JACKSONVILLE -- The American Heritage girls’ track team won the first and last event of the Class 2A state track and field championships at the University of North Florida on Saturday.
In between those two relay races, the Patriots scored points in nearly every running event from 100 to 1,600 meters as they overwhelmed the field in winning a fourth consecutive state championship.
Heritage accumulated 87 points, more than the combined total of runner-up Rockledge (39) and third place finisher Pine Crest (37).
“We had someone in almost every race that finished in the top three, we’re so stacked in so many events,” said junior Deja Parrish who did her share by winning the 400 meter run and anchoring the winning 1,600-relay unit. “Us winning that opening relay of 3,200 and finishing it with a win in the 1,600 relay, just set the tone for the whole day.
“It’s just awesome to win a fourth consecutive state title.”
Leading the Patriots charge like she did a year ago was eighth-grader Daesha Rogers who after contributing a leg in helping her team win the opening 3200-meter relay, she the turned in two strong performances in repeating as 800- and 1,600-meter state champion.
The 1,600 race was over after 400 meters. Rogers sprinted the first leg of the race and held an eight-second lead on the pack after one trip around the track. She maintained a seven-second margin throughout the race, posting a winning time of 4:59.39.
“That was the strategy we had coming into the race,” she said. “I went out fast, got a lead and then it’s up to anyone to try and catch me. I felt good out there and was able to hold it throughout.”
Her dominance in the 800 didn’t match that of the 1,600, but there wasn’t much doubt whom the winner would be when the runners hit the halfway point. She held a 12-meter advantage and ended up winning by a little more than three seconds.
“The 800 is still my favorite race. I love running that,” Rogers said. “That’s the event that one day I hope to run in the Olympics in.”
While the American Heritage girls dominated their competition, their counterparts in the boys meet weren’t as successful. While they won the final event with a blistering 3:14 clocking in the 1,600 relay, the Patriots could only watch as Longwood edged Booker T. Washington by a single point to capture the boys’ title.
Booker T. trailed by three points entering the final race and needed to finish at least two spots better than Longwood in order to overtake them for the team title. But while Booker T. finished second to Plantation in the race, Longwood was third, giving them 67 points on the night, one more than Washington’s 66.
Walter Tucker was a standout for American Heritage’s boys’ team, winning the 110-meter hurdles and finishing second in the 300 hurdles to account for 18 of the Patriots 52 points.
“I ran a good race in the 110 hurdles, even with a new pair of shoes,” Tucker said. “My shoes weren’t grabbing the track in the [preliminary rounds] so my dad went out and bought me a new pair of shoes before the finals. I won that race in the first time I used the shoes.
“In the 300 I went out good but my timing was off a little on the next to last hurdle and that threw off my steps approaching the last hurdle. It would have been nice to have won both events.”
Tucker also indicated that he would make visits to Tennessee, Clemson, Florida and Georgia next week and announce his college choice right after the visits were concluded.