field events as well.

Some non-winners included a fourth place finish from Sena Szczepaniuk in the high jump, a third place finish from Gabby LaRock in the long jump, a third place finish for Aja Jones in the shot put and a second place finish from Savannah James in the triple jump.

In pole vaulting, Venice was the class of the field as Sarah Harding captured first place with a mark of 9-feet 4.25-inches — at least 2 1/2 feet higher than any other vaulter — and Brianna Taylor came in second. As for her secret to out-vaulting the competition by over two feet, it’s simple.

“I would say when you’re vaulting, you have to have fun,” Harding said. “Because I see a lot of vaulters and they’re so serious about it, which is great, because I have to be serious, too. But if you’re not having fun, what’s the point?

“But you also have to work really hard. I’m out here six days a week from like 2:15 to 6:30 every night. I love this sport so much.”

Roughly halfway through the season, the Venice track and field teams will next compete in the FSU Relays March 22-23 before participating in the Florida Relays and the Sarasota County Meet.

Then the Indians will turn their focus toward their season-long goal — winning a district title on April 16 in Clearwater.

“It’s an 11 team district, and we’ll finish in the top three with an opportunity to win it,” Venice boys track and field coach Jason Potter said. “But how we prepare up until then — we have 32 days until districts — is ultimately gonna tell us what we’re gonna come up with.

“We’re sitting in a good spot because we have some of the best kids in the area as far as discipline and doing the right thing. They’re hard workers and no-nonsense type people. We’re very fortunate to have these athletes.”

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