Just because Pasco junior Janarion Grant hadn't come close this season to his state-title long jump of a year ago — 24 feet, 3.5 inches — he still believed he was the guy to beat Saturday at the Class 2A state finals in Jacksonville.
So, using the big stage of the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium as motivation, Grant popped his best jump since he won the 2011 state crown: 23-2. It turned out to be enough for another state title.
''If everyone thought I could be beat this year, well, I was pretty pumped up not to let that happen and defend my title,'' said Grant, a standout receiver and defensive back on the Pirates football team. "I knew once the competition started, I'd put all my adrenalin into it and get a good jump in.''
Grant's performance was the start of a memorable day for Pasco County athletes.
Wesley Chapel junior Courtney Prengaman also earned a trip to the top of the podium by winning the high jump. Prengaman, who is 6-foot-2, had a long and sometimes painful journey to the title.
She made the state finals as a freshman, but growth plate problems last year caused pain in her hips. All season, she was unable to jump higher than 5-2.
With rest, Prengaman recovered and returned to training under coach Brad Allen, who found every DVD, YouTube video and book he could on the high jump. She cleared 5-7 this season and, on Saturday, won a jump-off with Satellite senior Jennie Carmody by clearing 5-6.
"It feels awesome,'' Prengaman said. "After going out at regionals last season, I was pretty bummed. It was frustrating being at 5-2 so long but I knew if I could just get healthy, I'd be jumping well again.''
Ancolte's Argishti Gazari won gold in the 3,200-meter run in 9:37.84 and finished third in the 1,600.
Hillsborough County's banner was carried by Tampa Catholic. Crusaders senior Annie Harwig won the silver medal in the girls pole vault in clearing a career-best and TC record 11-6, the same mark as winner Emily Smithwick of Jacksonville Episcopal. The tie was broken by Harwig's more recent miss at the previous height.
''I was really close to making 12 (feet) and winning it. So close," Harwig said. "But I'm happy with this silver. It was pretty exciting for it to come down to just us two vaulters, and it's nice to know I'm still improving.''
Robinson senior Brian Sharp also was a silver medalist, taking second to Gazari in the 3,200 in 9:44.92.
Other medalists from Hillsborough County included TC's Ken Mention, sixth in the 400; TC's Taylor Timmons, seventh in the shot put; Berkeley Prep's Addi Harden, seventh in the discus; Academy of the Holy Names' Colleen Doherty, fifth in the 3,200 and sixth in the 1,600, and AHN's Ryann McEnany, seventh in the long jump.
The Crusaders' boys 4x800 relay team of Mention, Daniel Fasani, Pete Martinez and Nathan Nammour finished sixth, eclipsing the school record at 8 minutes, 7.76 seconds.
Other medalists from Pasco included Anclote's Spencer Guerette, fourth in the 1,600 and eighth in the 800; Wesley Chapel's Ravin Gilbert, fifth in the 100-meter dash; Ridgewood's Thomas Rodriguez and Fivay's James Bullock, fifth and eighth, respectively, in the boys high jump.
Gulf High's 4x800 relay team of Kari Grippo, Katie Buckman, Mia Savino and Renee Patnode earned the sixth-place medal.