This weekend will mark the first time Jackson Storey and Matt Clark have competed at the Taj Mahal of varsity sports facilities in the state, but it will be far from their first rodeo at state competition.
The two distance runners, as well as 41 others from St. Johns County, will be introduced to IMG Academy in Bradenton today for the 2016 FHSAA state track and field championships.
Storey and Clark were members of the Knights’ cross country team that won a state title in November. Storey — a 2016 district and regional champion in the 800 meters — was on the Knights’ 3,200 meter relay that finished second at the 2015 Class 3A championships.
They are part of a Creekside team that has an outside chance of winning St. Johns County’s third state track and field team title. Thursday, the six members of the Knights’ 3,200 relay admitted their goal is to have fun in the 941.
“It’s going to be a new experience,” Clark said. “With the new track at IMG, the nerves are going to be running. The adrenaline will be pumping on the start line. It’s going to be fun.”
Storey is one of four who won individual regional titles last week. Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind junior La’Terria Hampton won her third straight regional title in the shot put and will look to improve on her state runner-up finish last spring. Creekside’s Jordan Fields won a regional title in the girls high jump, while the Knights’ Justin Horne claimed one in the pole vault.
Not only will Creekside take the largest contingent among the county teams, with 11 athletes, the Knights will have four who have qualified in multiple events.
Clark is one of them. In addition to running the 3,200, he will likely run in the 3,200 relay with Storey.
Storey is a qualifier in the relay as well as the 1,600 and 800 meters.
“I am very well prepared,” Storey said. “All year, we’ve been practicing the triple and building it up, not only physically with my legs, but mentally with my confidence so I can go do the triple.”
The junior will attempt to become the 10th St. Johns County runner to win a state championship in either the 880 yards or 800 meters.
One of those previous victors is St. Joseph coach Justin Taylor, who will be taking 10 Flashes with him to the Suncoast. From that group, Tre Preston may have the best chance to be the Flashes’ first state champion since Taylor graduated in 2005.
Preston finished second in the long jump at 22 feet, 4 3/4 inches at the Region 1-1A meet, but he has leapt more than 23 feet at two separate meets this year. He will likely need that and more if he is to beat Naples St. John Neumann senior Gregory Mathieu, who jumped 23-5½ to win the Region 2-1A title.
St. Augustine sophomore Karim Brown will be in the Class 3A long jump competition, looking to produce a personal best.
“I really don’t know,” Brown said when asked what he expects from his first FHSAA state championships. “All I know is I’m trying to hit a 22 (feet) or higher. A 21 isn’t going to work. They have people jumping out the gym out there.”
It’s state. Everyone is good, everyone is fast and anything can happen. Just ask the Knights’ relay that will look to add a state title to its district and regional crowns.
“We have six fast boys in the 800,” said senior Nate Perez.
“If we all have a good day and we work together,” Mateo Villa interjected.
“…Even if we throw out our fifth, our sixth person, we have to compete,” Perez finished. “Nothing is promised.”
2016 St. Johns County track and field qualifiers state qualifiers
400 meter relay (Autumn Diallo, Niecea Pauley, Karah Harrington, Kit Loferski)
David Lott, *long jump, *triple jump
Brady Keller, *shot put
Matt Neeley, 1,600 meters
1,600 meter relay (AJ Bolden, Bryce Walker, Zech Dapaah, Norman Noffsinger)
Jordan Fields, #high jump, long jump, *100 hurdles
Abby Thorpe, high jump,
Briana Washington, long jump, triple jump
*1,600 meter relay (Briana Washington, Keshia Griffith, Beverley Thompson, Jordan Fields)
Justin Horne, **pole vault
Jackson Storey, *1,600 meters, **800 meters
Dominic Smith, *400 meters,
Matt Clark, *3,200 meters
**3,200 meter relay (Nate Perez, Mateo Villa, Matt Clark, Jackson Storey)
Chloe Ways, *400 meters
Kenneth Whitehead, *high jump
3,200 meter relay (Anna Raymaker, Claire Moritz, Abby Reimer, Reagan Darrah)
Alyssa Quixley, *shot put
Karim Brown, long jump
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
La’Tierra Hampton, **shot put
Megan Lockner, shot put
Tyre Singleton, 400 meters
St. Joseph Academy
Alexa Kelley, *pole vault
Amy Volk, *triple jump
Becky Volk *800 meters, triple jump
1,600 meter relay (Amy Volk, Delany Bolton, Kayla Mansell, Becky Volk)
Tre Preston, *long jump, *200 meters,
Sean Snyder, 3,200 meters
1,600 meter relay (Mason Lackey, Antonio Kes, Joan Olivella, Tre Preston)
*Denotes district champion
#Denotes regional champion
**Denotes district and regional champion