Top 10 high school sports moments of 2020

Mahailya Reeves set a state weightlifting record and became an international sensation.
Mahailya Reeves set a state weightlifting record and became an international sensation.
Photo courtesy Union County High School

At first thought, you might ask yourself if a top 10 sports list for 2020 is even possible since we’ve been living during a pandemic for what feels like the entire year.

But despite COVID-19 cancellations, lockdowns, and limitations, there have still been some big high school sports moments in 2020. The following 10 key stories are listed in the order they occurred.

Feb. 15 – Mahailya Reeves sets state records and wins the Class 1A girls weightlifting state title – The Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Weightlifting won her second straight Class 1A state weightlifting title. The sophomore finished with an FHSAA-record 600-pound total. She bench-pressed a state-record 375 pounds and added a 225-pound clean and jerk. The 16-year old became an internet sensation after her videos went viral.

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Feb. 28 – Hawthorne girls basketball wins first state title in school history – It was a magical season for head coach Cornelius Ingram and the Lady Hornets (29-2), who went undefeated against Class 1A competition and won their first state title in school history. Hawthorne got past No. 2 Wildwood in the Class 1A region final, and then knocked off No. 1 Holmes County in the state semifinals and No. 10 Port St. Joe, 33-32, in the Class 1A state championship game.

Feb. 28 – Columbia (Lake City) boys basketball advances to its first final four in over 50 years – Head coach Steve Faulkner has made basketball matter again in Lake City. A year after winning their first district title and playing in their first regional final since 2000, the Columbia Tigers broke through with a 70-65 win against Mainland (Daytona Beach) in the Class 6A region final to advance to Lakeland. Columbia lost in double overtime to perennial power Dillard (Ft. Lauderdale), 71-66, in the Class 6A state semifinals in Lakeland on March 5, but the game marked their first appearance in the state semifinals since 1968.

March 6 – Hawthorne boys basketball wins second state title – One week after the girls won state, head coach Greg Bowie, Ingram’s older brother, and the Hornets’ boys basketball team won a state title. Hawthorne defeated Wildwood in the Class 1A regional finals to earn a trip to Lakeland. The Hornets defeated Paxon in the state semifinals and edged Hilliard, 42-38, in the Class 1A state championship game to finish 25-3. It was the Hornets’ second state title overall and its first since 1987.

April 20 – FHSAA officially cancels all spring sports due to the coronavirus – All high school sports had been previously put on hold since March 18. However, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) officially canceled all spring sports, including the state series for those sports on this day. The cancellations of championships were a first for the FHSAA, which had held state playoffs continually each year since 1922. State-wide sports impacted by this included baseball, softball, track and field, tennis, lacrosse, water polo, boys volleyball, flag football, boys weightlifting, and spring football.

Nov. 14 – Oak Hall football plays for 8-man state football title – Due to a young team and a roster depleted through transfers, Oak Hall School decided to make the drop and play 8-man football in 2020. It almost ended with a state title. The Eagles carried a 9-0 record into the 8-man AA state championship game, before falling to All Saints Academy (Winter Haven), 22-14, in the title tilt at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland.

Nov. 15 – Oak Hall girls win Class 1A cross country state title – The Lady Eagles won a tie-breaker to defeat Cambridge Christian (Tampa) and claim their second state title in a row and their fourth in school history. Oak Hall’s Lauren Jones finished fourth individually with a time of 18:57.4. It was the fastest area time of the season.

Nov. 15 – Oak Hall’s Austin Montini wins the individual 1A cross country state title; Eagles state runners-up – Montini won the school’s third title in school history. He edged Jackson Yarbrough of Maclay (Tallahassee), 15:48.8 to Yarbrough’s 15:49.1. It was the closest finish in state cross country history. He joined P.K. Yonge’s Michael Anderson as the only 2-time winner in area history. Montini also helped the Eagles to a state runner-up finish. It was Oak Hall’s 3rd straight runner-up finish in boys cross country.

Nov. 15 – Newberry volleyball state runner-up – The Panthers advanced to their second straight state championship game appearance in 2020. It was also their third trip to the state final in the past five years. Newberry cruised to this year’s Class 1A final. They swept Fort Meade and Trenton in the regional playoffs, and swept Bell in the state semifinals. The Panthers (23-4) were swept in the 1A championship match by Sneads, which won its eighth straight state title.

Dec. 17 – Hawthorne football plays for its first-ever football state title – The biggest win “in Hawthorne football history,” as head coach Cornelius Ingram described it, was the 18-14 win against three-time defending state champion Madison County in the Class 1A state semifinals on Dec. 4. Even though the Hornets did not win the state title two weeks later, falling 27-14 to Baker in the 1A state championship game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, they did something that no other Hawthorne football team had ever done before.

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