GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Fleming Island High’s girls cross country team has had a foursome of force at the front of most of their races this season; led by Emma Millson with Marisa Kortright, Grace …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Fleming Island High’s girls cross country team has had a foursome of force at the front of most of their races this season; led by Emma Millson with Marisa Kortright, Grace Adams and Mei Chiang all nearby by seconds throughout the season, and the strategy worked again as the Golden Eagles won the district 3-4A title Saturday morning at Ronnie Van Zant Park in Green Cove Springs.
“I’m super excited for regions,” said Fleming Island coach Suzanne Baker. “They got it done just like we knew we would.”
With Kortright, a senior, taking the charge at the front followed by Chiang and Millson, Fleming Island chased overall champion Elizabeth Iliff of Creekside for most of the race.
“Marisa coming out strong was a little bit of like a surprise, but not that much,” said Baker. “She has been working really, really hard. Emma has been amazing all season, and sure enough she came through for us, and Mei finally coming in, working through the season, and holding back just enough so that we could work together for today.”
Iliff, ninth at the Class 4A championship race last year in 18:21, was third in last year’s district 1-4A race behind Chile’s seniors Caitlin Wilkey and Alyson Churchill in 19:25.
Fleming Island’s new district 3-4A lineup included just Bartram Trail, Buchholz, Creekside and Oakleaf. Chiles in in district 1-4A and will be at the region 1-4A championship race on Saturday.
The only question was who would be the fifth runner to push Fleming Island over the top. Allie Knotts rounded out the quintuplet to earn the title.
“We are still working on that number four and five,” said Baker. “We’re still working on that, but we’ll bring them in.”
Also in district 3-4A, Oakleaf’s duo of Sierra Barrera and Taylor Silkert advanced with a 10th place and 14th place finish. Silkert recently won the Clay County Championship title with her first sub-20 minute time on the Ronnie Van Zant course.
“I wanted to shave off at least 10 seconds and I did that this race,” said Barrera. “My ultimate goal is to break 20 minutes in a race this year. I can do it on my own runs, but in a race, I think it’s more mentally now, but I’m sure I’m mentally strong enough for it.”
In the boys race, Fleming Island welcomed the return of senior Kameron Wallizada to the mix with the hard-running front runner holding to a 16:45 fifth place finish with teammate Jayden Scherer just two seconds behind and senior Michael Lyon the third Golden Eagle under 17 minutes. Fleming Island’s fourth and fifth finishers; from a group of underclassmen who have traded spots throughout the season, started with junior Alex Bendig at 15th in 17:09 with sophomore Danny Sakowski 20th in 17:22 and freshman John Keester IV 22nd in 17:23. Both Sakowski and Keester have hit the 17 minute mark and will need to be there for regional success next week for the Golden Eagles.
Oakleaf freshman Graham Myers finished just behind Keester at 23rd in 17:24 in one of his strongest races. Myers grabbed a region ticket by being the third individual in behind the top three teams with Buchholz snaring the other three spots.
Fleming Island finished third as a team to advance to regions with Oakleaf fifth behind team champion Bartram Trail edging Creekside 40-41 for the top spot.
“I told the boys, each week we are going to have to run a perfect race to get out. With Buccholz, Bartram, and Creekside and only the top three advancing, all we were looking for was to be in the top three and move on,” said Fleming Island coach Chris Otero.
Top Times in Region 1-4A
Region 1-4A race at Alligator Lake, Lake City, Sat., Nov. 7, 7:20 a.m. girls, 8:20 a.m. boys
1-4A: Girls 19:02, Lillian Holtery, Niceville; Boys 16:47, Nathan Reffitt, Chiles (Chiles 1-2-3-4 district finishes; 16:47-16:59)
2-4A: Girls 19:11, Naila Etique, Nease: Boys 14:55, Rheinhardt Harrison, Nease
4-4A: Girls 19:24.21, Olivia Niewald, Spruce Creek; Boys 16:56.71, Ashton Deriso, Ocala Forest