The odds of Seffner Christian senior Seth Lewis winning a state title in the discus seemed slim to none less than two weeks ago.
But there he was in Jacksonville on Friday, standing atop the podium at the University of North Florida’s track with a gold medal hanging around his neck.
The first state champion of any kind, in fact, in the history of Seffner Christian Academy, which opened 25 years ago.
“I have to say it’s been a pretty amazing turn of events,” said Lewis, who before last week’s region meet had never thrown the discus farther than 139 feet in a high school meet, a distance that would have left him well down the list on Friday. “I was getting frustrated because I would throw great in practice and then struggle in the meets.
“I guess I had a case of stage fright.”
At last week’s regionals, Lewis said he was determined to break through.
“That moment (at regionals) was a culmination of focus and a long desire to win,” Lewis said. “I knew I had the potential and I just had to do it.”
With a throw of 155 feet, 10 inches, he won the regional title and walked into the Class 1A state meet with a whole new mindset.
“That’s when I knew I could do it,” he said.
And he did.
On his second attempt Friday, Lewis threw his discus 149 feet, 11 inches, or seven inches ahead of the state runner-up, and 2 feet, 10 inches ahead of Tampa Bay Christian’s Jamari Johnson, who placed third.
“What a feeling that was,” said the 5-foot-10, 220-pound powerfully built Lewis, who picked up the discus on a whim last year as a junior, when he made it to state but didn’t throw much more than 125 feet. “Before last year I had focused almost all my attention on football (dad Steve Lewis is Seffner Christian’s football coach). But now I am so glad I picked up the discus.
“What a great way to end my senior year.”
In the end, Lewis not only was the first athlete to win a state title in Seffner Christian history, but he was the only state champion crowned on Friday from Hillsborough County.
Lewis’ teammate, Josh Keenan, placed fourth in the 3,200 meters in 9 minutes, 39 seconds, and Seffner Christian’s Sabrina Whiting placed sixth in the long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 9 inches. Whiting also finished 14th in the pole vault at 9 feet.
Tampa Prep senior Carly Reiner ended up the only athlete from Hillsborough County to reach the podium in three events, placing fifth in the triple jump (34-8), eighth in the long jump (16-5) and eighth in the 100-meter dash (12.62 seconds).
Cambridge Christian had two boys fare well, with Josh Wolcott fifth in the triple jump (44-0) and Luke Steinle eighth in the 300 hurdles (41.25).