Advertisement

Night of the Knights: Creekside girls capture FHSAA track championship at UNF

Call it the night of the Knights.

Creekside captured its first-ever girls team championship at the Class 4A Florida High School Athletic Association track and field meet, wrapping up four days inside Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida.

The Knights recorded 84.50 points to comfortably outdistance runner-up Miami Southridge's 52, the only team champions in First Coast track for 2024.

Alyson Johnson completed her sweep of the distance events with the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs, Sarah Rose timed her move to perfection to seal a trophy in the girls 800 and Janay Moorer raced to victory in the 400.

Creekside athletes and coaches celebrate on the podium after winning the FHSAA Class 4A girls high school track and field championship on May 18, 2024. [Clayton Freeman/Florida Times-Union]
Creekside athletes and coaches celebrate on the podium after winning the FHSAA Class 4A girls high school track and field championship on May 18, 2024. [Clayton Freeman/Florida Times-Union]

"It's awesome. We all work so hard every day, and it's amazing to see all our hard work come together," Johnson said.

Creekside wasn't Northeast Florida's only team celebrating.

Finn Thomas of Nease took home the biggest win of his career in the boys 3,200, Oakleaf's Takoda Brown earned an unexpected title in the boys triple jump and Jaylen Lewis of Mandarin placed first in the boys 200.

The boys state championship ended in a rare tie at 70 points for Miami Columbus and Niceville, after Niceville overtook Columbus on the final lap of the closing 4x400 relay.

CREEKSIDE GIRLS NEARLY FLAWLESS

Mackenzie Roy (3489) of Spruce Creek, Alyson Johnson (2894) of Creekside, Arianna Roy (3488) of Spruce Creek and Grace Finneran (3503) of St. Thomas Aquinas race in the girls 1,600. Johnson won the first of her two individual titles.
Mackenzie Roy (3489) of Spruce Creek, Alyson Johnson (2894) of Creekside, Arianna Roy (3488) of Spruce Creek and Grace Finneran (3503) of St. Thomas Aquinas race in the girls 1,600. Johnson won the first of her two individual titles.

Starting with the 4x800 relay, when Johnson led off a quartet of Rose, Brie Andrews and Emily Kate Longmire to place a close second behind Miami Southridge, Creekside looked like a team ready to finally rise to the top of the podium.

"I think we realized kind of about halfway through the season that we've got [strengths in multiple areas]," said Creekside co-coach Mandy Yates. "Then, we just talked to the girls a little bit and told them that was possible."

Almost anything seems possible for Johnson, already a champion in cross country and now gathering more trophies on the track. She ran a precisely-timed 1,600 to win in 4:53.34, holding off Spruce Creek's twin sisters Mackenzie Roy and Arianna Roy. Then, in the 3,200, she blasted 25 yards clear of the field from the opening 600 meters and set a new season best of 10:30.08, a 31-second margin of victory.

"My plan was just to go out really hard and hang on," Johnson said.

Olivia Sterling (2776) of Seffner Armwood, Keira Long (3554) of Tampa Bay Tech and Janay Moorer (2901) of Creekside race in the girls 100. Moorer finished second and later won the 400.
Olivia Sterling (2776) of Seffner Armwood, Keira Long (3554) of Tampa Bay Tech and Janay Moorer (2901) of Creekside race in the girls 100. Moorer finished second and later won the 400.

Moorer, who narrowly missed out on the 400 title in 2023, topped the podium this time with a 53.75 to rally down the stretch past Taylor Nicole Overton of Boca Raton, Zyaire Thomas of Fletcher and Kyla Skinner of Mandarin. The Miami-committed senior brought home further points with second-place finishes in the 100 and 200, both times behind Rachael Uvieghara of Palm Harbor University.

"I saw how the competition was looking when I came around the curb," Moorer said about her 400 triumph. "I was like, 'I've got to go, I've got to get into it.'"

Add on a second place in the 100 hurdles for Brittney Jennings, plus scoring finishes in several other events, and Creekside had the team title mathematically wrapped up with nearly an hour to spare.

Sophomore Rose displayed a tactical sense beyond her years, biding her time behind Jaa'Ln McBride of George Jenkins before unleashing a winning move late to win the 800 in 2:11.67.

"I come around that last lap, and I'm like, 'I got this,'" Rose said. "I'm really big on the mental game."

THOMAS WINS 3,200 FOR PANTHERS

Finn Thomas (3240) of Nease pursues Jonathan Leon (3079) of Oviedo Hagerty in the boys 3,200.
Finn Thomas (3240) of Nease pursues Jonathan Leon (3079) of Oviedo Hagerty in the boys 3,200.

