By Gary Curreri
With 13 athletes competing at the recent Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1A state track and field championships at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Highlands Christian Academy coach Jared Ebenhack couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome.
Junior Sara Carroll, who is also a standout soccer player for the school and has already committed to play soccer at FIT, won the Class 1A girls high jump, clearing 5.40 ft. She captured six total medals at the state meet this year as she placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles (15.74); 7th in the 300-meter hurdles; and third in the triple jump (35-7.50). She scored 32 of her team’s 40 points in the meet.
Other top 10 finishes for Highlands included 8th grader Sydney Blackburn, who took ninth in the shot put (32-04), senior Christopher Julien placed 7th in the 100-meter dash, while sophomore Ryan Szklany was 8th in the 1,600 meters (4:41.11) and fourth in the 3,200 (9:47.04).
It was also a bittersweet moment for Ebenhack, who will be relocating his family to Lancaster, CA, on June 3. [He just was honored at Rotary Club, See Pg. 12 of the printed Observer newspaper].
“I loved it at Highlands, and parting is bittersweet,” Ebenhack said. “It is very difficult. I know that it is the best thing to do for my family; but I’m definitely torn.”
“Considering what an awesome team our girls will have for years to come,” added Ebenhack, who coached most of the middle school runners as elementary students for the past three years, “and considering all the great times I’ve with Ryan Szklany, especially these past four years – especially our Saturday morning long runs down A1A – it is very difficult.”
Ebenhack credited coaches Marc Veynovich and Brenda Montgomery-King for their efforts in the team’s success, especially given the fact the team doesn’t have a permanent track at the school.
“Marc was the head coach for the past three years, and I was his assistant, and was in charge of the designing and executing of the distance and sprint programs. This year, he had a lot on his plate and could only come to practice once a week, but he focused a lot on the pole vaulters and high jumpers during that time. Brenda was our throws coach, and two of her athletes qualified for state in the shot and discus, one girl and one boy,” said Ebenhack.
Ely High School senior Thomas Geddis, of Pompano Beach, placed fourth in the Class 3A state finals in the 200-meter dash (22.13) and was a member of the fourth place 4×100 relay with Pierre Dupuy, Arthur Forrest and Rodger Wright (41.95) and the sixth place 4×400 relay (3:21.85) with Tremaine Brown, Roderic Wilson, and Devonte Findlay.
Geddis, 19, is headed to the University of Cincinnati on a football scholarship. Geddis, along with some other standout athletes, helped the Tigers to district and regional titles this season and a fourth place in the state competition. He said he can’t wait to start his new chapter at Cincinnati.
“The pressure was tough this year with my being a senior,” Geddis said. “I had a lot of freshmen and underclassmen looking up to me that I had to carry as a team. I was the leader of the 4×100 and the 4×400 and just a captain period, so I had to push them to be comfortable and go out there, have fun, give everything and leave it all on the track.
“These four years have been wonderful and meant everything to me,” Geddis added. “It was one of the best track programs I could have come to. We have outstanding coaches and it is a brotherhood and a sisterhood. We come together as one big family.”
Findlay, 18, also a Pompano Beach senior, said he is still searching for a school and hopes his track performance will help earn him a scholarship to college.
“I love the sport a lot and I am just keeping busy now,” said Findlay, who overcame an injury this season to reach state. “It was frustrating to sit out, but I did all of my therapy and it was great to make it to states.”
The Tigers’ Roderic Wilson was fifth in the 800 meters (1:58.25), while junior Donnell Grant was eighth in the 110-meter hurdles. Findlay was fifth in the 300-meter hurdles (39.31). Senior Robert Williams was 10th in the discus with a 140-08 throw, while fellow Tigers’ senior Jamie Kennedy took 9th in both the long jump (21-10.50) and the triple jump (44-00.50). Blanche Ely finished fourth in the state competition.