ORANGE PARK – Prior to the start of the Florida Striders’ Resolution Run 5K run Saturday on River Road, two high school cross country runners that both competed at the state championships in November were spied smiling and sharing pleasantries prior to the starter’s pistol.
At the gun, it was Fleming Island High’s Kameron Wallizada taking off in a sprinter’s fashion to nestle up to St. Johns Country Day School sophomore Matthew Stratton in the early miles as both were very big pre-race favorites for the annual sojourn along the St. Johns River.
Truth be told, Wallizada, a Class 4A championship race 63rd place finisher in 16 minutes, 41.60 seconds amidst a season with minor, nagging injuries, has returned to full season training while Stratton, the best finisher of all Clay County runners who finished a thrilling second in Class 1A in 15:39.45 with a scintillating final mile, has been on a soccer pitch for the 8-1 Spartans soccer team.
In the final surge, Wallizada, 17, was alone ahead of runnerup Trevor Beesley, 33, with a winning time of 16:31 on the newly-paved River Road course. Stratton strode in at third in 17:15 with a smile to his dad, Greg, on the sidewalk with camera.
For the female race, Orange Park veteran Belissa Del Valle, 32, dominated from the start with a 20:31 effort with runner up Regina Sooey, 48, in at 21:16, and Fleming Island High freshman cross country runner Anna Rafalski, 15, third at 21:19.
Right behind Stratton, in fourth, was Orange Park master and dentist Gary Myers, 47, in 17:31, who out-strategized son Logan, 15, who finished eighth in 18:36 and is destined to mow the lawn for his second place family finish.
Upcoming races in the area include the Hellcat 10k/30K/50K ultradistance series held January 18 at the Green Cove Springs Military Museum on Highway 16 just off the Shands Bridge with the very fast Matanzas 5K set also for January 18 in downtown St. Augustine.