a group of men standing next to each other holding a trophy

The Marathon boys and girls track & field teams earned six district championship titles at the FHSAA 1A District 16 competition at Palmer Trinity School on May 1. The boys team earned 134 total points, securing the runner-up team trophy and qualifying seven individuals and two relay teams for the regional meet. The girls team placed third with 104 team points, qualifying eight more athletes for the next level.

Junior Mikhail Marshall was Marathon’s top male performer. He brought home gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter races as well as one for the district-champion 4×400 relay. Marshall will compete in all three events next week. Other members of the 4×400 team were Caleb Shelar, Jakub Bursa and Mason Buxton. Buxton’s skills proved essential to the Fins’ final tally. He took second in the 800-meter race and third in javelin and discus. Vance Bursa was second in the one- and two-mile races and third in the 800. He ran anchor on the second-place 4×800 relay team, making it four total miles of racing at districts and four events for him at regionals. The other members of the qualifying 4×800 team were Jakub Bursa, Caleb Shelar and Dillon Shelar making it a double brother event. Fabbianho Louis Jeune earned two medals, winning second in high jump and third in the triple jump. The final three regional-qualifying athletes were freshman Cullen Coleman-Sayer and sixth-grader Maverick McDonald, who placed second and third in pole vault, respectively, plus eighth-grader Tony Bursa, who raced to fourth in the two-mile race.

Leading the scoring for the girls’ team was sophomore powerlifter Justice Lee, who transferred her strength to the field events. Her 107’7” javelin toss broke her own school record and was good for district gold. Lee added another district championship title in shot put and placed second in the discus, qualifying for all three events at regionals. Classmate Ava Merryman earned a first-place medal in the pole vault with Samantha Batzer, also a sophomore, coming in third. Fellow sophomore Daysi Williams took second in high jump and fourth in the 200 to give her two events at regionals. Senior Kayesha Christian was second in long jump while Caylie Globe, a junior, took fourth in long and high jump. Juniors Marti Kilbourne was third in javelin and Tinashay Cunningham was third in the 400, rounding out Marathon’s automatic qualifiers. 

The top four finishers at districts get an automatic pass to regionals while others must wait it out to see whether their best times and distances make the cut. When all the numbers were crunched, a slew of Fins were awarded spots in the regional event. Allan Taylor, an eighth-grader, qualified in the one- and two-mile events with Danny Merryman and Eian Batzer qualifying in discus and long jump, respectively. Lady Fins senior Mikkel Ross earned a place at the start of the girls’ two-mile race while Cami Wrinn qualified in the 400 hurdles as the Dolphins’ final at-large place winner. 

Key West and Coral Shores learned the fate of several high-performing athletes who, though they did not capture a top-four spot at districts, had a shot at regionals. The ’Canes did not receive any good news when the heat sheets came out, but Key West will need to make room for two more athletes and a few more poles for their trip to regionals. Malachi Telisma’s high jump mark was strong enough for an at-large qualification, as was Jeremiah Harvey’s javelin throw. Audrey Smith, already on the list for javelin, also met the mark in discus. Kaylee Matas Cabezuelo added a third event with a qualifying height in pole vault, while Ariel Newton became the fourth Lady Conch vaulter to qualify. In all, Key West qualified seven pole vaulters with five ranked in the top 10, a testament to the strength of their program. 

All three Keys teams are set to compete May 7 at Calvary Christian High School for the 1A and 2A finals, being held in tandem this year. Athletes must perform in the top 2 in each event at regionals to guarantee a spot at the state track and field championships with a handful of at-large bids up for grabs, as well. Marathon’s state championship meet is May 15 while Coral Shores and Key West take their marks the following day. All divisions compete at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

RICK MACKENZIE/Contributed

Tracy McDonald
Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.