JACKSONVILLE — Rain fell heavy and steady early Friday morning when Pasco sophomore Alfreda Steele started her long journey through the Class 2A state track meet at the University of North Florida.
First up? Long jump.
Splashing down the runway, Steele managed a leap of 18 feet, 3.75 inches, which landed her a second-place finish.
At that point, she said she was thinking about the “running prelims” when the rug was pulled was out from under the meet.
Because of the heavy rain, officials announced the competition would be postponed until 1 p.m. and traditional preliminary races would be replaced with “timed finals,” which meant one race for all competitors.
“I suddenly had to change my way of thinking,” Steele said. “I’m used to getting warmed up with the prelims. When the 100 (meters) started, I really didn’t feel ready.”
She ended up second in the 100 in 11.99 seconds with one individual race remaining: The 200 meters.
This time, after “getting warmed up” from the 100 and helping her team to a seventh-place finish in the 4x100 with an electrifying anchor leg, Steele finally grabbed gold in the 200 in 24.05 seconds.
It was an ending that made her “feel a little tired” but “extremely happy” because she could bring a state championship back to Pasco.
“There were so many people behind me,” Steele said. “I think this will make them happy as well.”
The only other Class 2A state champion from Hillsborough or Pasco counties was Tampa Catholic junior Nikki Carroll, who defended her state title in the pole vault in the morning with a personal-best leap of 12 feet.
“I wanted to go much higher, but it really started raining hard and they stopped the competition,” said Carroll, who had sealed victory but still had three more attempts at 12-6. “The good thing is that I did get a little break from the rain during the competition. A little window.”
In the boys’ pole vault, Jesuit came in with three athletes — Nick Catchur, Jack Hughes and Sammi Abboud — who were vying for state medalists (top eight) if not a state championship. Catchur, after all, was the defending state champion.
The Tigers, who had to wait for their event while the weather cleared, fell a little short of their lofty goals, but came away with a solid showing.
Catchur, who was nursing torn ligaments in his left big toe (suffered last week playing intramural soccer), placed fourth with a leap of 14 feet. Hughes was fifth at 13-6 and Abboud finished 10th with a personal-best at 12-6.
Tigers teammate Jack Taylor also had a solid day, taking fourth in the shot put (51-8) and seventh in the discus (146-4).
On the girls’ side, Berkeley Prep’s Addi Harden took third in the discus (119-8) and fourth in the shot put (39-4.25).
From Pinellas County, Dunedin’s Ahmad Middleton had an outstanding day, winning the 300 hurdles (37.12) and taking third in the long jump (22-.5).