FLAGLER PALM COAST – Without senior distance runner Evan Fuller on the track, the Fleming Island High boys squad strapped up their spikes and showed off a presence with dominating distance and fast sprint performances to nearly topple defending champion Flagler Palm Coast with their third place finish just 1.5 points behind runnerup
Flagler and just three points from champion Sandalwood. Teams head back to Flagler Palm Coast High on Thurs., April 26 for the region 1-4A championships.
“I had us at six points in second before the 4 x 400 relay and I was getting tearful about the performances tonight,” said Fleming Island High second year coach Karen Moritz. “The team rose up without Evan Fuller here and I am ecstatic. We got a lot of surprises and a lot of personal bests.”
Oakleaf High got standout performances from sprinter Tahja Peoples and jumper Loren Johnson to take third behind Flagler Palm Coast and Mandarin; 6.5 points away from second place while triple jumper Melvin Briley continued his journey to defending his Class 4A title with a win in his specialty plus a bonus win in the long jump.
For Fleming Island top performance for the night came from senior distance ace Andrew Miller, who with Fuller and freshman Kameron Wallizada, formed a trio of front runners that was capable of scoring big points in the distance events.
Miller, a 3200 meter fourth place in 4A last year with Fuller 10th, led a three-man front pack of Clay County runners to a win in the 3200 in nine minutes, 53.11 seconds with Oakleaf High’s Dylan Nelson second at 9:58.94 and Wallizada third at 9:59.85.
“It was a little strange not having Evan next to me,” said Miller, headed to Elon University next year with Fuller going to Flagler College in St. Augustine. “Him and I have battled side by side for the past two years and he has inspired me to get to this level. I was happy to win, but sad to not have him with me.”
In the 1600, Miller continued his dominant front running tactic with a five second win in 4:30.84 with Nelson sixth in 4:44.12.
“?If they were going to let me lead, I was going to slow the pace then out kick them,” said Miller, who has a 4:23 time this season.
In the sprints, senior Anfernee McCaskill came back from a third in the 100 to blast the 200 field with a 22.82 winning split.
In the 110 high hurdles, junior Glenn Rodgers broke through a three-man battle at the final hurdle to take the win in 14.92 over Sandalwood’s Edwin Carter, second at 15.22.
In the 400, Fleming Island senior Felipe Fernandez took second by just .02 seconds with a 49.97 come-from-behind effort.
Briley has jumped nearly untouched in the 47-48 foot range all season to win every meet he has competed in, but the 50-plus mark is always on his mind.
“We competed at less meets this year so that we can hold a longer peak into the state meet,” said Briley, after winning the triple jump by seven feet with his 47’-5.75”. “I got a win in the long jump (21’-4.75”) and the training for both is helpful to both.”
For Johnson, who has become more consistent in the 35 foot-plus range in the triple jump, her wins in the both the long jump and triple jump were as dominant as Briley with a two foot win in the long jump with her 17’-7” and a four foot win in the triple with her 37’-.25” leap. Johnson took fifth in 4A last year in the long jump at 17’-11.75” and 13th in triple jump.
“She’s getting her mind right to stay consistent and approaching the bigger meets with less nerousness,” said Oakleaf jump coach John Carter. “I think her relationship with teammate Melvin Briley helps in seeing how the training works if she focuses out how big the meets are.”
Peoples, a junior, took the title in the 100 meters in 12.70 with First Coast’s LaQueria Bryant, the 200 champion, a close second in 12.78 and Mandarin’s Latavia Powell, third in 12.93, as the trio all leaned at the finish line nearly simultaneously. Peoples, who won the high jump at 4’-09”, finished fourth in the 200 behind Bryant and Fleming Island’s pair of Charisma Brown and Jasmine Morris.
Peoples also was part of the 4 x 100 relay team, with Hadassah Davis, Destiny Harris and India Watts that won that event in 50.15 over Flagler’s 50.77.
For Fleming Island, finishing in the top four for a region berth were long jumper Christian Cook, third at 20’-4.25”; high jumper Emma Shaw, fourth at 4’-9”; discus thrower Britany Payne, fourth at 85’-8”; triple jumper Darnell Deas, second at 40’-8.75”; high jumper Nick Ferendo, third at 5’-11.5”; 3200 meter runner Emma Millson, fourth at 12:13.63; Fleming Island’s 4 x 800 girls relay, fourth in 10:34.68; Fleming Island’s 4 x 800 boys relay, third at 8:22.38; 800 meter runner Cameron May, third at 2:00.83; Fleming Island’s 4 x 100 boys relay, fourth in 42.76; Fleming Island’s 4 x 400 girls relay, third at 4:18.96 and Fleming Island’s boys 4 x 400, fourth in 4:27.06.
For Oakleaf, finishing in the top four for a region berth were discus thrower Jeff Allen, fourth at 129’-5”; high jumper Amaris Johnson, third at 4’-9”; pole vaulter Joseph Anderson, fourth at 10’-10”; shot putter Jalen Rivers, second at 48’-2.75”; shot putter Chantz Williams, fourth at 44’-9.5”; 800 meter runner Jaylen Harris, fourth at 2:01.09; hurdler Takayla Edwards, third at 100 hurdles in 16.72 and second at 300 hurdles at 47.56; Oakleaf’s 4 x 100 girls relay, second at 4:17.55 and Oakleaf’s 4 x 400 girls relay, second at 4:17.55.