There were no golds, but a few area athletes still found success.
Cardinal Mooney High senior Max Middleton felt himself spin.
He saw the discus fly out of his hand and land with thud, and he knew it was a good throw. But even he could not believe just how good.
"When I heard the distance called out, I thought, 'Holy cow, that is far,'" Middleton said.
His attempt had gone 45.95 meters, or approximately 150 feet, 9 inches. It was the best throw of his career, and it couldn't have happened at a better time. Middleton was competing at the 2021 Florida High School Athletic Association track and field championships, held May 7-8 at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville.
The throw earned Middleton, who was competing in the Class 2A boys discus event, a silver medal. He finished just 2 feet, 9 inches behind gold medalist Tremain Robinson, a senior at Somerset Academy Canyons, and bested bronze medalist Carlos Lacosta, a senior at Cypress Creek High, by 7 feet, 1 inch. Middleton was seeded fifth entering the event.
Middleton said the result was extra sweet because of how far he has come in the sport. Unlike most medalist throwers, Middleton has not been dedicated to the craft for long. He started throwing in 2019 after starting his high school career in the school's baseball program. That season, he only made one throw in competition that cleared 100 feet. Last year, Middleton and everyone else had their opportunities cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, Middleton said, he's been working with new Mooney throws Coach Ryan Carson, who revamped his technique and improved his distance. Middleton used to slant to the left while spinning during his throws, he said, but he now is able to consistently stay straight, giving his attempts more distance.With Carson's help, Middleton set a new goal for himself. He wanted to hit 150 feet.
He had to wait until state championship, but he saw that goal through to the end. His silver-medal winning throw broke his own school record.
"To have that be the last throw of my high school career, it felt awesome," Middleton said.
Middleton also competed in the javelin at the state championships, finishing eighth with a throw of 45.82 meters (150 feet, 4 inches). Middleton said he would have been thrilled with any result in the event, as this is his first year competing in it. Middleton said he learned more or less everything he knows about javelin from YouTube videos; the sport is not Carson's specialty. Middleton entered the event seeded 11th.
Middleton was not alone in his success at the championships. Booker High's girls 4x100 relay team took second place in Class 2A (49.40 seconds). The Tornadoes finished 1.03 seconds behind Paxon High.
The team, comprised of seniors Dominique Starr and Raja Arrington and freshmen Terrietta Smith and Jakai Peterson, said the key to its success was its handoffs, which allowed them to get to full speed quickly.
The team entered the event seeded third. The Tornadoes said they felt confident they could finish higher than that, even though the team was missing junior Ty'Anna Ash, who was out with an injury. Starr took her place and ran the first lap, giving Booker the positioning it needed to finish high.
The team's run was 1.61 seconds off the school record time, set in 2010.
"For us (Starr and Arrington) to go out like this, it was perfect," Starr said.