A top 10 time in the country in the boys 800, a season's best in the state for the 110-meter hurdles, and a couple of surprise upsets marked the day as athletes gathered at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland on Thursday for the FHSAA 3A Region 2 Championship.
Stealing the show was Ocala Vanguard's Alex Kay, who outdueled rival Jacob Miley of Matanzas to win the Boys 800 in a blistering time of 1:52.24. The mark was the sixth fastest in the nation this year and sets up what promises to be a formidable showdown in the 3A State Finals this week in Jacksonville. That race will feature Florida's current 800-meter leader Hugh Brittenham of Estero, ranked number 4 in the country, versus Kay, Miley and James Hasell of East Lake. All have clocked sub-1:55 times in the 800 this season.
Kay, who helped lead the Vanguard boys to a second-place team finish at the meet, punched his ticket to Jacksonville in the Boys 1600-meter run and 4x800 relay, as well. The Knights' time of 7:59.53 in the 4x800 earned them a number two seed in that event for the state meet.
Sharing the individual spotlight for boys at the meet was Demarcus Adams. The Mainland High School senior took first in the Boys 400-meter run and also helped the Buccaneers to a first place overall finish as a team. But it was his time of 13.82 in the 110-meter hurdles that really turned heads.
The time currently ranks Adams number one in the state for the 110 hurdles and paves the way for a highly anticipated match up in Jacksonville between Adams, Wavell Hinds of Northeast, and Thomas Burns of Miami Northwestern. All crossed the finish line in under 14 seconds at their regional meets this week.
Other highlight performances on the boys' side included athletes Isaiah Bolden of Wesley Chapel, who took firsts in both the 100 and 200-meter dash, Steffan Mallory of Mainland, who took seconds in the 200 and 400, and Stone Baker of River Ridge High School in the pole vault. There were audible gasps from the crowd as Baker, who currently ranks tops in the state for pole vault, cleared the bar at 16 feet even, nearly 3 feet higher than second place finisher Tucker Brace of Land O'Lakes.
Boone bounced back in the triple jump with a distance of 38 feet, 1.75 inches to beat out Mackenzie Forest of Ocala Forest (36'5.5"), Tyra Thomas of Auburndale (36'), and Shatayvia Riche of Belleview (35'5.5").
Tyra Thomas had perhaps the best day among 3A girls. In addition to her third-place finish in the triple jump, the Auburndale freshman placed first in the Girls' 300-meter hurdles, second in the 100-meter hurdles, and was part of the Auburndale Girls' 4x100 relay team that finished second in the region. In the hurdle events, she battled teammate Cathrina Morris, who edged Thomas at the line in the 100 hurdles and finished just behind her in the 300 hurdles.
In the girls' distance events, meet favorite Natalie Abernathy of Land O'Lakes led from start to finish in the 3200-meter run, to take the regional crown in a time of 11:31, but faded somewhat in the afternoon sun, finishing fourth in the 1600 meters. Kareena Gladis of Leesburg won that event with a time of 5:14.74, beating out runner-up Mykenzee Marshall of Vanguard by nearly seven seconds. Still, it was an impressive day for Marshall, who took second place in the 3200 as well, and will race in both at the state meet.
There were no such upsets in the Girls' 100 and 200-meter races, as meet favorite Tamari Davis of Gainesville High School proved once again why she is one of the top young sprinters in the country. Davis, who currently ranks number one in the country in the 200 meters and number five in the 100 meters, dominated the field in both events, winning the 100 in a time of 11.51 seconds and the 200 in 23.92.
Both races showcased a talented crop of freshmen girls, with Saniyah Tillman of Auburndale and D'Janai Bostick of Belleview taking second and fourth in the 100, and Tillman and Cydney Wright of Mainland taking second and third in the 200.
The youth movement was interrupted only by senior Cesline Anselm of Leesburg, who finished third in the 100 with a time of 12.55 seconds, and junior Alandi Jacobs of Liberty, who took fourth in the 200 with a time of 25.81 seconds.
The top four finishers in each event on both the boys and girls' sides in Class 3A Region 2 advanced to the state meet this week in Jacksonville, with additional at-large spots available to be announced this weekend.
Top team finishers in 3A Region 2 were Auburndale High School on the girls' side and Mainland High School for the boys. Congratulations to all who competed!