Blustery conditions reeked havoc on the Class 3A FHSAA Finals Friday, but that didn’t stop Bobby Harris from cementing his spot in Springstead history.
The Eagle junior, who tied for second in the high jump in his first state appearance last year, overcame the unfavorable weather at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium to become the second state champion in school history.
Amazingly, he only needed to clear 6-2 to make it happen. He posted a school record of 6-9 earlier this season, and jumped 6-4 at states in 2012.
Of the 16 competitors, 14 scratched out without recording a height, with 13 unable to clear the typically easy 6-0.
Though the top eight in each event earned medals, only two did so in high jump. Avery Brown of Lake Mineola finished second at 6-0.
“I only jumped 6-2, but the conditions were pretty bad. It was like a monsoon out there,” Harris said. “I figured all I needed to do was jump, don’t think about anything else, and do what I do best.
“It was cold, it was wet. I didn’t slip personally, but I know other jumpers slipped. I just had to plant my foot and get up.”
Harris had placed second at regionals to Celebration’s Jhonny Victor, who came into states as the top seed at 6-8 and was expected to battle Harris for the title.
However, Victor started off at 6-2 and fouled on his three attempts, eliminating him from contention.
That cleared the way for Harris, who said once he had the state crown locked up, he wasn’t concerned with getting higher, scratching out trying 6-4.
“A lot of them didn’t have the right mindset to get over the bar,” Harris said. “I knew going in it would be wet and rainy. I had to do what I needed to do.”
He joins Joel Nunag as the only state champions, male or female, in school history. Nunag won in pole vault back in 1989.
“Either way, Bobby was ecstatic to get a state championship after coming so close last year,” Springstead boys coach Brandon Wright said.
Harris wasn’t the only Eagle to walk away with some hardware. Senior Ricky Toth took second in the 800, running a time of 1:57.13. Only Jonathan Moore of Tampa-Jefferson bested Toth, crossing the finish line in 1:55.21.
Toth’s placing was somewhat surprising, simply because he came in seeded seventh at 1:56.46, which he ran at regionals.
“It means a lot. I told myself before the meet, my goal was to get top three,” Toth said. “I didn’t get a personal record. The back stretch was probably the worst wind I’ve ever ran in.
“I’m happy with it even though it was not my best time. Everybody ran slower than normal.”
His performance was particularly impressive not just due to the weather, but because he has only been running the 800 for the past year.
“I just wanted it really badly,” Toth said. “I kept trying hard the whole last week. I wanted top three and I knew there’d be a lot of competition.
“The last 200, I counted how many guys I had to beat and I gave everything I had. My legs have never felt as numb as when I crossed the finish line.”
Toth ran with James Amodie, Jai Jackson and Josh Page in the 4x800, taking 12th with an 8:22.19. Ethan Kemp took 14th in the shot put (46-3 1/4).
Overall, the Eagles headed home from Jacksonville feeling pretty good behind their two medalists.
“It’s phenomenal,” Wright said. “The thing is, they’ve worked so hard and this is such a good group of kids. I couldn’t be prouder. It’s such a great reward for the work they’ve put in all season.”
Seeded first entering the meet with a personal-best 18-4, Little didn’t quite match that distance, leaping 17-9 3/4. The weather certainly played a role, causing her to scratch on most of her jumps.
“It was like having a track meet in a tropical storm,” Springstead girls coach Joel Myers said. “That and the takeoff board was really thin. It was only about six inches. A lot of people were having problems with scratches.
“But you’ve got to adapt to those things. Other kids did. It’s not like she jumped bad. Three seniors jumped better.
“She worked hard for this over the offseason and she jumped better than she ever has. Three seniors beat her, so fourth place is pretty dang good.”
Little had previously gone to states in the 200, coming in ninth as a sophomore, just short of making the medal stand.
Springstead sophomore Erin Blackwell, suffering from a leg injury in her second state appearance in the 800, ran 2:26.24 to place 13th. She was 11th last year in 2:22.60.
The other Hernando County athlete at the meet, Central senior Quadavis Battle, came in 13th in the 110 hurdles (15.64) and 15th in the 300 hurdles (45.21).
Class 3A FHSAA Finals
at University of North Florida
13. Springstead (SPG) 18, Central (CEN) NTS
4x800 – 12. Jackson, Amodie, Toth, Page (SPG) 8:22.19
HJ – 1. Harris (SPG) 6-2
SP – 14. Kemp (SPG) 46-3 1/4
110 hurdles – 13. Battle (CEN) 15.64
300 hurdles – 15. Battle (CEN) 45.21
800 – 2. Toth (SPG) 1:57.13
38. Springstead (SPG) 5
LJ – 4. Little (SPG) 17-9 3/4
800 – 13. Blackwell (SPG) 2:26.24