The headline read, “State track: New coach leads Admiral Farragut boys back to the top.”
The photo displayed a number of athletes with their index fingers raised in the air as BlueJackets coach Arron Prather held the Florida High School Athletic Association Class A State Champions trophy in his hands.
The opening sentences of The Tampa Bay Times’ article by Andy Warrener stated that “school history” had been made and that “it had been 85 years since the boys won a state track and field title.” (With apologies to Warrener, as we all know, AFA began on the shores of Pine Beach, New Jersey in 1933.)
With Farragut’s incredible win at the state meet over the likes of perennial contenders Orlando First Academy and neighborhood rivals Shorecrest Prep and Northside Christian last weekend at IMG Academy in Bradenton, the BlueJackets added to the 2015 championship-winning achievement by the girls track team, capping a two-year run that highlights the foundation set by previous coach Phil Barnhill.
“Both coaches have played a huge role in my development as a track athlete here,” said Alex Gray ‘16, who won the 100-meters final for the second straight year along with the 200. “Coach Barnhill did a great job in helping us build a great program and Coach Prather has helped us hone in on our strengths.”
It’s been a little over two years since Farragut installed a state-of-the-art rubber track surface, which has given the BlueJackets a better venue to train. Both the boys and girls teams have improved exponentially.
After finishing fourth overall at the Class A state meet in 2014, the girls track team claimed first last season behind the record-breaking performance by Brittany McGee ‘15, who won four state titles. McGee is now competing for the track team at Stanford University.
Despite the loss of Brittany, the girls team still turned in an impressive third place finish at this year’s state meet. Katie Barnett ‘17 led the way with a first in the triple jump and second in long jump. Jazmine Alderman ‘19, who is in her second year at Farragut, placed second in the 200 and third in the 100; Ashaunti Brown ‘16 finished third in shot put and seventh in discus.
The girls relay teams also fared well. The team of Sydni Bostick ‘19, Faith Nelms ‘19, Katie Barnett and Jazmine Alderman placed fourth in the 4×100 and third in the 4×400.
“The girls had to make up for the loss of one of the best track athletes the Tampa Bay region will ever see,” Coach Prather said. “They responded with an incredible year and incredible performances at the state meet.”
For the boys, the title was a couple years in the making due to the fact that cadets like Sam Baker began competing in the shot and discus last year, along with Cameron Pesola in the pole vault. Keyon Jenkins ‘17, a lineman on the football team along with Sam, began competing in shot this year as well. While the three did not win an individual title at states, their performances in their respective events helped the BlueJackets secure points early in the day that would later translate into an easier path to the title.
“Keyon’s fourth in shot, Sam’s seventh in shot and Cameron’s seventh in pole vault, while not as good as they wanted or expected, helped us get points that many teams fail to get,” Coach Prather said. “They set the stage for what the other guys would do.”
After Alex breezed to his two victories, the BlueJackets knew they would have to turn in top three performances in the 4×100 relay and the 4×400 relay if they wanted to hold off Shorecrest and First Academy.
The 4×100 relay team of Alex Oi ‘19, Alex Gray, O’Shon Allen ‘17 and Craig Watts ‘16 did its part with a 43.23 time, finishing behind winner First Academy and second-place Indian Rocks Christian.
“It basically came down to that 4×400,” Coach Prather. “We huddled together and we prayed and looked into each other’s eyes. I started telling each of them what they needed to do and Alex Gray just looked at me and said, ‘Coach, don’t worry. We got this.’”
Alex Oi, who had began racing late in the 2015 campaign with the varsity team, raced out to a slight lead, handing off the baton to Alex Gray, who held onto the lead. Craig Watts kept a lead and gave it to Zach Fine ‘17, who was able to cross the finish line with a third-place finish for the BlueJackets. More importantly, the time of 3:27.27 gave Farragut a new school record and the necessary points — 40.5 — to beat First Academy and Shorecrest, who finished tied for second with 34.
“No one in the area thought we could do it,” Coach Prather said. “We came together and talked about the season and talked about not holding onto any grudges and allowing forgiveness to take hold of your heart and soul. It gave the guys a sense of peace and they were able to run freely.”
Boys 1st overall STATE CHAMPIONS
- Alex Gray: 1st overall – State Champion 100m 11.12
- Alex Gray: 1st overall – State Champion 200m 21.78
- Keyon Jenkins: 4th overall Shot Put 50’11.5
- Sam Baker: 7th Overall Shot Put 49’00.25
- Cameron Pesola: 7th overall Pole Vault 12’0”
- 4×100 Relay: Oi, Gray, Allen, Watts 3rd overall 43.23
- 4×400 Relay: Oi, Gray, Watts, Fine 3rd overall 3:27.27 NEW SCHOOL RECORD
Girls 3rd overall
- Katie Barnett: 1st overall – State Champion Triple Jump 37’9.5
- Katie Barnett: 2nd overall – Long Jump 18’3.5
- Jazmine Alderman: 2nd overall 200m 25.49
- Jazmine Alderman: 3rd overall 100m 12.72
- Ashanti Brown: 3rd overall Shot Put 37’11”
- Ashanti Brown: 7th overall Discus 110’01”
- 4x100m Relay: Bostick, Nelms, Barnett, Alderman 4th overall 50.10
- 4x400m Relay: Nelms, Barnett, Bostick, Alderman 3rd overall 4:10.69