For all his accomplishments as a runner, it took John Rivera until his senior year to finally win his first state championship. Injuries and a late commitment to running kept him from breaking through until his last chance, and by then he was quick enough to take most of the drama out of his runs. Gold medals in the Class 4A 800 meters and 3,200 relay translated into Rivera being named the Herald’s All-Area Athlete of the Year for boys track and field, giving him his second such honor of the school year. He was also the Herald’s All-Area Runner of the Year in boys cross country during the fall.
To his credit: Rivera isn’t just the fastest 800-meter runner in Florida this year — he’s one of the fastest in the country. After an injury-ravaged junior year, Rivera returned to full strength for his senior season at Lakewood Ranch High School, capping it with the fourth-fastest 800 time in the country, 1 minute, 50.38 seconds, at the Pepsi Florida Relays in April.
1:50.38Time, in minutes and seconds, of John Rivera’s fastest 800-meter run time — the fourth best time in the country this year.
Rivera’s speed in the 800 — he ran a 1:53.16 to win the 4A title and anchored the 3,200 relay to a state title with a time of 7:53.45 — landed him a scholarship from Mississippi, where he should contribute immediately as a freshman. Rivera also finished second in the 1,600 run at the 4A championship.
Manatee: Keyon Fordham, junior, sprints; Josh Betts, junior, hurdles; Chase Main, senior, jumps; Seth Walter, senior, throws. Lakewood Ranch: Andrew Dean, junior, runs; Jonathan Reid, sophomore, runs; Brice Easton, senior, runs; Harry Barthelemy, junior, jumps; Nick Napier, junior, jumps; Sam Jackson, senior, throws; Noah Oxley, junior, throws. Southeast: Dequan Williams, senior, throws. Bayshore: Arion Youmans, sophomore, sprints. Saint Stephen’s: Jordon Murrell, senior, sprints; Lethario Jones Jr., senior, sprints; Jett Gillum, junior, hurdles; Andrew Csubak, senior, runs; Henry Howell, junior, runs; Josh Stevens, senior, throws. Bradenton Christian: Noah Osborne, senior, jumps. Out-of-Door Academy: Kai Soderberg, junior, runs.