A prep sprint campaign for the ages brought Boyd Anderson High School graduate Shayla Sanders the Gatorade Florida Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year award on Wednesday.
In her leap to superstar status, Sanders posted the nation’s top times in the 100 and 200, to unseat former Miami Jackson star Robin Reynolds, a fellow University of Florida recruit, who was favored to claim her second consecutive Gatorade award.
“I didn’t know I had a chance to win it because Robin is a very excellent runner,’’ Sanders said. “I thought she had a good chance to win it again. I think having the top national times, winning the Adidas Dream 100 and finishing third in the USA Juniors might have put me over the top. I thank God.”
The award adds to a post-season haul that already includes Track Athlete of the Year honors from the Miami Herald and Broward County Track Officials Association, which also recognized Sanders’ work ethic and high character with the Herman J. Mancini award.
Sanders said the Gatorade award carries special meaning because it took into account the 3.42 GPA she maintained and the volunteer work with intellectually challenged students.
“In my household education is first priority,’’ Sanders said. “As for volunteering with the special needs kids, I did it because some people look at them like they don’t know anything. I look at them as regular kids. They just have a learning disability. When I get to UF, I hope I have a chance to do something like that again.”
Sanders set the tone for a string of U.S. No. 1 times by winning the Jimmy Carnes Indoors 55 meters title in a personal-best 6.85 and the Brooks PR Invitational 60-meters title in 7.21, a U.S. No. 2 all-time indoor time.
With her Boyd Anderson teammate and heir apparent Kali Davis-White providing a push, Sanders posted the nation’s top times in the 100 (11.33) and 200 (23.25) and ran anchor leg on the nation’s No. 2 ranked 400-meter relay unit (45.66).
Sanders also led Boyd Anderson to its first state girls’ track title, going 1-2 with Davis-White in the 100 and 200 and helping the Cobras set a FHSAA state record in the 400-meter relay (45.71).
Sanders, who qualified with Davis-White for the United States team headed to the IAAF World Junior Championships in Spain, becomes a finalist for the Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year award.