Harriers still looking to fall season

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MIDDLEBURG - Area cross country runners continue to run and train in anticipation of a fall season after many missed possible track season medals because of the COVID-19 situation.

"The virus has not affected our prep other than the fact we’re not tightening up our pack like we normally do," said Fleming Island High coach Dave Allen, who recently had his squad up in North Carolina for some team building as the August schedule approaches. "The kids are having to space out a little but it’s not affecting our fitness."

One area race director that says he is still a full green light go is Richard Fannin, now at Bishop Kenny High School as coach and the former coach for Bishop Snyder High School state meet team two year ago. Fannin is race director for the August 21 Cecil Field Summer Classic at the New World Golf Course at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, one of the only August 21 meets in Florida.

"We are full steam ahead, full throttle with our meet," said Fannin. "As of yesterday (July 8), the earliest competition date set by the state of Florida is August 10, so we are 11 days past that."

Fannin, a major force in high school running in north Florida and also a big part of the elite races for the Gate River Run 15K, says he has another power packed team lineup for his Cecil Field races (Bolles, Nease, Creekside) and thinks the runners are anticipating getting back to competition.

"I think the kids and the coaches and parents are brimming to get back to competition," said Fannin. "As a coach, I say if parents are uncomfortable if they feel hesitant to send their kid, then don't send them. We will take all safety precautions, but it ultimately there decision."

Fannin noted that the race will feature one of the only live bands at a competition.

"If the FHSAA shuts us down, we will still try to have a huge open race and invite everyone to it," said Fannin.

In Clay County, Fleming Island High's boys and girls teams both return a bucketload of returning talent with both teams sending full squads to last year's state championship meet.

For the boys, Kameron Wallizada is the top returner on paper, but the hard-running senior has been slowed by nagging injuries since his emergence as one of the top freshman in the country. Allen loses Will Livesay (University of South Florida) and Landon Opp (Naval Academy) as his two constant frontrunners, but returns a cadre of runners; led by Jack McDade and Jayden Scherer, that were just a step or two off the sub-17 minute pace last year. A crowd of strong young runners coming in from the junior high ranks; John Keester, Danny Sakowski and Luke Melson also provided enough chase to keep the top 7-10 a strong pack.

For the girls, Mei Chiang roared in as a freshman then succumbed to her own injuries to lessen her potential for top finishes at the end of the season and coach Suzanne Baker loses Morgan Erler to family move to Japan (military). Erler was a top three team finisher and getting faster as the season progressed as she learned race tactics. Senior Marisa Kortright is fit from strong summer solo runs and looks to add to the Lady Golden Eagles pack running style with Grace Adams back strong. Sophomore Anna Rafalski may have been overwhelmed at the state meet last year, but she has put in the miles to be able to compete at the next level this year.

"The meet structure is still completely up-in-the-air and we are not gonna worry about anything that’s out of our control," said Allen. "So we are preparing like meets will go as normal... and then we’ll adapt if we have to."

Fleming Island's tentative schedule opens on August 22 with the Spike and Spurs Classic at Flagler County Fairgrounds with meets set for August 29 (Menendez) and September 5 (Florida Horse Farm, Ocala).

Oakleaf stays in district 1-4A with former coach James Henderson back, but as of press time, had not started training. The Knights, last year, had a senior duo of Dylan Nelson and Ajani Stokes (both sub 17 minutes) to lead the squad with two more 19-minute seniors; Bryce Stalter and Christian Vallenzuela, with Hannah Johnson, Kylie Loving and Kylie Overstreet top girls returners.

District 1-4A

Fleming Island girls returners

Top 7 under 20 minutes district 1-4A

Anna Rafalski, sophomore, 18th district 1-4A 20:44.60; 75th at regions 21:27.8; 143rd at state 21:01.40

Grace Adams, junior, 25th district 1-4A, 21:06.90; 17th at regions 19:48.00; 54th at state 19:49.50

Marisa Kortright, senior, 27th district 1-4A, 21:10.30; 41st at regions 20:42.80; 94th at state 20:17.20

Kartherine Harlamore, senior, 68th district 1-4A, 23:02.10

Brynn Kniesley, junior, 72nd district 1-4A, 23:13.80

(Mei Chiang, did not run districts, 30th at regions 20:15.00; 56th at state 19:50.60)

