Doubling the pleasure: Springstead’s Manuel repeats as Athlete of the Year

Springstea’s three-time state placer and two-time Hernando County Track Athlete of the Year: Kyle Manuel. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

BOYS TRACK & FIELD

2018 Eagles’ graduate inks with

NAIA’s Southeastern University

after collecting two state medals

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

This year’s balloting for Hernando County’s Track Athlete of the Year whittled down to three extremely qualified choices.

Each candidate – Central junior Tayvon Brown, Springstead junior JaCorey Hartman and Springstead’s Kyle Thomas Manuel – specialized in multiple events.

Most importantly, each returned home with an FHSAA State Finals medal from Duval County.

In the end, it was simple mathematics: two tops one.

Tayvon Brown
DuJuan Harris and his No. 20 retired Central High jersey. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Brown snapped DuJuan Harris’ 11-year-old 100-meter dash school record of 10.75 behind a 10.62 clocking and walked away from Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida with a fifth-place bronze medal.

The eventual AOL selection, Manuel, trekked back to Hernando County with two medallions: a fourth-place medal in the discus and sixth-place medal in the shot put.

Rewinding a stellar campaign

In 2018, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Manuel was spectacular in the shot put.

On an improving Spring Hill track squad, Manuel was the undisputed leader.

Kyle Manuel

He opened the season with a school record eight straight victories: at Lecanto, Springstead, Tampa-Wharton, Bushnell-South Sumter, Doug Patton Memorial in Citrus County, Tallahassee-FSU Relays and the Hernando-Citrus Classic at Weeki Wachee before posting his first-ever district title at Wesley Chapel’s Cypress Creek.

His winning ways narrowly ended when he finished as a regional runner-up during the 3A-II Meet at Lakeland-George Jenkins.

In his first-ever Class 3A State Finals in the shot put, he placed sixth out of 23 competitors.

The dirty blonde-tressed and green-eyed Manuel set a personal-best of 54’1.5” at WWHS. That serves as SHS’ new school record.

Amazingly, that’s a 10-foot increase from the year before.

In attempting to quantify how excellent a season Manuel had in the circle, image he defeated 246-of-252 opponents in 10 meets. That’s a staggering winning percentage of 98 percent.

After not winning any of his initial 15 shot put events, Manuel roared home – capturing 12 gold medals across his last 19 meets.

From 2015-18, the multi-sport student-athlete competed in 34 shot put events and garnered gold 12 times (35 percent).

Believe or not, Manuel elevated his game in the discus in 2018.

Talk about money, he competed in 10 discus events this past season and placed in the Top 10 each time.

Manuel, who played along the offensive and defensive lines and lifted weights under Head Coach Mike Garofano, duplicated his school record with eight individual gold medal efforts.

He opened his fourth season with five straight wins (Lecanto, Springstead, Tampa-Wharton, South Sumter and Doug Patton Memorial) before placing fifth at the FSU Relays.

Despite the hiccup in Leon County, Manuel bounced back with thee more wins (Hernando-Citrus, 3A-7 at Cypress Creek and 3A-II at George Jenkins).

At his second Class 3A FHSAA State Finals he concluded his final campaign placing fourth.

As if he was on cue, in his last prep meet for the Eagles, he heaved the discus eight feet further than he’d ever done before, going out in style with a school record 175’9”

In a splendid 2018 campaign, Manuel defeated 242-of-249 competitors in the discus, or 97 percent.

From 2015-18, Manuel served as the poster child of consistency. He produced (are you sitting down?) 35 Top-10 finishes in 35 meets (1.000 percent).

His body of work featured 23 gold medals in the discus (66 percent) highlighted by back-to-back seasons with eight wins.

As a consequence, Manuel departed as a four-time Hernando County champion in two seasons – twice in shot put and twice in the discus.

He graduated as a four-time district champion: three times (sophomore, junior, senior) in the discus and once (senior) in the shot put.

