ORANGE PARK - Staged on the brand new rubberized track at Orange Park High School, the Clay County High School Track and Field championships put area athletes on notice as possible state contenders …
ORANGE PARK - Staged on the brand new rubberized track at Orange Park High School, the Clay County High School Track and Field championships put area athletes on notice as possible state contenders in less than a month with Fleming Island High taking both the boys and girls team titles, but not without company.
Fueled by distance runner Emma Millson; 1600 and 3200 champion, the Fleming Island girls finished just ahead of the sprint strong Oakleaf High team, led by junior Arianna Eason, 175-169 with Fleming Island’s boys holding on to beat Orange Park, 184.50-118.50 with Oakleaf second at 95.
Middleburg’s girls showed off freshman phenom sprinter Nya Russell with a win in the 100 and long jump, and a third in the 200 in a show of future prowess.
With a cadre of multiple event county champions, the event featured the likes of Orange Park senior sprinter Markez Sermons with wins in the long jump (22’-5”), 100 meters (10.89), plus leadoff leg in the 4 x 100 and second leg of the 4 x 400 gold medal teams and senior teammate Joel Childs dominating both the 110 high hurdles (15.88), the 300 meter hurdles (40.70) and the 4 x 400 gold medal team.
Fleming Island, with Millson’s double gold medal performances (5:23.52 for 1600 and 11:59.06 for 3200). Millson recently signed to run track at the University of North Florida.
“I was injured last year and COVID stopped the season, so I’m just working hard to improve my rankings,” said Millson, who won 5:23.52 by 17 seconds over Rebecca Stratton in the 1600 with Middleburg’s Emma Mussante third. “I love having Emma Mussante (Middleburg) chasing me out there.”
In a mild upset at the girls 800, Ridgeview High’s Blythe Duchene used a final stretch surge to hold off Fleming Island’s Mei Chiang and Oakleaf’s Sierra Barrera in a closely tangoed race with Duchene winning in 2:26.44.
“I pushed and all of a sudden realized I was in front,” said Duchene. “I was just hoping my endurance strength would be enough because both of the other two were good finishers.”
Behind the front four, Fleming Island senior Marisa Kortright finished fifth after returning to action from a foot injury with a 2:32.81 effort.
Fleming Island’s Alex Bendig came tantalizingly close to the sub-2:00 800 with a winning 2:00.26 split.
In a much anticipated clash of St. Johns Country Day School 1600 meter frontrunner Matthew Stratton, a recent 4:25 school record setter for the Spartans, and a handful of five Fleming Island runners all inching up to the 4:30 clock for the mile, Stratton took an early 20 yard lead on lap one and had no challengers to the finish to win in 4:27.19 with the Fleming Island quintet in after 4:33.60 led by Jayden Scherer.
“I was hoping for someone to come up with me, but as I came into the 800 meter mark, I turned and noone was there,” said Stratton. “After the third lap, I was still alone so I accelerated to finish to stay close to my 4:25.”
The girls high jump featured a three athlete battled between Ridgeview High state meet qualifier (2019) Zoe Whaley and challenges from Fleming Island freshman Gabrielle Flores and Oakleaf’s Sydeny Brown. Locked at 5’-1” after the trio all missed at 5’-2”, Whaley prevailed on less misses to win the tense contest.
Flores and Brown both tied for second with Middleburg’s Molly Burt third at 4’-11”.
For the boys, 11 jumpers were stuck at 5’-10.75” inches before Fleming Island’s Cameron Mackenzie won over Clifford Bois of Ridgeview and Orange Park’s Josiah Sabino.
For Oakleaf and the history of sprinter speed and jumping prowess, the tradition continued with behind junior Arianna Eason, who won the triple jump (37’-7.25”) by three feet over Clay’s Amya Thomas, but finished second to Middleburg High freshman sensation Mya Russell in the long jump by eight inches.
On the track, Russell outleaned Oakleaf’s Olivia Gaines in the 100 to win by .05 seconds; 112.92-12.97 with Orange Park’s DeMia Harris third at 13.07.
In the 400, Oakleaf crushed the field with a 1-2-3 sweep behind Alyssa Williams (59.10), Taylor Silkert (1:00.34) and Sierra Barrera (1:03.13). Fleming Island’s Dony Huynh ran a consistent 400 to outlast early front runners to the final corner and win in 51.31 over Gage Cooper of Oakleaf and Stanley Cowherd of St. Johns.
In another clash of the two best discus throwers in the county, Wyatt Underwood of Middleburg reversed the Bob Hayes finish with Keystone Heights’ Caleb Moncrief; Moncrief beat Underwood, with a 144’-10” best to beat Moncrief (134’-4’) and Van Franklin of Oakleaf (130’-3”).
Orange Park freshman Mychaela Parker won the girls shot put with a 34’-0” put with Clay’s Desiron Gantt winning for the boys at 44’-5.5” just an inch plus ahead of Underwood.
In javelin, Middleburg got a 1-2 finish from Carter Smith over Alexander Wall 140’-5” to 136’-4”. Fleming Island’s Emma Richard won the girls javelin at 101’-0”.
In the 200, Eason powered through with a 26.29 to 26.94 win over Harris with Russell third at 27.28. Gaines was sixth at 28.09. Fleming Island’s Devin Grind won the boys 200 in 22.67 over Evan Brown of Oakleaf (22.76).
Ridgeview High’s James Snipes won the 3200 in 10:11.80 over Oakleaf’s Graham Myers and Clay’s Carlton Waiguru.