Area distance runners highlight track districts

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 4/17/19

JACKSONVILLE – With the track district-to-region-to-state runs now upon us, area distance runners are making their mark on district championships meets with the 1600s and 3200s being populated with …

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Area distance runners highlight track districts


JACKSONVILLE – With the track district-to-region-to-state runs now upon us, area distance runners are making their mark on district championships meets with the 1600s and 3200s being populated with area high schoolers looking to storm region meets in two weeks and, ultimately, the state championships at University of North Florida on May 3-4.

Region meets are set for Sat., April 27; region 1-4A at Showalter Field in Winter Park; region 1-3A at Washington High in Pensacola; region 1-2A and region 1-1A both at Bishop Snyder.

One of the top performances of the week came from Ridgeview High senior Joel Nesi who smacked down in the ever-tough district 4-2A championships at Bolles with a four minutes, 22.44 personal best in the 1600 to take third against Bolles seniors Charles Hicks and Chase Rivera, who clocked in at 4:20.78 and 4:22.38, respectively.

For the girls, Fleming Island High freshman Mei Chiang continued her domination of the both the 1600 and 3200 with district 1-4A titles in both with her teammates; Lauren Schaudel and Emma Millson making waves to join the top four party to state.

At last year’s district 1600, Nesi ran a fifth place fairly pedestrian 4:45.63 with Hicks second at 4:23.56 and Rivera fourth at 4:23.88. Bishop Kenny’s Nathan Jubran, now a freshman at UNF, won in 4:18.69. Hicks would go fourth at state in 4:18.53 with Rivera fifth in 4:19.54.

On Friday, Nesi returned to the track two hours later and continued his ascent into a possible state meet berth in a third event; Nesi also anchored the second place 4 x 800 relay, with a fifth place 9:45.59 that was just one spot off the top four spots that advance to regions. Hicks won in 9:34.34.

Other highlights of district 4-2A was a shot put title to Grier Burrows for Ridgeview with coach Al Nesi also getting a second place finish in the 110 hurdles from Joaquin Castro, a third place in high jump from Jaden Roy and a second place team finishes from both the girls and boys teams. Also in district 4-2A, Clay got a second from Austin Anderson in triple jump and thirds from Alyssa Huggins in shot put and discus.

At the district 4-1A championships held at Bishop Snyder, St. Johns Country Day School’s dynamic duo of freshman Matthew Stratton and senior Benjamin Kailes stayed tethered with Stratton taking third in the 1600 in 4:36.94 and Kailes fourth in 4:39.61 to both move to regions. Later, in the 3200, the duo kept their table for two reservations with a second by Stratton in 9:47.51 with Kailes in third at 10:27.61. Stratton and Providence freshman Steven Cartwright, who won the 1600 in 4:34.95, broke from the pack early in the 3200 with both very familiar with each through cross country season and early track meets. Cartwright won the 3200 in 9:47.28 holding off a surging Stratton with a 9:47.51 finish.

Other highlights for St. Johns included a first in the 300 hurdles from Courtney Sage, a 1-2 finish in the 400 from Jett Isley and Corey McDaniels with McDaniels third in the 200 and Kendall Sage’s third in the 100.

Also for St. Johns, Seventh grader Sofia Conde battled with the likes of state-ranked veterans Laci Watford of University Christian, Gianna Forte of Bishop Snyder and Providence senior Audrey Woods, all returning state meet athletes to finished fifth in 5:49.49 in the 1600. Watford, fifth in the 1600 and 10th in the 800 last year, won in 5:15.3. The same four took the top four spots in the 3200 with Watford winning in 11:44.99.

At district 5-2A, with Keystone Heights High senior Alex Guy, a recent school record breaker in the 1600 with a recent 4:23 clocking at the Pepsi Relays, dropped to the 800 to blast the field with a 2:02.11 split to win by four seconds. Guy doubled down with a jog-like 4:42.70 split to win the 1600 before watching teammate Tyler Shaw, a freshman, take fourth in the 10:56.88. Guy also anchored the third place 4 x 400 relay to a 3:44.37 split with Jerry and Jay Payne and Tyler Cumbus.

In district 5-2A, Keystone Heights High sophomore Camryn Williams dominated her 1600 with a 5:38.47 winning time by 22 seconds. The Lady Indians also got a fourth in the 800 from sophomore Shelby Phillips in 2:51.77.

In district 1-4A, at Flagler Palm Coast High, with the Fleming Island High distance coach Karen Moritz having the uneviably task of choosing from a stable of at least 8-10 possible athletes for the distance events; led by senior Will Livesay and sophomore Kameron Wallizada, it was junior Landon Opp who emerged with a scintillating 4:35.89 second place finish in the 1600 to Buchholz senior Cade Monk, seventhin 4A last year in 4:23.19, that caught the wide-eyed Moritz on the sideline.

Monk had already won the 3200 in 9:55.74, but three area athletes; Oakleaf High junior Dylan Nelson, Livesay and Wallizada finished out the top four with Nelson surging to take second in 9:59.198. Livesay and Wallizada have both been under 10 minutes and will be needing that at the region meet.

For the girls, Chiang chunked out wins of 16 seconds in the 3200 with an 11:37.73 winning time with Millson third at 11:54.95 while coming back to win the 1600 in 5:16.05 with Schaudel seven seconds off that mark in second. Both girls are just freshmen.

Also at district 1-4A, Glenn Rodgers won in the 110 hurdles with another sub-15 second split and Ezra McCollum got second in the high jump for Fleming Island.

For the Fleming Island girls, Audrey Millican was second in the 400, Marisa Kortright was fourth in the 800 and Lily Amsden was third in the 100.

Oakleaf got a first in shot put from Jalen Rivers with the girls 4 x 400 getting a tremendous anchor leg from Hadassah Davis, also third in 200, to win that event. Takayla Edwards got second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 100 hurdles with defending state triple jump champion Loren Johnson fouling out of that event, but winning the long jump. Tamira Briley was fourth in the triple jump. Sydeny Brown won the high jump at 4’-11.75 with less misses at the same height from teammate Tahja Peoples.

For district 4-3A, scheduled for Tues., April 15 at Nease High School, Orange Park High senior John Bear, injured through most of 2019 has slowly and methodically made his way back to contention with a recent 10:04 at the St. Johns River Athletic Conference and a 4:41 at the Don Hall Invite 1600. Bear was last year’s district champion in 4:27.85 and looks to be targeting a defense of that title plus his 3200 title. Bear finished a disappointing fifth at regions, but went to regions in the 3200 at 9:52.55. At state, Bear finished ninth in the 1600 in 4:25.08 and finished 14th in the 3200.

Orange Park and Middleburg both have top sprinters in Alex Collier and Marcus Floyd who have tangoed all season with Collier, third in 3A last year in the 400, one of the top junior runners in the USA.

Orange Park has shot putter and discus thrower Destiny Basden as a top area thrower. Middleburg high jumper Bryce Quiett looks to return to the state meet after a third last year.


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