Ahfachkee seventh-grader Nick Andrews, center, competes in the 1600-meter run during the FHSAA Class 1A-District 12 meet April 19 at the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens. (Photo by Maury Neipris)

Ahfachkee School’s inaugural track and field season culminated April 19 in Palm Beach Gardens as its runners competed in the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A-Disrict 12 meet at the Benjamin School.

Although none of Ahfachkee’s three runners at the meet advanced to regionals, the season was still full of success stories for this year’s only sports team at the small school.

“This is Ahfachkee School’s first track and field team ever, so in general for our school and athletic program, it is a great success,” said coach Matthew Beckham, whose team had five runners for most of the season. “Their coordination, speed, power, and muscular endurance increased more than I expected. We have first-year runners, some of whom have never participated in any athletics. With them being so raw, we were able to see huge numbers in gained performance week to week assessments or from meet to meet. Top track athletes can train a whole year or two and not meet the gains some of these athletes meet in a season. I can only hope they continue to practice this effort in the off-season.”

Sophomore Franklin Jumper and eighth-grader Gordon Jumper competed in two sprints at districts. Franklin finished 16th and Gordon 17th in the 100 meter dash with times of 12.94 and 14.49 seconds, respectively. In the 400, Franklin’s time of 1:01.30 was good enough for 10th place. Gordon finished 17th in 1:10.35.

Seventh-grader Nick Andrews rounded out the Ahfachkee trio. Andrews finished 18th in the 1600 meter run. He completed the mile in 7:06.

The runners’ times are only a fraction of how Beckham determines success. He looks beyond the stopwatch to gauge how a runner has fared during the season.

“You can look at their physical performance from before and after the season and say what a great success it was,” Beckham said. “Although for me, personally, I also look to measure their growth in their mindset by how well they grow in what I call the “red zone.” The red zone means respect, effort, and discipline. Coming to practice ready to be coached up, giving your best effort in each and every rep and practice, and staying disciplined throughout the season. For some they learn that their mindset was previously weak and how their previous performance was negatively affected by lacking on these traits. Then all of sudden they hold themselves accountable and they see growth, they start believing in themselves because they connect the reality of being in the red zone and success. So did we make better athletes, yes. What is even better we are making more productive citizens through athletics.”

Ahfachkee’s team also included Alonie Gore, the squad’s only female runner. She did not compete in the district meet. Another runner, Dar’Rick Nelson-Williams, ran during the season, but no longer attends Ahfachkee.

Beckham said the foundation is in place for the program to grow.

“I believe next year we will have more athletes and the athletes who participated this year will take it to the next level,” he said. “Coordination and speed are the foundation to a great athletics program, and the kids know they can come to me and I will give them a program to either continue or start a program to get better.

“Hopefully then, we will be talking about Ahfachkee school having state qualifying track and field athletes, which is the ultimate goal.”

Ahfachkee sophomore Franklin Jumper nears the finish line in 1A-District 12’s 400-meter run. (Photo by Maury Neipris)
Ahfachkee seventh-grader Nick Andrews, center, competes in the 1600-meter run during the FHSAA Class 1A-District 12 meet April 19 at the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens. (Photo by Maury Neipris)
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