ORANGE PARK – St. Johns Country Day School senior track athlete Corey McDaniels culminated a three year ordeal of nagging injuries with a small ceremony to sign a track scholarship on Mon., May 20 in the school’s courtyard.
“I tried to stay focused with my therapy with the goal of getting a track scholarship,” said McDaniels, who heads to Samford University in Alabama next fall to run track. “It was very frustrating to keep getting hurt at the end of my seasons, but my dad kept me motivated to do the therapy and keep positive.”
McDaniels, who ran track at Oakleaf Junior High and Oakleaf High School before taking his track legs to St. Johns in his sophomore year, finished his journey last week with a seventh place finish in the Class 1A 400 meters in 50.92 seconds and a 13th place finish in the 200 meters in 22.98 seconds. “Today marks the end of one chapter for Corey and the beginning of another,” said St. Johns track coach Charles McEwen. “He leaves a legacy of being a 400 meter state medalist and also a school record holder in the 200 meters with a 22.80 mark; a record that has stood since 1998.”
With McDaniels were his parents, Tracy and Anita McDaniels, plus a surprise visitor in former Oakleaf High teammate Carter Williams, now in his senior year in college and also a 400 meter runner for the Knights. As a freshman at Oakleaf High in 2016, McDaniels showed some sprint potential with a fourth in the Danny Brown Invitational 400 in 55.61 and a 24.14 in the 200 at the Spring Break Open at UNF with a 17th place 54.09 personal best at the district 1-4A championship meet.
“My freshman year was disappointing because I didn’t make it out of districts,” said McDaniels. “I found out two months later, I had a fracture in my left foot. That pretty much ended my summer training.”
McDaniels joked that he showed up at St. Johns in his sophomore year with a boot on his foot, but was still determined to run track.
“The scholarship was still my goal,” said McDaniels. “I was on and off the track my sophomore season, but by districts, I had a break in my other foot. I tried to gut it out at meets, but I couldn’t keep doing it; just too much pain.”
McDaniels won the district title in the 400 in his junior year, but tore his right hamstring en route.
“That was unfortunate,” said McDaniels who won in 52.33 and finished second in the 200 in 23.47. “I was seeded first for 400, but tore my hamstring in practice. That stopped most of my summer training for my senior year.”
McDaniels started back in his training in October of his senior season and felt like his speed was still intact, but his endurance needed to be refortified.
“In the 400s I was running; 52 lows, I was a little suspect on whether the muscle would last,” said McDaniels. “My speed was still good at that time, but coach McEwen worked to get my stamina back to get me back to strength for the 400. I did a lot of flexibility and stretching drills to keep the muscle loose.”
At this year’s state meet, McDaniels got his 400 mark down to 50.92 and his 200 meters to 22.98. In the region 1-1A 200, McDaniels took fifth in 23.26 and fourth in the 400 in 51.57 with teammate Jett Isley third in the 400 in 51.52.
In the district 2-1A, McDaniels finished third in 22.80 to set the school record while finishing second behind Isley with a 51.75; Isley in 51.44.
“In the district and region races, I had to run from behind in both to get my spots, I took it as gut check,” said McDaniels. “I wanted to at least be one of the better sprinters from the county at the state meet.”