He departed as a two-time regional champion (junior, senior) in the discus and possessor of three state medals in two meets.

Besides being named All-Hernando County in football in 2017, Manuel was an all-star in the classroom behind a 3.8 unweighted and 4.1 weighted grade point average.

His favorite courses included anatomy with Mrs. Clark and US History with Mr. Wilson.

The two-year member of the prestigious National Honor Society also served as a member of SHS’ Young Adults Against Cancer, whose mission is to raise awareness by raising funds for children stricken by cancer at St. Jude’s Hospital.

Proud parents Rick Manuel and Sheryl Braccio flank their son Kyle Manuel as he signs with NAIA’s Southeastern University in Lakeland.
Southeastern University Fire

After the season, Manuel signed with NAIA’s Southeastern University Fire in Lakeland.

Manuel’s reaction

When asked which AOL year was more difficult, Manuel did not hesitate.

Kyle Manuel

This year was much harder,” he said. “After the FSU Relays, I had to pick it back up. That’s when things started clicking. I felt like I was fine in the shot put all year. I didn’t have the same feeling in the discus.”

Manuel pointed to his legendary workouts for improvement.

“I spent a lot more time refining my technique,” explained Manuel, 18. “Earlier in the season, I tried spinning it more. Later, I stressed the glide approach. That’s what I’ve basically utilized for three seasons.”

Recalling his low-ebb moment at FSU, “It wasn’t my day. I couldn’t throw it. I just remember getting fifth was a humbling experience,” he shared.

State rewind

Kyle Manuel

Most athletes would be tickled pink on returning home with two state medals. But most athletes aren’t named Kyle Manuel.

“I’d give myself an eight out of 10 for the season in the shot put and discus,” critiqued Manuel. “I was satisfied with what I did at states in the discus. Class 3A was absolutely stacked. In 1A or 2A I might have won it.

“Look, I PR’ed by eight feet and got fourth – that was OK,” he said. “I was satisfied with sixth in the shot put. Deep down, I don’t think I could’ve finished first or second. But I should’ve gotten at least third or fourth.”

Zayne Barry

On what stood out during his remarkable senior year, “Everything started to be more fun,” beamed Manuel. “Breaking the school records for the shot put and discus are right up there. Early on, I just wanted to continue winning. I also wanted to help (freshman) Zayne (Barry) become the next great Springstead thrower.”

Praise pours in

After the curtains descended on his prep career, area coaches anointed Manuel to his fifth All-Hernando County all-star nod, highlighted by his fourth all-star selection in track and field.

His body of work tipped the scales in choosing him over Brown for his second straight AOL honor.

Area mentors praised his on and off the track efforts.

John Capel

“Kyle is an easy choice for Athlete of the Year because he’s the epitome of greatness … He’s got the grades … He shows up at practice even if its raining; he’ll work out in the weight room and get his reps in,” emphasized Springstead’s John Capel. “He never complains about anything; no coach, no teammate or anyone else has ever said a bad word about him … I can trust him to do anything …

“…My greatest compliment? If I had a Kyle Manuel in every event, I wouldn’t have to coach,” added the 2018 Hernando County Coach of the Year Capel. “I love this kid … To watch him train is amazing … It’s been a joy just watching him … No words can express how much he’ll be missed … If he can tweak a couple things, we could see him in the Olympic Trails … I can see him competing for an NCAA Championship … If he gets the right coach, I could see him taking it to the next level … And yes, he’s that competitive.”

Jonathan Malandrucco

“Manuel got two medals at states – that’s what matters,” stressed Hernando High’s Jon Malandrucco. “On what impressed me? It looks different coming out of his hands … I admire his dedication … One day, I came by Springstead to pickup something up … The only guy I saw working out was Manuel … It shows me track isn’t a hobby for him.”

Shane Tarbox

“It has to be Kyle … He placed at states in two events, not one,” shared Weeki Wachee’s Shane Tarbox. “There’s no question who is the county’s best track athlete.”

