JACKSONVILLE — The Class 4A 1,600-meter finalists ran in a tight pack with a lot of bumping and jostling, and Plant junior Jack Guyton was right in the middle of it.
But Guyton was cool.
“I knew I would pass them at some point,” Guyton said. “I felt great.”
At 400 meters, Guyton was sixth. At 800, fourth. At 1,200 he was on the leaders’ heels.
With 300 meters to go, he grabbed the lead and ran away through the cheers of thousands at the University of North Florida’s track.
He crossed the finish line five seconds in front, pumping his fist and shouting. Suddenly he was a state champion in a blistering 4 minutes, 11.86 seconds.
“It’s unbelievable, it hasn’t even begun to sink in,” said Guyton, who finished last in the 1,600 state final a year ago. “To go from last to first is … is unbelievable.”
And he wasn’t done.
About an hour later, Guyton, with his legs “feeling really heavy,” jumped into a pack running the 3,200 meters. Once again, he remained patient, and once again he ran down the leaders in the final 300 yards, taking his second state title in 9:20.35.
“I did not feel good,” Guyton said. “That (last surge) was on nothing but adrenaline.”
Guyton added that he did realize the moment of taking two state titles — the only athlete from Hillsborough or Pasco counties to do so — had changed him.
“Now I know I can run with the best,” Guyton said. “I have that confidence now.”
The next-best Class 4A performances from Hillsborough County went to Newsome’s Todd Jackson, who finished third in the 400 meters in 48.03, Freedom’s Ashley Wilson (third in the discus, 126-8) and Bloomingdale’s 4x800 team of Andrew LeBlanc, John Bryant, Matt Butler and Kevin Heron, who placed third in 7:54.07 but left the stadium wondering what might have been.
The wonder came from the fact they ran Saturday’s final in the first of two heats, meaning they ran in the slower heat. The seedings were based on regional qualifying times, and Bloomingdale’s time was a bit slower because Heron was sidelined at regionals while rehabbing a strained hamstring.
On Saturday, with Heron back in the mix, the Bulls could only watch American Heritage win the faster heat in 7:48.21 and St. Thomas Aquinas finish second in 7:52.49. As American Heritage and Aquinas came down the final stretch, Bloomingdale’s boys watched the clock tick.
“I would give anything to race head to head with those guys,” Bryant said. “It’s frustrating, but I’m also happy with what we did. We gave it everything we had. But yes, it still would have been fun to run against those guys and to have seen what might have happened (instead of just running against the clock).”
On the girls’ side, Wharton’s 4x800 team of Mariah Henderson, Jasmine Robinson, Bryanna Rivers and Searra Woods took fourth in 9:34.35. Rivers, a freshman, had the distinction of being the only athlete from Hillsborough County to finish the day in the top eight in three events: the 4x800, the 800 meters (sixth, 2:15.63) and 1,600 meters (eighth, 5:14.83) .
“I feel good, but I’m tired,” Rivers said. “Now it’s time for a little rest.”