Once, many of them worried about whether the season would even begin.
Now, they’re recognized as the First Coast’s finest in high school sports.
The Times-Union recognizes its full All-First Coast teams for Jacksonville and Northeast Florida during the 2020-21 school year, honoring the leading performers in more than a dozen individual and team competitions for the season.
From volleyball to track and from swimming to soccer, area athletes soared to new heights, racked up high scores and brought state championships back to the Jacksonville area.
Meet the All-First Coast teams for 2020-21.
Elizabeth Kondal was in contention to win every post-season tournament. She captured District 4-3A, tied for second in Region 1-3A and finished solo second in 3A state tournament.
The high school girls golf post-season was a pitched battle in two classifications — two from the same county and two from adjacent counties.
St. Johns County rivals Bartram Trail and Nease in Class 3A and Bolles and Fernandina Beach in Class 1A tangled on golf courses in three counties across Northeast Florida, then picked it up again at the state tournaments in central Florida.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast girls golf team
Scotty Kennon helped the Ponte Vedra boys golf team win its fourth state championship in a row.
Every week was Shark Week for the Ponte Vedra High School boys golf program in 2020.
Ponte Vedra compiled a record of 17-0 this fall, a combination of nine-hole tournaments, the St. Johns County tournament, and then the three-tiered FHSAA playoffs.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast boys golf team
Fleming Island’s Emma Grimm competes in the 100 yard breaststroke during the FHSAA Swimming and Diving State Championships in Stuart, Florida, on November 6, 2020.
Another year of chasing championships. Another year of bringing them home.
Bringing a lot of them home, in the case of Bolles, where a one-of-a-kind championship streak didn’t even come close to slowing down.
The run now extends through its third full decade — 30 consecutive Florida High School Athletic Association championships for the girls and 33 for the boys — and it shows in the Times-Union’s All-First Coast team, which is well stocked with Bulldogs at all distances.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast swimming team
Creekside outside hitter Jaden McBride (7) leaps for a shot against the Bolles defense during a high school volleyball match on October 1, 2020.
Maybe 2020 was the perfect season for Northeast Florida’s volleyball champions.
Two Florida High School Athletic Association championships in one year for the Jacksonville area, after all, isn’t the sort of thing that comes along very often.
And it’s no surprise that both Ponte Vedra and Bishop Kenny are heavily represented on the Times-Union’s All-First Coast squad, highlighting the fall’s top performers in Northeast Florida high school volleyball.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast volleyball team
The year started with a loss.
But that’s all the losing Trinity Christian did in 2020.
The Conquerors’ eighth FHSAA championship stands out as the highlight in a year of memorable moments, as the Times-Union rolls out its annual All-First Coast team for high school football in Northeast Florida.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast football team
When Northeast Florida’s 2020-21 wrestling season wrapped up, many of the area’s most successful competitors might have found themselves chanting the name of a county other than Duuu-val.
Try a few miles to the south. And the west.
Wrestlers from Clay County took center stage during the high school wrestling season, with athletes from the county grasping many of the berths on the Times-Union’s annual All-First Coast squad.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast wrestling team
Creekside fullback Gianni Badon (2) dribbles upfield on her way to scoring the game-winning goal as Ponte Vedra’s Victoria Villasana defends during a high school girls soccer game on January 19, 2021.
One more year.
Three more championships.
Northeast Florida teams brought home the titles in bunches once more in 2021, another season to remember in high school girls soccer across the First Coast.
In another year of victories for the First Coast, three schools — St. Johns Country Day in Class 2A, Ponte Vedra in Class 5A and Bartram Trail in Class 7A — lifted Florida High School Athletic Association trophies at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast girls soccer team
Maybe, in Northeast Florida boys soccer this year, the best offense really was a good defense.
Defenders who could stop goals — and score them.
Holding midfielders with the positional sense to break up opposing attacks and the power to tally goals themselves.
Even, every now and then, a goalkeeper who could put the ball in the net.
The defensive side of the ball got its chance to shine during the high school boys soccer season, as the Times-Union rolls out its All-First Coast team.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast boys soccer team
Oakleaf’s Taliah Scott (1) and Fantasia James (15) talk during a pause in a high school girls basketball practice on February 22, 2021.
Watch for scorched scoreboards.
Scorers, scorers and more scorers dominated the scene in Northeast Florida girls basketball this season, as the Times-Union rolls out its annual All-First Coast team.
In 2020-21, it didn’t matter the age or the height: The area’s top scorers, ranging from seasoned seniors to promising freshmen, found ways to send the basketball through the hoop.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast girls basketball team
Bolles guard Bobby Crouch (3) dribbles as Paxon guard Abraham Garjah defends during an FHSAA Region 1-4A boys basketball quarterfinal on February 18, 2021. Crouch scored 40 points in the game.
In 2020-21, a Mr. Basketball award was only part of Jacksonville’s basketball fun.
Three final-four qualifiers, plus a rare Mr. Basketball selection, highlighted the high school boys basketball season across Northeast Florida, just in time for the Times-Union’s annual All-First Coast awards.
This year, Jacksonville’s top hoops stars scored from inside, scored from outside and scored from almost everywhere in between.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast boys basketball team
A year after the coronavirus pandemic brought the 2020 high school tennis season to an abrupt halt, players across the Jacksonville area showed they didn’t miss a step.
One state championship and several more deep postseason runs highlighted Northeast Florida’s season on the court, as the Times-Union rolls out its annual All-First Coast squad in boys and girls tennis in 2021.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast boys tennis team
List: Meet the full All-First Coast girls tennis team
Damoni Kelly of Mandarin throws the shot put in the girls shot put competition at the FHSSA track and field championships at UNF Hodges Stadium on Saturday, May 8, 2021.
Girls track and field
Watch a Northeast Florida girls track meet for long in 2021, and the pattern was often the same.
A blur of blue, with a dash of orange, returning to the podium once more.
All-around quality propelled Bolles to the Florida High School Athletic Association state championship in May for Class 2A, highlighting the season for Northeast Florida in girls track and field.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast team for girls track
Bradford’s Dontae Balfour competes in the boys triple jump at the FHSSA track and field championships at UNF Hodges Stadium on Saturday, May 8, 2021.
Boys track and field
In a year where hurdlers made their mark across the First Coast, two runners brought in trophies by the bunch on the flat course.
A sprinter, a miler and a whole host of hurdlers led the charge for Jacksonville’s track squad, as the Times-Union rolls out the 2021 All-First Coast team for boys track and field in Northeast Florida.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast team for boys track
Episcopal senior Maddie Latta (9) delivers a pitch during an FHSAA Class 3A high school softball regional quarterfinal against Baldwin on May 5, 2021.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Blink three times, and the at-bat was done.
After the year of the coronavirus, 2021 brought the year of the strikeout to Northeast Florida softball.
Pitching aces dominated from the circle all year long, leading the way as the Times-Union releases its annual All-First Coast squad in high school softball for the Jacksonville area.
List: Meet the full All-First Coast team for softball
An unexpected break in 2020 didn’t derail baseball hopes for 2021.
Just ask the players on the All-First Coast selection in high school baseball for 2021, rallying to a range of elite performances after the coronavirus pandemic brought their 2020 to a premature end.
They came back hungry and they came back strong, with several of the most impressive single-season performances in the state for this year.