ST JOHNS – Fleming Island High sophomore cross country runner Kameron Wallizada made sure his shoes were tight for the Bartram Trail High-hosted Bales N Trails Cross Country Invitational on …
ST JOHNS – Fleming Island High sophomore cross country runner Kameron Wallizada made sure his shoes were tight for the Bartram Trail High-hosted Bales N Trails Cross Country Invitational on Saturday and came home with a fourth place overall finish and a first-time besting of Orange Park High rival John Bear, who finished ninth.
“Coach (Karen Moritz) told me to not go out real fast for the first mile or she was going to pull me off the course,” said Wallizada, who lost his timing chip last week at the UNF Invite and stopped to retrieve it in a fast field that pulled away quickly as Wallizada finished sixth. “I saw her at about two miles and she told me I could go. So, I went.”
Wallizada, who finished in 16 minutes, 40.93 seconds behind winner Charles Hicks of Bolles’ split of 15:55.17, bided his time in seventh place until the 2.5 mile mark then spied Bear and put a target on his back.
“I knew if I was near him, I might run a fast time,” said Wallizada. “I got next to him and then pushed hard.”
Wallizada’s finish, with junior Will Livesay, who has improved race by race, in 19th place at 17:22.50 and Landon Opp, another junior, returning to full strength and finishing just 10 seconds from Livesay, bolstered the Golden Eagles’ top team finish ahead of Bishop Kenny and Nease high schools. Fleming Island finished with 124 points with Kenny and Nease locked at 139 and Creekside fourth at 143.
Hicks, the Class 2A champion last year, pulled away quickly from the field and separated for a solo jaunt on the Bartram Trail course leaving Fernandina Beach High senior John Sorensen and Buchholz’ Caden Monk to fend off Wallizada. Bear was with Sorensen and Monk until the halfway mark with Wallizada cruising behind in a four-man pack with Nease’s Justin Tackling and Rheinhardt Wilson, a freshman and middle school state champion, and Bartram Trail’s Evan Ritter. Sorensen finished 18th in Class 2A last year with Ritter 42nd in Class 3A. Monk, third in district 1-4A in 2017 in 16:42.49, had a horrific region race and finished a disappointing 94th in 17:27.75. Wallizada and Bear both finished out of the top 16 at their respective region races last year; Wallizada 95th in 18:27.52 and Bear 18th in 17:14.84.
With one more circuit around the Bartram Trail baseball and softball fields before returning to the finish area, Wallizada crept past his pack and kept his eye on the front pack.
“I felt okay with the guys I was running with until we hit the fields again and then I made a move to catch John Bear’s group,” said Wallizada. “When I got to them, I still felt strong and just kept going.”
Moritz, who has tried to corral Wallizada’s running energy to be strongest at the end of his races, commented that her warnings to him are in jest, but he understood her intention.
“He likes to take off at the start and then he struggles to hold on,” said Moritz. “He’s very strong at the end and if I can keep him thinking about that finish strong, he’ll see results.”
Fleming Island wrested the team title with senior Gage West taking 33rd in 17:40.65, sophomore Jayden Scherer taking 45th in 18:00.35 and sophomore Owen Darfler finishing 47th in 18:01.09.
Bear, fourth last week at UNF with a strong 16:19.60 split, struggled with the heat at Bartram Trail, according to coach Doug Burrows, and faded to ninth in 16:52.28.
“He just had a bad day,” said Orange Park coach Doug Burrows of Bear’s finish. “It’s good to have one of those days now, then later.”
Orange Park eventually finished 11th with 313 points with a rapidly-improving Middleburg High team under coaches Paul Grybb and Kyle Brown taking 17th ahead of Oakleaf at 19th.
Oakleaf junior Dylan Nelson finished 23rd in 17:28.76 with Orange Park junior Ledarius Dumas 58th at 18:10.73. Middleburg junior John Scholz again finished as the Broncos top runner at 76th in 18:29.83.
Further south, the St. Johns Country Day School cross country team was led bgy freshman Matthew Stratton’s seventh and senior Ben Kailes’ 16th to take 10th at the Embry Riddle Invitational held in Daytona Beach.
The boys race was won by Oviedo’s Angel Vicioso in 16:45.05 with Stratton in at 17:55.60 and Kailes in at 18:29.79.
Windermere won the boys title with 59 points over Oviedo’s runnerup spot at 86 points.
St. Johns’ girls team took 11th behind a top finish from eighth grader Kaitlyn Phillips in 25:09.41. Titusville’s Billie Castillo won in 20:23.08. Windermere also won the girls title over Oviedo, 77-82.
In the collegiate races at Embry Riddle, Enoch Nadler, a Keystone Heights High graduate, won the mens overall title in 25:38.91 for the 8K (4.97 miles) course running for his Team Florida Track Club.
In the mens race, Flagler College competed with freshman Evan Fuller, a Fleming Island High graduate and two-time state meet participant, placing 20th overall in 27:52.02 to finish as Flagler’s third finisher.
The Clay County Cross Country Championships were set for Tues., Sept. 18 with most teams attending the Katie Caples Invite held at Bishop Kenny on Sat., Nov. 22.