Athletes Of The Week: Jeremiah Green, Johna Whitaker

<div style="background: url(; width: 100%; height: 100px"> <h1 style="color: #fff; line-height: 100px; text-align: center; font-size: 42px; text-shadow: 2px 2px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8);"> Florida Athletes of the Week</h1> </div>

GIRLS WINNER: Johna Whitaker - Senior @ Pine Forest

When Johna Whitaker came to Pine Forest High School as a freshman, she was a sprinter, not a hurdler.  Coach Paul Bryan had several faster sprinters on his team at the time and suggested to Whitaker's father that they teach her to hurdle. Bryan says she was a natural from the start has progressed dramatically since that first meeting.
"She is much physically and mentally tougher than she was as a 9th grader. The upperclassmen before her were great examples to her and she has become one now for our younger kids."
Last year, Whitaker finished first in the 100 meter hurdles at state and third in the 300 meter hurdles, and in 2013 is picking up where she left off. Bryan credits her growth this season to new hurdle coach Kevin Rollins who joined the staff after being the head boys coach at West Florida Tech.
"There are not many people I would trust with hurdlers that I have had for three years, but I had complete faith in Coach Rollins and knew he would have more time and technical expertise and it would free me up to work in other needed areas. Our goals were set forr Johna' so that she could possibly hit PR's by the end of the year. Her training has been specific and intense to say the least."
It hasn't always been a smooth road for the senior.  When she was born she had a heart issue that was miraculously healed. As a result, she has a strong spiritual faith and honors God for healing her and allowing her to always run her best. That determination was on display this weekend at the Mobile Challange of Champions where she faced some of the top competition in the southeast. Bryan says that whenever they get invited to go this meet they jump at the opportunity.
"We have gone the last six years and it has always produced a seasons best performance up to that point. The game plan for Johna' was to set new PR's weather she won or not. She always rises to a challenge. Coach Rollins had B1 to B10 hurdle goal times. She is not a front runner, the bigger the race, the tougher the challenge, the better she runs."
In the 100 meter hurdles, the goal was to get her time down into the 13.7 range. Whitaker finished second to Kendell Williams of Georgia, but still managed to pull out a very impressive 13.73, the best in Florida, and third best in the United States for 2013. The 300 meter race went out extremely fast, but the Pine Forest standout stayed on her goal times and won in a foot race the last 100 meters. Coach Bryan says she stuttered the last hurdle and slowed her time down a bit, so there are still things to improve on. Despite, that Whitaker was able to run a new personal best time of 42.42, the best in Florida, and fifth best in the U.S. Bryan and Coach Rollins were impressed with her performance and he says he was glad to see all the hard work both of them put in pay off. 
"Her goal is to win both the 100 and 300 meter hurdles this year, but this is an extremely fast group of hurdlers in the state this year. She's willing to do whatever will help her team finish as high as possible at state. She is a special young lady, humble and selfless that has worked hard for everything she has achieved. It's hard to let kids like that go at graduation."

Johna's Athlete Profile

BOYS WINNER: Jeremiah Green - Senior @ Hillsborough

Jeremiah Green is the top triple jumper in the country. He is the defending state champion and national champion in that event, but he wants to be known as more. He wants to be known as Jeremiah Green, an awesome jumper, and an awesome sprinter. This past week he put both talents on display and showcased why his legacy will be known in both realms. Hillsborough Coach Joseph Sipp says the difference between this year and last year's success resides in a renewed confidence for the senior.
"Jeremiah is having a great year this year, he has more confidence in himself this year and he is much stronger this year then last year. Last year he was just coming in to his self and really didn't know what he was capable of now he is full of confidence and is working his butt off."
Green has been working with the Terriers' jump coach Karieem Webb since his freshman year, and this year they have been focusing on the technical aspects of both the long jump and triple jump. In addition, he has been working on his speed to become a great sprinter as well. Sipp says Green is one of those guys that nothing is too much for him.
"If you tell him to run through a wall and it will help him he is going to do and do it hard. Whenever we have a hard workout he is always their motivating the other guys to push through. Jeremiah is a great leader on and off the track."
The seniors' workhorse mentality was evident at the recent Hillsborough County Championships. In the field, he set a new season best, Florida #2 and top 20 national mark of 23-9.25 for the long jump. He went onto win the triple jump with a leap of 48-0 even, and captured double gold in the sprints with new personal bests of 10.64 and 21.45. His performance was worth 40 points and helped lead the Terriers to a conference championship. It was the first time an athlete won four events at their conference meet since Charles Johnson did it in the 1980's. 
Four days later Green was at it again, but this time it was only one event, his specialty, the triple jump. The goal coming in was to break the Florida Relays record of 52-4. The cold and rain of prelims halted Green to a jump of 49-9, and deflated the excitement out of the youngster's wings. Sipp and Green chatted after that jump and the coach told him that he didn't come all that way to be average.
"I told him he was an elite jump and an elite jumper and jump in any conditions. I also told him that there were a lot of people their to watch him jump. So he got himself together and went 52-1 on his first jump in the finals. What makes him a great jumper is that he is so coachable. He is such a competitor. He also has one of the best high school jump coaches in Coach Webb."
As the state series approaches, the coaches and Green have another goal, break the state record 52-5.5. Coach Sipp knows Green will compete in the long jump and triple jump in Jacksonville, but is unsure about which running events his star will perform in. He believes Green will go 53 feet before his high school career is over and says Jeremiah is one of the best athletes he's ever coached.
"He has to go down as the top one because he is the first athlete that we have had that has been number one in the nation.  That is very special, you don't realize how big that is until you sit back and think about it.Number ONE in the nation. He is leaving a great legacy not only here at Hillsborough but in our county, our state, and even in the nation.  A guy like Jeremiah will never be forgotten around here."
As for his time after high school, Green has signed with the University of Alabama. Sipp says the Crimson Tide are getting a very special athlete.
"He is a one of a kind and he will be the kind of athlete that they can build a program around. I expect to see Jeremiah Green in the 2016 Olympics representing the USA in the triple and long jump and I expect for him to get his college degree and to continue to be the great person that he is today.