Lost

Morgan Erler, junior, 17th district 1-4A, 20:43.40; 29th regions 20:14.1; 57th at state 19:51.40 (Moving to Japan)

Jordan Detwiler, graduate (USNA), 53rd, district 1-4A, 22:12.80; 87th at regions 21:50.6; 163rd at state 21:30.10

Kayla Herman, graduate, 59th district 1-4A, 22:34.90

Jennifer Fleiss, graduate (Did not run districts, 69th at regions 21:20.4; 106th at state 20:29.30)

Fleming Island boys returners

Top 17 under 17 minutes district 1-4A

Kameron Wallizada, senior, 7th, district 1-4A, 16:35.51; 10th at regions 16:03.2; 63rd at state 16:41.60

Jack McDade, senior, 23rd, district 1-4A, 17:09.56; 34th at regions 16:49.5; 96th at state 16:56.29

Jayden Scherer, senior, 24th, district 1-4A, 17:10.33; 58th at regions 17:09.8; 94th at state 16;55.04

Alexander Bendig, junior, 58th, district 1-4A 17:52.17

Michael Lyon, senior, 61st, district 1-4A 18;00.89

Lost

Landon Opp, graduate (USNA), 13th, district 1-4A 16:54.92; 13th at regions 16:20.7; 38th at state 16:22.24

John Brinkman, graduate, 33rd, district 1-4A 17:17.21; 49th at regions 17:03.0; 137th at state 17:15.66

Brendan Fitzgerald, graduate, 34th, district 1-4A 17:19.43; 63rd at regions 17:14.5; 114th at state 17:07.01

William Livesay, graduate (USF), 45th district 1-4A 17:30.02; 41st at regions 16:54.8; 89th at state 16:53.69

Jacob Walrod, graduate, 51st, district 1-4A 17:41.80

Oakleaf girls

Returners

Hannah Johnson, senior, 43rd, district 1-4A, 21:48.20

Kylie Loving, junior, 81st, district 1-4A, 23:42.30

Kylie Overstreet, senior, 88th, district 1-4A, 24;03.80

Oakleaf boys

Sean Zayas, senior, 98th, district 1-4A 19:54.32

Lost

Ajani Stokes, graduate, 32nd, district 1-4A, 17:16.07; 25th at regions 16:41.8

Dylan Nelson, graduate (Troy), 36th, district 1-4A 17:20.48; 18th at regions 16:29.0

Christian Villanueva, graduate, 83rd, district 1-4 19:05.07

Bryce Stalter, graduate, 92nd, district 1-4A, 19:30.27

Area teams populate 3A district with talent returns

MIDDLEBURG - With a district lineup that includes Middleburg, Ridgeview and Orange Park; District 2-3A, area runners in those schools will get to see each other throughout the season while worrying about the powerhouse lineups of Ponte Vedra (Boys 4th in 3A, Girls 11th in 3A)), St. Augustine (Girls 2nd in 3A) and Stanton Prep (Boys 10th in 3A).

For Middleburg, where Kyle Brown and Ken Yancey take over for departed coach Paul Grybb, who returns to his former coaching site at Ridgeview High School. Coaches Amber Amato and Bice manned the reigns last year for the Panthers.

Brown and Yancey, who lose senior John Scholz to Jacksonville University, but return top region finisher Noah Carlson, a senior, who inched past Scholz to take the top team spot, have methodically over the summer gotten solid four day run days out of a small Middleburg squad and hope to put some Broncos on the podiums in 2020. Carlson's post season included a near minute plus improvement of time; 19:32 at districts to 18:25 a week later at regions. That's a positive improvement.

"We had 36 runners up the ante this morning (July 13) with a sets of quartermile hill repeats that turned into half mile hill repeats," said Brown. "We're making good progress, it's starting to show."

The Bronco girls are led again by Emma Mussante, now a senior, who has duked it with the strongholds in St. Johns County for three years with steady improvements. Mussante got a 17th in a very tough region and should be a factor in 2020 and get her state meet ticket.

"This week's point of emphasis is focused on encouragement," said Brown. "We will be asking our runners how they can be an encouragement to others to remind us why we chose to run in the first place."

