Tip Your Hat to the Best

Chris Sumner, April 30, 2007

As track season winds down, I wanted to update the club on some of our local high school athletes. Most schools have finished their seasons.  (Leon, Lincoln, and Chiles have their state meet on Friday.)  Here are some highlights about a few of the athletes that have already finished and performed extremely well.

Michelle Jenije of NFC won her 5th straight state title in the Triple Jump leaping an amazing 38’4″.  I don’t know Michelle that well, but from the few times I have spoke she seems to be a very polite and humble athlete who works hard. Congrats!! Laura Kuhse at Maclay was state runner up in the Pole Vault clearing 10’0″.  She also placed 5th in the Triple Jump leaping 35’5″.  Jonathan Ferrell of FAMU was state runner-up in the 110m Hurdles with a time of 14.92 seconds.  Raven Robinson of FAMU was the state runner-up in the 100m and 200m dashes with times of 12.51 and 26.02. Raven is the daughter of Coach Robinson of FAMU and will be back for two more years. Emily Ness of Maclay was state runner-up in the 300m Hurdles with a time of 45.68. She also competed in the 100m Hurdles placing 6th with a time of 15.94.

Whitney Strickland of NFC won the class 1A 800m with a huge PR of 1:56.86. For those of you who haven’t met Whitney he is a very well mannered young man who has been a tremendous captain and leader of the NFC boys team. He has been working extremely hard to break 2 minutes for the half all year long. He met his goal at the regional meet going 1:58.00 before his big performance for the state title the next week.  Big Congrats to Whitney!!!!


LaQunita Gardner of NFC was the state champion in the 200m with a time of 25.87.  Together with Raven these two dominated the 200m dash. Congrats!! Traci Lewis of East Gadsden was state runner-up in the Long Jump with a leap of 18’3.75″. She won the title last year, but fell a bit short to a monstrous 19’2.5″ jump by a girl from Atlantic HS.  Willie Downs of Godby was state runner-up in the Triple Jump with a huge PR of 46’25”. Willie and I talked about putting a huge mark out there on the first attempt to disrupt the concentration of the competitors. It worked for the most part.  He also placed 7th in the high jump clearing 6’4″.  This beast is only a 10th grader and he will be doing a lot more next year.

Lauren Smith of Rickards was state champion in the 100m dash with a blazing performance of 12.11. Lauren has been plagued by injuries a few times throughout her high school career, but finally got her moment to shine Saturday. She was 4th in the 200m dash also with a time of 25.23. Very well deserving young lady!!!!

These last two young men are extremely special to me. I was in tears Saturday by the amazing performance these two young men showed on the track. Tyler Price of Wakulla gave an extremely gutsy race in the 3200m running 9:35.38 for a 3rd place finish.  For those of you who read the paper Friday there was an article about Tyler’s father Dave who is suffering from ALS.  Tyler has made huge improvements over the course of the year while dealing with this tragic news. Tyler often came over to Godby to train with Joe Franklin. Tyler’s hard work and determination this year made him one the best 
athletes I’ve ever worked with.  I wish all the best to Tyler in his future endeavors. He will be heading up to Greensboro, North Carolina, for Nike Outdoor Nationals in June to run the 5K on the track.

Lastly, Joe Franklin of Godby proved that he IS the best middle distance runner 
in Florida and is on his way to possibly being the best of all time in the state.  Joe broke the state record in the 1600m with a smoking time of 4:08.84. (You can add approximately 1.5 seconds to get the mile equivalent.)  Not only was this performance impressive, but the fact that he ran it all by himself with no help makes it even more amazing. Joe broke the field before they even reached the halfway point. And he closed in a fast 60 second quarter.  This is his second championship in the 1600m. An hour later, Joe got back on the track and defended his two 800 meter state titles with an easy 1:54. And then he anchored Godby’s 4x400m team with a 49 second 400m. Joe is an amazing athlete to watch. I’m already getting sad that he will be leaving after next year. We plan on traveling to Atlanta later in May to hopefully get into another good mile match-up. He will also be going to Nike Outdoor to go after a national title in either the mile or the 800m. We are checking into one or two more other National level meets, but have to figure out funding to get there. I’ll try to keep the club updated.

Good luck to those running this weekend. And thanks to all the volunteers who have helped with the area youth track programs.