ST. JOHNS -– Fleming Island High senior track hurdler Glenn Rodgers dropped almost a full second of time in his 110 high hurdles event in the past 10 days and culminated the week with a …
ST. JOHNS -– Fleming Island High senior track hurdler Glenn Rodgers dropped almost a full second of time in his 110 high hurdles event in the past 10 days and culminated the week with a scintillating national time of 14.22 seconds to take second at the prestigious Bob Hayes Invitational track meet held Saturday at Raines High School.
“I thought he won it, the finish was so close,”said Fleming Island track coach Chris Otero. “The top three; winner Desmyn McCall from Sandalwood, a sophomore, and third from Nathan Farrell, a Flagler Palm Coast junior, are all in our district. That will be a fast race at the end of the season.”
Rodgers, who claimed a 14.74 for fourth in regions, but slowed to 15.19 for a dismal 17th at the state meet last year, surpassed all that at Ponte Vedra last week with a 14.59, then hit 14.67 in the Bob Hayes prelims before popping off his 14.22 in the finals at Bob Hayes.
“Our track team got hurdles coach Durell Thompson back and he’s been instrumental in being able to give Glenn one-on-one time just coaching the craft of hurdling,” said Otero. “Glenn has become more technical over the hurdles and had he had a better start at Bob Hayes, he might have won that one. He’s definitely more focused to go big this year.”
Also at Bob Hayes, Orange Park High junior sprinter Alex Collier, third in 3A in the 400 last year, stamped out his fast feet as worthy of national attention with a fifth in the 100 and a lightning fast 47.33 in the 400 for second behind uber-sprinter Tyrese Cooper of Miami Norland. The final was Collier’s first race against Cooper.
“It was nervewracking to think I was about to challenge him,” said Collier, listed as the top junior sprinter in America. “But, then I started focusing that he’s a human and I’m a human. I kind of cruised behind him on the first curve and he was kind of jogging and then we sprinted side by side to the finish. Next time, I’ll run my own race.”
Cooper also won the 200. Collier will attempt to challenge Cooper for titles in the 100, 200 and 400 by season’s end. Cooper, who has returned from legal troubles to compete, won the triple crown of sprints with a 10.53 100, a 21.15 200 and a 47.16 400. Collier ran the 100 in 10.97 with Middleburg’s Marcus Floyd eighth in 11.19 in the Bob Hayes final.
“My third last year made me believe that I may have a gift,” said Collier. “I used to think I was just another fast kid, but right after the state meet, I started to train to improve. I’m going for a 46 at the UNF Spring Break meet this weekend. I had more left in the tank at Bob Hayes.”
In the 800, Keystone Heights senior Alex Guy placed fourth in 1:57.14 with Jacob Miley of Flagler first in 1:52.78. Also from Keystone Heights, sophomore miler Camryn Williams finished 11th in 5:36.95.
In the 3200, St. Johns Country Day School freshman Matthew Stratton added his list to a county-wide cadre of distance runners with a second place finish in 9:48.85 in the 3200 meters.
For Oakleaf, Jalen Rivers popped off a 54 foot, 10 inch shot put to win that event at Bob Hayes by almost five feet..
Another returning veteran of sorts for Fleming Island, sophomore distance ace Kameron Wallizada, who has had a slew of minor, but nagging injuries since the end of his state cross country run in the fall, put his name back in the hopper for distance running in Florida with a strong 3200 meters win at the Creekside High Knights’ Relays on Saturday in St. Johns.
“He said after the race it was the best he has felt on the track,” said Fleming Island coach Karen Moritz. “He’s going to run the UNF Spring Break 1600 just to see if we can get that sub-4:30 for him. He looked the best he has ever looked on the track.”
Wallizada returned with a vengeance Saturday night with a very fast 9:47.26 win by over 10 seconds over Ponte Vedra’s Lucas Bouquot, also a sophomore.
“I think Kameron finished up at 9:57 for seventh at regions last year and got a 9:59 at Ponte Vedra last week,” said Fleming Island track coach Chris Otero. “This was his first injury-free race and he did well. The strength in our distance teams is evident.”
Also in the race, Oakleaf junior Dylan Nelson finished fourth in 10:04.82 (10:16 at regions) with Fleming Island junior Will Livesay fifth in 10:07.29.
The corral of strong distance running extended also to the 1600 with Ridgeview High senior Joel Nesi popping off his best time with a third place 4:30.72 split behind Creekside’s Jesse Benavides, a freshman, who won in 4:28.01. Panther teammate Elias Perez, in the 800, got third in 2:02.20 in the 800.
With Fleming Island head coaches Chris Otero and Karen Moritz putting Fleming Island boys and girls cross country back in state meet berths this year, the distance running scene in Clay County has been stronger than ever.
“I think it’s the camaraderie of the distance runners that is making everyone better,” said Moritz. “They all warm up together, race hard against each other, then cool down together. To see five boys from five different schools running side by side is pretty cool.”
At Creekside, Fleming Island freshman miler Mei Chiang finsihed fourth in 5:17.45 with Alyson Churchill of Chiles, ninth in 3A cross country in November, blasting the field with a 5:00.73 winning time. Chiang’s time is yet another lowering of her own school record.