Throwers, distance excel as Sharks take boys, girls region titles


On a beautiful afternoon and evening at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium, the Ponte Vedra High track and field teams won their first ever boys regional title and a back-to-back girls title.

The Sharks started their assault early with junior captain Bella Madaffari winning the javelin with a toss of 116 feet and 9 inches.

Newcomer Maya Richards had a 2-meter personal best, hitting 92 feet to finish fourth in the event.

In the boys shot put, Layne Swafford, Nathan Lebowitz, and Jake Guarnera dominated the field as they went first, third and fourth respectively.

Success in the throwing events continued as junior Vincent Jackson continued his winning ways in the javelin, tossing the spear 173' 2".

Last year's state runner-up Henry Gainer overcame injuries to place fourth with a throw of 151 feet and Zach Melvin placed seventh.

In the last throwing event of the day, senior captain and last year's state champion Nathan Lebowitz showed why he is the best discus thrower in the state (regardless of

classification) to win the same event, throwing 185' 8”.

In the girls high jump, Megan Grant placed fourth with a jump of 1.57m/5' 1.75" to secure her spot at the state meet, while in the boys pole vault, Landen Scott followed up his district win by placing first with a jump of 13' 9.25". Gainer finished second in the event and Junior Nick DeSanto placed fifth overall.

On the track, both the boys and girls 4 x 800m teams advanced to state as the girls overcame being tripped in the race as Hilaree Vega recovered after being knocked down by another runner to stay in the race before handing off to Daisy Ross, who passed five other teams to finish fourth overall. 

The boys team broke the school record by nearly four seconds, placing third and advancing to state with a time of 8:04.44. 

Sasha Crowe tied her personal best of 15.56 in the 100m Hurdles to place fifth and Adrienne Edwards finished sixth with a time of 15.87.

On the boys side, Jarrell Jimenez ran into a strong headwind to cross the line in 15.62 to finish sixth in the 110 meter hurdle race, and coming back from injury, state 1600 meter leader Lindy White won the race, hitting the tape at 5:09.49, while sophomore sensation Ross finished fourth with both athletes qualifying for the state competition.

In the 400 meters, Mia Chigounis and Richards went fifth and eighth as Chigounis broke the one-minute barrier, and in the girls 400-meter hurdles, Crowe broke her own school record and placed fifth to qualify for state.

In the boys intermediate hurdles, senior Wyatt Rogers ran a spectacular race, hitting a huge personal best of 55.79 and finished second overall. 

In the 800 meters, senior Lily Darnell ran a great race to qualify for states running a personal best of 2:20.39 in a heated battle.  In the boys race, junior Ricky Circelli finished seventh to qualify for state, and in the 3200 meter event, White and Ross went came home second and third to advance to state and senior valedictorian Nico Fasanelli crossed the line in 9:33.73 to finish fourth and qualify for the state championship meet.

The girls title came down to the final race of the night, the 4 x 400-meter relay, with the Sharks trailing Leon High School by 1.5 points entering the event. 

The girls team of Crowe, Darnell, Richards and Chigounis needed a win and got it to secure their second consecutive regional title. 

As the boys stepped to the line, the regional title was already secured for them, but the team of Santana Starks, Charlie MacGilvray, Tariku Hammons and Rogers, finished fifth with a time of 3:26.07 and qualified for the state championship meet as well to put an exclamation point on the event.

In total, 29 athletes qualified for the state championship meet and both teams will vie for the school's first-ever state title on Friday, May 19 once again at Hodges Stadium.

Ponte Vedra Sharks, track and field, regionals