TALLAHASSEE - Fleming Island High cross country coach Suzanne Baker utilized her front four strong running pack to a sixth place finish at the Class 4A cross country championships Saturday in …
TALLAHASSEE - Fleming Island High cross country coach Suzanne Baker utilized her front four strong running pack to a sixth place finish at the Class 4A cross country championships Saturday in Tallahassee in the highest ever finish for the school in the sport.
Baker, who earned a district and a region title as warmups for the state meet, has relied on the strong running of her top four runners; Emma Millson, Marisa Kortright, Mei Chiang and Grace Adams, to put the team points in small digits up front before crossing fingers to secure team titles with freshman Allie Knotts’ finish instrumental last week in snagging the team trophy from Mandarin.
With the top seven runners in Saturday’s final all breaking the 19 minute mark, led by overall champion Amber Schulz of Timber Creek in 18 minutes. 26.1 seconds, Fleming Island’s foursome finished slightly behind recent splits led by Millson’s 19:52.7 for 25th place. Kortright and Chiang were just behind in 29th and 33rd; 20:02.1 and 20:08.8, with Adams five seconds from Chiang as Fleming Island had their first four runners in ahead of Mandarin.
Newsome had just three runners ahead of Millson with Lakewood Ranch with two finishers above Millson as Fleming Island made a stunning move to steal the title with their front pack.
In the first mile, a threesome of
runners broke away from the start with a large chase group behind followed by a third chase group that had Chiang up front, Millson and Kortright just behind her and Adams five steps off the pace.
With three top runners making a fast break heading to the first hill, Millson was on Chiang’s shoulder prior to the mile mark.
At the first mile, the leaders went through in 5:25 through 5:29 with Millson first to the mark for Fleming Island in 5:51.3, Kortright at 5:51.4 and Chiang at 5:51.8. Adams hit the mile mark in 6:03.1.
With the rugged hill section of the park upcoming, Millson maintained her top team spot by powering up the hill with Chiang and Kortright still together as the runners headed back to the start line for lap two on the course.
Up Front, Crystal Rodriguez, second in her region race, was powering in the lead ahead of Timber Creek’s Amber Shulz with both holding a 10 yard gap heading to the finish line for lap one.
At the two mile mark, Rodriguez and Schulz stayed gapped ahead of the chases with Millson tucked in behind taller runners with Kortright behind her as Chiang started to fall back. Adams, the top finisher for Fleming Island at last year’s state race, was within eyeshot of the Fleming Island trio.
The two mile mark went by in 11:34.4 with Rodriguez holding a two second lead on Schulz.
Creekside’s Elizabeth Illif was top area runner past two miles at 11:55.1 in seventh place with Flagler Palm Coast’s Jada Williams across the mat in 12:13.6 just ahead of Nease’s Naila Etique.
Millson was Fleming Island’s first at two miles in 12:29.3 with Kortright at 12:33.0 ahead of Mandarin’s Alyssa Wyatt. Chiang was two seconds off Wyatt’s pace at 12:36.9 with Adams behind two Mandarins runners, but ahead of one by a hair at 12:49.9.
Schulz, fourth last year in 17:56, would take the lead and extend from Rodriguez after the two mile mark as the final hill and long straight to the finish line loomed ahead.
In the final straight, Niceville’s Keleigh Scallon, headed to University of Florida next fall, made a push to chase Schulz, but Schulz repelled the attempt in the last 50 yards to win in 18:26.1 with Scallon at 18:29.3.
In between Millson and Chiang, Mandarin landed two more runners to make the team scoring even more tense for Baker with Mandarin’s Anna Loehle edging Adams to put three Mandarin girls across the finish line.
As the runners filed in and the frontrunners were joined by their teams behind the front four of both Mandarin and Fleming Island, Mandarin landed two runners ahead of Knott; 76th and 77th, Knott at 97th about 30 seconds behind to give the Mustangs top team honors from north Florida; 162 to Fleming Island’s 166.
Tampa Plant won the team title with 79 with Newsome second at 92 and Lakewood Ranch at 136 for third.
Fleming Island also had Elliott BAker and Marlea Field finish in 115th and 116th.
Timber Creek slid in with 162 to tie Mandarin with Fleming Island 30 points up on Niceville, Sarasota and Viera. Creeksdie was 10th as the third area team.
In the boys 4A race, won in 15:26.9 by Rheinhardt Harrison of Nease, Fleming Island’s Jayden Scherer finished his third straight state meet in 17:40.9 for 84th place.