BY JAMES P. HILL
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
JACKSONVILLE – The 54th annual Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field Meet is a major showcase for student-athletes and coaches from across the state of Florida and beyond.
Coach Carmen Jackson brings her Miami Northwestern girls varsity team up every year. She says this event pays homage to a special Florida sports legend.
“Coming to the Bob Hayes has been a tradition of Miami Northwestern Senior High, and I just feel like across the state a lot of coaches don’t understand how important it is to embrace the Bob Hayes relays,” Jackson said.
Major track event
The event lasts three days with a banquet, middle school track clinic, and the high school track and field meet. Fans, parents and student-athletes travel from as far away as Dayton, Ohio and Miami, Florida, and many points in between.
James Day is the meet director. He says the event is the largest one-day high school track and field meet in the nation. It was held March 17 at William M. Raines High School in Jacksonville.
He also says the Bob Hayes committee has raised over $95,000 for scholarships for student-athletes who participate in the track meet.
“Just get involved, and have fun like we used too a long time ago,” said Day. “There are 17 different things that happen and you got to find your nitch.”
Hall of Fame inductees
The event began with the 14th annual Bob Hayes Hall of Fame Banquet.
The 2018 inductees include Calvin Jackson, George McGriff, Russ Rogers and Dr. John Carlos, who won the Gold Medal in the 200 meters during the 1967 Pan American Games.
Carlos also captured the bronze medal in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City where he and Tommy Smith made history holding their fists with black gloves on the podium protesting poverty and social injustices for people suffering world-wide.
“I believe it is one of the greatest meets in the United States,” Carlos said. “I feel this particular meet should be a blueprint for all of the states in the union to host a track meet such as this.”
‘Come and dominate’
Student-athletes say they always look forward to competing in the Bob Hayes Invitational.
Christon Kincaide participated in the long jump and the 4×100 relay.
“To Northwestern, it’s a big thing because we always come here and dominate, come together as a team and push and motivate each other,” said Kincaide.
Markalah Hart, a sophomore at Northwestern says Bob Hayes Invitational, is a great event to compete against top-notch programs.
“This event was important. It was one of the biggest meets that we have on our schedule and it was just important to come and dominate in each and every event,” Hart said.
Thomas Burns, who already signed to accept a scholarship to attend the University of Miami to run hurdles and the 4×4 relay, was proud but looks forward to running even better times.
“We did pretty good; we broke the track meet record,” said Burns. “In 110 hurdles, I fell short. I got second. In 300 hurdles, I won but I didn’t really meet my expectations – 4×4 second place.”