Oak Hall School (Gainesville, FL) senior Austin Montini was coming off another successful cross country season capped off by winning his second career Florida high school state title individually in cross country and third overall when he tested positive and discovered he been infected with the coronavirus. To make matters worse, the doctors discovered he had started developing fibrosis in his heart.
While for most young people his age, the coronavirus has posed very little health risks and often mild or no symptoms at all, the extremely fit distance runner in Montini was a rare exception in exhibiting some serious complications.
The health scare forced Montini out of physical activities including running and training for four months until doctors had determined the fibrosis was gone. Medically cleared, Montini jumped right into action with his Oak Hill School just in time for the district meet in early April. He won the 1600 in 4:31 and 800 in 1:57 at his district meet.
Each week, he got faster and stronger to eventually find himself in the FHSAA State Track Finals. He ironically had won his only and prior individual state track title remarkably earned as an eighth-grader in 2017, but had failed to win another in 2018 as a freshman and 2019 as a sophomore before the 2020 finals were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He ran the anchor leg for his 4x800 meter relay squad able to cement their 8:01 victory and 10 early points for their eventual state runner-up squad. In his first individual race of the day competing against 4:15 miler Jonathan Pitchford of Marathon, a strategic race played into Montini's favor to unleash a well-timed kick off the final turn for a 4:21 season-best win to end a four-year drought between state track titles for him.
On short rest, Montini was back at it again not looking one bit like someone who didn't run a step for the months of December, January, February, and March to come from behind on the final as well to win the boys 800 state title in 1:55.55 PR performance.
He later enjoyed watching his younger brother and Oak Hall sophomore Caden Montini unleash a hard closing finish as well en route to his first individual state title in the 3200 with a 9:39 PR.
Both Montini brothers are set to race on Friday at the Golden South Series #2 held at East Lake High School. For Austin, he'll be seeing what he can do in the mile racing against the likes of Belen Jesuit's Adam Magoulas (4:16 mile PR) and the opportunity to go well under 4:20 for his final high school career before he heads off to Yale University. His dad was a high school state champion in Florida and standout runner back in his college days at FSU and Harvard educated as well.
In a year where Florida high school athletics, in general, was a smashing success overcoming the coronavirus pandemic safely and some much-needed normalcy with a full season of competition for most high school kids compared to other states, Austin Montini's story is also a careful reminder too. Yet, his comeback also showed the ability and strength of young people like Austin to bounce back stronger too.
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