By Shakey Daddy Monroe
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – The roots of track and field greatness continue to grow deep in Broward County.
The latest contribution comes from Piper High School’s Aaliyah Butler. This ninth-grader blazed to a new state record in the Girls Class 4A 400 meters last weekend during the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) State Track & Field Championships at UNF-Hodges Stadium.
In doing so, Butler took down a 17-year-old record established by Sanya Richards-Ross with a record time of 52.25. Richards-Ross, a former three-time Olympian and gold medalist, ran 52.51 in 2002 for the record. Richards-Ross is a St. Thomas Aquinas graduate and set that record in her senior season.
About halfway into the 400 meter final, Butler had already separated herself from a talented field which included three Broward competitors: Jhana Downie (Piper), Rondajai (St. Thomas) and Christal Facey (McArthur). Jahnile Registre (Orlando Evans), Kennaria Gadson (Tampa Wharton) finished second (54.14) and third (54.75) respectively.
By eclipsing Richards-Ross’ state record as a freshman, Butler stole the spotlight at the State Meet. The expectation of what she could accomplish was the topic of discussion throughout the record crowd in attendance.
“Aaliyah is a wonderful young lady. She is truly a hardworking and determined individual. Her future is extremely bright! She has the capacity to achieve anything she puts her mind to. All of the hard work and dedication she has put in has gotten her to this point, and I am extremely proud of her.”— David Pierre-Louis, Head Track & Field Coach Piper High School
Butler is among elite company
Everyone thought that Richards-Ross’ record was unreachable because several outstanding runners have tried and failed to top that record. The list included former University of Florida All-Americans Robin Reynolds (Miami Jackson High School), Ebony Eutsey (Miami South Ridge), current Florida Gator Sharrika Barnett (Orlando Oak Ridge) and Kendall Ellis (St. Thomas Aquinas).
Reynolds clocked a personal best of 52.15 in high school but not at the state championships.
Eutsey was also credited with a personal best of 52.07 in high school but it was done at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in 2009. Barnett notched a personal best of 52.25 in high school. Ellis, a former Southern Cal All-American, ran a personal best 52.95 in high school.
Butler also snatched up the 200 meters title in an impressive 23.91 showing.
However, Butler was not the only standout from Broward County. Overall, it was an outstanding outing for several Broward schools and athletes.
The girls teams from St. Thomas Aquinas (4A) and Hallandale (2A) won state titles in their respective divisions.
Broward County preps continue to shine
Jan’Taijah Ford, a senior from Northeast High School, also enjoyed a stellar outing collecting three first-place medals. She won the 200 meters (23.45), 400 meters (53.23) and 4×400 Relay (3:41.32). Ford bested Butler in the medal count with some help from St. Thomas.
Butler was denied that third first-place medal in the 4×400 when the Raiders quartet of Jermecia Brown, Emilia Chatfield, Zahria Allers and Chenelle Williams edged Piper with a winning time of 3:43.72. The Bengals clocked 3:45.51. Flanagan finished third (3:47.86) to make it a 1-2-3 sweep for Broward County in the coveted mile relay.
St. Thomas’ Chatfield and Hallandale’s Ashantae Harvey added to Broward’s female dominance. Both coped a pair of state titles.
Harvey claimed both championships in the 100 (14.12) and 300 hurdles (42.42). Chatfield, a junior, matched that effort by winning the 300 hurdles (41.19) and running on the Raiders championship 4×400 relay.
Darrel Bouie and Isaiah Gonzalez propelled Fort Lauderdale High to another Class 4A Adaptive State Title. The Flying L’s have captured two state championships in three years.
Taylor Banks, a senior from Miramar, lived up to his billing as the state’s top sprinter. He captured the Class 4A 100 meter (10.69) and 200 meter (21.21) titles respectively.
Not to be outdone, Ely’s Jevon Williams also notched a pair of state titles in the hurdles. Williams, a junior, won the 110 hurdles in 14.08 and 300 hurdles in 36.54.