FLEMING ISLAND - In Clay County high school sports, the coveted state titles fell to numerous teams that made the long run from season start to finish with the best of the year trophy sent to their high school front office; Oakleaf High School getting three golds; softball Class 8A, swimming Elianna Kennon 50 free, triple jump Melvin Briley; Fleming Island High School getting five; boys soccer Class 4A, wrestling Jason Davis 3A and swimming with three: 4 x 50 relay, Nick Hackett 200 free, 100 butterfly; Clay High with two; both girls weightlifting: Erykah Murray and Ashleigh Dean; St. Johns Country Day School with one, Class 1A girls soccer, and Middleburg High with one; golfer Cody Carroll Class 2A.
Apart from being the prolific teams and individuals in Florida in 2016-17, the Clay Today Top 10 high school sports plays of the year encompasses eight of the aforementioned state champion athletes that won gold medals, but two that create a gamebreaking play to propel their team to a key win though not necessarily a state championship. Here now are the Clay Today Top 10 sports performances of the year.
Cody Carroll wins Class 2A golf title in overtime
Middleburg High junior Cody Carroll scorched the first round of the Class 2A golf tournament with a five-under-par 67 that dismembered the field right from the opening whistle, but, in the end, after nearly 7,000 yards of golf, it was a 2.5 foot putt in overtime that won the title. Mission Inn and Resort in Howie-in-the-Hills near Orlando hosted the tournament on Nov. 1-2.
“That was the toughest 2.5 foot putt I’ve ever had to sink,” said Carroll, who defeated Bishop Moore junior Ignacio Arcaya in an 18th hole overtime after Carroll’s high-flying first round settled into a near-disastrous five-over par 77 second round score. “I just put out what happened in the second round and focused on hitting the 18th hole as good as I could. At the time, it was fun to be out there, but it was pretty stressful.”
Reed Davis sinks overtime state semifinal gamewinner
Fleming Island junior forward Reed Davis had gotten used to being the hero and Friday’s state semifinal game against Melbourne High proved no different with Davis ending a 1-1 tie after 80 minutes of regulation time and 9:47 of overtime before burying the go-ahead goal for a 2-1 win and a ticket to the Class 4A championship game in Deland on Sat., Feb. 18 against Doral High of Miami.
“Oh man, I was trying to chip it over the wall, but they deflected it and put it right in front of me,” said Davis, who has recorded two game-winning goals in the Golden Eagles’ three
region games up to the Final Four and now has 49 goals for the season. “I just took the ball and hit it. It was so fast.”
Fleming Island won 4-0 over Doral for the Class 4A title.
St. Johns Country Day School goalie Cassidy Wasdin makes spectacular save in second half surge by Lakeland Christian.
St. Johns Country Day School goalie Cassidy Wasdin had a traditionally quiet season as the goalkeeper for the front-running Spartans soccer team that created an unbeaten season with a bucket load of shutouts registered to Wasdin, but it was late in the second half of the Spartans’ eventual 2-0 win over Lakeland Christian, with gusting winds in her face, that Wasdin answered the call with two spectacular saves; one on a penalty kick just 15 yards in front of her, to preserve the win and also thwart any late momentum for the Lakeland Christian team.
Clay High football all-around athlete and kickoff returner Jaylan Jenkins 90 yard TD kickoff return breaks open region championship win for Blue Devils.
Clay High football was in a tussle in their region 2-5A championship in a mosquito-infested stadium near Tampa and only able to finish the first half with a hard fought 14-10 lead.
Up only 14-10 and with quarterback Caleb Eason being sacked twice as the first half ended, it was second half kickoff returnman Jaylan Jenkins’ 90 yard kickoff return that put the momentum solidly on the Blue Devil sideline en route to a 39-16 region final win over River Ridge High School.
“Coach told me that our offense needed a spark and that a good kickoff return would help,” said Jenkins, who narrowly missed a first half kickoff touchdown by half the width of his cleat that was deemed out of bounds 46 yards from his start point. “I almost broke one in the first quarter, but stepped out of bounds. The second one, I made sure I stayed away from the sideline.”
Clay would advance to the state semifinal and lose to Ponte Vedra High, the eventual Class 5A runnerup to American Heritage.
Fleming Island High senior swimmer John Hutton’s rocket fast first leg of the Class 4A 4 x 50 free relay final.
