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Plant City Observer Thursday, May 17, 2018 6 months ago

PCHS relay team goes from football field to track states

The boys 4x100 team’s strong chemistry helped to a 10th place finish May 4.
by: Justin Kline Sports/Associate Editor

If you ever want to know how trash talk can be a motivational tool, look no further than Plant City High School’s boys 4x100 relay team.

Xavier King, Tyreke Harrison, Jordan Wiggins, E.J. Wilson and A.J. Joyce make up the 4x100 group that made it to the FHSAA state championships on May 4 and 5 in Jacksonville. Though these five Raiders will never miss an opportunity to roast one another, their top-10 finish at states is proof they knew exactly what they were doing the whole time.

“They push you in the most strange ways…you feel like you’re being put down but they’re really motivating you to just do extra,” King said. “They’re like, ‘Man, you suck, you’re garbage,’ But that’s really just that push, that’s just how we talk to each other. ‘Oh, you’re calling me garbage? Alright, I’m gonna go out there and get it.’”

Their trash talk is all love, they said, because they formed a bond of brotherhood over the years in football and running track only made it stronger. They grew up playing football in the Tri-County Youth Football and Cheerleading Conference. King and Harrison were teammates on the Turkey Creek Trojans, Wiggins played for the Lakeland Eagles, Joyce for the Dover Patriots and Wilson for the Brandon Bears. After many years playing with and against each other, they joined forces on the high school’s football team and, one by one, eventually became teammates on the track for the 2017-18 season. This was the first season all five were able to run track together, leading to a positive experience they all say will stay with them for a long time.

“Just the feeling of being there, knowing our hard work paid off and I got to compete one last time with my boys — we’ve done been together since eight, I don’t even know how many years — the experience of getting to compete one last time at the biggest stage with my brothers,” Wiggins said.

This season was especially meaningful for King, who returned to the track team after skipping his junior season and ended up competing in two events at states. For him, this season was a major confidence-booster.

“It was honestly an accident,” King said. “I was trying to stay away from the 4x100 because that was originally where it happened. My sophomore year they were like, ‘We need you for the 4x100.’ I did it and I got in front of the crowd, but I got shook and I got stuck when it was my turn to get the baton. We ended up getting disqualified, so everybody was mad at me. I was like, ‘I’m never doing that again.’”

He left the team after his sophomore year and didn’t let head coach Drew Martucci successfully talk him into coming back until this season. King was able to overcome his fears, carve out his role and become what his teammates called the “missing piece” that helped the group make it as far as it did.

“After I crossed the finish line at districts I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this team is special,’” Harrison said.

King had no intentions of competing in the high jump this season until Martucci needed someone to do it at a practice one day. He volunteered on a whim, ended up tying a school record in the event and got to the biggest stage of them all.

“I went out there and I did it, and it was kind of eye-opening for me,” King said. “It was like, I actually did something that I said I couldn’t do, I gave it a try to see how far I’d get and then I got to states.”

Though the group didn’t meet its goal of winning gold at states, the Raiders agree this season is one they’ll always remember fondly, from moments as big as running at states to playing Madden together on Wilson’s PlayStation — on that note, the team invited Wiggins back to states should it return in 2019 to defend his big wins from that day.

“My controller was messed up,” Wilson said.

The remaining Raiders said they’re trying to talk more of their football teammates into trying track to keep the relay team strong. They view this past season as both a major success and a sign of things to come.

“Some of us are gonna be able to return next year and for some of us it’s time to go,” Harrison said, “but it gave us a good feeling about where we’re at.”

Justin Kline is the Sports/Associate Editor at the Plant City Observer. He has been covering all things sports-related in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World since 2013.

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