The Florida high school track and field season concluded last weekend at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium and the Ponte Vedra Sharks boys’ team won the state championship withstanding a late charge from Miami Belen Jesuit Prep and Miami Northwestern.
The state championship meet was the culmination of a season that could be described as both impressive and improbable; it marked the first track and field state championship in school history and the first for any St. Johns County team in a decade.
The boys’ path to a team championship was predicated on strong performances in the field events, and that was where the Sharks proved dominant.
Led by senior co-captain Nathan Lebowitz, the Sharks scored 48 points in the field events – enough points alone to secure the championship without scoring a single point in the running events.
The competition began with the boys shot put and the Sharks struck early. Junior Jake Guarnera led the charge finishing second with a school and personal record of 58’ 2,” which beat his previous record by nearly seven feet.
He was followed by Lebowitz, who also had a personal record with a throw of 56’ 9” to finish in 3rd place and senior Layne Swafford finished 6th with a throw of 53 feet.
Junior javelin thrower Vinny Jackson, who was seeded third entering the meet, unleashed an enormous throw of 187 feet on his very first attempt to secure the gold medal for the event and set both personal and school records in the process.
In the discus, Lebowitz successfully defended his 2022 state championship with a throw of 183’ 10.”
The Sharks added points in the pole vault with senior Landen Scott earning 3rd place with a vault of 13’ 9.5,” followed by senior Henry Gainer finishing fifth with the same height and junior Nick Desanto placing eighth with a jump of 13’ 3.”
As the action turned to the track, the Sharks scored in the first event with the team of Ricky Circelli, Grant Doherty, Davis Brown and Colby Green finishing with a school record time of 7:59.72 for fifth place in the 4x800 meter relay.
The only other Shark to reach the podium in the track portion was senior Wyatt Rogers finishing eighth in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 56.35 seconds.
The lady Sharks also had success at the meet and were headlined with junior Bella Madaffari, won won the state championship with a javelin throw of 116’ 8”.
Also earning all-state honors were two relay teams, as the 4x800 team of Lily Darnell, Sofia Bushkell, Hilaree Vega and Daisy Ross finished eighth with a time of 9:41.20 and the 4x400 team pf Sasha Crowe, Darnell, Maya Richards and Mia Chigounis crossing the line is a school record time of 3:58.09 and also finishing eighth.
Both teams are coached by Zane Guile, who is completing his ninth year as head coach of the Sharks.
“We have a group that had a dream to win a state championship this year,” Guile said. “The dedication, hard work and selflessness exhibited by this group was on display all season. We tell our athletes that ‘yesterday’s greatness is today’s average,’ and try to inspire them to achieve their very best on the track and in life. The athletes that buy into our system very often achieve outstanding results.
PVHS athletic director Michael Harrison also commented on the season, “I’m excited for the accomplishments of this team. Coach Guile and coach Circelli have created a team environment that reflects the image we expect of all our athletes. Winning is great, but demonstrating great character and sportsmanship is the ultimate compliment I can give these great student athletes."
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