 

 

 

Manuel 101

Manuel traced his roots up north.

Kyle was born in Stony Brook, NY (a hamlet near Long Island) to his parents Rick and Sheryl Manuel, who have since divorced.

Manuel splits parental time each week with both parents and has called Spring Hill home for over 17 years.

Ironically, Kyle’s first organized sport was playing soccer at 5 years old for one season at Hernando County Family YMCA in Spring Hill.

Next, followed flag football and tackle football.

At Challenger K-8, he demonstrated his athletic versatility.

Brett Teitelman Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

For three years, Manuel played football in the fall under Brett Teitelman and competed on the track and field team in the spring.

He alternated as an offensive lineman and linebacker in football.

After running the mile as a sixth-grader, Manuel converted to the shot put and discus competition for his seventh- and eighth-grade seasons.

Once he matriculated to the Mariner Boulevard campus of SHS, Manuel remained active switching sports from season to season.

He played JV football as both a freshman and sophomore, being promoted to the varsity squad in both seasons.

He played tight end and linebacker, but has since switched to offensive line and D-line.

Last fall, Manuel played offensive tackle and mustered 29 tackles, including six tackles for a loss and six sacks and 11 quarterback pressures on defense.

Very quietly, Manuel utilized lifting weights for the past three seasons to get stronger.

Track love affair

Of his three sports, Manuel readily admits track and field is his favorite.

His passion for the discus arrived at Challenger.

“We had a band concert, but I started doing it one day. At Challenger, I was kinda self-taught,” recalled Manuel. “I remember my early throws. The discus would come out (of his hand) flat and wobbly at the other end.”

Manuel admits his release point is his biggest improvement.

“Once I learned to throw it the right way at Springstead, I increased my distance,” recalled Manuel. “It really helped that my grand dad drove me to the National Training Center in in Clermont for lessons. I don’t go there all the time, but when I spend time with Coach Andy, he’s always stressing to me that I’ve gotta stay strong in my finish.”

Playing with Fire

Southeastern University Fire

For college, Manuel envisioned himself competing Division-I at Tampa’s University of South Florida.

It’s the only school he visited during the recruiting process.

But in a bit of a twist, instead of walking on to USF, Manuel signed with the NAIA’s Southeastern Fire in Lakeland.

Kyle Manuel

The reason? Coach impressed upon Manuel that he could immediately compete for a national championship.

“Southeastern wanted me to do both (discus and shot put),” explained Manuel. “I’m not 100 percent sure what I want to do down the line. I originally thought I’d be a physical therapist. Right now, I’d like to major in exercise science.”

“My priority was staying within state. Lakeland is only 1½ hours away, so its close to home,” noted Manuel. “I’m gonna live in a dorm on campus. Basically, I’ll be the new kid on the block.”

Manuel spelled out his biggest challenges like adapting to being away from home and not really knowing what college life will be like.

Olivia DeLoach

Manuel, who has been dating volleyball player and trackster Olivia DeLoach for the past two years, will continue to zip back-and-forth from Polk County in his 2004 Dodge Dakota Truck.

Before reporting to Lakeland campus, he continues to spend time with DeLoach, who won’t graduate from Springstead for another year.

Extremely bright, Manuel isn’t downplaying his studies.

“My academics are definitely my first priority,” shared Manuel. “They come before anything else.”

Card of thanks

Prior to packing for Southeastern, Manuel offered a card of thanks.

“First and foremost I have to thank the Man above. Without Him, I’m nothing,” explained Manuel. “I have to thank all my friends from school and teammates. I have to thank the members of the football and track teams. They helped mold me. It was a lot of fun competing against different people.”

Looking ahead

Prior to adding to the 160,000-mile total to his truck, he was asked what he’ll miss the most.

Kyle Manuel

“I had a lot of good memories at Springstead,” revealed Manuel. “If I had a chance to do it all over again, I’d do the exact same thing. I have absolutely no regrets.”

Since graduation, Manuel competed in the Flo Golden South Classic in Orlando and finished second in the shot put.