For Ridgeview, where Grybb and Al Nesi built some of the toughest teams in the county for years, veteran Anna Magruder is gone as the top runner for the Panthers for four years in the grass and on the track. Ridgeview's roster is young and has some work to do to get into the elusive top 15 spots in November. Grybb's ability to engage strong, tough running from his athletes is to be seen.

Top girl back is Blythe Duchene, a junior, with the boys headed by senior Dominick Frietsche who finished strong with a 17:36 at regions.

At Orange Park, coach Bernie Bernara, lost his top two; Emma Brown and Kaylin Jones, but has had handfuls of athletes at summer track workouts at the Florida Striders Wednesday track workouts at St. Johns Country Day School.

District 2-3A

Top three under 20 minutes

Middleburg girls

Returners

Emma Mussante, senior, 11th, district 2-3A, 21:03.79; 17th at regions 20:53.18

Brooke Cassada, junior, 32nd, district 2-3A, 22:43.31

Abbey Sanderson, senior, 53rd, district 2-3A, 24:43.68

Whitney Mathis, junior, 63rd, district 2-3A, 25:27.63

Lost

Kayla Konnick, graduate, 65th, district 2-3A, 25:49.91

Sara Myers, graduate, 71st, district 2-3a, 26:30.70

Ridgeview girls

Returners

Blythe Duchene, junior, 73rd, district 2-3a, 26:46.40

Lost

Anna Magruder, graduate, 15th, district 2-3A, 21:34.52; 30th t regions 21:21.31

Hayley Schaefer, graduate, 41st, district 2-3A, 23:45.27

Orange Park girls

Returners

Lost

Emma Brown, graduate, 29th, district 2-3A, 22:38.00; 45th at regions 21:45.97

Kaylin Jones, graduate, 90th, district 2-3A, 30:47.25

District 2-3A Boys

Top 14 under 18 minutes

Middleburg boys

Returners

Robert Nogales, senior, 8th, district 2-3A, 17:52.29

Dylan Anderson, junior, 39th, district 2-3A, 19:00.31

Noah Carlson, senior, 53rd, district 2-3A, 19:32.25; 75th at regions 18:25.90

Juan Flores, senior, 54th, district 2-3A, 19:32.34

Casey Crafton, junior, 61st, district 2-3A, 20:03.29

Lost

John Scholz, graduate (Jacksonville), 7th, district 2-3A 17:46.77; 82nd at regions 18:36.63

Christopher Donaldson, graduate, 42nd, district 2-3A, 19:09.62

Ridgeview Boys

Returners

Dominick Frietze, senior, 15th, district 2-3A, 18:02.34; 38th at regions 17:36.98

Lost

Jose Paolo Garcia, graduate, 20th, district 2-3A, 18:22.73; 73rd at regions 18:25.02

Orange Park boys

Returners

Noe Benitez, junior, 80th, district 2-3A, 21:05.04

Lost

District 2-3A

Top three under 20 minutes

Middleburg girls

Returners

Emma Mussante, senior, 11th, district 2-3A, 21:03.79; 17th at regions 20:53.18

Brooke Cassada, junior, 32nd, district 2-3A, 22:43.31

Abbey Sanderson, senior, 53rd, district 2-3A, 24:43.68

Whitney Mathis, junior, 63rd, district 2-3A, 25:27.63

Lost

Kayla Konnick, graduate, 65th, district 2-3A, 25:49.91

Sara Myers, graduate, 71st, district 2-3a, 26:30.70

Ridgeview girls

Returners

Blythe Duchene, junior, 73rd, district 2-3a, 26:46.40

Lost

Anna Magruder, graduate, 15th, district 2-3A, 21:34.52; 30th t regions 21:21.31

Hayley Schaefer, graduate, 41st, district 2-3A, 23:45.27

Orange Park girls

Returners

Lost

Emma Brown, graduate, 29th, district 2-3A, 22:38.00; 45th at regions 21:45.97

Kaylin Jones, graduate, 90th, district 2-3A, 30:47.25

District 2-3A Boys

Top 14 under 18 minutes

Middleburg boys

Returners

Robert Nogales, senior, 8th, district 2-3A, 17:52.29

Dylan Anderson, junior, 39th, district 2-3A, 19:00.31

Noah Carlson, senior, 53rd, district 2-3A, 19:32.25; 75th at regions 18:25.90

Juan Flores, senior, 54th, district 2-3A, 19:32.34

Casey Crafton, junior, 61st, district 2-3A, 20:03.29

Lost

John Scholz, graduate (Jacksonville), 7th, district 2-3A 17:46.77; 82nd at regions 18:36.63

