After 53 years, the Bob Hayes Invitational Track Meet finally set a records record.


In the 3,200, 100 or 400, the records toppled like rickety dominoes at Saturday’s 53rd annual meet.

The Southeast’s top high school athletes shone bright in Jacksonville’s annual showcase of speed at Raines High School.

Longtime meet director James Day said he’s never seen so many records fall in a single meet.

“This was very special,” he said.

None made a more dramatic impact than Miami Norland sophomore Tyrese Cooper, who surpassed his own meet record in the boys 400 meters and set another record of 23 seconds flat in the boys 200.

The latter mark shattered the 2013 time of former Stanton star Kendal Williams.

For this 10th-grader, it’s two more records in his latest First Coast visit in front of Olympic legends looking on from the infield.

“It feels great,” Cooper said. “I want to be just like them, or even better. They were Olympians, and I want to top that and be an Olympian, too.”

He’s well on his way.

But Cooper’s records were far from alone.

Symone Mason of Miami Southridge set meet marks in the girls 100 and 200, Southridge’s Kayla Johnson bettered her 2016 record time with a 2:09.31 in the girls 800, and Tallahassee Lincoln’s Alyson Churchill ran a record 4:57.36 in the girls 1,600.

The most emotional record belonged to Miami Northwestern’s Thomas Burns, who ran 36:12 in the boys 300 hurdles - two-hundredths better than the old meet mark of older brother Artie Burns in 2012.

The man to present his trophy? None other than Artie Burns himself, now a cornerback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, handing over the rights to some brotherly trash talk.

“When I looked at the clock in the last 50, it said 33 [seconds] and I was like, I got this,” Thomas Burns said.

Though Northeast Florida athletes didn’t join the record-setting fun, they brought home plenty of hardware.

In the boys 4x100 relay, Ameer Speed’s surging anchor leg kick powered Sandalwood down the stretch to victory.

“I’ve been dreaming of winning something at the Bob Hayes since I was in seventh grade, coming out to race with my team in middle school,” Speed said. “This is really a dream come true.”

The Saints held off Miami Northwestern and Raines in a razor-thin finish with a time of 41.34.

“I heard them yell out Sandalwood was out in front,” Speed said. “I was just excited we finally did it.”

Mandarin sophomore Kam Firpo, meanwhile, captured the first big trophy of his young high school career in the boys pole vault with a leap of 13 feet, 3 inches. He led a local 1-2 ahead of Bishop Kenny’s Joseph Bradley.

“I was like, ‘I’ve never been this far,’” he said. “I had to get that mindset to win.”

In the boys Lewis Siplin Invitational 1,600, Bishop Kenny’s Nathan Jubran watched as his 15-yard lead dwindled in the closing straightaway, but the Crusaders senior had just enough to edge Tallahassee Lincoln’s Clayton Carlson.

“He nearly could have gotten me then,” Jubran said. “I knew if I didn’t kick it in, he was going to pass me.”

Paxon’s Kai’lyn Kirkland took second place to Northwestern’s Ulani Toussaint in the girls 400, fellow Golden Eagle Ryan Saint-Germain finished second to Cooper in the boys 200 and Westside’s girls took second in the 4x100 relay.

But locals unexpectedly missed the podium in the boys 100, where Speed, Willie Wright of Raines and Steven Simmons of Palatka entered with three of the top four seeds, but started slowly to finish well behind winner Darryl Gay of Orlando Evans.

The traditional star-studded crowd included past Olympian runners Ralph Boston, John Carlos and Chandra Cheeseborough and former U.S. sprint coach Russ Rogers.

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 53rd annual meet, held in honor of the Northwest Jacksonville sprinter who won the 100-meter gold medal and the title of world’s fastest man in the 1964 Olympics.