Two weeks ago at the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational, Central high jumper Tikiera Relaford broke a personal barrier, one that dangled tantalizingly out of reach for nearly four years.
For the first time in competition, Relaford, a senior, cleared 5 feet, 8 inches, winning by 4 inches. As a freshman, Relaford jumped 5-6 to place second at regionals. She topped out again at 5-6 in a third-place effort at the 2009 Class 3A state track and field meet.
Last season, Relaford captured Central’s first gold medal at state, but again could only equal her personal best 5-6.
Clearing 5-8 was as much a mental block as a physical one for Relaford. What has Central coach Christina Brandel optimistic is the amount of room Relaford left between herself and the bar.
“She has more in her with the way she cleared the bar and the height she had,” Brandel said. “Her high jump coach thinks she can clear 5-10, 6 feet. It’s just a matter of getting each piece right and the confidence that goes along with it.”
Thanks to her effort at USF, Relaford owns the highest jump to date in the state, making her a favorite to repeat as state champion.
She’s not alone, though. Two other North Suncoast track and field athletes — teammate Raqurra Ishmar and Wesley Chapel’s Hunter Joyer — are tops in the state in their respective genders in the shot put.
Ishmar reached a distance of 42 feet, 8.5 inches to win the girls title at the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational, a competition best for Ishmar but not a personal best.
Last year in the week leading up to states, Ishmar went 44 feet, but she could manage only 40-8.75 for a second-place finish a couple days later at the state meet.
“She was disappointed because she’s such a driven young lady,” Brandel said. “If she would have thrown her best, that would have been acceptable. But knowing what she was able to throw and that she didn’t do it that day, that was upsetting for her.”
If there’s any comfort for Ishmar, it’s that her junior year was her first competing in the shot put in high school. Plus, she split the spring season between track and softball.
With her focus squarely on track for her senior year, Ishmar is looking to crack 45 feet and establish herself as one of the best not only in the state but the nation.
“Everything she does, she excels in,” Brandel said. “She’s just that good of an athlete and that competitive of a person.”
Joyer has dominated the shot put standings this season. The senior, who signed a letter of intent last month to play football at Florida, reached 59 feet, 3.25 inches in a first-place performance at the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational. Four days earlier, he hit 60-0.5 at Robinson. Three days after USF in a tri-meet at Freedom, he made it to 61 feet.
As a junior at Tampa Catholic, Joyer won the Class 2A state title in the shot put at 57-2.25, a distance he has easily cleared this season.
Joyer, Relaford and Ishmar, three athletes ranked No. 1 in Florida in their events.
In other words: don’t be shocked to see a gold rush on the North Suncoast immediately following this year’s state meets.