By Gary Curreri
Highlands Christian Academy (HCA) junior Ryan Szklany is looking to take his track career to new heights so it is fitting he is hoping for a career in aerospace.
Szklany won the 1,600-meter run (4:55.03) and the 3,200 (10:33.66) at the recent District 13-1A competition to help the Knights to a runner-up finish behind host King’s Academy of West Palm Beach. The Highlands girls won the District 13-1A competition with 190 points.
Szklany’s season-best time of 4:27.49 in the 1,600-meters is the second fastest in the state this year. He also has run a 9:34.08 clocking in the 3,200, which is also second fastest in the Class 1A state rankings this year. He has recently competed to the UF Pepsi Florida Relays, where he finished third in a large field
“It would be amazing if I could attend Embry Riddle Aeronautic University because of their world-class aeronautic and aerospace programs,” said the 17-year-old Szklany, of Lighthouse Point who has been at Highlands for 13 years. “Texas A&M also has a very good aerospace engineering program as well as a nationally-ranked track and field program.”
“What keeps me focused on improving is my dream of running on a college scholarship; glorifying God, who gave me my abilities; and impacting people around me,” Szklany said.
Highlands Christian Academy coach Marc Veynovich called it is a pleasure to coach Szklany, who has participated in track since the 6th grade and ran a 5:05 in the 1,600-meter run his first year.
“Ryan has always responded well to coaching advice and approaches every practice with a desire to push himself to the next level,” Veynovich said. “He also brings this ‘can do’ attitude to his academic life, maintaining over a 4.3 GPA while taking honors and college level classes.
I know that whatever Ryan decides to do in the future, this approach to life will make him successful. Any college would be lucky to have him!”
Sydney Blackburn, only a freshman, won the shot put with a 34-05 throw and also captured the discus title with a 122-02 throw at the district competition. She is the second-ranked shot putter in the state at 35.86 feet and her throw of 127.95 is tops in the state in discus.
Blackburn got her start in track in 2014 with Highlands Christian while participating on the HCA Middle School Track and Field team. She holds the school record in both events and also qualified for the Junior Olympics in 2015 (USATF) and in 2016 (AAU).
“I strive for perfection and hope to not only assist my team but personally challenge myself on and off the field,” said Blackburn, who hopes to attend Oregon State University or the University of Florida to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Education (Literature) and be a member of their T&F team. She is also gunning for the 2020 Olympics.
Other Highlands athletes to capture top honors in their events in the district competition included 8th graders Bianca Francis in the triple jump (32-02.75) and Abby Simpson in the 100-meter hurdles (18.93). Freshman Alex Villas won the long jump (18-07.25), while sophomores Chanz Miller captured the boys’ pole vault (11-06.25), and Jamie Sims won the girls pole vault (6-02.75).
The next step for the Highlands athletes is the regional competition at Westminster Academy on April 28 at 1 p.m.