By:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Orange Belt Conference Championship action resumes this week with St. Cloud High School hosting the track championships. Action begins at 10 a.m. with field events and running event finals begin at 2 p.m. Admission to the event is $5.

Here is quick look at around Osceola County for this week.

Harmony will be the favorite to defend their OBC titles in both boys and girls track. The overall results could be extremely critical to both the Longhorns and Celebration, as those two schools are locked in a close battle to determine Orange Belt Conference All-Sports Championship for the 2021-22 school year.

Several Osceola County boys athletes are currently ranked high in its five-county readership area. Celebration’s Jared Falchook is currently ranked fourth in 800 (1:56.59), seventh in the 1600 (4:32.11), and fourth in the 3200 (9:32.75). The Storm’s Cooper James ranks fifth in the 1600 (4:29.17) and Harmony’s Joel Jean is seventh in the 3200 (9:39.80). In the 300 hurdles, Harmony’s Alex Tuyo is sixth (41.21); while Tohopekaliga’s Orlando Descartes (6-3 ¾) and Poinciana’s Justin Wilson (6-3 ½) rank fourth and fifth in the area in the high jump.

Several relay teams are also highly ranked in the area. Osceola (42.69) and Harmony (42.77) rank sixth and eighth respectively in the 4 x100 relay; while Celebration ranks eighth in the 4 x 800 (8:26.41).

The post-season begins for the boys and girls lacrosse teams at Celebration and Tohopekaliga this week.
The Celebration girls’ team (11-3) is the top seed in Class 2A, District 7 and has earned home field advantage and quarterfinal bye. They will host the winner of today’s Winter Haven/Lakeland game on Tuesday at 7 p.m. If they win, they will also host the district championship game on Thursday, also at 7 p.m. Junior Erin Beah-Balbontin (47 goals) and freshman Ayla Moffitt (35 goals) are the leading scorers for the Storm.

The Tohopekaliga Girls’ Team has had a winning season (9-7) but will face significant challenges in district play, where they will be a fourth seed in 2A, District 8. They play at home against #5 Melbourne (7-5) today and if they win they will play top-seeded Vero Beach (11-3) in a Tuesday semifinal.

The boys’ teams at Celebration (8-4) and Tohopekaliga (11-7) are both in Class 2A, District 7. The third seeded Storm will host Freedom and fourth seeded Tohopekaliga hosts Freedom. Both games are Monday night at 7 p.m. With wins, the Storm would travel to second seeded Dr. Phillips and the Tigers would travel to top-seeded Lake Nona for Tuesday district semifinal play.

Fresh off an impressive victory in the first-ever Orange Belt Conference Tournament, Osceola (13-4) shut out East Ridge on Monday night 3-0. St. Cloud will host Gateway at 6:30 pm.  Harmony (7-9) will face some top-flight competition this week with games against The Master’s Academy (10-5) on Tuesday, a neutral site game against five-time defending New York State Section 5 champion Canandaigua Academy (3-1) on Wednesday, and a Thursday game with Eau Gallie (11-5).

The St. Cloud Bulldogs bested lifters from 20 different schools last Friday to win team Regional Championships in both the Traditional (Clean and Jerk / Bench Press) and Snatch competitions.

St. Cloud (60 points) won the traditional meet over Olympic Heights (35), Harmony (33) and Seminole Ridge (14). Tohopekaliga was fifth (12). The Bulldogs (71) also were the team champions in the snatch, followed by Olympic Heights (63), Harmony (39), Osceola (19) and Forest Hill (11).

Qualifying as regional champions for the Bulldogs in the traditional meet were Sebastian Pineiro-Jirau (119-lb. weight class), Julian Sykes (154), Nathanael Combs (169) and Noah Carr (199). Sykes, Carr, and Combs also won the snatch to advance in that discipline and will be joined by Ryan Clancy who won the snatch at the 183-lb. weight class. Harmony will send Isaac Balado (129) and Daniel Watson (219) to the FHSAA meet as regional champions in the traditional. Both of those lifters also won the snatch and will be joined by teammate Caden Gayle who won the snatch in the unlimited. The only other lifter from Osceola County reaching automatic status was Tohopekaliga’s Pete Rodriguez, who won the traditional at 238-lbs.

Although regional champions automatically advance to states, Bulldog head coach Cory Aun believes as many as seven other St. Cloud lifters could earn at-large spots in state meet. Sykes will be high favored to take the traditional championship at his 154-lb. weight class. “He has been undefeated and dominating all season,” Aun said. “He’s been winning his weight class by 90 or 100 total pounds and he has been improving in each post-season meet. I would not be surprised if his first lifts in the bench and in the clean-and-jerk are enough to win the gold medal.”

Harmony’s big 6-1 win over and Liberty will now send the Lady Longhorns to Osceola to determine the Orange Belt Conference champion. Coming into Monday’s game both Harmony and Liberty were undefeated in OBC play.

With two weeks to go in the regular season, Celebration (11-2) has already clinched the Orange Belt Conference title with a perfect 6-0 record. The Storm will play a busy schedule down the stretch with six matches scheduled. St. Cloud (14-6, 4-2) and Tohopekaliga (7-4, 3-2) have posted winning records.