Twelve individual state titles, one team championship, one team runner-up and numerous other medals. The haul for area athlete’s at this past weekend’s FHSAA state track finals in Jacksonville was long and impressive.
It started Friday with the 1A/2A meet, mired in rain that never ended. Maclay’s 4×800 team opened with a thrilling victory. NFC senior Darrielle McQueen won a state title in triple jump and runner-up in long jump. NFC junior Christian Philpott doubled wins in the 200 and 400-meter dashes. Wakulla’s Corion Knight and Keith Gavin went 1-2 in the high jump, respectively, and Madison Harris nabbed second in the 800.
Godby’s Caitlin Wilson won the 400, before Florida High’s 4×400 team won gold, anchored by 100 and 200 runner-up Josh Davis. The Seminoles boys grabbed a heartwarming 2A runner-up trophy, just a few weeks removed from a well-publicized accident involving their team bus on return from a meet.
“This was a difficult last half of the season with the bus wreck,” Florida High coach Tyrone McGriff said. “I didn’t know how to handle practice that Monday after. It was a rough day. I didn’t know how the kids were going to run that next week. But they did what they had to do to get their bodies ready to run. I’m just really proud of them.”
Saturday’s 3A/4A meet was full of drama, as Chiles’ boys team won the 3A title on the legs of just eight kids, two of whom won individual titles– senior Justin Cromartie in the 110 hurdles, who also took third in the 300 hurdles, and junior Avery Bartlett, who won the 800, to go with fourth in the 1600.
“He beat a very good field,” Timberwolves coach Scott Gowan said of Bartlett after the meet. “He runs 1:52 and PR’s by two seconds, this after running 1:54 this morning (in the 4×800), 4:16 this afternoon (in the mile), runs 1:52, and he comes back and scored 48.90 on the (4×400) relay. When you’ve got the horse, you’ve got to ride the horse. He and Cromartie were the horses today.”
Cromartie and Lincoln junior John Burt were in a dead heat in the 110 hurdles, and a crucial lean at the line picked up 10 huge points for the Timberwolves’ point total.
“One one-hundredth of a second is two points,” Gowan said. “He leaned, John leaned, and he finished his high school career as a state champion.”
Cromartie ran as a sophomore and scored. Last year as a junior, he braved inclement conditions but did not score. Gowan said Cromartie has worked harder in the last year than anyone he coaches.
“You have no idea how proud of him I am,” Gowan said.
“He left last year in tears and said, ‘Coach, I will be back.’ And 365 days later, he’s a state champion. He’s the best hurdler in the state of Florida in all divisions. I’m proud I get to say I work with him every day. He’s been a dream to coach.
“He’s a winner through and through. He did what he said he was going to do. We started working out in the weight room the first Monday in June, training for tonight, and he came through.”
While Burt lost by the narrowest of margins, his silver medal paired nicely with the one he achieved earlier in the high jump, joining Lincoln girls jumper and hurdler Brianna Watts-Pittman (triple jump runner-up) and sprinter Jadzia Beasley (100, 200 winner) as Trojans with huge days.
“He got there but just by a little,” Burt said of his close call versus Cromartie.
“It doesn’t bother me. I was going over (the hurdles) pretty good. I’ll take second. Last year, I didn’t do really well as a sophomore. I’ve actually been focusing on track. To come in and get two seconds, that’s a big improvement. It definitely makes me hungry to work hard over the summer. I’ll try to get back here and win it next year.”
And then there was Leon junior Sukhi Khosla, who got aggravated by setting the top mile time in the country at regionals, only to have it broken a few days later. He wanted to own the record but that meant breaking 4:06. Khosla ran 4:05.96, then backed that record-setting win up with a 9:05 top finish in the 3200.
After a healthy 12 months of racing, Khosla still doesn’t know what his ceiling is, but this offseason will see him training to attack some of the lowest times seen in distance running.
“The sub-four minutes talk is always there it seems like,” Khosla said.
“It’s a great barrier to go for, but I think people put it up a little higher than it should be. Whatever my goals are next year, I’m just so happy to be where I’m at now. I never thought I’d be this fast by the end of my junior year. To still have a whole other year left, I don’t know, whatever happens, happens.”