Seniors Hugh Brittenham, Jacob Lemmon, Seneca Milledge and Jeremiah Davis end careers on top Saturday with state titles as Southwest Florida has banner two days in Jacksonville. Bryan Cooney, email@example.com
JACKSONVILLE —Seneca Milledge decided a hamstring injury was not enough to keep him from getting gold for his teammates.
He was rewarded with two state championships Saturday at Hodges Stadium. Milledge, a Dunbar senior, gritted out an injury suffered during the region meet and scored gold twice, including a new state record of 40.27 in the 4x100 relay as well as an individual gold in the 100-meter dash.
Milledge’s effort was one of several double gold showings by area athletes at the state meet. Fort Myers’ Jacob Lemmon, who dominates the discus, added the Class 3A shot put state title.
While Milledge and Lemmon earned their two state titles Saturday, Estero’s Hugh Brittenham, Canterbury’s Jessica Edwards and Lehigh’s Jeremiah Davis doubled their gold medal total from Friday with another one Saturday.
Evangelical Christian’s girls took gold with the 4x400 relay near the end of the meet to clinch the team title, remarkable with only six girls on the team.
Their efforts, along with gold for Dunbar high-jumper Caleb Snowden, added up to nine state titles for area athletes Saturday, giving them 13 total over the two-day meet.
With seven silver medalists Saturday, the area secured 10 runner-up spots during the meet to go with six bronze medalists, all coming on the second day. Over two days, 39 athletes and relay teams found their way to the rest of the eight-person medal podium, 28 coming Saturday.
In addition to that, Lely’s unified girls 400 and the unified 4x400 girls and boys relay teams won gold.
But it all started when a medal potentially was sacrificed. Milledge withdrew from Friday’s long jump because he wanted to keep his hamstring ready for the rigors of Saturday. It was tested first during the individual 100 and, despite the soreness, it was ready for the relay.
Milledge anchored the relay team, but he was in good shape by the time Major Williams passed the baton. Tyrel Kennedy started out quickly. Jarvis Jones began to widen the gap and Williams did the same.
“A 40.27? That’s mind-blowing,” Dunbar track coach Guy Thomas said. “Our goal was a 40.5, and we had a 40.27.
“It’s good to send Seneca out this way. He sacrificed himself for the betterment of the team. He could have had another medal, but he kept saying, ‘I want to get all my guys a medal.’ He wanted that 4x100 gold. That was what he wanted, more than his own gold medal.”
Milledge showed no sign of injury as he drove toward the finish line, cinching the record time. Class 2A runner-up Lake Wales was 1.2 seconds behind.
He offered a preview earlier, running his way to gold with a 10.55 in the individual 100, while teammate Jones took bronze. After winning the 100, Milledge limped off the medal podium.
Less than an hour later, he was heading back toward the awards stand with his teammates.
“It was hurting the whole time I was running,” Milledge said. “I was just trying to do the best I could do.”
Brittenham closed his high school career with a flourish as well. He won the 3A 800 again Friday, but the past two seasons, he took silver in the 1600.
That changed Saturday. Brittenham easily outpaced the field with his 4:14.73 placing him more than four seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.
“It’s a great feeling to go out the best in the class for at least today, and do something I never have done before,” Brittenham said. “I raced against some of the best guys in the state and to come out on top, it means the season went my way.”
Edwards’ state weekend mirrored Brittenham’s, and that also was the case last season with the gold-silver split. But Canterbury’s sophomore set a state-best time in the 800 on Friday with a 2:08.40, which is sixth in the nation this year. Edwards followed with a 5:06.78 in the 1A 1600, almost seven seconds ahead of the runner-up.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I was slightly overwhelmed so I blocked out (Friday),” Edwards said. “I just focused in on my splits and my gameplan because I knew it was going to be competitive.”
Silver also provided the drive for Caleb Snowden to earn gold. The Dunbar high-jumper took the gold medal and flirted with —but didn’t quite get —the state record after losing out on gold last year due to a tiebreaker.
“Honestly, it’s a relief,” said the junior, who jumped 2.12 meters, just under seven feet. “All that practice that went into getting this, it’s a relief the work paid off.”
ECS, with a relay team of sixth-grader Sydney Land, Elizabeth Wetmore and sisters Sierra and Moriah Oliveira defended its 4x400 relay title with a time of 3:52.18. There were tears shed in the walkway to the medal podium because of what had transpired.
It was the first overall team title for the school, which edged Lakeland Christian’s girls team by two points, 51-49. It also came after Moriah Oliveira, who had three gold medals on the final day last year, was edged twice for gold Saturday — in the 200 and in the 400 where, despite running a 53.70, she was outpaced by .09 by FAU High’s Maisha Atkinson.
