JACKSONVILLE – Oakleaf High jump tandem of Melvin Briley and Loren Johnson did what was expected at the FHSAA track and field state championships held Friday and Saturday at the University of North …
JACKSONVILLE – Oakleaf High jump tandem of Melvin Briley and Loren Johnson did what was expected at the FHSAA track and field state championships held Friday and Saturday at the University of North Florida while the Fleming Island boys 4 x 800 squad came up big in what of the biggest surprises of the day.
“This is Loren’s turn and also it will show all around that Melvin Briley is one of the best jumpers in Florida,” said Oakleaf High jump coach John Carter, prior to both jumpers getting gold medals in Class 4A; Johnson in the long jump and Briley, repeating as the triple jump champion.
For both athletes, surpassing the expectations was part of the track aura, but a looming senior prom was also one factor and a rival with a recent win was a second factor.
Briley, with two scratches in his first two jumps, needed to clear his mind of his situation to produce his winning jump, but measured just 46 feet, 11 inches on his third jump.
“I had good distance on both scratches, but my steps were off,” said Briley. “I knew a correction would get me a good jump.”
From there, Carter and Briley both contemplated the strategy of leaving that jump, the furthest of the day thus far, as the finals mark.
“I knew the 46’-11” might not be enough to win so I kind of knew I would have to jump,” said Briley, who is signed to compete next year at the University of South Florida. “I was getting good distances on the scratch jumps so knew I just had to settle in and get a good jump off.”
In the end, Briley stayed and jumped a fourth jump at 47’-10.50”. On his two final jumps, Briley scratched to create even more drama on top of being chased by University High’s Kelvin Campbell and Winter Park’s Dylan Jean-Baptiste who had a third jump of 46’9.”
On the day’s final jumps, Campbell landed a 47’-4” leap to jolt into second place above Jean-Baptiste though the jump was before Briley’s final jump and would not move him into first place.
“I would have been pretty upset with myself if I had left and found out I finished second,” said Briley. “My girlfriend understood what the day meant to me with defending the title.”
Briley would end the day with two scratches, but a gold medal, nonetheless, at 47’-10.5”.
“Our first double state champion and he deserves it,” said Oakleaf coach James Henderson, who nervously watched the action. “He has set a very high standard for us. It could not have happened to a better person. He worked very hard to defend his title.”
Briley also competed in the long jump for the first time and finished fourth with successively better marks from districts to the state final where he finished at 22’-5.25.”
“It was ironic that my long jump distances kept getting better each week, but my triple jumps were about the same if not less than last year,” said Briley. “I had a different mental preparation state for long jump because it was kind of a new success for me. I was already a champ at triple jump and felt less pressure there. I always wanted to better my long jump each week this season.”
For Johnson, with two previous state championship invites with high expectations, but unexpected finishes, the gold medal was landed on her very first jump of the day, at 18’-10”.
“I worked a lot harder in the off season with beach workouts to get my legs stronger on the jumps, “ said Johnson, a junior. “I felt more confidence in my overall performance.”
Johnson continued her dominance with four more jumps over 18 feet with St. Thomas Aqinas freshman Eddiyah Frye and Alonso High’s Shaniyah Benjamin both hitting a marks of 18’-5.25” in the chase for second.
“She was first in long jump and second in triple,” said Henderson. “She was more focused and ready to take her turn as one of the top jumpers here. She hit five great jumps in the long jump and missed by just six inches for the triple jump.”
Marquasha Myers of Oak Ridge won the triple jump at 40’-4.25” which she hit on her first jump to put the pressure on Johnson.
“She beat me twice before the meet by inches here and there, but I got her on the long jump,” said Johnson, who noted Myers beating her in both the long jump and triple jump at the prestigious Bob Hayes Invitational in March. Myers finished seventh in the long jump at 17’-8.25”.
At the region 1-4A championships a week ago, Myers beat Johnson in triple jump by just .75 inches at 38’-9.75”. In the region long jump, Johnson won at 18’-9” with Myers fourth at 17’-8”.
At the state meet, Johnson hit her second place mark, 39’-.50”, one of her best jumps of the season after inching closer to Myers with jumps of 38’-8” and 38’-9”. Johnson had just one jump under 38 feet for the day.
“She responded,” said Henderson. “I think she showed some good maturity in fighting to the very end in the triple jump against a girl that just beat her a week ago by a small margin.”
In the boys 4 x 800 relay, the Fleming Island foursome of Jared Ashe, Cameron May, Landon Opp and Felipe Fernandez capped off a somewhat disappointing day for the Golden Eagles who came into the state meet with a handful of athletes; notably sprinters Anfernee McCaskill and Fernandez, plus hurdler Glenn Rodgers, that got hit with what was considered by many the fastest state meet in recent history with athletes throwing down amazing times in the sprints and hurdles.
In the 4 x 800, won by Piper High in 7:53.73, Fleming Island coaches Karen Moritz and Chris Otero had a wide-eyed response to their squad not only winning the second heat of the event, considered the slower of the seeded heats, but posting a time that rivaled the faster heat to come after they had completed their 8:05.49 split.
“They put out a near five second improvement from the region time that got them sixth and a Plus 8 invite to the state meet,” said Moritz. “To think that they dropped five seconds, won the heat and still had enough to finish ahead of half the fast heat is an amazing day for us.”
Moritz noted that three of the four runners; Opp, May and Ashe improved to near two minute splits while Fernandez brought the fifth place home with a 1:58 finish for his 800.
“I think he was disappointed in his 400 which was crazy fast and he ran a great 49.44 race, but finished 15th in prelims,” said Moritz, noting the winner’s time of 46.55 and three runners under 48 seconds. “It was crazy fast with a 46.46 the top time in prelims and 46.55 in the final and the top 10 under 49 seconds. He would have needed a one minute personal best just to get to the final.”
In the Class 4A sprints, Fleming Island High senior Anfernee McCaskill, the region champion at 200 with a 21.89 split and a Plus 8 Invitee in the 100 with a 10.92 seventh place finish, finished 14th in prelims for the 100 in 11.00 and 22.38 for 14th in the 200.
“The headwind was bad on the finish,” said McCaskill.
Winning times were 10.48 in the 100 and 20.83 in the 200.
In Friday’s 3200 timed final, Fleming Island senior Andrew Miller finished a disappointing ninth in 9:39.55, well off his 9:23 set in 2018. A 9:14.42 won the event.
In the 110 high hurdles, Glenn Rodgers, with a 14.74 winning time at regions, hit two hurdles in the prelims to finish 17th in 15.19.
“It was the first time he hit a hurdle all season,” said Moritz. “It happens and a meet of this caliber gets everyone a little more hyped up. He was winning halfway through.”
In the 400, Fernandez finished in 49.44 to take 15th with the winning time at 46.55. Fernandez was also anchor for the 4 x 400 relay that finished 17th in prelims in 3:24.16. The winning time was 3:14.92.
Oakleaf High sophomore shotputter Jalen Rivers finished 15th with a 48’-8.75” put with 57’-7.50” winning the event. Rivers threw for 51’-2.25” for third at regions.
Also for Oakleaf, junior sprinter Tahja Peoples, a Plus 8 Invitee in the 200 with her sixth at region finish in 26.13, finished 20th in prelims at 25.54.
In team points, Miami Columbus edged Miramar 58-55 for the boys crown with Piper third at 53 points. Oakleaf, with Briley’s points, scored 15 for 16th place. For the girls, St. Thomas Aquinas won handily with 116 points over Winter Park’s 36 for second. Oakleaf got 18 points from Johnson for 12th.