Day one of the FHSAA State Finals brought inclement weather, lightning delays, and more lightning delays.
As the time kept getting later and the weather didn't seem to let up, the schedule for the next day started to look like timed finals in the rest of the sprint events that wouldn't get through the preliminary round.
One race remained on tap for the first day, the eight heats of the 3200m. After several weather delays, six of the eight heats of the 3200m were able to run, including the state meet record breaking run by Parker Valby in class 3A.
The next heat on the track was the 3A boys 3200m and as a storm cell approached, the decision to put both classifications -- 3A and 4A -- on the track was made. Nearly 48 athletes made their way to the waterfall start of the race. As the athletes were getting their final instructions, lightning struck.
It was about 10 PM at this point and after several opportunities to warm up and get race ready, the 3A/4A boys were on yet another weather delay.
After about a half an hour of delay, the decision was made to move the 3A/4A boys 3200m to the final event on the final day of the FHSAA State Final.
This meant that many athletes who had planned to do a double or even a distance triple would have to do it all on one day -- something they had not planned for.
Athletes regrouped and went back to their hotel rooms to prepare for the next day.
Saturday came and it was sunny, hot Jacksonville. Typical Florida to bring horrible weather one day and beautiful weather the next.
The FHSAA moved the 3A/4A boys 1600m to go before the girls 1600m to give those who would run both the time to recover in between the races.
A few athletes made the strategic call to scratch the 1600m to focus on the 3200m.
A few hours later as 24 heats of the 4x400m were coming to a close, there was light at the end of the tunnel for the 3A/4A 3200m runners.
The 3A 3200m boys got to the line, were given their final instructions, and were in start position, when BAM -- lightning.
These athletes had already warmed up, some had already scratched one event and couldn't fathom missing another with seniors in the race just itching to race their final FHSAA State Finals.
After two weather delays over the course of two days, it was time for the 3A/4A boys to tap into their mental toughness to get ready to race.
Finally the weather let up. It was cool and there was finally light at the end of the tunnel.
Varsity - 3A Boys 3200 Meters 3A ============================================================================== Athlete Yr Team Mark ============================================================================== 1 Ethan Geiger 11 Robinson 9:16.71 2 Aidan O'Gorman 12 New Smyrna Beach Sr 9:19.28 3 Javier Vento 12 Belen Jesuit Prep 9:25.39 4 Thomas Weiler 11 South Fork 9:25.86 5 Andy Martinez 12 Viera (Melbourne) 9:39.53 6 John Perez 12 Port Charlotte 9:41.49 7 Jahari White 10 Bartram Trail 9:42.00 8 Justin Tackling 11 Nease 9:42.08
"It was tough to rebound mentally, especially waiting for so long and having to scratch the 1600m," Geiger said.
The Robinson junior is the first track state champion for his school in 10 years. Geiger, blown away that he was able to achieve his goal after the chaos that surrounded the meet is amazed that as a junior he was able to achieve his long-term goal of winning a state title.
"My head got into the right place when I went on the line after the delay. I knew I had to do it mostly for all of the people who support me, rather than myself. They spent so long waiting for me to race despite everything," Geiger said.
After a successful junior cross country and track season, Geiger is looking forward to going sub nine minutes next year and become the first person in Hillsborough county to ever do it.
After the 3A boys showed strength after delay, it was the 4A boys time to race. The last event of the evening and the first time the FHSAA State Finals has ever ended on the 3200m.
Ben Hartvigsen and Nehemiah Rivers took it out hard knowing that they needed to put the pressure on to win the race. Hartvigsen gained a significant lead through the 1600m with Angel Vicioso moving into second eyeing his jersey.
Vicioso came around the 200m and started to close on Hartvigsen. After a 4x800m and 1600m state title win, Vicioso was eyeing a third state title.
As the two came around the curve, Vicioso took the 4A win with Hartvigsen coming in five seconds behind and Rivers in third.
Varsity - 4A Boys 3200 Meters 4A ============================================================================== Athlete Yr Team Mark ============================================================================== 1 Angel Vicioso 12 Oviedo 9:15.05 2 Benjamin Hartvigsen 12 Sarasota 9:20.25 3 Nehemiah Rivers 12 Wharton 9:24.85 4 Yonas Sauers 11 Alonso 9:26.30 5 Caden Monk 12 Buchholz 9:33.01 6 Nicholas Miller 12 West Orange 9:33.72 7 Alec Latzke 12 Countryside Senior 9:36.88 8 Michael Fiore 10 Fort Lauderdale 9:40.47
It took mental toughness for these 3200m athletes to rebound after delay. There was nothing that could have prepared them for the two days of chaos, but with grace these athletes crushed it, closing the FHSAA State Finals with the 3200m for the first time ever in Florida history.