Highlights from Friday's high school races at the Florida Relays.
With several of the top seeds and pre-race favorites coming into the meet scratching likely saving themselves for the 1600 later on Friday afternoon, the boys 3200 at the Florida Relays had an open door for the rest of the field for someone to step up and become a star themselves.
Flanagan junior Shamar Henry answered that call closing fast over the last lap on Creekside senior Jack Dravo, who led a good portion of the race to win in a 19 second PR dropping performance of 9:19.93. Last spring as a sophomore, Henry only had a personal best of 10:14 to contrast the drastic improvement that he has made over the last 12 months.
Dravo finished second improving his PR from 9:30 to 9:24, while Columbus junior Alejandro Romagosa (3rd, 9:25) and Flagler Palm Coast senior Zach Spooner (4th, 9:29) joined him under 9:30.
It seems like every time that Creekside freshmen Alyson Johnson and Evangelical Christian senior Ava Povich meet to race in Gainesville, one can expect a battle to the bitter end.
After splitting victories against one another indoors at the 3K distance including Povich winning the inaugural Florida Indoor Championships state title in the event, the majority of the Florida Relays girls 3200 meter race was the two locked together ahead of the rest of the field.
Povich led much of the way with Johnson content to sit on her until the last lap when there was multiple lead changes between the two. Johnson made the final successful move for the lead to pull away on the final straightaway with 10:49.95 victory and her first race under 11 minutes in the 3200.
Meanwhile, Sickles senior Alexandra Raquet had been lingering back in third place for a while and made a late surge to nip Povich (3rd, 10:51.54) at the line for runner-up honors in a new PR of 10:50.65.
The race had a total of 10 girls break 10 minutes including several joining the club for the first time with Berkeley Prep's Hannah Latif (4th, 10:56.55), Riverdale's Ansley Kelly (5th, 10:57.69), Osceola's Abigail Clements (6th, 10:57.97), King's Academy's Avery Fronrath (7th, 10:58.19), Ponte Vedra's Daisy Ross (8th, 10:58.49), Maclay's Caroline Couch (9th, 10:58.56), and Lake Minneola's Ava Hendrix (10th, 10:59.76). Only Fronrath and Couch amongst that swarm of finishers had broken 11 minutes before the Florida Relays.
Boys 100 Meter Dash
Montverde Academy senior Issam Asinga got the win he needed and time he needed to push himself into US top 5 all-time category in the boys 100 meter dash.
Asinga set the Florida Relays high school boys 100 meter dash record previously held by Anthony Schwartz of American Heritage at 10.15 from the 2017 meet rolling on the backstretch where the 100 meter dash was contested with a 10.10 wind-legal clocking (+1.0 m/s) to blast ahead a loaded fast section of Florida's fastest in the event.
Only national record holder Trentavis Friday at 10.00 and three past Florida high school greats in Jeff Demps at 10.01, Anthony Schwartz at 10.09, and Jaylen Slade at 10.09 have run faster than Asinga in United States high school history for the 100 meter dash.
Running 10.09 in the month of March definitely has the Texas A&M commit well ahead of many of the past all-time preps in high school history at this time of the season.
Creekside junior Christian Miller might be the next Florida sprinter to ascend into the U.S. top 10 all-time list as he finished runner-up behind Asinga with a personal best and US No. 2 clocking of 10.22.
Both Asinga and Miller had clearly separated from the rest of field with West Orange senior Valentino Rudolph in third at 10.55, American Heritage freshman Brandon Bennett in fourth at 10.56, and Seminole Sanford senior Amari Turner in fifth at 10.60.
Girls 100 Meter Hurdles
In a mild upset, Bullis School (MD) senior Myla Greene was able to defeat the current national leader and Florida state record holder Aleesa Samuel of Somerset Academy Pembroke Pines with a wind-legal clocking of 13.48 just ahead of Samuel in second at 13.49.
Certainly, Greene though had a great resumé coming into the meet as a New Balance Nationals Outdoor runner-up last spring in the 100 meter hurdles but failed to make the finals of the 60 meter hurdles at New Balance Nationals Indoor this past month, which Samuel won her first high school national title in.
It was a 1-3 finish for the Bullis program making the trip down to Florida from Maryland with Greene as the Florida Relays champion and junior teammate Kennedy Flynn in third place with a time of 13.83.
Despite the favorable wind-legal tail wind conditions, sub 14 second performers in Bob Hayes Invitational champion Brittney Jennings (4th, 14.04) of Sandalwood and last week's FSU Relays champion Chelsi Williams (6th, 14.11) of George Jenkins had slightly off days over 14 seconds which has become the norm for both 4A state title contenders.
American Heritage's Gianna Hansen from a slow heat win pushed herself into a top 5 finish with a personal best clocking of 14.08 from the first heat.
Girls 100 Meter Dash
Another meet record was broken in the girls 100 meter dash by one of Montverde Academy's superstars in Adaejah Hodge. The junior Hodge was coming off her US top 10 all-time personal best clocking at the FSU Relays of 11.18, which was wind-legal too.
In a field including virtually all of the state's elite sprinters, Hodge convincingly pulled away from them all with another swift wind-legal performance of 11.26 to break the Florida Relays high school record of 11.29 previous held by Tamri Davis from Gainesville High and Octavious Freeman from Lakes Wales at the 2011 meet.
In the race for runner-up honors behind Hodge, Evangelical Christian junior McKenzie Travis posted her fastest wind-legal time ever at 11.47 which ranks third in the country to finish just ahead of the Miami Southridge senior duo of Cynteria James (3rd, 11.49) and Somiyah Braggs (4th, 11.59).
