Eastside Boys Take Home First, Girls Fourth At County Track Meet

Eastside’s dominance at Saturday’s meet gives fans and athletes much to look forward to at states

Iron sharpens iron. With track states rapidly approaching, many high schools across the state are seeking out the best possible competition in order to achieve the best times possible, pushing their athletes to new heights; this weekend, Eastside’s strategy was no different.

On Saturday, April 9th, Eastside’s track and field team traveled across town to Buchholz’s Mike Holloway track, where they competed against the likes of Buchholz, Gainesville High School, and Oak Hall in a strictly county-wide meet. Eastside’s boys took home first place with 149.5 points over 18 events, while the girls finished fourth with 99 points. Here are some notable performances and observations from this PR-filled meet.

Eastside Boys Throw Quite Far

The greatest contributors to the Eastside boys’ impressive first-place finish were their hotshot throwers, Tyquan Williams and Holden Johnson. Williams threw the discus, shot put, and javelin, finishing first, first, and fourth, respectively; this put him at 25 points on the day, making up one-sixth of Eastside’s entire point total. 

Johnson only threw javelin, but took home first, tacking on another ten points and completing the boys’ clean sweep of the throwing events. He threw a PR of 50.26 meters, beating second place by more than five meters; he was one of the few individuals on the team to make it through to states last year, where he did not place or medal. Both Johnson and Williams are looking to podium this year at the state competition, and by the looks of Saturday’s performance, these visions don’t look far-fetched. The pair currently hold the top spots in the district in all three throwing events.

Junior Takes Down School Record In The Mile

Eastside also saw no shortage of success on the track this Saturday; in the first event of the morning, junior Declan O’Dwyer threw down a 10:01 in the two-mile to finish in third behind two Buchholz kids. We also saw a PR and fourth-place finish from senior Jackson Petty, who was half a second from going under 2 minutes in an 800 race that saw three kids go under the 1:58 mark. Petty will undoubtedly be looking to break this barrier come states where Eastside’s 4×800 team holds real potential to place.

PR this, PR that; how about a school record?… Is probably what O’Dwyer was thinking when he lined up to race in the mile just six hours after his strong 3200-meter performance earlier in the day. Sources have told The Monthly Ram that O’Dwyer had a late night prior to race day, but after a midday nap he seemed to be fine, blazing to the finish line in four minutes and 24 seconds.  “I knew there would be a pacer for the first 800, so my plan was to stick with the pack and try to win from there. After 900 meters, I felt the race slowing down. I felt good, so I made a move to the lead and tried to win the race off of a squeeze,” said O’Dwyer of his race plan.

This thirteen-second PR saw O’Dwyer come in second, losing by one second to Buchholz junior Evan Fleming. More importantly, though, this time just surpassed Eastside’s previous mile record, set by Carsten Thue-Bloodworth in the 2013 outdoor state finals. O’Dwyer’s goals for the end of the season include a podium finish in both the mile and the 4×800 at states. He currently holds Eastside’s best times this season in the 1600 and 3200.

Eastside’s Best Sprinter Injured, Looks To Make Return Before Districts

While O’Dwyer holds the distance team PRs this season, Eastside junior Kenneth Martin has the best times in the sprint distances: the 100, 200, and 400. In fact, Martin has the best times in the district in these events. While his impact on the team last year was minimal, the work he has put in over the last year has turned him into a strong, versatile sprinter. He has personal bests this season of 10.81, 22.05, and 50.3. Unfortunately, Martin recently picked up a mild injury, sidelining him at Saturday’s meet. He is looking to make a return by districts and, health permitting, will surely make noise at the state meet this year.

Girls Distance Shows Huge Improvement From Last Year

After a season fraught with injuries and sickness and the added dynamic of a new coach, the girls distance team has shown remarkable improvements since last year. At the county meet on Saturday, Coach Kecia Johnson remarked on the spike of competitive PRs, saying, “We’ve gotten used to each other [since last year] and are much more cohesive as a team. Right now, we are seeing the fruits of everyone’s labor, and everyone is either PRing or hovering around their PRs.” Coach Johnson’s words are proven after the last two meets, with Eastside girls taking three out of the top four seeds in the district for the 1600m. Sofi White is first in the district with a time of 5:58, the first of the girls to break six minutes this year, with Bea Engels achieving the same time on Saturday.

Freshman Ingrid Astrom lines up before a race.

With no senior girls running distance track, the underclassmen are heavily relied upon, and freshman Ingrid Astrom is rising to the challenge. After running in girls on the run in middle school, Ingrid decided to try her hand at track this year and quickly proved that she has what it takes. On Saturday, she PRed in both the 400m and 800m and now places third in the district for the 400m with a time of 1:02, right behind Eastside’s Ja’Aliyah Bryant; she is also first in the district for the 800m, with a time of 2:31. Being only a freshman, Ingrid is at a great place to become one of the state’s best runners in a few years.

Ja’Aliyah Bryant Must Choose

After running the 400m in 62 seconds in her sophomore year and dropping a second off that time each year since, senior Ja’Aliyah Bryant regularly takes home medals for the event. This year is no different as she is seeded second in the district after running the 400m in 60 seconds at the Santa Fe Mini Meet 2. This made it a surprise on Saturday to see Eastside’s best female 400m sprinter compete in only the 400m hurdles. Even though it wasn’t her regular event, Ja’Aliyah still placed fourth at the meet with a time of 1:10, only one second behind Eastside’s best hurdler, junior Arielle Livingston. While Ja’Aliyah has plenty of experience with the 100m hurdles, this was her first time competing in the 400m hurdles, and it turned out to be a good decision as she is now seeded second in the district behind Arielle. Commenting on the event, Ja’Aliyah said she would’ve instead run the 400m, but because of her good time, she now has to decide whether to focus on the 400m or the 400 hurdles for districts.

Sade Williams Dominates Throwing Events

Junior Sade Williams only joined track this year and has quickly made waves in the field events. In the district, she is ranked second for shotput and javelin after strong showings in the middle of the season, and first for the discus throw, with a PR almost two and a half meters in front of second place. At the meet this Saturday, Sade scored 18 points for the girls team, a noticeable portion of Eastside’s score, after placing second, third, and fifth in shot put, discus, and javelin, respectively. Even though Sade is placing, she has had trouble maintaining consistent scores this season, especially in discus and javelin. Hopefully, at districts, she will be able to keep a tight leash on her performance and medal in all three events.