“We pulled off a new school record, and we just pulled off a state championship as a girls team,” said Moriah Oliveira, who anchored the relay team. “To do that with six girls, one as an alternate, is just crazy. It’s a very emotional time.”
Emotional for them, but Lemmon made a calculated choice to ensure success in the shot put. Last year, he was atop the medal stand in the discus, his main event. But a 12th-place finish in the shot had him re-thinking his approach.
He went with the rotational technique in the shot, but he didn’t enjoy it much when he started last summer. But come fall, Lemmon began to get the hang of the new form.
“I switched from the glide to the rotational, and that’s added maybe five feet,” Lemmon said. “Over the past few months I was doing the shot every other week or so. I wanted to make sure I was good in the discus.”
The strategy paid off with a gold in both. Lemmon’s second throw of 17.11 meters landed him the gold in the 3A shot put. He led from his first toss of the discus, but his second toss of 62.26 meters, or more than 204 feet, clinched the gold.
For Davis, it was also his first jump, at 14.48 meters, that yielded the gold in the 3A triple jump. That followed up a championship Friday in the long jump.
“I first thought I could do this when I was at the Florida Relays,” Davis said. “I felt really good during warmups, and that carried over to the first jump.”
In addition to ECS’s team title, there were two other top five area finishers. Dunbar’s boys took third in 2A, while Neumann’s boys finished fourth in 1A.
“Most of the kids we brought here this year were here last year watching the races,” Neumann assistant Ali Gardino said. “They had a gameplan since 2018 states, and they were going to come back here to the medal stand. It was an honor to watch them run, they were so driven.
"I do want to add that they also were motivated because they lost someone they were close to -- Brooke Rice, she was a friend of everybody on the team. They never really talked about Brooke Rice but you could tell Brooke Rice was in their thoughts."
In addition to Oliveira’s silvers, The Community School’s Loren Brown earned silver in the 1A girls 100 hurdles, while Dunbar’s Lucheyona Weaver did the same at 2A. St. John Neumann scored silver twice with Alexander Myrin in the boys 1A 110 hurdles and the 4x100 boys relay team. Lely took silver in the boys 400 unified race.
Aside from Jones’ bronze, Dunbar’s Teera Stewart took third in the 2A girls 100 and followed with a fourth in the 200. First Baptist’s Nicholas Tompkins was third in the 1A high jump. Neumann’s girls 4x400 relays team took bronze when ECS won the race. Lely’s Sergio Morancy claimed bronze in the 2A triple jump, leading after the first jump. The Dunbar boys 4x400 relay team took the final medal of the evening for area teams — a bronze.
Other area athletes found their way to the eight-place medal stand. Leah Martin-Gonzales again earned a podium spot, as the Neumann senior finished fourth in the 100 hurdles to go with Friday’s fifth-place spot in the long jump.
Dunbar’s Leonard Mustari placed fourth in the 110 hurdles, while Lehigh’s Tavarish Dawson earned the same place in the boys 3A 100 to go along with a seventh in the 200. First Baptist Academy’s 4x100 girls relay team also grabbed a fourth-place finish, as did Naples’ Jett Su in both the 3A boys shot put and discus.
Sanaa Marlin claimed fourth for Dunbar in the girls triple jump, Seacrest’s Rebecca Weir in the 1A high jump, First Baptist Malaya Melancon in the triple jump and Neumann’s John Paul Raiger in the 200.
Fort Myers’ Alex Chlumsky took fifth in the girls pole vault, as did the Canterbury 1A girls 4x800 relay team and Neumann’s 4x400 boys relay team.
Mariner’s Rashawn Hunter finished sixth in the 3A boys triple jump while First Baptist placed sixth in the boys 4x100 relay.
Fort Myers’ Elijah Butz was seventh in the 110 hurdles, the same spot as the Oliveira sisters with Moriah in the 100 and Sierra in the 400. Barron Collier’s Elkhanan Tanelus (boys 3A shot put), placed seventh as well. Lehigh’s boys 4x100 team in 3A also took seventh as did Neumann’s Ryan Kohlhagen in the 300 hurdles and Ida Baker’s 4x400 boys relay team.
Naples placed eighth in the 3A girls 4x800 relay, while Dunbar’s Trinity Adams finished eighth in the 100 hurdles. Isaiah Paulec from Southwest Florida Christian was eighth in the 1A high jump as was Canterbury’s 4x400 boys relay team.