New Admiral Farragut coach notches first boys region title
CLEARWATER — Aaron Prather had his work cut out for him.
Not only was he tabbed to coach Admiral Farragut's outdoor track teams in November, he was replacing a 27-year veteran in Phil Barnhill, who retired after bringing home the school's first girls state title.
Battling against time and limited roster numbers, the former Tampa Catholic coach made a positive impact. Thursday's Class A region meet at Calvary Christian was the latest indication as the Blue Jackets placed second in the girls meet while taking top honors on the boys side.
"We knew each other well and he said I'd be a good person for the job," said Prather, who still talks shop with Barnhill. "I'm just so happy to keep the tradition going."
The boys' title was also a breakthrough for Prather, who said, "I was at Tampa Catholic for seven years and we'd always get district runnerup but not the championship. This is my first time winning regionals."
The key cog in Farragut's title was low-key sprinter Alex Gray, who easily won the 100- (10.76 seconds) and 200-meter (21.78) dashes.
"I'm not looking for anything special, I'm just looking to run my race," said the senior as his 100 time (10.76) was a quarter of a second faster than the runnerup and his 200 clocking (21.78) a half-second better. "I could get beaten any given day, so everyone I run against pushes me to do my best."
It took victory from the 4x400 quartet of freshman Alex Oi, seniors Keandre Watts and Kevin Gordon, and junior Zach Fine in the final event for the Blue Jackets to edge Northside Christian, 77-76, for the title.
Northside was commanding in the hurdles as Tyler Rhodes, Jeff Goodwin and Ben Knox placed 1-2-3 in the 110 meters while Rhodes and Knox were first and second in the 300.
With victories in the 1,600 (4:27.79) and 3,200 (9:37.11) runs, Noah Perkins scored 20 of eighth-place Seffner Christian's 32 points.
Indian Rocks Christian's Craig Nowinski and James Thorpe were 1-2 in the discus.
Luke Peterson had an amazing meet for fourth-place Shorecrest (54.5), winning the 800 (1:59.20) and placing second in the 1,600 before leaving the meet due to a stomach ailment.
"What a good day to be sick," Peterson posted on his Twitter account.
On the girls side, Calvary's Hannah Brookover pushed herself to the limit, winning the 1,600 (5:09.94), placing second in the 3,200 and fourth in the 800 while also running a leg in the 4x400 relay.
"I'm usually checking in for my next race then going to get in the line to run," the Florida commit said, helping the Warriors to a sixth-place finish. "I guess I just wanted to do all of them because it's my last year. I thought it would be fun and I like racing."
Freshman Jazmine Alderman was the driving force for Farragut's runnerup finish, edging champion Oak Hall's Jalesia Tillman to win the 100 (12.24) and Ayanna Rollins for the 200 title (25.45).
"For the most part, I wasn't expecting to be first, to be honest," said Alderman, who set a school record in the 100. "I wanted to get into the top four (and qualify for states at IMG Academy), and it really surprised me to win."
Underclassmen ruled the field events as Calvary sophomore Morgan Brown won the pole vault (11-0) while Admiral Farragut junior Katie Barnett took top honors in the long jump (19-1) and triple jump (38-9).
Farragut senior Ashaunti Brown won the discus with a throw of 39-10.