CARY, NC - Just a month after the Florida state cross country championships, where the Fleming Island boys team punched in with their best-ever finish with an 11th place finish and Oakleaf senior Dylan Nelson just missed out on a second state meet, competition ramped up a tad at the Nike Cross Country Nationals Southeast Regional and the Foot Locker Southeast Region Qualifier where the boys found out what fast really is.
With the quartet of Landon Opp, Will Livesay, John Brinkman, Brendan Fitzgerald and Michael Lyons, the Golden Eagles trekked the hills of North Carolina to a 31st place finish of 31 teams Saturday morning.
Nike winner Graham Blanks, a senior from Athens Academy in Georgia, a two-time Georgia state champion and a future Harvard University runner, wrecked the field with a 14:57.70 winning time. In the race, the top 65 runners were under 16 minutes.
For the Golden Eagles, times were 16:40.40 for Opp, 16:54.60 for Livesay, 17:30.90 for Brinkman, 17:38 for Fitzgerald and 17:49.10 for Lyons.
Among the teams in at the Nike nationals, Satellite High, the Class 2A state champions in Florida, finished fifth, Belen Jesuit, the 3A champions, finished sixth, Providence finished 14th, Bolles, the 2A runnerups, finished 17th and Ponte Vedra, fourth in 3A, finished 30th. Loudoun Valley of Virginia won the team title.
A little further north, in Charlotte, Oakleaf High seniors Dylan Nelson and Ajani Stokes battled at the Foot Locker South Regional qualifier for the prestigious Foot Locker national high school championship race.
Nelson, who was hampered by ankle issues during the Florida post season and finished a disappointing 18th at the region 1-4A to forego a second state meet invite, raced his best race of 2019 with a third place finish in the senior race; in 16 minutes, 14 seconds, with the race winner, Micah Gilpatrick of South Carolina, at 15:53. Stokes finished at 17:19 for 70th place.