A year ago, Royal Palm Beach resident Tajauni Elliot, then a rising sophomore at Berean Christian School, was not running track for the Bulldogs. In fact, he wasn’t even running for fun or fitness. Being a part of a high school track team was the furthest thing from his mind.
Like most schools throughout the country, Berean didn’t have a track & field season last spring because of COVID-19. Now, a year later, Elliot is totally focused on running track and possibly winning a state championship in the 400-meter dash in 2022. What a difference a year makes!
This spring, Elliot decided to join the track & field team at Berean. It didn’t take long for Mario Jackson, the assistant coach of the track & field program, to realize that he had a fast and talented sprinter on his squad. Jackson, who coaches the sprinters when not in charge of Berean’s football team, could see that Elliot was extremely fast, so he instructed him to run the three sprints — 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter dashes.
“Tajauni is a natural at track,” said John Fix, Berean’s head coach of the track & field teams. “He seems to glide around the oval with his stride. It’s a joy to watch his God-given talent on display.”
This year, Elliot’s best time for the 100-meter was 12.15 seconds. In the 200-meter, his personal best was 23.01 seconds. But his best event is the 400-meter dash.
The buildup to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s state track meet began on April 16 at the Class 1A, District 13 meet held at the Benjamin School. Elliot finished third in the 400 with a time of 52.8 seconds. Micah Mays of the Benjamin School won that race with a time of 51.1 seconds, but Elliot’s third-place finish was good enough to qualify for the regional meet.
The regional meet was held at Calvary Christian School in Fort Lauderdale on April 30. There, Elliot ran his best time of the season in the 400, clocking in at 51.34 seconds. His fast time and fourth-place finish at meet — which Mays won — helped him qualify for the FHSAA Class 1A state track meet May 7 on the campus of the University of North Florida in in Jacksonville.
In Jacksonville, Elliot was seeded 13th in the 400-meter dash, but he was able to run fast enough to actually finish second in his heat and seventh overall in the state. His seventh-place finish earned Berean two points in the team totals. His time was 51.52 seconds. The first-place finisher in the 400 at this year’s state meet was John Oleksak, a senior at Indian Rocks Christian School, with a winning time of 49.41 seconds. Finishing second was Mays from the Benjamin School.
The setting in Jacksonville was a little different than regular track meets.
“The atmosphere was electric, and it was a great experience for Tajauni,” Jackson said. “He carried the pride of Berean Christian upon his shoulders. The moment wasn’t too big for him, and the greatest lesson learned was the work ethic it will take to return to the state track meet next spring and win. My last words of encouragement to him were to run his own race and run it for the glory of God.”
Elliot knew the moment was special, but it wasn’t too overwhelming.
“It was a surreal feeling when they said my name at the beginning of the race, but when I got into the starting blocks, I just told myself to do my best,” he recalled. “I didn’t push myself for the first 200 meters, and then I ran faster for the last part of the race, finishing second in my heat. I’m proud of my effort, and I did my best.”
He will continue to do his best in the immediate future, while also playing football for Berean in the fall and basketball in the winter.
Jackson knows that Elliot has a great chance to improve and compete for a state title during his junior and senior years. “He can definitely break the 50-second mark next year as a junior,” Jackson said.
But the preparation for state championship success in track has already started.
“I’ve got him working out in the weight room right now so he can be more powerful and more explosive,” Jackson added.
Berean has a strong track record of sending athletes to the state track meet. One of those athletes came home as a state champion, and it was in the 400-meter dash. Back in 2010, former Bulldog track star Talyn Washington won the state title in the 400. His time was 49.05 seconds.
For the next two years, Elliot will be focused on getting fitter, stronger and faster so he can break Washington’s school record and, hopefully, win at the FHSAA’s Class 1A state track meet.
Those are lofty goals for a young athlete who wasn’t even running a year ago. Now, running is always on his mind.