St. Thomas Aquinas’ Rasheed Tatham looked around in disbelief as he crossed the finish line first in the 400 meters at the Class 4A state finals at the University of North Florida on Saturday.
As the Hodges Stadium bleacher section roared its approval of his upset victory over American’s Ari Cogdell — the state’s top-ranked quarter miler, Tatham sank to his knees on the Hodges Stadium track and cupped his hands over his head.
“I felt like it was a dream, like I hadn’t actually won it,” said Tatham, who clocked 47.22. “It wasn’t real to me yet. But I trained real hard for it, and I saw my dream come to reality. From the very start of the race I felt it.”
Tatham, freshman Trevon Grimes, a star in the making who finished 1-4 in the 300 hurdles and 110 hurdles, and Ryan Crozier, who finished 1-2 in the discus and shot put, helped the Aquinas’ boys’ program rejoin their girls counterparts as state champions.
It came a year after the boys’ run of five consecutive state titles under coach Alex Armenteros came to an end.
Apopka’s Jamal Whitaker was a prohibitive favorite to sweep the boys’ shot put and discus, but Crozier threw a wrench into those plans when he opened with a throw of 164-0, which Whitaker, who came in ranked No. 15 in the nation (185-9), failed to match.
Meanwhile, the Raiders girls rolled to their 10th state title, second all-time, behind Kendall Ellis, who captured her fourth 400-meter state title. Ellis clocked 52.95, just a shade off the state record (52.51).
While East Ridge star sophomore Kaylin Whitney shut out Aquinas’ vaunted sprints corp from any individual sprint titles, Aquinas’ Krystal Sparling went 2-4 in the 100 and 200, Diamond Spaulding finished second in the 200 and Khalifa St. Fort finished third in the sprints to help the Raiders build an insurmountable lead.
“It would have been nice to win an individual title, but some things just don’t happen when you want them to,” said Sparling, who came in with the nation’s No. 1 time in the 100 and 200. “I am just proud of our girls’ and boys’ teams winning state titles together. Our boys’ team got points where it wasn’t expected.”
The Raiders’ 400-meter girls’ relay team won in 46.18.
Alexa Cruz helped the Aquinas’ 3,200 relay team, with Christina Kalis, Alon Lewis and Narinah Jean-Baptiste, upset top seed Miami Ferguson, the nation’s No. 9 ranked team, and returned to win the 3,200 meters in 10:52.44.
Piper’s Andre Ewers saw his bid to double in the 4A boys’ sprints end with second-place finishes in the 100 (10.67) and 200 (21.59).
Northeast senior Daeshon Gordon wrapped up her illustrious prep career by doubling in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles for the first time.
The LSU recruit had wire-to-wire victories and then returned to lead the Hurricanes to a runner-up finish in the 1,600 relay.
“Going double, it was something that I thought about before a couple years ago, but I never thought I would actually do it,’’ Gordon said. “But now that I have done it, I’m happy.”
Gordon’s teammate, Camora Sanders, earned equal bragging rights with her former state sprint champion sister Shayla after winning the discus 132-9 and coming within a half of inch of winning the shot put title as well.