MATANZAS - Fleming Island High's boys and girls cross country teams both showcase quality team depth with a team title and a runner-up finish at the region 1-3A cross country championships coming …
MATANZAS - Fleming Island High's boys and girls cross country teams both showcase quality team depth with a team title and a runner-up finish at the region 1-3A cross country championships coming from names not normally in the sports page headlines.
"We have probably eight runners on both teams that can throw down a strong race," said Fleming Island coach Dave Allen, hoping to better a third-place finish in Class 3A last year. "Our top two guys; Graham Myers, and John Keester IV, did not have their best races, but Jacob Campbell came to run hard and to help the team and he delivered the winning points. We barely won today."
Myers and Keester finished side by side at sixth and seventh, with times well over their sub-16 minute expectations, with splits of 16:26.50 and 16:26.70.
"We just wanted to get the team title and get to state," said Myers, who will face a double loop, hill-scattered Tallahassee trek next week in the Class 3A title race. "Teams like Naples run on very fast, flat courses so we'll see in Tallahassee."
Myers' comments may have been true as to the complacency of the course with overall champion Patrick Koon of Leon, the twice Class 3A champion with times in the 14:50 arena, cruised in 15:24.50 with runner-up Andrew Beroset of Gulf Breeze in at 15:47 as the lone two runners under 16 minutes.
Koon and Myers are destined to battle in Tallahassee with the pair teaming with Belen Jesuit's Joshua Ruiz last year for the top three spots in Class 3A; Koon the champ, Myers third; 14:56.50, 15:37.30 for Ruiz, 15;42.10 for Myers.
The finish for Campbell, though not very surprising as his presence has been on the bubble for a great race, pleased Allen.
"He has been a strong finisher for most of the season," said Allen. "Some days, you get a race or a course that is suited for your style and you have a great race. Our guys in 3-4-5 don't give up at the end and they passed a lot of guys at the end."
Campbell's finish, 12th in 16:42.40, but just behind two Leon finishers made the point-gathering shift slightly as Fleming Island's Roman Mollicone, the seasonal third finisher for Fleming Island, was just eight seconds behind with Andrew Boyer in at 17:06 ahead of Leon's final two finishers.
Fleming Island won with a 58-point team score with Leon at 65 and Ponte Vedra at 77.
In region 4-3A, defending Class 3A champion Belen Jesuit, led by Ruiz in 16:06.40 and his two siblings; Joseph and Justin, scored a cross-country shutout with the top six finishers (five for team points) in the region executing a 15-point win.
In region 3-3A, where Naples, 11th last year, and 3A runner-up Fort Myers compete, Naples dominated with 48 points over Fort Myers' 131 with five runners under 16 minutes; two from Fort Myers, one from Naples with Naples landing their top five runners in the top 20 finishers. Fort Myers had just three runners in the top 20.
"I think Naples is the team to beat," said Allen. "We will have to run way better than this race and even last week's district race to stay in the top three."
For the girls' region 3-3A race, Fleming Island was poised to make a run at the strong Ponte Vedra front running team who made quick work at the front with the top three finishers all in within 20 seconds making depth of the team the next factor for a top three finish.
"Our top three girls all stay pretty close together throughout the race and it's just a matter of who feels good in the final mile for the order of finish," said Allen. "Reese is coming on strong in her final season and that helped us today."
Scott, the third finisher for most of the season, has blasted to the second finisher with late-race strength to pass teammate Allie Knotts and also get closer to frontrunner Brooke Reynolds. Knotts was second behind Reynolds at last week's district race.
"We have a bit of teammate competition when it comes to the races but we are all here to run our best for the team," said Scott. "I run a little behind everyone in the early part of the race and tend to pass more people at the end with my strength. Brooke has been having great races and if I get closer to her, our team scores will be stronger."
With Ponte Vedra dominating the front running, Reynolds sprinted in just past Fort Walton Beach's Belicia Grady to take eighth place in 19:44.20 with Scott in at 13th in 20:17.50. Knotts had been running near to Reynolds for the first half of the race and finished 20th in 21:00.70.
"First mile, I just settled in, keep my pace," said Reynolds. "Our goal was to work together to get to state."
Fleming Island notched ahead of Fort Myers with a 25th and 27th place tandem finish from Sydney Fallin and Marlea Feld.
Ponte Vedra won the team title at 23 points with Fleming Island second at 88 and Fort Walton Beach third at 107.
For individual athletes in both races, Clay had Kaygen Williamson and Erika Martinez in at 28th and 30th, Ridgeview's Emily Turner was 40th and Orange Park's Charlotte Wilson was 53rd.
For the boys, Orange Park's Ty Obermeyer, who completed his football kicking season a week ago, finished his cross country season with a 34th place finish at regions with Clay's Noah Looney finishing 77th.