Christopher Donaldson, graduate, 42nd, district 2-3A, 19:09.62

Ridgeview Boys

Returners

Dominick Frietze, senior, 15th, district 2-3A, 18:02.34; 38th at regions 17:36.98

Lost

Jose Paolo Garcia, graduate, 20th, district 2-3A, 18:22.73; 73rd at regions 18:25.02

Orange Park boys

Returners

Noe Benitez, junior, 80th, district 2-3A, 21:05.04

Lost

CHS Waiguru, KHHS Williams top returners for 2A harriers

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - Keystone Heights High cross country senior Camryn Williams showed off some track prowess prior to the COVID-19 shutdown and will be a top name to remember for the fall cross country season in Class 2A. For boys, Clay High's Carlton Waiguru, who earned a state meet ticket last year in a splash to dash finish with strong district to state meet runs, looks to be the leading candidate for the Blue Devils' boys team.

Clay's girls squad returns wrestler turned runner Madisyn Blackburn to the lineup for her junior season after a region berth last year.

Williams will be joined by four returners for the Lady Indians and coaches Mary Shaw and Payton Capper.

For the Indian boys, Tyler Shaw was top finisher in most of the Indians race despite being edged at regions by senior Jerry Payne. Tyler Griffin got a low 19-minute split in his freshman campaign.

District 2-2A Girls

Top four under 20 minutes

Clay

Returners

Madisyn Blackburn, junior, 32nd district 2-2A, 23:41.00

Ulyana Damme, junior, 42nd district 2-2A, 25:15.00

Gabrielle Etheridge, junior, 48th district 2-2A, 25:53.00

Arieal Moto, senior, 56th, disttrict 2-2A, 27;17.00

Lost

District 2-2A Boys

Top three under 17 minutes

Clay returners

Carlton Waiguru, senior, 6th district 2-2A, 17:45.00; 15th at regions 17:46.59; 90th at state 17:44.48

Luis Duran, junior, 38th district 2-2A, 19:56.00

Tristan Schultz, sophomore, 48th district 2-2A, 20:25.00

Lost

Luke Bybee, graduate, 58th district 2-2A, 21:05.00

District 3-2A girls

Top three under 21 minutes

Keystone Heights girls

Returners

Camryn Williams, senior, 4th district 3-2A, 21:14.99; 4th at regions 19:32.05; 34th at state 19:44.58

Maria Mynster, senior, 32nd district 3-2A, 25:38.03

Sophia Lin, freshman, 49th district 3-2A, 27:01.55

Brittney Mynster, sophomore, 57th district 3-2A 27:39.41

Ella Hutchins, freshman, 59th distrit 3-2A 27:56.10

Lost

District 3-2A Boys

Top two under 17 Minutes

Keystone Heights Boys

Returners

Tyler Shaw, junior, 12th district 3-2A 18:18.06; 91st at regions 19:10.14

Tyler Griffin, freshman, 47th district 3-2A 20:14.17; 96th at regions 19:14.39

Gabriel Buchanan, sophomore, 69th district 3-2A 21:46.69

Lost

Jay Payne, graduate, 49th district 3-2A 20:16.73; 93rd at regions 19:13.18

Jerry Payne, graduate, 66th district 3-2A 21:43.28; 90th at regions 19:05.99

Spartans have entire 2019 team returning; Stratton-led

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School junior cross country standout Matthew Stratton ended his season with a flurry (and final mile sprint) to leave the day as one of the top runners in Florida last year.

Stratton and his Spartan teammates took on their annual 100 Days of Summer challenge to keep that momentum going with coach Greg Stratton hoping the team will be able to see the fruits of a summer of hard work.

