3A Recap: MNW Girls Win 9th Straight, Burns Breaks Batman's State Record, Gear Sweeps

Was there ever any doubt? The Miami Northwestern girls team has already reached dynastic proportions. Over this past weekend at IMG Academy in Bradenton the Northwestern girls made it their ninth straight team title and their 14th overall. Both the consecutive and overall championships are girls state records. This year, the MNW girls amassed 136 points, not quite the 157 they tallied in 2016 but equally as dominant. The MNW conversation starts with Twanisha Terry and the rest of the quartet on the 4x100m relay. Taranique Alexander, Christon Kingcade and Markalah Hart, along with Terry scored huge points across a series of events.

It began on Friday with the 4x100m prelims. The girls ran a 45.20, a new stadium and state record and seven-tenths of a second off the national record. They did not quite live up to that time in Saturday's finals but their 45.39 was two-and-a-half seconds faster than the rest of the field. Then the quartet broke up for their individual events. Hart, just a freshman, ran the fastest 100m hurdle prelim time (14.74) but false started in the finals. It opened the door for Gaither senior, Alessa Sandusky to break through for her first state title in 14.55. Hart's senior teammate Ariayanna Val took third in that final (14.58). Pine Forest's Michaela Thompson was second just behind Sandusky (14.56). However, Hart came back for the 300m finals and won it with a 40.28. 

"I set it in my head that I was just going to get to that line as fast as I could," Hart said. 

Terry, a senior, swept the sprints with an 11.75 to win the 100 and a 23.73 to win the 200m, that's on the back of a 23.25 prelim time. Gaither's LaSarah Hargrove was Terry's shadow in both events taking second in both the 100m (11.90) and the 200m (24.05). 

"We came in with the mindset to just get the stick around the track, the (4x1 prelim) time was shocking," Terry said. "Our coaches take time out of their day, out of their life to help us get better on the track."

Alexander, a senior, kicked in her contributions, individually. She won the triple jump on Saturday at 12.23m (40-1.5) with teammate Dascha Robinson in third. Alexander won Friday's long jump at 6.01m (19-8.75). 

The Bulls are still strong in the throwing events, too. Senior Kaylah Clark won the shot with a 13.10m (42-11.75) . Sophomore teammate Alyssa Richard took second at 13.05m (42-9.75). Clark took second in the discus (136-6) behind Carol City's Markeisha Lewis' 43.04m (141-2). MNW teammate Chanel Dawson grabbed seventh in the event. The MNW girls capped the night as Ulani Toussaint, De'Andreah Young, Ayoola Gbolade and Hart ran a 3:43.94 to win the 4x400m relay. That was off their US #5 3:39.95 from Pepsi Florida Relays but it was almost six seconds ahead of the field.

Climbing up to third place were the Fort Myers girls. That is, to say, Krissy Gear and the rest of the 4x800m relay. Gear pulled the improbable distance trifecta, winning both the 800m and 3200m on Friday but coming back on Saturday with Caroline MacKenzie, Sidney Oakes-Lottridge and Fiona Kurland (7th in the 1600m) to take fourth in the 4x800m final.

In the 1600m final, Gear saw her pace setter from the 3200m in Lincoln freshman Alyson Churchill. In a near mirror image of the 3200m, Churchill raced out to an early lead, pressuring the other runners. At the end of the second lap, Churchill led the way at 2:28 and was three seconds ahead of Gear. Churchill had not forgotten Gear running her down in the 3200m and accelerated on the first turn of the final lap, then opening up her kick on the back stretch. Gear went with her. Niceville's Abbie Harrelson made a big push on the last turn but could not quite get up to Churchill and Gear. Gear closed coming out of the turn and kept coming on inexorably. Finally, with 50 meters to go, Gear got past Churchill and brought it home for the win.

"I was so excited about today, it was hard to fall asleep last night," Gear said. "I woke up two hours early and paced the halls of the hotel we were staying in."

The 4x800m relay was one of the more exciting events on Saturday. MNW got out to the early lead, as expected. Their second exchange was not smooth but they still held a two-second lead on the field. Into the third leg, Dillard moved in front, then Niceville. Erin Eubanks' third leg gave Hannah Schneidewind a four-second lead into the last leg. Schneidewind increased that lead and came through with a 9:20.97 that won the event and set a new school record.

