Mussante gets her state ticket (Finally)

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 11/11/20

LAKE CITY - Middleburg High senior cross country ace Emma Mussante was not even at the region 1-3A championship race in 2016 and that has fueled her fire to get, first, to the meet, and, second, past …

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Mussante gets her state ticket (Finally)

Posted

LAKE CITY - Middleburg High senior cross country ace Emma Mussante was not even at the region 1-3A championship race in 2016 and that has fueled her fire to get, first, to the meet, and, second, past it and to the Class 3A championship race.

On Saturday, at the region 1-3A championship race, Mussante’s three years of chasing the elusive dream came to fruition with a senior season of fast times, top finishes and better post season results as she finally got her ticket to the state meet in Tallahassee on Saturday.

“I felt good most of the race after those first two girls took off,” said Mussante. “I stayed close to Lauren Bing of Ponte Vedra and knew if I stuck with her, I would run a good time.”

Mussante’s week prior to the region race was a matter of not messing with the formula of success that she has had all season.

“The week of training was just a matter of doing what I’m used to doing,” said Mussante, who recently committed to run at Florida Southern. “No super high intensity, same foods, do what I usually do. I’ve never been to the hilly state course.”

In 2018, in the very tough region 1-3A race that was cluttered up top with the now-4A teams of Creekside, Ponte Vedra, Niceville and Chiles, Mussante was far from the top 20 with a 37th place finish in a still quick 20:12.60 with the likes of Creekside’s duo of Claire Openshaw and Elizabeth Iliff running splits of 17:52 and 17:55 to go first and second.

In 2019, with the new district 1-3A now without the powerhouse mentioned in the previous paragraph, Mussante still could not crack the state-bound lineup her 17th place finish in 20:53.18 not good enough for the invite.

In 2020, with a summer chock full of running miles and a new coach, Kyle Brown, insisting on team presence and consistency, Mussante powered through a handful of school record times under 20 minutes and even a district race that saw her sprint home in third place in 19:25.00 to make her a top contender for Saturday’s region race in Lake City.

As the starting gun blasted, St. Augustine’s Reilly Barber and Fort Walton Beach’s Kamry Smith took the initiative up front and strode from the chase pack fairly effortlessly.

Mussante tucked in with Ponte Vedra’s Lauren Bing as her target as the third best runner of the runners that she knew and waited for her move. Barber won the district race with Bing second and Mussante third last week.

“We work well together,” said Mussante.

Smith wound up outsurging Barber to the finish to win in a very fast 18:44.60 to Barber’s 18:57.40 with Bing in at fourth in 19:44.70 and Mussante just behind in sixth at 19:50.60.

“I got to the final mile and knew if I just ran what I could run, I would make it,” said Mussante. “There are a lot of tight turns on this course.”

In team points, Leon won the team title with 70 points over St. Augustine second at 75, Ponte Vedra third with 98 and New Smyrna Beach fourth at 102. Middleburg’s girls team raced in full and finished 10th with 248 points to give Brown one more week of his new season.

Also in the region 1-3A race, Middleburg’s girls team had Abbey Sanderson (51st), Molly Burt (66th), Jenna Batton (82), Kennedy Young (86th) and Anisa Gonzalez (94th) as finishers.

Ridgeview High junior Blythe Duchene finished 55th in 22:52.70.

For the boys, Ridgeview had James Snipes and Dominik Frietze with finishes of 20th for Snipes in 17:41.20 and 64th in 19:07.90 for Frietze. Middleburg’s two regional qualifiers; Dylan Anderson and Robert Nogales, finished in 63rd for Anderson in 19:03.20 and 86th for Nogales in 20:29.40.

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