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Staff Report

TAMPA – The 50th edition of the Nash Higgins Relays at Leto High School showcased some familiar faces, but also featured some athletes that have either been under the radar or who made their season debut.

The Hillsborough boys picked up their first invitational win of the season by earning 97 points, 10 better than runner-up Newsome. Given the nature of the meet, where all field events were scored as a relay and 5-of-11 track events are relays, it requires more than just one star in order to do well.

While Erryion Knighton led the way for the Terriers, Hillsborough head Joe Sipp said it took a team effort to win the meet.

“Depth absolutely mattered today,” Sipp said. “The rest of the team are kind of hidden behind (Knighton) sometimes).”

Among those hidden gems were the throwers for Hillsborough, who as a team placed second in the shot put and fourth in the discus. Jaden Headen (12.26m) and Laregos Williams (12.09m) both had top 10 individual finishes in the shot put.

Angel Mendoza had a season best in the 800m (2:05.76). Mathew Garrett ran legs on the Sprint Medley Relay, 4×100 and 4×400. The jumps crew came in second in the triple jump and third in the long jump. Kylen Webb (11.33m) was top ten in triple jump while Jordan Bailey (5.56m) was top ten in long jump.

“Our jumpers have been banged up and we haven’t had a full set, but they gutted it out and did some great things,” Sipp said.

Knighton did have his time to shine. After being upset in the 100-meter dash by East Bay’s Johnnie Dorris (who ran :11.17 into a headwind to win the race), Knighton came back to win the 400m (:49.88) and then turn right around one event later and win the 200m (:21.95). He also ran a leg on the winning 4×100 (:43.88).

Steinbrenner’s Josh King, who just committed to the University of Florida, opened the meet by winning the 1600m with a lifetime best 4:24.53.

His Warriors teammate Aidan Bitter continued his stellar season by winning the 110 hurdles (:15.20), high jump (1.88m, 6’ 2”) and the long jump 6.47m (21’ 2.75”).

Sowande Walker of Alonso now sits in third in the state for 4A after winning the discus after a toss of 49.17m (161’ 4”). Robinson’s Myron Ausby now sits in the top 25 for 3A after running 2:02.43 in the 800.

Newsome scored in 4-of-5 relay events, including dominating the distance medley relay in a time of 10:47.99 to win the event by :40 seconds. Newsome also scored in all five of the field events, winning the shot put (led by Anthanasios Owens throwing 12.91m) and the long jump (led by Alex Judah jumping 5.92m). Newsome probably would have scored in a sixth field event, but the pole vault was canceled due to safety concerns.

Steinbrenner was third with 71 points. Middleton, bolstered by wins in the sprint medley relay, 4 X 400, and triple jump, came in fourth with 44 points. Plant rounded out the top five with 41 points.

For the girls competition, Newsome won an invitational meet for the first time this season thanks in part to junior Kaycee Martin, who won the 100m hurdles in a time of :15.93. This puts Martin, who recently moved to Florida from Canada and was making her Newsome debut in the event, into the top 25 in 4A in the event. Teammate Kylie Clark was right behind Martin to come in second with a time of :16.31.

Newsome also used the depth of their high jump crew to pick up 10 points. Sydney Locker cleared 1.47m (4’ 9.5”) and her teammates Denver Wilkins and Margret Jones cleared 1.42m (4’ 7.5”) to all finish in the top 10.

Kendall Hughes, Lillian Cowley, Emma Solis, and Keleigh Scallon teamed up to run the 4×800 in 9:45.77 and win the event by over a minute.

Newsome won the meet with 73 points.

Steinbrenner kept it close and finished second with 71 points thanks to a season debut of their own. Zayne Jack, fourth place last year in the 100-meter dash at the 4A state meet, ran the 100m for the first time this season and finished second with a time of :13.02. Alonso’s Shaniya Benjamin won the event running at :12.49.

“(Jack) had a really good indoor season” Steinbrenner coach Ladd Baldwin said. “She has had a slight strain in her hamstring, so we are not doing anything that would make it uncomfortable. She’s had some real good practices, just playing it really carefully right now.”

Steinbrenner also had a strong day in the field events, scoring in all five, including Rachel Garrison’s 29.82m (97’ 10”) throw in the discus, which led the Warriors to a win in the event.

Steinbrenner’s second place team finish featured a number of underclassmen competitors and according to Baldwin, Nash Higgins was a great day for both the boys and girls team as they grow together.

“With the athletes we had and where we put them, (this was) a team bonding event. It was really a day for the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen to shine. Individual efforts were great as well with Garrison having a PR, and Ryan Parsons clearing 5 feet in the high jump,” said Baldwin.

The girls 1600m featured most of the top distance runners in the county. Riverview’s Alyssa Hendrix broke away from a pack of five to win in 5:02.74, while Steinbrenner’s Jacquelyn Abanses kept it close to come in second in 5:06.54, and Plant’s Mary Ellen Eudaly was third in 5:08.93.

Those three would meet again as the anchors in the distance medley relay, and after her Panthers teammates gave Eudaly a huge lead, she finished it off as they won easily in 12:38.82.

Another impressive debut came from Blake’s Rayna Lewis, as the freshman competed in her first long jump competition at the high school level and beat 45 competitors with a leap of 5.07m (16’ 7.75”).

Plant finished third in the meet with 63 points. Alonso was fourth with 56 and Hillsborough was fifth with 51.