In the recent New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, NC, he again placed second with a heave of 166’ in the discus.

Before reporting in mid-August, he continues to work out lifting weights with ex-Springstead Eagle and recent Central High graduate Justin Fribbley.

“Fribbley is trying to recruit me to go to Benedictine College with him,” smiled Manuel.

On his legacy, “I’d like to be remembered as one of the hardest working people,” defined Manuel. “All the wins were nice, but all the achievements in the classroom and in sports made the journey fun.”

By the Numbers: Springstead’s Kyle Manuel

Compiled by TONY CASTRO

2018: DISCUS

Springstead’s Kyle Manuel was flanked by Mike Garofano (left) and Athletic Director Dustin Kupcik and back row (left) Frank Hynes and Brett Teitelman when he signed with Southeastern University.
 

DATE

 

MEET

 

PL

 

DIST

 

02-12

 

@ Lecanto Invitational

 

1st/18

 

163’9.25”

 

02-16

 

Springstead Invitational

 

1st/27

 

151’3”

 

02-24

 

@ Tampa-Wharton Invitational

 

1st/41

 

155’3”

 

03-02

 

@ South Sumter Invitational

 

1st/31

 

155’2.25”

 

03-21

 

@ Doug Patton Invitational

 

1st/22

 

138’4.75”

03-24

@ Tallahassee-FSU Relays

5th/21

147’5”

 

04-04

 

@ Hernando-Citrus Invitational

 

1st/24

 

144’0”

 

04-13

 

@ Cypress Creek 3A-7 Meet

 

1st/26

 

162’6”

 

04-26

 

@ Lakeland-George Jenkins 3A-II

 

1st/16

 

167’6”

05-04

@ JAX-UNF 3A State Finals

4th/23

175’9”

 

TOTALS (10)

 

242/249

2018: SHOT PUT

Kyle Manuel
 

DATE

 

MEET

 

PL

 

DIST

 

02-12

 

@ Lecanto Invitational

 

1st/26

 

50’10.75”

 

02-16

 

Springstead Invitational

 

1st/26

 

50’7.5”

 

02-24

 

@ Tampa-Wharton Invitational

 

1st/47

 

51’1.5”

 

03-02

 

@ South Sumter Invitational

 

1st/34

 

54’0”

 

03-21

 

@ Doug Patton Invitational

 

1st/21

 

50’0.75”

 

03-24

 

@ Tallahassee-FSU Relays

 

1st/10

 

52’6”

 

04-04

 

@ Hernando-Citrus Invitational

 

1st/26

 

54’1.5”

 

04-13

 

@ Cypress Creek 3A-7 Meet

 

1st/23

 

52’10”

04-26

@ Lakeland-George Jenkins 3A-II

2nd/16

53’0.75”

05-04

@ JAX-UNF 3A State Finals

6th/23

52’10.75”

 

TOTALS (10)

 

246/252

2017: DISCUS

Kyle Manuel
 

DATE

 

MEET

 

PL

 

DIST

 

02-15

 

@ Lecanto Invitational

 

1st/18

 

142’6”

 

03-03

 

@ Mitchell Invitational

 

1st/50

 

158’8”

 

03-09

 

@ Pasco Invitational

 

1st/34

 

144’3”

 

03-21

 

@ Doug Patton Invitational

 

1st/29

 

156’5.5”

 

03-24

 

@ UNF Invitational

 

1st/27

 

151’8”

04-01

@ UF Pepsi Invitational

9th/25

149’10”

 

04-06

 

@ Hernando-Citrus Invitational

 

1st/25

 

149’3.3”

 

04-12

 

@ Lecanto 3A-7 Meet

 

1st/25

 

149’7”

 

04-29

 

@ George Jenkins 3A-II

 

1st/16

 

153’6”

05-05

@ IMG Academy 3A State Finals

6th/16

156’7”

 

TOTALS (10)

 

252/2655

 

 

 

 

 

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