WINTER PARK — In the last year, Plant senior Brian Baird has nursed a stress fracture in his lower back, nagging shin splints and his coach's move to the Mountain Time Zone.
All of which begs a rhetorical inquiry: What else could fate hang on one kid?
How about a gold medal.
On a windless Saturday in Winter Park, Baird rediscovered his approach steps, his jump and his smile. In one of the most intense pole vault competitions in recent state meet memory, Baird nailed a 15-foot effort to win the boys Class 4A title at Bob Mosher Track at Showalter Field.
"I can't remember feeling a better feeling than this," Baird said.
On a day devoid of humidity, Baird's good feeling was only mildly contagious.
Each highlight — Riverview sophomore Faith Woodard's runnerup finish in the girls high jump, and Chamberlain junior Max del Monte's second-place effort in the boys 1,600 meters — seemingly was offset by a disappointment.
Singularly personifying that bittersweetness was Riverview senior Ashley Favors. Seeded first in the 100 hurdles, Favors clipped the third hurdle, causing a disruption to her stride, and she struggled to an eighth-place finish.
She redeemed herself an hour later with a runner-up effort in the 300 hurdles, recording a personal-best time (43.75 seconds) in an event in which she was seeded eighth.
"I was kind of sad about (the 100), and I kind of just said, 'You know what, whatever happens happens, just go out there and run as best as you can,' " Favors said.
Atonement was far more elusive for Alonso junior Brandon Holloway. For the second consecutive postseason, a false start ended his quest for a 200-meter medal, this time in the preliminaries. He reached the finals in the 100 meters, however, placing seventh in an ultra-elite field.
"It was very disappointing, but I'm still grateful I got to run here," Holloway said. "A lot of people can't even say they're top eight in the state or anything like that, so I'm glad to be running with the top in the nation out here in these races."
Then there was Baird, bedecked in black shin wraps and resilience.
Ten days after failing to clear 14 feet against a considerable crosswind at the Region 2 meet, Baird appeared to easily clear 15 feet and just missed at 15-6. On Saturday, his 15-foot effort was matched by Pinellas Park's Eddie Galan, but Baird prevailed via fewer misses.
"It's just a matter of getting my step right because that's what I was really struggling to find, and I was struggling down near the end of my jumps, at the end of the run," said Baird, who lost his coach when former Panthers state champ Justin Semeyn moved to Colorado.
"I just got it better today than I did any other day."
The top-eight finishers in each event earned medals. Other local girls placers were the Plant girls 4x800 relay (seventh), Wharton's Abby Ritter (eighth in 1,600) and Plant's Caroline Gibson (seventh in 3,200).
Other boys placers: Newsome's 4x800 relay (sixth, in a school-record time), Brandon's Shawn Council (seventh in discus) and Alonso's Franklyn Moseley (fourth in 400).