Braden River High hosted its first-ever track and field meet last week.
It was another record announcement that came over the loudspeaker.
Braden River High senior boys sprinter Josh Thomas had broken the school's 100-meter dash record — his own record — by finishing in 10.52 seconds. When he heard the news, Thomas let out a loud "Yes!" It's the fastest time in Class 3A this season, a mark Thomas has said he wanted to own.
Earning the time felt good, but the cheers from the crowd were just as sweet.
Thomas broke the record March 29 at the 2021 Braden River Invitational. It was the first track meet the school has hosted since it opened in 2005. Pirates Track and Field Coaches Victoria Diaz said she and fellow Coach Allison Dain had been dreaming of hosting a meet since they took over the program five years ago, but before that could happen, the school's track had to receive an upgrade. It was unsafe to run on otherwise.
"The track was so uneven, we used to joke that we had hills in it," Diaz said.
The school had to wait for their turn in line — Manatee County has committed to restoring each of its school's tracks in time — and it came this summer, when a rubber track was installed. The supplementary areas, like the long jump runway, were also upgraded. Now, Diaz said, not only do the facilities look nicer, but they are safer while also being more versatile. Long jumpers, for example, can now wear their traditional spiked cleats while practicing instead of running shoes. It makes for more accurate practice, Diaz said.
"Prior to the upgrades, the long jump runway was too short and pit was too small," Diaz said. "Someone put grass seed on it at one point. We couldn’t really use it. The new one is great. It's easier to train on it and there are less shin splints, less injuries."
Diaz said the school also received new pole vault equipment, new high jump equipment and 80 new hurdles. The discus area is now at school's sports stadium instead of at the practice fields, so throwers feel like they are part of the team. Diaz said all the upgrades lead to Braden River being able to run a more efficient program, and she joked that her freshman class is spoiled, having never known the perils of the previous track.
The Pirates improvements from the upgrades might already be showing. Both Braden River's boys and girls teams finished first at its inaugural event, which featured eight schools. On the boys side, Thomas also set the school record in the 200-meter dash (21.66) in addition to his 100-meter win, junior Ben Sampey won the 3,200-meter run (11:42.28) and junior John Delesline won the triple jump (32 feet, 3.75 inches), in addition to other strong finishes. On the girls side, senior Alexis Graham won the 200-meter dash (25.88), sophomore Adriana Guerra won the 800-meter run (2:42.72), junior Ella Novarro won the high jump (4 feet, 7.75 inches) and senior Faith Gilray won both the discus (87 feet, 6 inches) and the javelin (80 feet, 8 inches).
"The team had such a great time," Diaz said. "They were doing back flips on the field after it ended."