WINTER PARK — The most excruciating track season of Terrence Mitchell's life culminated Friday afternoon with a soft landing.
In a pit of sand, and sea of congratulations.
A month after nearly watching his season end due to an ejection from the county meet, the Hillsborough High senior and USF football signee won the Class 3A state long jump title with an effort of 23 feet, 3 inches.
"All I can say is thank you Jesus," Terriers coach Joe Sipp said. "The guy's been through so much. So many obstacles, so many storms."
The storm front preceding Friday's career finale: an ejection from the April 6 county meet for using profanity, resulting in a six-week Florida High School Athletic Association-imposed suspension.
It was lifted days before the district meet at Armwood, but Mitchell competed in that event with a severe tooth infection that forced him to run essentially with his mouth closed.
Then at last week's region meet in Punta Gorda, Mitchell tweaked his right hamstring during the 100-meter preliminaries, leaving his status for state uncertain as recently as Monday.
"Going from being suspended to being sick, then straining my hamstring, it was great to be able to still compete at state," said Mitchell, who later finished third in the 100-meter dash. "I'm just happy I was able to come."
By day's end, that happiness had transformed into humidity-laden exhaustion.
An appeal at the long jump resulted in all competitors taking seven jumps. As a result of the event being prolonged, Mitchell went almost directly to the triple jump, 100 prelims and 4x100 relay. He finished 10th in the triple; the 4x100 relay team was disqualified for an exchange outside the zone, hindering Hillsborough's hopes for a team title.
"Everything was so smushed together for me then, and that's what tired me out," he said.
The Terriers still came away with a sixth-place finish, getting medal-winning efforts from senior Carlton Walton (third in long jump), freshman Jeremiah Green (fifth in triple jump) and its 4x800 relay team (seventh).
On the girls side, Plant City senior Erika Kolakowski led in the girls 800 before being overtaken on the second lap's far turn by eventual winner Darronisha Lott of Pensacola Pine Forest. Kolakowski placed third in 2:14.91.
Other girls medalists: East Bay's Nakia Love (seventh in long jump), King's Ashley McBride (eighth in 100), Hillsborough's Narricka Williams (fourth in 300 hurdles) and Durant's Grace VanDeGrift (fifth in 1600).
Other boys medalists: Armwood's 4x800 relay team (eighth), Plant City's Alex Delfino (fourth in pole vault), Armwood's Vaughn Cross (seventh in triple jump) and King's Karim Hussein (eighth in 300 hurdles).