Success at the Florida High School Athletic Association track and field championships can come down to split-second decisions and micro-movements that most fans would never notice.
Performing well in front of packed bleachers is hard. Winning is even harder.
Sarasota High junior Alec Miller did not win the Class 4A boys 1,600 meter run at this year's event — held May 11-14 at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville — but he came close, and that was good enough to get Miller to smile wide on the podium.
Miller, who entered the event seeded first with a time of 4:19.86, ran in second place for the latter portion of the race and finished there as well (4:13.50). Miller tried to catch Hagerty High junior Brayden Seymour for first place, sprinting home on the final lap, but Seymour had built too big a lead over the course of the race and won by 1.74 seconds.
Still, Miller was happy with how he performed.
"I was curious if I was going to be able to catch him (Seymour)," Miller said. "It didn't happen, but I'm psyched I was able to drop six seconds (from his personal record) against a huge field like this. That was awesome."
Miller said the pack of lead runners went out at a comfortable speed and he was excited by attempting to keep pace with everyone. Going into the third of four 400 meter laps, Miller "kicked," or started sprinting, and kept the pace the rest of the race while others fell off. The strategy allowed him to secure his silver medal.
Despite losing out on gold to Seymour, Miller had nothing but positive things to say about his competition.
"He's a phenomenal runner," Miller said of Seymour. "He takes that (lead) quick. I knew it was going to be extremely difficult. Each lap I was thinking, 'How much can I reel him in? How many more positions can I move up?' That was the plan."
It almost worked.
Miller's success is a testament to how much a track and field athlete can improve from one season to the next. In 2021, Miller's best time in the 1,600 meter run was 4:51.64, approximately 38.14 seconds slower than his time at the 2022 championships. He didn't compete at the team's district meet, let alone states.
Now he has brought home coveted hardware.
"I'm still trying to process it all," Miller said. "But I went into this meet hoping to earn a medal in general. Finishing second like I did is amazing."
Miller was one of nearly 40 Sarasota-area athletes to attend the championships in some form, whether that be in a starring role in a flashy event like Miller's or as an alternate in a relay. Miller competed in the 4x800 relay with his Sailor teammates; Sarasota finished 13th (8:06.67).
Of the remaining athletes, it was only Miller's teammate, Tyler Boyer, who equaled Miller's feat of finishing in the top three.
Boyer finished third in the Class 4A 110-meter hurdles (14.32 seconds), the event that is essentially a dead sprint with jumps. Boyer dropped 0.68 seconds from his qualifying time of 15 seconds, a significant amount in a short event like his. Boyer's qualifying time seeded him seventh, so a third-palce finish was impressive — though not enough to catch Nease High senior Cyrus Ways, who won the event by more than half a second (13.53 seconds).
In April, Boyer said his main goal was to get his time under 15 seconds. He accomplished that mission.
Boyer also finished fifth in the 300-meter hurdles (38.67 seconds).
Sarasota also had the area's top girls finisher. Sailors junior Isabella Nebel finished fifth in the girls 300-meter hurdles (44.35 seconds), though the scoreboard at James G. Pressly Stadium briefly showed Nebel finishing third before getting the official results. Nebel entered the event seeded fourth.
No other area school had an athlete of team of athletes finish higher than sixth. Booker High sophomore Jakai Peterson finished sixth in the Class 2A girls long jump (5.48 meters) after entering the event seeded fourth and Cardinal Mooney High's girls 4x400 relay team of senior Margaret Videnka, senior Hallie Monserez, junior Sally Koscho and senior Avery Beach finished sixth (4:10.23) in Class 1A after being seeded fifth.
Riverview High's highest finisher was sophomore Susan Lowther, who finished ninth in the Class 4A girls discus (36.90 meters), a jump from her seeded position of 15th. Rams sophomore boys discus athlete Luis Castaneda finished 12th (43.06 meters) after entering seeded seventh.
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.