"I know there a lot of things still up in the air about upcoming fall sports but my teams are business as usual," said Stratton. "They know that we have no control over what decisions are made at the highest level (FHSAA) and the team's enthusiasm has never wavered. The team has been very positive in these troubling times."

Stratton, who recently won the Freedom 5K road race in Keystone Heights on July 4, had all but one of his teammates; minus senior Jacob Kailes, at Keystone Heights where the Spartans showed a strong up-front force that should bode well during cross country season.

"My core group of varsity boys from last year are all returning this season; Stratton, Kailes, Senior James Wilson, Freshmen Richard Nichols, Sophomore Sam Hopkins, Sophomore Jacob Holyer, Senior Cade Zehner and Junior Adan Herrera, a first year runner," said Stratton. "The boys team could be a top 10 team at States or even better this year. My girls team has suffered some losses this year due to runners graduating and others concentrating on other fall sports."

Top returners for the girls were the 1-2 duo of Sophia Conde and Sarah Robinson with Stratton losing Juliet Moody to volleyball in the fall.

"I believe this streak (state meet berths for girls) is up to 14 years in a row," said Stratton. "All the girls have shown great determination and grit in the offsesson and they are looking forward to continuing the streak of qualifying for States as a team."

The rest of the returning girls squad includes freshmen Sophia Conde, sophomore Kaitlyn Philips, freshman Sarah Robinson, junior Evelyn Hanson, eighth Grade Rebecca Stratton and freshmen Cordelia Painter.

District 2-1A Girls

Top two under 20 minutes

St. Johns Country Day School girls

Returners

Sofia Conde, freshman, 15th district 2-1A 22:26.40; 18th at regions 21:57.01; 92nd at state 22:08.27

Sarah Robinson, freshman, 16th district 2-1A 22:28.50; 21st at regions 22;07.05; 107th at state 22:26.62

Juliet Moody, sophomore, 31st distrit 2-1A 23:06.80

Kaitlyn Phillips, sophomore, 42nd district 2-1A 23:41.50

Evelyn Hanson junior, 48th district 2-1A 24:13.50

Rebecca Stratton, 8th, 58th district 2-1A 25:12.40

Lost

Jordan Noble, graduate, 43rd district 2-1A 23:49.60; 30th at regions 22:52.38

District 2-1A Boys

Top three under 17 minutes

St. Johns Country Day School boys

Returners

Matthew Stratton, junior, 2nd district 2-1A 16:34.90; 2nd at regions 15:59.95; 2nd at state 15:39.45

Jacob Kailes, senior, 5th district 2-1A 17:09.20; 8th at regions 17:29.61; 25th at state 17:12.92

Richard Nichols, freshman, 36th district 2-1A 19:18.00; 50th at regions 19:11.09; 109th at state 18:32.41

James Wilson, senior, 43rd district 2-1A 19:33.60; 51st at regions 19:12.21

Samuel Hopkins, sophomore, 50th district 2-1A 19:55.80; 55th at regions 19:23.05

Luke Robinson, senior, 72nd distrit 2-1A 21:07.80

Jacob Holyer, sophomore, 75th district 2-1A 21:16.60

Cade Zehner, senior, 83rd district 2-1A 21:45.90

Lost

Rentz Foster, graduate, 100th district 2-1A 22:46.90

Joshua Soffler, graduate, 115th district 2-1A 25:22.00

August 21-22 Schedule

Fri., Aug. 21: Cecil Field Summer Classic, New World Golf at Cecil Field, Jacksonville. Middle School (2.5K) 6:15 p.m., Open Race (5K) 6:45 p.m., High School girls (5K) 7:15 p.m., High School boys (5K) 7:45 p.m. (16 teams as of July 9, Oakleaf, SJCDS)

Sat., Aug. 22: Bradford Cross Country Invitational, Bradford Middle School, 9 a.m. girls start, 9:35 a.m. boys start, Middle School 10:15 a.m. start (SJCDS)

Sat., Aug. 22: Spikes and Spurs Classic, Flagler County Fairgrounds, High School Boys 7:20 a.m., High School girls 7:55 a.m., Middle School race 8:20 a.m. (FIHS)

Sat., Aug. 29: Falcon 5K, Menendez High School, High School girls 8 a.m., High School boys 8:35 a.m., JV to follow. (FIHS, SJCDS)

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