The biggest surprise that came out of the District 1-3A track meet two weeks ago may have been the emergence of Navarre High School triple-jump third-place finisher, Elijah Appel. (PHOTO: Appel, center, with teammates and jump coaches Nick Benton, left, and Johnny Robinson-Pettus.)
The senior football star and sprinter came out of nowhere to become a medal winner and, last week, to become one of just two Raiders who qualified for the Class 3A state championship meet Friday, May 3, at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
About three weeks before the district meet, NHS coach Tom Lintz was running out of options. Standout jumper Nick Benton was injured and it was questionable whether he could compete in the district championship. The number-two jumper, Johnny Robinson-Pettus, was ineligible because of a Florida High School Athletics Association rule excluding athletes from competing in the postseason in during the calendar year in which they turn 20.
Lintz searched desperately for someone, anyone, to compete for the Raiders in the long jump and triple jump.
“I looked around for the best athlete available and asked Elijah (Appel) if he would give it a try,” Lintz said.