FLEMING ISLAND – With a surge in distance running, outstanding sprints and some fine-tuned efforts in the hurdles, the Clay Today SUPER 11 track team houses three state champions and handful of …
FLEMING ISLAND – With a surge in distance running, outstanding sprints and some fine-tuned efforts in the hurdles, the Clay Today SUPER 11 track team houses three state champions and handful of athletes that finished their final high school seasons with a blaze of glory.
Tops of the list are three state champions who put together state meet performances that will add to the folklore of track history in Clay County.
Orange Park’s Alex Collier slayed the nation’s best sprinter from last year twice in the same meet after getting beat by inches earlier in the season.
Fleming Island hurdler Glenn Rodgers pushed aside mental images of toppling during midseason efforts to run the table in the post season.
Oakleaf High shotputter Jalen Rivers only solidified his standing as one of the more versatile athletes in the county that could surpass those same expectations next year when he returns for his senior season in football, basketball and track.
Rodgers and Collier, by the way, are also multi-sport athletes with both excelling in football for their respective schools.
Two freshman highlighted the 2019 season with St. Johns Country Day School distance ace Matthew Stratton not backing down in his final three meets against Class 1A and Fleming Island High freshman Mei Chiang giving a glimpse of the same dominance she had as a junior high runner with state meet berths in the 1600 and 3200 on top of a handful of successive school records.
One of the more surprising track performances, though not surprising because of his pedigree as a champion leader of his school’s basketball team, Orange Park High senior hoop star John Abate came to track with little expectation, zero state meet events on his resume, but big ambition en route to three medals in his final time performing as a Raider.
Glenn Rodgers, FIHS, Sr., Got to the number two time in the 110 hurdles in the USA at 14.22 in a second place finish at the Bob Hayes Invite, then forgot about a fall at the UNF Spring Break Open before banking a district title (14.52), a region 1-4A title (14.44) and a scintillating 14.20 gold medal performance at the Class 4A championships. Rodgers is headed to Southeastern University to continue his track running.
Jalen Rivers, OHS, Jr., The big shot putter from Oakleaf stayed above 50 feet for most of the second half of 2019 with a Class 4A title last week. Rivers, also a top college football prospect, combined good footspeed and agility with size and strenght.
Alex Collier, OPHS, Jr., The Raider speedster answered most of his own predictions with a 46-plus gold medal (46.33) in the 400 for Class 3A and a handful of sub-11 100 meters spots. Collier threw down at the Bob Hayes Invite with top races in the 100 and 400 behind Miami Norland ace Tyrese Cooper before besting Cooper twice at the state championships (a prediction); third and fourth in the 100, first and second in the 400. Collier returns to the gridiron in the spring and fall for the Raiders.
Courtney Sage, SJCDS, Jr., The Spartan hurdler, best in the 300 hurdles because of her stamina over the one-lapper, popped off a personal best, at the time, 45.54 at districts, then 16.33 at regions before bringing it back (45.38) at the Class 1A championships to take second. With limited teammates in her specialty, Sage’s performances come from plenty of self-coaching and self-motivation. Sage was also seventh in the 1A in the 100 hurdles.
Matthew Stratton, SJCDS, Freshman, The Spartan distance ace topped off a superb medal performance in cross country with two medals in track; a fourth in the 3200 and a seventh in the 1600, to put his name out there as a force to be reckoned with for the next three years. Gritty in the final 200 meters of either race, Stratton duked it out with some of the best runners in the state and, time and time, had the best finishes of the day.
Alex Guy, KHHS, Sr., The Indian distance ace had the benefit of a world class coach and mentor, but the disadvantage of doing most of his workouts by himself. Guy cranked up a 1:55 800 meter fifth place and a 4:25 seventh place 1600 meters in the Class 2A championships. His toughness at the end was always worth the price of popcorn to watch.
Joel Nesi, RHS, Sr., The Panther distance ace was one of a handful of runners in Clay County that emerged for strong senior campaigns. Nesi overcame some incredibly emotional years dealing with personal tragedy and undiagnosed ailments to trudge through both and find the answers with top performances against the vaunted Bolles-strong district and region that Ridgeview resided in. A sixth in the Class 2A 1600 topped his senior season with a berth in the cross country state meet the first step.
Mei Chiang, FIHS, Fr., The Fleming Island freshman distance star came in amidst a two-year stint as one of the state’s best junior high runner and took the mantle with aplumb with a handful of school records broken throughout the year and a state meet invite in the 1600 and 3200. Chiang got as fast as 5:14.35 and seventh place in the very tough region 1-4A for the 1600 that got obliterated at the state meet with the top six (non 1-4A runners) all under 5:03. Same thing in the 3200 with a 10:33 winning time and the same region runners all in the top 11 with Chiang 15th.
John Abate, OPHS, Sr., Talk about a guy with his eye on the big prize. Abate used all of his basketball guile to prep himself for one final sling at the championship level with a district and region high jump title; followed by a strong third place finish, then a district (41.12 in prelims, 40.00 finals)-to-region (40.25)- to state (38.62) countdown of the very technical 300 meter hurdles to best times each time and a final seventh place finish in Class 3A. Abate’s 15.02 second 110 hurdles district time would have been fourth at regions, but Abate faultered and finished out of the top four with a 16.15 for 10th.
Hadassah Davis, Arianna Eason, Vivica Fitzgerald and Tajha
Oakleaf High girls 4 x 100 relay. The quartet of Hadassah Davis, Arianna Eason, Vivica Fitzgerald and Tajha Peoples roared into state rankings with their third place 4A finish after a tough second place at the region 1-4A championships. The quarter again chased Dr. Phillips at the 4A meet to finish third behind St. Thomas Aquinas and Dr. Phillips with five teams under 48 seconds; Oakleaf in 47.62. Oakleaf ran 48.39 at the region meet. The team ran 48.97 to win the district title.
Corey McDaniels, SJCDS, Sr., The St. Johns senior came back from an injury-plagued junior year to use his end-of-race strength for strong finishes at region and state. McDaniels ran solo in his events with senior teammate Jett Isley finishing just 13th in his 400 prelims, but McDaniels soldiered into the finals of the 200 and 400 to take a seventh in the 400 and 13th in the 200. McDaniels was one of the more consistent closers in both sprints with jumps from 51.57 in regions to 50.55 at state and 23.26 at regions to 22.98 at state.