JACKSONVILLE — In the waning weeks of her junior year, 6-foot-1 Riverview star Faith Woodard says basketball remains her college sport of choice. But she acknowledges her speed and hops could translate to a track scholarship. She's sure to have a few springtime suitors now.
On a scorching, frenetic Saturday at the University of North Florida, Woodard won the girls high jump at the Class 4A state meet, matching her personal-best effort at 5 feet, 8 inches.
Even as the preliminaries in the 100 and 400 meters diverted her attention, she never missed a jump until the bar was raised to 5-10. Homestead South Dade's Barbra Vilson, who edged Woodard for the 4A title in 2011, also cleared 5-8 but she had a miss along the way.
The multiple events "kept my legs warm and kept me moving and stuff like that," said Woodard, Hillsborough County's lone state champ of the day. "I was not fresh, but I was pretty warm."
By day's end, Woodard added a medal for her sixth-place finish in the 400. Just like that, her track future seemed brighter than the gold glistening from the lanyard around her neck.
"(Jumps coach Jason Munsch) has really been on me this year to step it up and really, really concentrate on track," Woodard said. "Normally … I'm just focusing on basketball. So this year I was like, 'I got second last year, so why not try to win it all?' "
While the quality of Woodard's winning medal was the county's highest, Freedom junior Sandra Akachukwu was mostly unchallenged in terms of quantity.
The slender, soft-spoken King transfer placed in four events (third in high jump, fifth in long jump, eighth in 100, seventh in 200), recording a personal-best (18-3 3/4) in the long jump.
Fellow junior Quatasia Fantroy of Alonso came closest of any area competitor to matching Akachukwu, placing third in the long jump, fifth in the triple jump and eighth in the 200.
"I'm speechless," said Akachukwu, who now owns six career state medals. "It's really great. I went in thinking I could place (in all four) but I wasn't sure if I could. I'm very happy and ecstatic."
For all of Woodard's and Akachukwu's event-to-event scurrying, Jordan Davis' day may have been even more dizzying. An Alonso senior and Florida International football signee, Davis woke at 6:40 a.m. to take the SAT, in his track singlet, on the UNF campus.
Upon completing the 4 1/2-hour exam, one Ravens coach drove him to nearby Hodges Stadium, another got him his spikes and another checked him in just in time for Flight 2 of the long jump. Competing on an empty stomach, Davis placed third with a 23-foot effort.
"It was really hectic," Davis said. "It knocked me off the mojo a little bit. I still came home with a medal; it should be gold, but that's life. I had to take my SAT, priorities first."
With temperatures nudging toward 90 degrees, Plant's all-junior girls 4x800 relay — consisting of Caroline Gibson, Carolina Bado, Emory Pitisci and Scarlett Fox — opened the meet by shattering its school record to place second (9:10.16).
According to DyeStat, ESPN's high school track records site, the time is the sixth-fastest in the nation this year and 15 seconds better than the Panthers' previous record time (9:25.25), set at last week's Region 2 meet.
Wharton's girls, region runnersup to Plant, were fifth.
"That was astounding," said first-leg runner Gibson, the only Panther not to regurgitate her breakfast afterward. "The thing is, last year at state, our fastest girl ran a 2:19 (split). I was the slowest today, and I ran a 2:19."
Other Hillsborough girls medalists included Plant junior Julia Rodriguez (second in 3,200) and Wharton juniors Mikayla Barber and Tyler Watson (fourth and eighth, respectively, in 300 hurdles).
Other boys medalists: Alonso's William Taylor-Haynes (fifth in 110 hurdles, sixth in high jump); Bloomingdale's 4x800 relay (seventh); Plant's Parker Diehl (sixth in pole vault), Michael Dvornik (third in discus) and Travis Christenberry (fourth in 3,200); Plant City's Bogan Stitzel (seventh in pole vault); Newsome's Lars Benner (seventh in 1,600); Riverview's Michael Babinec (seventh in 3,200) and Tampa Bay Tech's Deonte Williams (sixth in 100).