For Thomas, individual victory on Florida's biggest stage was priceless.

Prior to Saturday, the state's official track reporting system showed only one career 3,200-meter victory in high school for Thomas, in this year's District 2-4A meet with four Panthers crossing in 1-2-3-4 order.

With cross country champion Matt Ryan already coming off a 1,600-meter second place to Gainesville Buchholz's Evan Fleming and unable to find the gas in the tank to rank higher than third in the 3,200, Thomas stepped up to carry the standard for the Panthers.

Locked one-on-one against Jonathan Leon of Oviedo Hagerty for the final three laps, Thomas timed his acceleration in the final 150 yards to win in a personal-best 9:02.07.

"I was tired and he was tired," Thomas said. "I knew I could kick on him and just take it home."

Nease also earned a high finish in the boys pole vault, where Matias Masony cleared 14 feet, 9 inches for third place behind Niceville's Van Carter.

OAKLEAF'S BROWN MAKES BREAKTHROUGH

Takoda Brown of Oakleaf runs through the boys triple jump pit in warm-ups. The senior won the event on his second attempt.
Takoda Brown of Oakleaf runs through the boys triple jump pit in warm-ups. The senior won the event on his second attempt.

Going by the seeds, nobody expected Oakleaf senior Brown to outleap a field of Florida's best in the triple jump. Not even Brown himself.

"The last five meets, I've been down, honestly, because I haven't been jumping my best," he said.

He had finished third at his district meet and fourth at regionals, and entered Saturday with only the ninth-best seed mark in Class 4A. But after an opening foul, he launched a winning jump of 45 feet, 11 3/4 inches, quickly followed by another leap of 45 feet, 11 1/4. That was enough to overtake an even more improbable contender, Bartram Trail senior Anim Gyamfi, who finished second after leaping 45 feet, 9 1/4 inches from the No. 12 seed and the unseeded flight.

Brown becomes the latest star in Oakleaf's horizontal jumping tradition, including athletes like 2018 All-First Coast track athlete of the year Melvin Briley.

"I can't even celebrate. I'm still kind of shocked," Brown said. "It's like it doesn't feel real to me."

MUSTANGS' LEWIS OFF TO THE RACES

Jaylen Lewis (3174) of Mandarin pulls ahead to win the boys 200.
Jaylen Lewis (3174) of Mandarin pulls ahead to win the boys 200.

Mandarin's Lewis surprised even himself on Saturday.

"I'm thinking I'm going to go top three," he said. "But when I came in first, I was like, wow... I knew I had it when I heard my mom screaming."

Barely an hour after his fourth-place finish in the boys 400, Lewis was back at it again to race the 200, exploding off the turn to cross in 21.20 with a three-tenths margin on 100 champion Lee Prince Jr. of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Spurred by early speed in the adjacent lane, the Mandarin junior shaved a tenth of a second off his personal best set a week and a half earlier at regionals.

"The dude in lane five [William Owens of Jupiter] got out really hard, and I had to catch him," Lewis said.

Mandarin also netted a third place in the 400 hurdles, with Tyrone Summerall running 53.60 behind the blistering 51.93 of Tallahassee Chiles senior Cade Swart.

Bartram Trail's Ava Myers also established herself as a pole vault contender, fighting through gusty winds to match her personal best of 11 feet, 9 3/4 inches and place second to DeLand's Kylie Neira.

"I was pretty happy about it," Myers said. "That was what I've been working on all week."

NICEVILLE TIES COLUMBUS IN THRILLER

Jamorian Harris (3198) of Miami Southridge leads Robert Stith (3295) of Niceville in the third leg of the boys 4x800.
Jamorian Harris (3198) of Miami Southridge leads Robert Stith (3295) of Niceville in the third leg of the boys 4x800.

Fans who stayed to the end at UNF, many of them waiting out a 53-minute early-afternoon lightning delay in the process, were treated to a thrilling finish in the overall chase.

Miami Columbus led defending champion Niceville in the boys standings, 64-62, with only the 4x400 relay left. Columbus broke in front early, but Miami Southridge overtook the Explorers midway through, while Niceville worked its way up through the pack, caught Columbus on the final lap and placed second to leave both schools as co-champions with 70 points apiece.

Creekside sprint ace Christian Miller anchored that Knights relay for an eighth-place finish in the only action of the day for the Georgia-signed senior, who ran 9.93 seconds last month in a meet outside the high school calendar. Creekside scratched the boys 4x100 relay, in which they held the No. 1 seed, citing an injury to a relay member.

Creekside's victory now extends Northeast Florida's four-year streak of producing a girls team champion, after Bolles won FHSAA titles in Class 2A in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: FHSAA track & field 2024: Saturday championship