JACKSONVILLE-- Their tent was well in the back, but the collective performances of the St. Thomas Aquinas track and field team was front and center at Saturday’s FHSAA state championships. The Raiders won three individual championships, two relay crowns as well as the Class 4A girls title with 79 points.
In all, five individual athletes from Broward County won individual or relay championships. One of the first of the day came from Flanagan’s Devin D’Oliveira in the Class 4A long jump. Afterward D’Oliveira said her first jump is typically her best, and her leap of 18-11 ¼ continued that trend.
“It’s my first time and it was real exciting,” D’Oliveira said. “At first you don’t feel it, but when you get on the podium and everyone is watching you, it’s great.”
Broward athletes earned their fair share of individual attention as West Broward’s Isaiah Taylor won the Class 4A 100 meters in 10.48 seconds; Monarch’s Phoebe Gustely throw of 142-0 in the discus was nearly three feet better than the second place finisher and Boyd Anderson’s quartet of John Toussaint, D’Corian Williams, Steven Oliver and Javon Patterson combined to win the 3,200 meter run in 7:52.99, less than a half second ahead of St. Johns Creekside.
However, the day belonged to the Raiders.
“I just think it was collaborative on all parties as far as stepping it up,” said St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Alex Armenteros. “We had a rough regionals, some of the girls felt they didn’t perform at their best. To come out here today and put everything together was great.”
Aquinas’ Trevon Grimes led in the Class 4A 110 meter hurdle final after three hurdles, but he was eventually eclipsed by fellow sophomore Damion Thomas from St. Petersburg Northeast for the gold medal. Grimes finished in 13.81, just eight hundredths of a second behind Thomas. Grimes would get his gold about 90 minutes later when he won the 300 hurdles with a time of 36.84.
St. Thomas Aquinas’ Krystal Sparling broke from the blocks early in the girls 100 meter finals and was never in jeopardy of being caught, finishing in 11:46 seconds. Her teammate Diamond Spaulding joined her on the podium, as her time of 11.71 was good enough for third.
In the girls 400 meter relay, Jacksonville Atlantic Coast had a slight lead after three legs, but Sparling won her second gold medal of the day by overcoming the deficit on the anchor leg to help the Raiders win in 46.26 seconds.
Aquinas’ girls capped off a third straight state championship, and 11th title in program history, by winning the 1,600 relay in 3:44.3. Armenteros said Alon Lewis, Spaulding and Sparling wanted to win for freshman Erica Murphy.
The third-year coach of the girls program congratulated Class 3A state champions Miami Northwestern and 2A champions Hallendale, as well as Miami Southridge — the runners up in Class 3A — for preparing his Raiders during the season.
“We had a lot of experience,” Armenteros said. “We have a very confident group and we have a very proven group. Those were our strengths this year.”