ORANGE PARK – Orange Park High track state champion Alex Collier exploded on to the track season last year with a strategic mid-season second place that fueled a desire to win on the next …
ORANGE PARK – Orange Park High track state champion Alex Collier exploded on to the track season last year with a strategic mid-season second place that fueled a desire to win on the next encounter; which ending with a state title.
2020 was going to even more explosive. Then Coronavirus ended all that.
“When I ran him (Tyrese Cooper (Miami Norland, nation’s top ranked sprinter in USA) at Bob Hayes and got second by a second, I knew I was ready,” said Collier, the Class 3A 400 meter champion at 46.33 seconds; Cooper disqualified. “I’ve been running 100s and 200s prior to the season shutdown and ran a 10.53 at the Friday Knight Invite on March 13 at Creekside High to end the season with a number two rank behind defending 100 champion Da’Marcus Fleming of Miami Northwestern in 10.33 on February 14. I was going to transition back to the 400 because I knew my legs were ready to go fast.”
Collier, who also beat Cooper in the Class 3A 100 with a 10.75 third place finish, plans to head to Florida State University in the fall to continue his speed goals and looked to be on target to, first, defend his 400 meter title, and, second, win a medal in either the 100 or 200 plus take the Orange Park 4 x 400 team to gold.
With three of the four members; Collier and fellow seniors Sean Dixon and Diego Soto, returning for a second shot at the 4 x 400 gold, Orange Park track coach Robert Garcia, an 18 year veteran of area track history, saw the newly finished rubberized track at Orange Park High School was coming at a strategic time for his Raiders and also future Clay County track athletes.
“Alex has been something special since the sixth grade,” said Garcia. “You take guys like Sean Dixon (50.28, 1st at Creekside) and Diego Soto and you put them on their own world class track and you reward them for their hard work for the past four years and it changes their whole outlook. While the track was being built, they were running workouts in the parking lot anticipating the day they would get to run on their own great track. It hurts knowing the dream of this track and this team is over. This could very be the best team ever out of Orange Park High School.”
With Alex Meadows and John Abate; both graduated, the fourth cogs for Garcia in the 4 x 400 circa 2019, Garcia was hesitant to name the 2020 versions fourth baton carrier.
“We ran 3:21.64 at Creekside and got third at state in 3:18,” said Collier, noting 3:11 won the gold medal at state. “We find the right fourth guy, we go faster.”
Though Collier was the top returning track athlete and the only state champion returning, St. Johns Country Day School senior Courtney Sage sees her second place in the Class 1A 300 meter hurdles as her final championship effort. Sage was top ranked senior in Class 1A with her 45.87 split at Creekside March 13.
For 2020, Fleming Island High’s boys distance runners are chock full of seniors led by Will Livesay, 3200 9:46.68, ranked 18th in 4A; with Landon Opp, 37th in 1600, and Jacob Walrod, 36th in 800 part of the senior package. Fleming Island also has Courtney Williams in sprints; Garrett Godfrey in 400, Ernest Jones in hurdles, Malik Williams in triple jump, Jeremiah Jackson in shot put, Grant Bisbee in javelin (18th ranked) and Michael Mendez in javelin.
Fleming Island’s girls have Jordan Detwiler (800), Kayla Herman (3200), Sadie Mack (long jump), Catie Richards (discus and javelin).
Oakleaf has Rickey Embry (100 and 200), Bryce Stalter (800), Dylan Nelson (1600, 3200-26th 4:33.37), Ajani Stokes (3200), Donovan Thomas (high jump), Gregory Adkins (pole vault), Anthony Taylor (long jump and triple jump).
Middleburg seniors include John Scholz (1600), Taj Gonzalves (High Jump), Victoria Lopez (pole vault), Sara Myers (pole vault), Calvin Suggs (long jump, triple jump).
Keystone Heights’ lone senior is Emerald Hall (discus).
St. Johns Country Day School has Kendall Sage (100, long jump, triple jump) and Courtney Sage (100, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles).
Ridgeview, in Class 3A, has seniors Glendon Miller (100), Jose Paolo Miguel Garcia (800), Anna Magruder (3200), Roger Anderson (high jump), Belony Estinvil (long jump, triple jump), William Geller (shot put, discus),
Orange Park seniors also include Cainan Walker (200), Javon Dickinson (800), Diego Soto (long jump, triple jump), Sean Dixon (long jump), Kadin Elmore (long jump), Trenity Gilford (triple jump), Kendy Charles (shot put, discus, javelin) and Spencer Kirkham (javelin).