There was no denying Booker T. Washington a state title this time.
After missing out on a state title in track by one and two points the last two years, the Tornadoes overwhelmed the field Friday night at a rain-soaked University of North Florida track complex.
Booker T. finished with 61 points to easily turn back Tallahassee-FSU (39 points) and Hallandale (33), the only other schools to score more than 26 points.
For the eight participants that Booker T. brought to the meet, it marked their second state title in the last five months. All eight track and field performers were members of the football team that won the Class 4A title. In some circles, they were called the best high school football team in the nation last fall.
Six of the eight track performers made the most of their speed.
The Tornadoes scored 60 points in three individual events and two relays, with each performer running either 100, 200 or 400 yards.
Leading the way for the Tornadoes was Nigel Bethel. He won the 100 and 200 meter dashes, earned a third state crown with the Tornadoes winning effort in the 400-meter relay, and missed out on a day of perfection when the Tornadoes 1,600 relay team finished second by half a second to FSU.
“This is wonderful. It’s actually bittersweet for me because I’m losing such a good group of kids, kids that have really helped our football and track programs become one of the premier programs in the state,” Booker T. coach Tim Harris Jr. said. “Since these kids joined the program four years ago, and after winning a state football championship back in December and now winning a state title in track, it’s just a wonderful feeling.
“They refocused their attention from football to track to win two state championships. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids, all eight of whom were members of the football program last fall.”
Bethel barely had time to catch his breath in-between events.
The four-star defensive back who surprised many when he flipped his commitment from Miami to instead sign with Texas Tech, said he wants to do continue with both sports once he gets to college.
“I play football but I take track very seriously,” he said. “I love both the same. I put a lot of hard work into track and expect to get the same back from it.
“I owe a lot to my teammates. We all run about the same 100 and 200 times, so we all compete at a high level. We really go after each other in practices and that makes us better once we get to the meets.”
The other sprinters include Krondis Larry, Deltron Hopkins and Terrawn McPhee. The four speedsters combined to run both relay events. In addition, Krondis finished first in the 400 dash and Hopkins added a pair of third place finishes in the 100 and 200. The final Tornadoes point came on an eighth place finish by Pierre Thelon in the high jump.
Two other area athletes earned state titles. Ransom Everglade’s Gaby Correa took first in the Class 2A 1,600-meter run while Dade Christian’s Jonathan Saintil won Class 1A triple jump.
Other area athletes who scored points in the meet were Jackson’s Tyrone Thornton, who took fourth in the long jump, Daesha Rogers had a fourth-place finish in the 800, and Archbishop Curley’s Germaine Small was runner-up in the long jump.