Northeast sophomore Jan'Taijah Ford won the 400m final in 53.90. Teammate Carshaylah Harrison won the high jump at 1.67 (5-5.75). Merritt Island freshman Abigail Olson won the pole vault at 3.50m (11-5.75) in a jump off with Charlotte sophomore Natalie Jen. 

On the boys side, it would have been extremely difficult to find a better performance in any classification, to top MNW junior Thomas Burns' day. Burns took a back seat to Northeast's Damion Thomas in the 110m hurdle final with Thomas going 13.94 and Burns going 14.54.

However, Burns' wheelhouse is the 300m hurdles. His 36.65 from Friday's prelims was already scorching but his 35.90 to win the final broke Bershawn "Batman" Jackson's state record set in 2002. Burns would move into the #2 US spot with that time but his 35.57 from regionals is already the top mark in the nation this year. 

"This feels sensational," Burns said. "I had no idea I was that close to the record. To break it is something not a lot of people accomplish, especially when it's someone you look up to."

Burns older brother Artie was a hurdling stud in his high school years. Artie Burns won 110m hurdling state titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and a 300m title in 2013. Burns attended the University of Miami and was recently drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round. 

"I definitely have flashbacks of being out here," Artie Burns said. "Just to see my brother, he and his teammates out here doing something elite, bringing that state title, it just brings a lot of emotions to me."

Did we mention that the MNW boys won the team title? They did. 57 to Creekside's 50. Divaad Wilson took third in the high jump, Tiondre Toomer placed fourth in the 400m final. Toomer, Burns, Frederick Gonsalvies and Nigel Bethel teamed up to win the 4x400m final in 3:12.31.

That would move into the fourth-best time in the US but the boys' 3:10.56 from Pepsi Florida Relays is already the top time. Bethel, Wilson, Larry Robbins and Chatarius Atwell teammed up to win the 4x100m relay in 41.50. 

Norland sophomore Tyrese Cooper was relatively quiet over the weekend. Quiet only because the bar is set so high. Cooper is used to setting down state and national number ones and is one of, if not the elite, high school sprinter in the state. But even the best can have an off day.

If you want to call an off day a 10.63 (2nd) in the 100m final, a 21.13 (1st) in the 200m final, and a 45.51 (1st) in the 400m final, okay, it's a testament to the towering expectations that follow Cooper every meet he attends. Still, Cooper showed a lot of grit coming back from a 100m final that saw a jubilant Chauncy Smart win with a 10.56. 

"I had a way better start in the finals (as opposed to the prelims)," Smart said. "I felt like a rocket ship coming out of the blocks and I didn't want to come out of my drive phase too early but I eventually transitioned into my acceleration and maintained. It was a perfect race."

Smart was second to Cooper in Friday's prelims 10.63 to 10.74 but that's where Smart said, he'd gotten off to a bad start. With the thicker-legged Smart, a powerful explosion out of the blocks was tantamount to competing with Cooper. 

Cooper would bounce back like the champ he is, rocking out wins in the 200m and 400m finals. Cooper still leads the nation with his 200m (20.55 from Bob Hayes) and 400m (45.45 from Louie Bing) times.

"It threw me off a little bit (the 100m final) but if I run like I have something negative in my mind, I don't run well," Cooper said. "I just get this Kodak Black song in my head and de-stress."

Runners up Creekside performed well in the distance events. Senior Joseph Storey won a photo finish over Vanguard's Joey Fitzpatrick 1:53.26 to 1:53.35. Even Leto's Dalton Morley was right there at 1:53.81. Creekside's Matthew Clark made a late charge to edge Estero's Hugh Brittenham 4:17.16 to 4:17.78 in the 1600m final. Clark had won Friday night's 3200m in 9:21.34. 

Teammate Nicholas Deal was third in Friday's 3200m and fifth in Saturday's 1600m. Naturally, the Creekside boys, Clark, Deal, Storey and Matthew Ortiz won the 4x800m relay in 7:56.72. 

Belen Jesuit's Donald Chaney won the high jump at 2.03 (6-8). Gaither's Carter Palasti won the pole vault way up at 4.68m (15-4.25). Sebastian River's Queshun Watson swept both horizontal jumps, a 7.29m (23-11) to win the long on Friday and a 14.61m (47-11.25) to win the triple on Saturday.