GAINESVILLE – It seems freshman Grace Adams has become the unsung hero for the Fleming Island High girls cross country team as the now-healthy harrier climbed back to her usual number two finisher …
GAINESVILLE – It seems freshman Grace Adams has become the unsung hero for the Fleming Island High girls cross country team as the now-healthy harrier climbed back to her usual number two finisher for the Lady Golden Eagles as they finished second overall at the Region 1-4A cross country championships Friday morning at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. The second place finish puts Fleming Island’s girls in the state meet in Tallahassee on November 10. Freshman Mei Chiang was the top runner for Fleming Island with an eighth place finish in 19 minutes, 4.78 seconds, another drop in her previous school record.
“That was the plan all along,” said Fleming Island head coach Suzanne Baker, who languished as her girls team with Chiang the district champion, finished second at the district 1-4A championship race last week with Adams, finishing as fifth runner on the team, slowed by a flu. “She led a nice group of three runners today at the finish that got us the runnerup spot.”
For the Fleming Island boys, it was junior Will Livesay for a second race leading the boys team with the Golden Eagles finished sixth and also advancing to the Class 4A championship race in Tallahassee on November 10.
“Last week felt pretty good (fourth in districts), but this is better than that,” said Livesay, who finished 18th overall in 17:07.80 to lead Fleming Island’s finishers. “I heard someone at that last left turn yell that I was in 16th place and top 15 go to state so I surged thinking I wasn’t going to make it. Even though the person who yelled was wrong about me in at 16, it helped me and I used that to sprint to the finish.”
In the girls race, the top time was from Timber Creek freshman Amber Shulz who broke away near mid race to cruise to victory in 18:20.55 ahead of Lake Brantley junior Ashley Klingenberg, second in 18:32.32.
In the top 10 of the girls race, Chiang’s eighth place finish was among six of seven returning state meet runners, including defending region champion Mackenzie Czurak of Winter Springs who was fourth and Klingerberg who was seventh in Class 4A last year. As a freshman, Schulz is set to attend her first state meet.
With the next group of finishers being from the Orlando area, Adams carried in at 19th place in 20:08.7 ahead of Fletcher High senior Laurel Overby. Adams was leading point with teammates Lauren Schaudel, 22nd in 20:12.51, and junior Jennifer Fliess, 24th in 20:14.70 within earshot and keeping the Fleming Island point total low as they awaited two more finishers; Emma Millson and Marisa Kortright.
“I felt great and knew Lauren and Jennifer were near,” said Adams. “I still have a little chest congestion, but I wasn’t going to run that far back at this race. We wanted the state meet.”
As runners flooded the finish area, it was Millson who emerged with Kortright about 15 yards behind her bringing in the final scorers for Fleming Island in 48th and 52nd place; 20:57.55 and 21:07.83, respectively.
“I’ve run better times through the season, but my finish today was one of best of the season,” said Kortright. “We had a plan to stay close to each other.”
In the team points, Lake Brantley, sixth in 4A last year, scored 101 points to win with Fleming Island at 111 and Winter Springs, fourth last year at state, third with 116. Mandarin was a distant fourth in 149 with Winter Park, the defending 4A champion, in at fifth with 180 and Lake Mary, the final state qualifying team, in sixth at 193.
With Livesay running point for Fleming Island coach Karen Moritz, who was awarded an ice water bath from her running mentees once scores were finalized, Fleming Island was going to need strong pack running from the next four runners to stay in contention after Oviedo High broke the field with overall winner Kayamo Galloway, the defending region champion and 11th in 4A last year, winning in 15:55.97 with teammate Angel Vicioso second at 16:08.48 and Galloway’s brother, Mamush, in at 11th at 16:39.11, putting Oviedo at the front from the starter’s pistol.
“I told Will that he needed to finish in the top 30 for us to have a chance,” said Moritz. “He got 18th which was great and the rest of the team ran as strong as last week to stay close.”
Fleming Island, who had beaten Buchholz last week for the district 1-4A title, kept chase of the Bobcats, but fell a point short for sixth place with 152 points as Oviedo won with 75 points ahead of West Orange, 82, Windermere, 99 and Lake Mary, 148, taking the next three spots.
Junior Landon Opp, who led a storming of the finish line at districts, again pushed for the next Fleming Island finisher; at 28th in 17:19.63, with Kameron Wallizada, 41st at 17:31.28, John Brinkman, 42nd at 17:32.17 and sophomore Jayden Scherer, 51st at 17:38.30 filing in with just enough space to earn the final state meet ticket. Fleming Island senior Gage West was the sixth finisher at 67th in 17:52.94 with senior Cameron May 90th in 18:22.41.