TALLAHASSEE - St. Johns Country Day School freshman Matthew Stratton and Fleming Island High freshman Mei Chiang both set themselves up for being on everyone’s cross country radar for at least …
TALLAHASSEE - St. Johns Country Day School freshman Matthew Stratton and Fleming Island High freshman Mei Chiang both set themselves up for being on everyone’s cross country radar for at least three more years with top area finishers at the FHSAA cross country championships held Saturday in Tallahassee.
“I guess I have to just keep working hard at it,” said Stratton, who finished as fastest area runner with his 16 minute, 19.95 second eighth place finish in the Class 1A championship race. “Coach Jay Birmingham, 100 percent, was the key to having me and the team ready to put our best times up at the end of the season.”
In the girls Class 4A race, it was Chiang, the district 1-4A champion and an eighth place finisher in region 1-4A, who emerged also with a 14th place finish with her best time of the season of 18:52.88 that led the Golden Eagles girls to a best-ever eighth place team finish.
For Stratton, who topped teammate Benjamin Kailes, the district champion and the region runnerup, in the championship race by just 19 seconds, 16:38.69 for 12th place, the team’s seventh place finish was the more satisfying part of the Saturday festivities.
“Ben said he just was not feeling quite right near the halfway point and I just felt better,” said Stratton. “A lot of my improvement has come from Ben who is one of the best teammates of any team.”
St. Johns’s boys team finished with 257 points behind leader Mount Dora Christian who won with 84 points behind Class 1A champion Gabriel Curtis, who won in 15:52.72 ahead of Marathon High’s Jonathan Pitchford in 15:58.93. Maclay junior Junious Brown, the region 1-1A champion over Kailes, was third at 16:03.03.
“Matthew just ran the race of his life on the best day of the year,” said St. Johns coach Jay Birmingham. “A best by 12 seconds on that course was outstanding. He just does not get intimidated by other runners or the course.”
For the St. Johns Country Day School girls team, who finished 15th, top finisher was eighth grader Juliet Moody in 21:24.63 for 63rd.
“Juliet has always been my big meet performer,” said Birmingham. “We have all the girls coming back next year.”
Behind Moody were eighth grader Kaitlyn Phillips, 22:10.37 for 93rd; seventh grader Sofia Conde, 22:13.18 for 96th; sophomore Hannah Marshall, 22:45.23 for 114th; freshman Evelyn Hanson, 22:50.73 for 118th; seventh grader Sarah Robinson, 23:07.67 for 130th, and junior Jordan Noble, 23:48.36 for 149th.
“I figured we would be 18th or so,” said Birmingham. “The course had a lot of rain the night before and I thought it would be sloppy.”
Circle Christian was top girls team with 70 points with Oak Hall second with 90. St. Johns had 388 points for 15th.
In the Class 4A girls race, Fleming Island coach Suzanne Baker has Chiang returning next year as a strong frontrunner with two more freshmen; Lauren Schaudel, who finished 44th in 19:54.70, and Grace Adams, who finished 74th in 20:26.59, to bolster her team for a few more years.
Adding more team strength are upperclass returners in Emma Millson, a sophomore, who finished 82nd in 20:35.94 and junior Jennifer Fliess, who finished 85th in 20:36.95.
Sophomore Marisa Kortright finished as number six for Fleming Island at 88th in 20:40.07 with junior Kayla Herman the final finisher at 132nd in 21:57.82.
In the Class 4A girls team finishes, Plant High of Tampa won the title with 118 points as not one team dominated the top 20 finishers with Fleming Island eighth with 243.
Winning the girls 4A race was George Jenkins High’s Alyssa Hendrix, a junior, with a 17:40.50 split, the only sub-18 minute finisher. The top 15 finishers were under 19 minutes with 50 runners under 20 minutes.
For the Fleming Island boys team, with top runner Kameron Wallizada not up to mid-season form with a foot injury that slowed him near the end of the season, it was junior Will Livesay for a third race with a 63rd place finish in 17:03.43 as top Golden Eagle finisher.
Fleming Island finished 14th in team points with 361 points behind team champion Sarasota’s 84.
Wallizada, with numerous sub-17 minute times this season, ended his season as the second finisher for Fleming Island with a 74th place in 17:12.50 with junior Landon Opp in at 97th in 17:23.54, senior Gage West in at 110th in 17:34.71, sophomore Jayden Scherer in at 116th in 17:38.62 and junior John Brinkman in at 117th in 17:38.97 and senior Cameron May in at 169th in 18:47.30 as coach Karen Moritz only loses West and May to graduation for next year’s team.
Sarasota senior Benjamin Hartvigsen was individual champion in 15:27.05 with Lakewood Ranch senior Jonathan Reid second at 15:49.70 as the top four finishers broke the 16 minute barrier.
Region 1-4A champion Kayamo Galloway, a junior, was fifth in 16:07.44.