Oak Hall relay state champions pace All Area girls track and field team

Buchholz's Eleanor Whisler (left) and Eastside's Arielle Livingston were selected to the 2024 All Area girls track and field team.
Buchholz's Eleanor Whisler (left) and Eastside's Arielle Livingston were selected to the 2024 All Area girls track and field team.
Graphic by C.J. Gish

While the Oak Hall Eagles came up just a bit short of a 1A team title last month at the FHSAA Girls Class 1A Track and Field Championships at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the Eagles; 4×800-meter relay team brought a state title back to the Tower Road campus.

The athletes who helped lead Oak Hall to the relay title are among those highlighted in the Bosshard Realty Mainstreet Daily News All Area Track and Field team for 2024.

Leading the way for the Eagles is senior Mackenzie Klein. Klein helped lead the 4×800 relay to a state-winning time of 9 minutes, 28.68 seconds, more than 10 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher Admiral Farragut (St. Petersburg).

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Klein participated in four events at the state championships. Besides the 4×800 relay title, Klein helped the Eagles 4×400 relay team to an eighth-place finish (4:04.11).

Klein also finished fifth in the 1600-meter run with a time of 5:09.91, with the winning time just ahead at 4:52.84, and she placed 10th in the 800 meters (2:21.97).

“Mackenzie had a fantastic senior year,” Oak Hall coach Edwin McTureous said. “Her dedication and hard work over the past seven years paid off, culminating in her participating in four events at the state championship.”

Also helping the Oak Hall relay team to the state title was senior Estella Collante. She ran on both relay teams and finished fourth in the 800 meters with a time of 2:15.73, just four seconds behind the winning time of Madeleine Gear of Foundation Academy (Winter Garden).

“What a breakout season for Estella,” McTureous said. “Her performances at the state championships in the 4×800, 4×400, and 800 were incredible. Her growth as a runner over the past year has been truly remarkable.”

The third Oak Hall distance runner on the All Area girls team is freshman Lola Murfee. Her time of 5:21.79 in the 1600 meters was good for ninth place, less than 30 seconds behind Gear.

Murfee also finished 15th in the 3200 meters (12:10.33) and was also a part of the relay teams for the Eagles.

“I’m immensely proud of Lola for advancing to the state championship in two individual events this season,” said McTureous. “I’m excited to watch her growth as a runner over the next three years.”

The three runners helped Oak Hall finish 12th overall in the 1A state championship in Jacksonville.

Moving along to the sprinter position, Eastside’s Arielle Livingston finished fourth in the 100 hurdles in the 2A state championship meet with a time of 14.38 seconds. Michelle Smith of Montverde Academy won the title with a time of 13.77.

Livingston also placed sixth in the 400 hurdles, finishing in 1:02.95, five seconds behind Smith.

Eastside coach Byers Hickmon is proud of Livingston, as he points out hard work pays off.

“I will never back down, no matter what,” Livingston said. “Never give up. The body achieves what the mind believes. The only person who can tell you you can’t is you and you don’t have to listen.”

Another Eastside athlete, Tyesha Smith, is the All Area girls jumper. Smith finished seventh in the triple jump at the state meet with a jump of 11.28 meters (37 feet, 0.25 inches).

“Do not underestimate yourself, you have unlimited potential,” Smith said. “You will succeed in whatever you choose to do, and light will shine on the road ahead of you.”

Livingston and Smith led Eastside to a tie for 22nd place overall in the Class 2A division.

The thrower for the All-Area girls team is Williston’s Zyon Johnson. Johnson finished eighth in the 2A discus competition with a throw of 33.14 meters (108-9). She also placed 14th in the shot put, throwing 10.15 meters (33-3.75).

The final member of the All Area girls track and field team is another distance runner, Eleanor Whisler of Buchholz.

Whisler was part of the Bobcats’ 4×800 team, which placed eighth in the 4A state meet with a time of 9:36.17. Southridge (Miami) won with a time of 9:14.51.

Whisler finished in seventh place in the 3200 meters, running a time of 11:06.55. 

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Bruce Kritzler

Only 8 athletes recognized, in the biggest participation sport locally and nationwide.?