© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2002
CORAL SPRINGS -- Sam Vavra whirled, released the shot from the tip of his fingers and threw it farther than he had before.
His only regret was it didn't go far enough.
Participating in his first state meet, the senior from Clearwater threw the shot 53 feet, 3 inches on his next-to-last attempt. Besides being a career-best, the mark also vaulted Vavra from fifth place to third.
But what Vavra really wanted was to break the school's 39-year-old shot put record of 54-9, a goal of his since he watched his brother, Drew, compete in the event five years ago.
"He told me about it and I saw the record up on a plaque in the gymnasium," Vavra said. "I always thought it would be nice to have my name up there."
Still, Vavra exceeded expectations with his performance. He missed qualifying for state last year by 3 inches and now has bragging rights in the family. Drew was fifth in 1998.
"I'm happy that I got a throw like I had at the end and it was nice to be in the top three," Vavra said.
With the bronze medal dangling from his neck, Vavra walked off the infield grass and bade farewell to the event. He will attend the Florida Culinary Institute in the fall.
"I've always been good with my hands and I like to cook," Vavra said. "I guess you can say I'm the shot-putting chef."
Although Vavra was the only county athlete to medal at the Class 4A state meet Saturday, there were others who placed.
St. Petersburg's Justin Peterson was seventh in the pole vault and Gibbs' 4x100 relay team of Chris Davis, Thomas Davis, Ron Gibson and Rashad Etheridge was eighth.
The Green Devils' Ashlee Kidd was the highest girls place-winner, finishing fifth in the 400 meters in a personal-best 55.40 seconds. The junior missed qualifying for last year's state meet because of a pulled hamstring.
"I knew it was going to be tough to win," Kidd said. "This is the toughest classification in the state. But I'm happy with how I did."
Palm Harbor University's Courtney LaCroix took seventh in the high jump.