By Kyle LoJacono
Wiregrass Ranch juniors Nikita Shah and Alisha Henry each left the Class 3A state track and field meet May 4 at the University of North Florida with their first medal.
Shah took third in the 3,200-meter (two miles) by finishing in 10 minutes 49.62 seconds, while Henry placed sixth in the pole vault by clearing 10 feet six inches.
Shah was ninth at states a year ago, one spot away from medaling. She said her main goal was to stand on the podium this season.
“I’m really happy,” Shah said. “It’s one place better than what I did in cross country at states.”
Shah had to make up some distance to finish third. She was 10th after 600, but moved into second by the start of the third lap.
“I ran my race,” Shah said. “I ran as hard as I could.”
Shah also qualified in the 1,600 but decided to focus on the 3,200 to improve her time and placing. The run to a top-three finish has given her more motivation to work during the next 12 months.
“I want to get a state title next year,” Shah said. “That’s what I’m looking for. I’ll train as hard as I can for cross country the next half a year, and then back to the two mile. I’m hoping to win it. I want to win a state title before I graduate.”
Henry managed to earn a medal in her first trip to states. She only started pole vaulting a little more than a year ago and said she will use the experience to get better.
“I think I can get over 12, maybe 12-6,” Henry said. “I’m going to train through the whole summer and do everything the right way so I can. … I’ve really got to work on my nerves. I definitely did not do the vaults the way I’m capable of. My form was not good.”
Despite being her own biggest critic, Henry was able to smile about how far she’s come in the event. She is also happy to bring her school a pole vault medal for the third straight year following the pair earned by Wiregrass Ranch graduate Alex Kazanzki.
“Alex drew my attention to pole vault in the first place, so if it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t have ever done it,” Henry said. “I didn’t know what it was before. I’m definitely going to recruit kids from Wiregrass to do it too so that when I graduate we have others doing it.”
It appeared like the Bulls boys would earn a medal from Ermias Bireda in the 1,600. The junior, who won regionals the week before, was last on the first straightaway, but moved forward into third place on the final turn.
Disaster struck with less than 100 remaining as Bireda tripped and fell. He did recover enough to finish 12th in 4:34.05 in his first appearance at states.
Wharton hurdles claim two medals
Wharton juniors Mikayla Barber and Tyler Watson each earned a medal at Class 4A state track and field May 5 at the University of North Florida.
Barber placed fourth in the girls 300-meter hurdles (44.5 seconds) while Watson took eighth (45.79). The week before it was Watson who won a regional title with Barber finishing second.
Wharton girls also picked up a medal in the 4×800 (fifth place, 9:31.27), which includes Erin Kocher, Mariah Henderson, Taylor Griffith and Watson.