Boys 110 Meter Hurdles
The fast section of the boys 110 meter hurdles saw a great race brewing until one of the last hurdle sets between two athletes who should certainly be competing for the 4A state title this spring in Jabari Armstrong of George Steinbrenner and Markel Jones of Lake Mary.
Unfortunately for Jones, he clipped one of the last hurdles and landed awkwardly before getting up to finish last overall in a time of 17.11. Meanwhile, Armstrong cleared the last set cleanly and came across the line first overall and just off his 14.19 personal best with a wind-legal 14.24 victory at the Florida Relays by the sophomore.
Armstrong though nearly got beat by time a few heats later as Montverde Academy senior Kai Graves-Blanks was seeded for the last heat of four despite having the fastest PR in the field at 13.61 as a California state champion last spring while at Upland High School posted a season best time of 14.27 to win his heat with the second fastest time overall.
Another heat winner in Efrem White of Vero Beach also impressed as only a freshman clocked a time of 14.60 in heat two to finish fourth overall. IMG Academy senior Kobe Mendez ended up finishing second in the fast heat after the fall of Markel Jones with a 14.58 clocking.
Girls 800 Meter Run
For the second week in a row, Michelle Smith of Montverde Academy dipped under 2:10 in the 800 meter run but this time did a bit differently.
After having the assist last week at the FSU Relays in Bishop Kenny's Ka'Myya Haywood leading out for a fast first 600 meters before Smith ultimately scooted past her to win in a US No. 2 time of 2:07, the versatile track athlete Smith had to do the pace setting herself this weekend in Gainesville.
The national leader in the 400 meter hurdles and getting a week off in the event, Smith led the fast section of the girls 800 through the first 400 meters in 1:04 with American Heritage's Sydni Studesville and Northeast's Samantha Kavanagh running right off her. Smith stretched out her lead on the back stretch to come home with the win in her second fastest 800 effort ever at 2:08.39.
Kavanagh (2nd, 2:11.58) was able to just edge out Studesville (3rd, 2:12.32) at the line for second as Studesville has now run back to back 2:12 PR races at Dunbar last weekend and Florida Relays this weekend.
Meanwhile, in the following heat, North Port freshman Malia Hambrick (4th, 2:16.21) and Naples sophomore Tara Watkins (5th, 2:16.54) both pushed each to bump a lot of runners down from the fast section and move inside the top 5 times overall in the event contested in 3 heats.
Boys 800 Meter Run
One of the best battles for first place on the day certainly was witnessed in the boys 800 between two of the nation's best in Nike Indoor Nationals 800 meter champion Nathan Cumberbatch of Shorewood High School in Wisconsin and one of Florida's fastest all-time in Miguel Pantojas of Hagerty.
Pantojas was the defending meet champion in the event last spring in 1:52 before ultimately running 1:49 to finish his junior season of outdoor track season. He was looking to repeat as champion on his future home track as a University of Florida signee.
Pantojas held the lead on Cumberbatch thru the first 400 meters with a 53 second opening split and off the last turn, but Cumberbatch was able to shift gears with 50 meters to go to seize the lead from the Hagerty senior and power his way to a personal best time and US No. 3 performance of 1:50.33. Pantojas clocked a season best time of 1:50.92 for second place and move up to fifth fastest in the current national rankings.
After running 1:52.27 last week from the slow heat at the FSU Relays, Arnold senior Edward Kepran clocked another 1:52 performance this weekend in Gainesville to gain four spots on the last lap to finish third overall in a time of 1:52.60.
The race after the top 3 finishers was incredibly deep and a close time spread between places 4th at 1:54.05 with Niceville's Dawson Isbell through 10th place at 1:55.70 with Miami Northwestern's Daniel Jean-Charles.
Girls 400 Meter Dash
With top seed and favorite Skyler Franklin of Western a scratch, the girls 400 meter dash opened up for another freshmen phenom to take over the race in Dr. Phillips freshman Nakira Hudson.
Hudson had actually beaten Franklin head to head this past indoor season at the Jimmy Carnes Invitational and showed her potential then. She showed a little more on Friday in Gainesville coming across the line first in the fast section of the girls 400 meter dash with a personal best and US No. 8 time of 54.39.
Hudson was able to just edge out Montverde Academy junior Alivia Williams who posted a new PR as well to put her inside the top 10 national rankings at 54.40 for second place as well as Bullis School senior Sage Hinton in third at 54.65.
Meanwhile, another freshmen in a later heat in Montverde Academy's Ellise Dickinson recorded a significant time drop of 54.74 to win heat 3 and finish with the fourth fastest time overall.
Boys 400 Meter Dash
In one of the featured high school races coming into the meet, the boys 400 meter dash delivered with not one but three athletes dipping into the 46 second range.
At one point this year, Port Orange Atlantic senior Aidan Dixon was the national leader both indoors and outdoors for the 400 meter dash with sub 47 second races recorded for both seasons.
Dixon was looking like a national leader thru the first 200 meters in the lead as well as coming off the final turn. But then, US No. 3 ranked Micahi Danzy of Florida High School shifted gears and was able to reel Dixon in to win the Florida Relays in a time of 46.21 and just off his 46.16 personal best from last week at FSU.
Danzy has now won three of Florida's most competitive high school invitationals in a three week stretch between the Bob Hayes Invitational, FSU Relays, and Florida Relays.
While Dixon was not able to hold onto the lead, he was able to hold his form to cross the line in a new personal best time of 46.48 to improve to US No. 6 ranking in the event.
Joining both Danzy and Dixon in breaking 47 seconds for the first time in third place was Montverde Academy junior Jayvian Greene with a breakthrough 46.66 performance. Greene sharped up for the Florida Relays earlier this week clocking a 10.40 wind-aided personal best in the 100 meter dash on Wednesday at the Citrus League Championships.