The Out-of-Door Academy freshman sprinter Saraiah Walkes "didn't have a great breakfast," she said following her Class 1A 400-meter dash qualifying race. She laughed as she said this. The breakfast, a croissant from Wawa, didn't slow Walkes down much.
She finished fourth in the preliminary race (57.69 seconds), good enough to advance to Saturday's finals. Walkes also qualified first in the 100-meter dash (12.28) and in the 200-meter dash (24.95).
"I could have pushed a little harder toward the end," Walkes said, but wanted to conserve her energy.
Her day almost came to a crashing halt before the race, when she was instructed to start on an improper line by a Florida High School Athletic Association official. A different official caught the mistake as the start gun fired, causing a false start. If Walkes had lined up there voluntarily, she said, she would have been disqualified. Since she was following orders, she was allowed to stay in the race.
Walkes won all three events at last year's state championships, and she's one of the favorites in them again this season.
Lakewood Ranch junior James Rivera, whose brother, John Rivera Jr., won three gold medals at last year's championships, is looking to crave his own path. Rivera qualified third in both the Class 4A 100-meter hurdles (14.56 seconds) and the 300-meter hurdles (38.42).
Rivera said the experience of running at the championships, held at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, is "totally different" than any other race he's won. He was happy with his performances, he said, but wants to get out to better starts in both events on Saturday.
Most events held their preliminary events on Friday, but there were a few finals as well.
Sarasota senior Ben Hartvigsen finished fourth in the 4A boys 3200-meter race (9:21.99). Hartvigsen was in second place for much of the race, but was passed late. Hartivgsen said he wasn't happy with his performance and that there wasn't one thing he could pinpoint that went wrong.
"It's just one of those days," Hartvigsen said.
In the 4A boys long jump, Lakewood Ranch senior Harry Barthelemy finished sixth (22.41 feet) and Sarasota High senior Jaasiel Torres finished 10th (21.36).
Lakewood Ranch senior Shay Lee finished seventh in the 4A girls 800-meter run (2:17.21), while Mustangs senior Julianne Dillon finished 10th (2:18.87). Braden River High senior Alyssa Gagnon finished 18th in the 3A girls 800-meter run (2:23.44).
On the boys side, Mustangs senior Johnny Reid finished sixth in the 800-meter race (1:56.89) while senior teammate Andrew Dean finished 17th (1:59.83).
Other notable results from Friday: Lakewood Ranch sophomore Ava Klein qualified ninth in the 4A 400-meter dash (57.13), Mustangs senior Morgan Lingle finished ninth in the 4A girls discus (117.26 feet) and Riverview High senior Aliyah Cunningham qualified fifth for the 4A girls 100-meter dash (12.15).
On Saturday, the biggest draws will be the finals of the sprint and hurdle events, plus the 4A pole vault finals, in which Lakewood Ranch seniors Karen Kay Lyvers and Nick Napier will be in the running for girls and boys gold, respectively, and the 4A high jump finals, which Sarasota's Jaasiel Torres won last year.
–Ryan Kohn, YourObserver.com