On a slow day one for area schools at the 2021 Florida High School Athletic Association track and field championships, which was only events for Class 1A and 3A schools, the biggest story was a pair of Braden River High runners proving their names belong alongside the best.
Pirates seniors Josh Thomas (10.60 seconds) and Miles Stephens (10.66) finished fourth and fifth in the Class 3A boys 100-meter dash Friday. For Thomas, who entered the event with the third-best time in the class this season (10.52), the finish was a slight disappointment; he crossed the line 0.03 seconds behind third-place James Williamson, a senior from Columbia High. But for Stephens, who entered with the 27th-best time in the class (10.90) and made it to states though finishing fourth at the team's regional meet, it was a joyous occasion.
Stephens said that before his race he was not sure how he would perform. It was a big moment, he said, and even though he's learned to drown out the noise of the crowd, the pressure of the moment and the level of competition made this race different. Instead of crumbling, Stephens rose.
Thomas would later finished ninth in the Class 3A 200-meter dash (22.05).
The two runners were Braden River's only representatives at the event. Also finishing well in running events was The Out-of-Door Academy's Tristan McWilliams, a junior who finished 11th in the Class 1A boys 3,200-meter run (9:51.62), and Saraiah Walkes, a senior who finished ninth in the Class 1A girls 400-meter run (58.88).
Plenty more area athletes will be taking part in the festivities on Saturday, with events for schools in classes 4A and 2A. That means Lakewood Ranch High, Sarasota High, Cardinal Mooney High and Booker High will all be in action, and some of those athletes, like Lakewood Ranch senior girls thrower Riley Simmons, have a shot at gold. Simmons enters the event ranked No. 1 in Class 4A (44 feet, four inches).
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.