JACKSONVILLE - Clay High sports has had a bit of a resurge year with football back at undefeated, swimming sending a handful to the state meet and now cross country getting two athletes to state …
JACKSONVILLE - Clay High sports has had a bit of a resurge year with football back at undefeated, swimming sending a handful to the state meet and now cross country getting two athletes to state under the tutelage of second year coach Frank Wickes.
“I don’t know that I know that much about cross country more than I know how to teach kids to compete,” said Wickes, also a basketball and football coach in his Blue Devil years. “These kids come to work every day, do what is asked and have both developed into killer competitors.”
Wickes’s mentioned two; freshman Savannah Hill and junior Ulyana Damme, both qualified as individuals to the Class 2A cross country championships with best times efforts at the region 1-2A championship race at Jacksonville’s New World Golf Cross Country Course on Friday.
Hill, a former Green Cove Springs Junior High standout under now-Fleming Island High coach Lisa Adams, has blasted on to the cross country scene lately with fast finishing times including Friday’s 20:57.20 for 22nd place.
Damme, one of Wickes’ top runners for the past two years, rumbled in at 17th place in 20:46.50 for a new school record split.
In the very fast region 1-2A race, with Bolles winning via a 15 point shutout total with the top seven runners, all Lady Bulldogs, under 20 minutes, Damme and Hill got in as the second and third individuals to make the state roster.
“I had the best running week I’ve ever had,” said Hill. “My watch and splits all week were great and I was very confident that a good time was possible.”
At last week’s district race, Damme was top finisher in 17th place in 21:59.00 with Hall in at 22:23.00 and Blackburn in at 22:33.00 to push the Blue Devils to a fifth place team finish. Clay’s trio got their region bids by being three of the four individual qualifiers with Menendez getting the first individual bid. Fourth Clay runner in was Kaygen Williamson, a freshman, who was just 13 seconds away from Blackburn.
Hill, one of a handful freshman runners to compete in going to the Class 2A championships, said her goal was to catch the individuals in front of her knowing Bolles would dominate the front.
“I guess just getting used to three miles and running more miles got me here,” said Damme, who missed a state bid last year behind teammate Madisyn Blackburn. “Madisyn was our only region runner last year and I was behind her.”
Blackburn finished in 33rd at 21:55.00.
At the region 1-2A race last year, Blackburn finished in 23:09 for 42nd place. Damme ran 25:15 at the 2019 district race.
“I just put in more miles this past summer and I think I’m learning how to run three miles better,” said Damme. “Having Savannah running with me helped to because we pushed each other.”
In the team points, Bolles, with one freshman, won with an impressive 15 points, with South Walton, Bishop Kenny and Episcopal; all with one freshman runner, filling out the four top teams.
In the boys region 1-2A race, Clay senior Carlton Waiguru missed on his bid to return to the state meet with a 36th place finish in 18:16.70.
In region 2-2A, held down in Melbourne, Keystone Heights High’s Camryn Williams finished 13th behind runners from Montverde Academy, Satellite and Titusville in one of the toughest new regions in Florida, to earn her trip to the Class A championship race. Williams was the fourth individual to finish not on one of the top four teams.
Montverde won the team title with 53 points ahead of Satellite, Citrus High and Lake Highland Prep.
In the boys race, Tyler Shaw was top finisher in 42nd place in 18:34.56. Satellite won the team title with just 19 points with all five runners under 10th place.