Seabreeze's Ella Chandler and Flagler Palm Coast's Jada Williams will be track and field teammates at the University of North Florida next year. They closed out their high school careers with top-5 finishes in the 800-meter runs at the state championships in Gainesville.
Chandler finished fourth at the Class 3A championships on May 13 with a personal-record 2 minutes, 13.70 seconds. Williams placed fifth at the Class 4A championships on May 14 with a 2:17.07, which was her personal record.
They were among 10 area individuals and relay teams to finish among the top eight in their events to claim a medal and be awarded first-team all-state honors.
Chandler placed third in the 800 last year, but this year she was up against three runners from South Florida, who all finished between 2:08.35 and 2:08.84.
"This was the first time she PR'd this year," said Seabreeze coach Jenna Meyers-Sinett. "I've never seen Ella tired before. She ran the first split in 63 (seconds), which was a little fast. In the last 100, she was a little gassed."
Williams specializes in the 1,600 and 3,200 distance runs, but COVID and a leg injury delayed her season for about six weeks and her endurance was lagging, so she switched to the 800. Her time was the second fastest in school history.
"Between getting sick and injured, Jada closed out a fantastic career," said FPC coach Dave Halliday. "She was in the lead for about two-thirds of the race. She fought hard."
It was the second medal Williams won as a senior. She placed sixth at the Class 4A cross country championships in November. Chandler took home two medals on May 13.
Seabreeze's girls 4x800 relay team of Ariana Roy, Mackenzie Roy, Nickole Dane and Chandler placed third, blowing their PR out of the water with a time of 9:24.85. They ran 9:40.56 the previous week at regionals. But they switched up their order in preparations for state, and it made a dramatic difference.
"Pretty much all of their splits were PR's," Meyers-Sinett said. "We moved Ella (from first) to the last leg to have people to chase, and she ran a 2:17. We trained Ariana to run the first leg, so she would have people to push her, and she ran a 2:20 flat. Mackenzie ran second. Nickole is mainly a long, long runner — 5K's and 10K's — and we worked on her bio-mechanics to make her faster, and she killed her 800 time with a 2:24."
FPC junior Gerod Tolbert, a first-year track and field athlete, finished fourth in the triple jump with a leap of 44 feet, 3.5 inches. FPC's 4x400 relay team of Vijay Weeden, Monte Curry, D.Z. Steward and D.J. Murray also placed fourth with a time of 3:19.29. Murray also made the medal stand in the 400 run with an eighth-place finish at 49.03 seconds.
Halliday said Murray's calf tightend up on him in the 400 race and it affected him in the final relay.
"He slipped back to fifth place but then got us back to fourth," Halliday said.
"This was the first time (Ella Chandler) PR'd this year. I've never seen Ella tired before. She ran the first split in 63 (seconds), which was a little fast. In the last 100, she was a little gassed."
JENNA MEYERS-SINETT, Seabreeze coach
FPC's Zeli Hayworth placed eighth in javelin with a throw of 167 feet, 9 inches. Hayworth broke Daniel DeFalco's school record, which was set earlier this season.
Mainland's Nate Davis placed seventh in the 100 at the Class 3A meet with a time of 10.76 seconds. The Bucs' 4x100 relay team of Eziaih Shine, Davis, Devin Franklin and Jordan Porter placed sixth with a 42.06.
Father Lopez's Victoria Woods finished fourth in the high jump at the Class 1A championships on May 11 with a jump of 5 feet, 1.75 inches. She had finished fifth at state last year.
Among FPC's boys' state qualifiers, only Weeden is a senior, and there are younger runners ready to take his spots on the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams, Halliday said.
"We had a young group of kids who needed to be under pressure at a state meet, see how it feels with all those fans cheering," Halliday said. "We'll be in it next year. I'm excited, and I think the kids are excited too."