In 2015, Hackett, Jack Neeley, Andrew Heinton and John Hutton, the lone senior in 2016, blew away the field in the 4 x 50 free relay. The target was placed solidly on the back of the four boys for 2016 and, thoughout the season, the chatter was about upending the quartet at state by such swim powers as Oviedo and Riverview.
With a riveting leadoff split of 21.00 by senior John Hutton, 21.20 for Neeley, 21.55 for Heinton and 20.78 for Hackett, the Golden Eagles scored an All-American winning time of 1:24.53 to win and also best last year’s 1:25.00 winning time.
Fleming Island High wrestler Jason Davis made season-altering decision on weight class he would compete in in 2017.
For his senior season, Fleming Island High wrestler Jason Davis and coach P.J. Cobbert agreed on 182 pounds as his weight to compete at despite weighing a whopping 235 prior to the season and a third place finish at 195 in 2016.
“A lot of people can say I should have went to the same weight as Chei Hill, but we looked at the what the team needed and Ryan Smenda was going to be the 195 and I didn’t think I would look good at 220,” said Davis. “I cut through the off season but it cost me in the first three weeks of the season because I was so weak and depleted. It was horrible and I had plenty of doubts.”
Davis, despite a season start that saw him react negatively to the extreme weight loss from 235 pounds to a solid 182 pounds, roared through the 182 pound weight division for the entire season with one thing in mind for his final campaign: win a state title.
“I talked about it, wrote about, tweeted about and, in the last 20 seconds, I realized, I did it,” said Davis, who won the 182 pound Class 3A title Saturday night at the FHSAA state championships at Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena. “I’m not a big celebration guy, but I shook coach P.J. Cobbert’s hand after that mat, told him I loved him and thanked him for getting me to that next level. All the training and the weight cut has been well worth it.”
Ridgeview High freshman softball player Sarah Anderson answers in the ninth inning to put the Lady Panthers into region playoffs.
Ridgeview softball: Freshman Sarah Anderson punched up a ninth inning RBI single to give Ridgeview an upset 2-1 district 4-6A semifinal win over Clay High that put the Panthers into the district championship game against Ponte Vedra High. Ponte Vedra won the district final, then beat Ridgeview in the region semifinal to end a surprise season for first year Panther coach Roger Harvey, a former Clay High assistant coach.
Clay High weightlifter Erykah Murray opens with best bench press ever to jolt competition.
At the Class 1A girls weightlifting championship meet, Clay High’s Erykah Murray took control in the morning session which featured divisions above the 154 pound division by besting her region bench press from 185 to 195 to set a gauntlet for second place to have to chase in the clean and jerk.
“That’s what we do, we lift hard and fast and make the competition come after us,” said Clay coach Rodney Keller, in his second year with his first two state titles. “It’s a lot of mental game when you have an edge coming in after regions, but then to improve that edge at the state meet makes it even more tense.”
Oakleaf High freestyler sprinter Elianna Kennon holds off young guns twice to win gold.
Oakleaf High senior freestyle sprinter Elianna Kennon answered three years of state meet disappointment with a gold on her final visit.
In the Class 3A 50 free prelims in the championship meet morning session, Kennon cranked the fastest time by just .14 seconds in 23.77 with Sunlake freshman Chloe Grimme second in 23.83 and Nease sophomore Ria Malhotra third in 23.91 to set up a spine-tingling final.
In the 50 final later in the afternoon, Kennon again had the fastest split of the day, 23.81, with Grimme again giving chase but falling short by .12 second in 23.92, Martin County High sophomore Delan Simpkins third in 24.07, Malhotra fourth in 24.10 and Pollitt fifth in 24.24.
“It is definitely one of those races that you can not mess up in,” said Kennon. “There is no room for error.”
Oakleaf High triple jumper Melvin Briley blasts field on first jump at Class 4A track and field championships in terrible conditions.
In the windy, rainy conditions of the two-day championship event, Oakleaf High triple jumper Melvin Briley bested his region-winning 48 foot, 11 inch leap with a 49’-7” for a state title jump that was Clay County’s lone gold medalist in a weekend of near-misses.
Briley, a junior, blasted his first jump then struggled to get back on track after a near-disaster second jump of 40’-6”.
“That first jump was as good a first jump as we could expect down there,” said Oakleaf High jump coach John Carter. “He got that out of the way and put the pressure on the other jumpers.”
Briley’s jump is fifth ranked nationally, according to Track and Field News.