JACKSONVILLE — Spoto sophomore Janae Caldwell stepped onto the track Saturday for the 400-meter Class 3A final and “felt like a completely different person” than she did a year ago.
“Last year, as a freshman, I got out here and ran scared,” Caldwell said. “This was all new to me last year, and it was intimidating.”
“I was on a mission,” Caldwell said. “I had a plan.”
Pushing hard from the start, Caldwell broke to the front of the pack and held the lead through the last turn. She got pushed by Land O’ Lakes’ Hallie Grimes and Carol City’s Terneka Gibson, but Caldwell powered ahead, crossing the line in 55.50 seconds.
She said it felt extra special because it was not only her first state title, but the first state title of any kind, in any sport, for Spoto.
“It feels so good, because I’ve worked so hard,” Caldwell said. “This did not come from just ability. This came from a lot of hard work. And who knows, maybe this will help get Spoto’s name a little more known.”
Caldwell came back to take a fourth in the 200 in 25.22, giving her one of the best days from Hillsborough County and Pasco athletes at the Class 3A meet.
She was not, however, the only state champion from Hillsborough and Pasco county. Hillsborough’s Dwayne Lawson took first in the triple jump (47-6.75), and two vaulters from Pasco County, Mitchell’s Taylor Anderson (11-6 in a jump-off) and River Ridge’s Devon Jerothe (14-0), also grabbed state titles.
For Anderson and Jerothe it was a relative roller coaster to victory: Anderson had to win a sudden-death jump-off after accruing the same amount of misses through the event with Osceola’s Jennifer Kistemaker; and Jerothe won after suffering an elbow injury and making height at 13 feet and 13-6 on his final attempt.
“It was extremely nerve-racking,” Jerothe said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a day like that before.”
Anderson, who won on her third attempt in the jump-off when she hit and Kistemaker missed, said: “There was so much anxiety (with the jump-off), because you knew that if you missed it might be over.”
The next-highest finishers from the Hillsborough and Pasco areas were Jefferson’s Deiondre Porter, who took second in the long jump (23-6) and Spoto’s Marc McCoy who took second in the triple jump (45-1).
Third-place finishers included: Gaither’s Rachel Cazares in the 800 (2:15.61), Middleton’s Anthony Rhynes in the 100 (10.65) and Land O’ Lakes Stefan Zapata in the triple jump (44-7).
Just behind them in fourth place: Hillsborough’s Jada Roberson in the 100 (12.26), Blake’s Jermail Wiley in the 400 (49.68), and Gaither’s Brad Smith in the discus (159-7).