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Clay Today Super 5 Fall Performances

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 12/7/22

MIDDLEBURG - Middleburg High senior golfer Chase Carroll’s first name has been his story for the past four years as he has “chased” the elusive golf state title trophy that big brother Cody …

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Clay Today Super 5 Fall Performances


Posted

MIDDLEBURG - Middleburg High senior golfer Chase Carroll’s first name has been his story for the past four years as he has “chased” the elusive golf state title trophy that big brother Cody Carroll won in 2016.

Carroll, with four state tournament bids in his high school career; one more than Cody, got just about as close a final round of championship golf as a golfer could expect before a five foot putt spun around the hole off a dramatic fifth hole overtime.

“I respect the competition when it comes to winning and losing and that one was so intense,” said Carroll. “My brother always said just to play my game and trust the process.”

For his dramatic and exciting senior season and his equally dramatic second place finish in the Class 2A championship tournament, Carroll is named the Clay Today Fall Sports Performance of 2022.

Carroll chased the state tournament with equally tough district and region places, but his final nine holes at the state tournament were what we write about with two eagles and five birdies erasing an eight stroke deficit to create the tie at 18 and the overtime theater. Carroll’s first nine of the second round offered no preview of his nine hole finish with two double bogies and one bogie pushing him further to the rears of the leaders.

The top five Clay Today Fall sports performances of 2022 starts with an athlete that does not say much, but more that speaks with her prowess as Fleming Island junior freestyle sprinter Maryn McDade answered the bell of being a repeat champion with one of the fastest times in the country for the 50 freestyle. McDade was being chased (no pun intended) all season by Ponte Vedra High standout Penelope Zarczynski, just a sophomore, as the duo battled throughout the post season with McDade fending off her top challenger three times to dispell the myth of it’s tough beating an opponent three times. McDade’s 23.07 winning time is ranked 21st in the United States according to USASwimming.org’s list.

At regions, it was McDade 23.82 to Zarczynski’s 23.89.

At districts, it was McDade 23.54 to Zarczynski’s 24.42 with both knowing the times would get faster in the upcoming weekends with McDade holding her edge.

For her perseverance and intensity in the face of imminent danger, McDade is the Clay Today first choice for Fall Sports performance of 2022.

Number two on the Clay Today Fall Sports Performances of 2022 goes to a quiet guy ironically wearing number five; Middleburg High running back T.J. Lane.

Lane, a newcomer to the Middleburg football system under second year coach Ryan Wolfe, had the initial paradox of being the number two guy carrying the ball with expected top ball carrier Michael Mitchell the guy getting the headlines for his spectacular previous year.

Mitchell, who had an offer and commit to Pac 12 powerhouse NCAA 7th-ranked University of Utah (just beat 8th-ranked University of Southern California 47-24 for conference title), had some obstacles during his senior season that propelled Lane into a front-run role for Wolfe.

Lane not only stepped in and kept the Broncos on their titillating path to a playoff berth, but Lane became the workhorse of the year for Clay County football athletes with astounding games of 226 yards and two scores versus then unbeaten Bishop Kenny (8-3, 2M region playoffs) in game two, with playoff powers Bradford (12-2, 2S Final Four) and Ponte Vedra smacking the Broncos offense around before Lane revved up to a string of plus-100 yard efforts that truly embraced the “next man up” phrase.

With a near 10 yards per carry finish for his next seven games, including a final 200 yard effort in playoff loss to Escambia, Lane epitomized what a running back can do for an offense.

Lane’s resume read 180, 132, then 239 vs. Clay, 182 vs. Columbia (9-4, 3S Final Four), 351 (yes 351) vs. Orange Park, 321 (yes, 321) vs. Fernandina Beach and his final 200 effort against Escambia (8-4, 3S region final loss vs. Columbia).

Number three goes to Fleming Island junior cross country ace Graham Myers, who not only showed all of his cards early in the season with a string of fast times starting in early September, but kept ticking down his clock with great efforts against season great runners in his post season. Myers, who got to chase (again with that word) one of the best evers last year with St. Johns Country Day School state champion Matthew Stratton his front running teammate, but then assumed the lead role very quickly and authoritatively as a Fleming Island High School runner. Authoritatively, to the the tune of a third place finish in Class 3A against a defending state champion on the state champion’s home course in Tallahassee. Just to add luster to the third place finish, Patrick Koon of Leon, the 3A two time champion, ripped a new state championship record of 14:56.70 for the win with Myers third behind Joshua Ruiz of 3A team champions Belen Jesuit 15:37.30 to 15:42.10. Ruiz was second to Koon in 2021 in nearly the same time, 15:37.40, with Myers making an astounding jump from his 2021 11th place finish in 16:38.00. That’s a minute faster in 2022 on the same course against the two fastest guys in Class 3A. Pretty stellar.

Number four goes to another cross country runner with Oakleaf High senior Sierra Barrera blasting her best races at the right time with the lone battler of the back-to-back state champions of Class 4A, Gainesville Buchholz, presumably very happy that Barrera will be in college next year.

Barrera, an outstanding 800 and 1600 finisher on the track in the previous spring, took the entire summer on a solo mission to better her strength over the three miles of cross country and exacting the results of her dedication with a crushing string of finishes to cap her senior season.

Barrera, who unleashed her fearless finishing kick in three races to end her high school days with a flurry, had to compete among the state’s best obvious with Buchholz in both her district and region races, became the thorn of the Bobcats with a third place finish at districts upsetting a 1-2-3 finish for Buchholz, a fifth place finish at regions with just one Buchholz runner in front of her by just .2 seconds and a final blast to the Bobcats with her eighth place finish dispatching the entire Buchholz team with a split time of 19:09.90 on the very hilly Tallahassee course.

At regions, Barrera scorched her fastest time, an 18:48.9, to send the message on the Bobcat home course.

For the efforts of these six outstanding athletes, the Clay Today sports staffs offers a resounding thank you for letting us be a part of it and an encouraging message for fruitful next years in college and as high school seniors.

The final of the top five goes to Middleburg High middle hitter Connor Rahn who unloaded a barrage of kill shots on the Ridgeview High front defense; noted for their blocking prowess behind Haley Robinson.

In the district championship game, after both teams seemingly cruised through the season with THE game on the backburner until a critical single day that saw Ridgeview beat Bishop Kenny and Middleburg beat Bartram Trail, both in five games.

From that doubleheader, Rahn was tasked to be the critical mass for departing head coach Carrie Prewitt and the slender junior delivered with an astounding 28 kills in the Broncos 3-1 championship win. Ironically, and sometimes in sports, the defining moment sometimes overshadows the upcoming efforts, Middleburg lost in the region opener and Ridgeview wound up in the region final with a possible region final rematch between the two teams never happening.