ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High track sprinter Markez Sermons went toe-to-toe with very fast, while St. Johns Country Day School distance runner Matthew Stratton revved his engine a few times in new …
ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High track sprinter Markez Sermons went toe-to-toe with very fast, while St. Johns Country Day School distance runner Matthew Stratton revved his engine a few times in new events as the Don Hall Track Invitational, also the St. Johns River Athletic Conference track and field championships showed off a bucket load of north Florida talent while showcasing the dexterity of Orange Park High School brand spanking new rubberized track. Bartram Trail won both the boys and girls team titles.
With COVID canceling all track in 2020, the Don Hall event was a first-look at some fast times and some upcoming showdowns for district and region titles along the way to the state championships for 2021. Many of the 2019 state champions have graduated so that 2021 promises to be a full steam of new faces on top of podiums the next few weekends.
In the sprints, Sermons, a senior, battled twice with Nease’s Cyrus Ways in the 100 and 400 sprints with the pair finishing 1-2; 10.96-10.99 and 49.70-50.02, in two of the more exciting races of the night.
Sermons was also on the winning 4 x 100 relay squad. Ways also won the 110 high hurdles just ahead of Orange Park’s Joel Childs and Fleming Island’s Brendan Cook. Sermons won the long jump at 23’-.50”. ahead of St. Johns Country Day School’s Stanley Cowherd (21’-11.5”).
Childs won the 300 hurdles with Ridgeview’s Rasheed Baker third.
For the girls 100, Oakleaf got a 2-3 finish behind freshman Olivia Gaines and junior Arianna Eason with Orange Park’s Demia Harris in fifth. Harris would take second in the 200 ahead of Middleburg freshman Nya Russell and Oakleaf distance ace Taylor Silkert in fourth. Silkert would come back to finish second to Oakleaf’s Alyssa Williams in the 400.
For Stratton, a cross country podium finisher and a recent 4:25 miler, the two-lap 800 saw the veteran racer dip under two minutes for the first time in his career with a third place finish behine Nease’s James Vega (1:58.38) and Bartram Trail’s Roger Arias (1:58.54). Ridgeview senior Dominik Frietze also ran a fast split at 2:03.47 for sixth place.
Stratton returned to the track at night’s end to dominate the 3200 in 9:36.91 ahead of Nease’s Steven Cartwright, second in 9:56.15.
In the mile, a welcomed face up front, Fleming Island senior Kameron Wallizada, was the lone Clay County runner in the top five with a 4:26.31 to take second behind Nathan Bailes of Buchholz, but ahead of two Bartram Trail runners. Wallizada has been dealing with minor injuries the past year and a half and has returned to near full strength just in time to pop up for districts and regions.
In girls distance races, Ridgeview High junior Blythe Duchene, using the momentum from a recent Clay County title, won the 800 in 2:27.087 over Oakleaf’s strong finishing Sierra Barrera, just 30 seconds behind. In the distance races, in the 3200, two state title chasers; Fleming Island’s Emma Millson and St. Augustine’s Reilly Barber, both strong cross country season finishers, broke quickly from the 3200 field and issued a shoulder-to-shoulder tactical battle that saw Millson’s strength at the end win by 15 seconds with a strong surge within the final 800 meters.
In the 1600, Flagler Palm Coast ace Jada Williams dominated with a 5:20.72 clock with a trio of Clay County’s in 4-5-6; Rebecca Stratton (SJCDS 5:31.44), Emma Mussante (MHS 5:36.75) and Mei Chiang (FIHS 5:37.59).
In the field events, Fleming Island’s Cameron Mackenzie won the high jump (6’-3.5”), Middleburg’s Wyatt Underwood won the discusat 134’-2” without his shadow, Keystone Heights Caleb Moncrief, who was winning a region weightlifting title.
One final event highlight was a 14’-11” pole vault by Bartram Trail’s Samuel Martins ahead of Fleming Island’s Joseph Mercado, third at 11’-9.75”.
Ridgeview’s Pablo Gonzalez won the boys javelin (148’-3”) with Clay’s Desiron Gannt fourth in the shot put (44’-.75”).
In girls field events, Middleburg’s Nya Russell won long jump (17’-1.5”), Oakleaf’s Arianna Eason won triple jump (34’-11.25”) and Fleming Island’s Sasha Ortiz was third in pole vault (8’-4.25”).
In discus, Clay’s Annalee Harbison, fresh off a thrilling flag football win over Middleburg, was third with Fleming Island taking 1-2 in javelin behind Emma Richard (102’-8”) and Marissa Deckard (94’).