JACKSONVILLE – Propelled by his outstanding performance at last week’s Bob Hayes Track Invite; fast finishes behind top-ranked Tyrese Cooper of Miami Norland, Orange Park High junior sprinter Alex Collier doubled down on his predictions of faster times with superb wins in the 100 and 400 meters at the UNF Spring Break Pre-State Invitational Saturday in Jacksonville.
Collier, with a 10.68 win in the 100 just ahead of Sarasota High’s Ke’Andre Collins at 10.75, surged near the 50 meter mark to win convincingly with the top seven sprinters all under 11 seconds, including Middleburg High’s Marcus Floyd who finished fifth at 10.89.
Collier returned to the track an hour later to smashed the field by almost two seconds with a 47.67 split over Terry Parker’s Aaron Bell at 49.10. Collier blasted the start to the first 200 then opened up in the homestretch trying to answer his call for a sub-47 finish. Orange Park teammate Sean Dixon finished fifth with a 50.41 as the Raiders attempt to find four sprinters to answer last year’s third place finish in the 4 x 400 with Collier, Dixon and Kaden Elmore all returning. Alex Meadows graduated to open the final slot for coach Kevin Elmore.
In the opening distance race of the cool Saturday morning festivities, Fleming Island High freshman Mei Chiang and teammate Lauren Schaudel, also a freshman, disregarded all the pre-race fanfare of Father Lopez junior Claire McDonnell, 12th in 1A in cross country and sixth last year in the 1A 3200 track championships with an 11:41.55 effort, to take control of the race after two laps as Chiang surged strong to win in 11:30.84 and Schaudel nearly clipped McDonnell on the final lap to finish third at 12:05.25. McDonnell finished second in 11:52.19.
“I didn’t hear much of my name from the track announcer before the race and she didn’t seem to want to go out fast from the start,” said Chiang, who has bested a ton of Fleming Island High school records since arriving including a recent 5:17 mile split. “I just decided to go and see if she would come with me. She made one move to try and get back to me, but she didn’t.”
Schaudel, who has quietly kept within eyeshot of Chiang’s shadow even at cross country with Chiang finishing 14th in 4A and Schaudel finished 44th as the Golden Eagles’ second finisher, did not respond early to Chiang’s surge, but kept a steady gap between herself and McDonnell before sprinting the final 110 meters to get third by more than seven seconds.
“I kind of did not see Mei’s move until she was out there,” said Schaudel. “When it got 10-15 yards, I was thinking little by little to try and get back to the other girl.”
In the girls 800, Fleming Island’s Marisa Kortright and Grayson Iller combined for a fourth and sixth place finish with both under 2:30.
In the 1600, Fleming Island put up another distance top 10 finish with sophomre Emma Millson bettering her personal best near six minutes with a 5:29.80 for fifth; ahead of McDonnell. Millson was within seconds of state cross country finishers Laci Watford of University Christian (4th in 1A and fifth in 1A 1600) and Audrey Woods of Providence (25th in 1A) with a strong final lap. Watford won in 5:23.75 with Woods at 5:26.24. Ahead of Millson were Rockledge teammates Margaret Ward and Magnolia Lake, both seniors, and both top 25 2A cross country finishers.
In the boys 1600, a race flavored with four Clay County runners, Alex Guy of Keystone Heights, Kameron Wallizada of Fleming Island, Matthew Stratton of St. Johns Country Day School, Will Livesay of Fleming Island and, in his first race since injuries, Orange Park’s John Bear. All five, minus Oakleaf High’s Dylan Nelson and Ridgeview High’s Joel Nesi, are cross country state meet performers. Nesi was in the 3200 while Nelson competed in the 2K steeplechase.
With the Clay County contingency all owning 4:30 or so mile splits thus far, the prospect of a Clay strong finish was imminent.
From the start, though, it was Rockledge High senior Troy Smith undertaking leadership position with Guy, Wallizada and Stratton in a second pack about 5-8 yards off Smith and Bear holding back with Livesay as both stayed within striking distance.
On the final lap, Wallizada, who has also returned from nagging injuries to form, pushed ahead of Stratton’s pack to challenge Guy for second, but Guy, 15th in the 2A 1600 last year in 4:30.44 and 16th in the 2A 800 in 2:00.33, held off the surged to take second with both breaking 4:30; 4:29.31 and 4:29.58, while Smith won in 4:21.49.
“I thought I snuck up on him in the final turn,” said Wallizada. “I think I got his attention and then he fought me off.”
Stratton, 23rd in the 1A 3200 last year in 10:37.21, finished fifth at 4:39.73 after a sterling 3200 at Bob Hayes last week. Stratton also finished eighth at the 1A cross country championship race in the fall.
Bear, ninth in the 3A 1600 and 14th in the 3A 3200 last year, cruised in a 4:41.69 with Livesay on his tail at 4:42.46. Bear’s effort was good indication that, without three weeks of track training, that the senior Raider may be returning to form very soon. Earlier in the boys 3200, Ridgeview High senior Joel Nesi tried early to challenge New Smyrna Beach’s Aidan O’Gorman, fourth in 3A cross country in the fall, 14th in the 3A 1600 and sixth in the 3A 3200, but fell slightly off the pace to take second in 9:48.55. O’Gorman won in 9:33.26. Stratton finished just ahead of Guy for third at 9:51.92 with Guy at 9:52.17.
In one of the more surprising events of the day, Fleming Island High hurdler Glenn Rodgers, fresh off a nationally-ranked 14.22 second place finish in the 110 high hurdles at the Bob Hayes Invite last week, fell as he battled near the front with Alex Shields of First Academy winning in 14.54. Rodgers regrouped to finish ninth in the 300 hurdles with Orange Park’s John Abate top area finisher in 39.59.
In the boys high jump, with friendly rivals Jaden Roy of Ridgeview and Middleburg High’s Bryce Quiett entertaining winning thoughts, it was Roy who prevailed with a state-ranked 6’-6” winning jump. Quiett took second at 6’-4.75” with Abate sixth at 5’-10.75”.
In shot put, Oakleaf’s Jalen Rivers stayed up with IMG Academy’s Zechariah Blake, who threw near the 60 foot mark in warmup, to take second in 52’-10.75” with Blake winning at 54’-7.25”. Rivers won at Bob Hayes with a 54’-plus put.
In sprints, Oakleaf High’s Tajha Peoples took second in the 100 meters in 12.22 with Seminole High’s Jaqual Bush winning in 12.14. Peoples returned to take sixth in the 200 in 25.50.
In the girls hurdles, St. Johns Country Day School junior Courtney Sage, sixth in 1A 300 hurdles last year, and Oakleaf senior Takayla Edwards finished fifth and sixth in the 300 hurdles with Sage also seventh in the 100 hurdles. Edwards was 14th in the 100 hurdles.
In the throws, Fleming Island senior Camilla May won the javelin with a 104’-9” win by two feet with Orange Park senior Destiny Basden seventh in the shot put at 35’-3.5” with just three feet separating first place and seventh place. Basden was eighth in the discus.
In the jumps, Oakleaf state long jump champion Loren Johnson won the triple jump, the 4A runnerup last year, with a strong 39’-.25” win over Caroline Johnston of Episcopal. Johnson then finished third in the long jump behind Johnston, second in the 2A long jump last year, won at 18’-3.75”. Johnson won the 4A title at 18’-9.9”. Johnston was fifth in the 2A triple jump last year.