For the second year in a row, Springstead’s track and field athletes had to battle the elements at the University of North Florida.
On a rainy Saturday in Jacksonville, a trio of Eagles collected state medals competing in the Class 3A FHSAA Finals.
Wilena Little placed second in the long jump, while Bobby Harris finished fifth in the high jump and Erin Blackwell notched a sixth in the 800 meter.
The senior Little, who has signed with Division I Florida International, was making her fourth trip to states and bidding for the Lady Eagles’ first-ever state crown.
After finishing fourth, behind three seniors, in the long jump last year with a 17-9 3/4, Little came into this season with the expectation of challenging for the top spot.
However, leg injuries limited her throughout the regular season; only over the past few meets had she begun to round into form.
At regionals last week she came in second, jumping 18-6. Ocala-Lake Weir’s BeJai Fray bested her with an 18-8 1/4, and it was Fray again who kept her from the top of the podium at states.
While Fray cleared the bar at 18-11 on Saturday, Little posted an 18-1 1/4. But Little was hardly disappointed with her runner-up status.
“The placement itself felt amazing, but I feel I could have done better,” Little said. “But I’m happy with what happened.”
Little didn’t think the weather was a major factor, considering everyone experienced the same environment. She said the hamstring wasn’t an issue during long jump.
“She was a little disappointed she didn’t jump better, but I told her six girls were over 18 in region and only two performed,” Springstead girls coach Joel Myers said. “She did good. I’m really proud of her.
“Yeah, we’d have liked to have a state championship, but it wasn’t in the cards this year, not with the injuries she had. But I’m happy as I can be. State runner-up is not bad.”
The hamstring caught up to Little in her second event, the 200. This marked the third time she ran that race at the state level.
As a freshman she finished 14th, then came in ninth, 100th of a second out of eighth and a medal.
Last year she ran a regional time that would have medaled at states, but couldn’t advance out of an ultra-competitive field. This time she placed 11th running a 25.96.
“I’m definitely satisfied. I moved up (in long jump) from last year,” Little said. “I’m glad to have been able to run the 200 one last time. I always wanted to come back and run the 200 at states.”
Also for Springstead, the 4x800 of Ty’Rhonza Harris, Joy Jackson, Julia Diven and Erin Blackwell ran a 10:28.19 to finish 15th.
Individually, the junior Blackwell made her third appearance at states in the 800, and garnered her first medal running a personal best of 2:18.75.
“She did everything I told her to do. She hit her marks perfect and didn’t kick too early,” Myers said. “She held her kick a little bit and just blew by some people.”
Blackwell admitted this was the first time she was healthy at states. She’s shooting for top three next year, but for now savored the moment.
“I’m really excited,” Blackwell said. “I honestly didn’t expect to get sixth place. I was expecting seventh or eighth.
“Determination and all the hard work I was putting in at practice (made the difference). Myers pushes me hard and helps me push to where I need to be, and my teammates help me push through it.”
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Bobby Harris will call UNF’s Hodges Stadium home next season, having signed with the Division I Ospreys two months ago.
It was at this same venue that he captured a high jump state championship in 2013, following a runner-up showing as a sophomore.
Harris had a chance to become the county’s first boy to win back-to-back state titles, but settled for his third medal in as many tries.
Chris Rogers of Pensacola-Pine Forest took first with a 6-8, a height Harris has achieved each of the past two seasons.
On this day Harris cleared as high as 6-4 to finish behind Rogers and three others who posted a 6-6.
“He didn’t have his best stuff today,” Springstead boys coach Brandon Wright said. “He was jumping OK until he got to 6-6. He didn’t have a miss.
“It was just one of those days. He had a great year. He has nothing to be disappointed about with what he’s done over his career.”
Wright said though the conditions were slick, the rain didn’t start until after the high jump, so weather wasn’t much of a problem.
“He went in there wanting to be state champ,” Wright said. “Naturally he was disappointed but he’s a great kid, he’s a smart kid. Once the initial sting wears off, he’ll realize what a great career he had.
“His whole high school career he has done the right things at all times, no matter in his studies or athletics. He should be proud of himself.”
Class 3A FHSAA Finals
at University of North Florida
T45. Springstead (SPG) 4
(Top eight score team points; earn medals)
HJ – 5. Harris (SPG) 6-4
17. Springstead (SPG) 11
(Top eight score team points; earn medals)
LJ – 1. Fray (Ocala-Lake Weir) 18-11, 2. Little (SPG) 18-1 1/4
4x800 – 15. Harris, Jackson, Diven, Blackwell (SPG) 10:28.19
200 – 11. Little (SPG) 25.96
800 – 6. Blackwell (SPG) 2:18.75