Miller, Franzoni push Eagles to region XC

By Randy Lefko
Posted 11/2/17

GAINESVILLE – Fleming Island High senior Julie Franzoni finally got a clean start, a willing body and two teammates on her side as she finished a strong third overall while pulling two …

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Miller, Franzoni push Eagles to region XC


GAINESVILLE – Fleming Island High senior Julie Franzoni finally got a clean start, a willing body and two teammates on her side as she finished a strong third overall while pulling two teammates to top five finishes as the girls cross country team delivered one of their strongest efforts to finish second in the district 1-4A cross country championships held Saturday at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville.

“We had a good solid week of practice with a good speed workout in the middle of the week,” said Franzoni, who ran a best of year 19 minutes, 48.65 seconds for third behind district champion Lindsey Vansant, a Lee High senior, who won in 19:33.18 with a final sprint away from runnerup Liberty Pigg of Fletcher, 37th in Class 4A last year, who finished in 19:37.26. “Our workout gave us a lot of confidence in that we knew were could hold a fast pace for the three miles,”

Area runners head to regions this week hoping for a coveted top 15 finish individually or top four team finish for a state meet berth.

Region 1-4A

Hosted by Flagler Palm Coast High School Fri., Nov. 3 at Flagler County Fairgrounds.

Behind Franzoni, freshman Emma Millson, who has lingered shoulder to shoulder with Franzoni throughout the season, finished fourth in 20:03 with sophomore teammate Jennifer Fliess just two seconds behind her.

In the 2016 district race, Franzoni finished 11th with Fliess 14th with both just over 21 minutes. At the region race in 2016, Fliess continued her strong season finish with a 20:43 for 42nd place while Franzoni fell to 80th in 21:49.

“Today’s race was my fastest since my freshman year so hopefully, my legs and body are stronger and we’ve figured it out,” said Franzoni, who has had a relatively injury free senior campaign. “I want to go out with a flurry this year.”

In the boys race, Fleming Island High’s boys team won its first district title since 2008 with seniors Andrew Miller and Evan Fuller taking the top two spots with state-ranked times of 16:04 with Fuller in at 16:35.74. Fleming Island’s boys team last went to state in 2010.

The finish by the Golden Eagles duo, ahead of two Buchholz runners and combined with strong finishes from freshman Jayden Scherer (17:35.68), junior Gage West (17:40.19) and freshman Kameron Wallizada (17:42.61), all three in the top 15 overall, grabbed the title with 43 team points ahead of Flagler Palm Coast’s 68 points and Mandarin’s 70. Fleming Island finished eighth last year with 201 points. Miller finished 14th in 16:14 last year with Fuller 16th, the final state qualifying spot, in at 16:34.

“It’s pretty nice to have five guys in the top 15 for a show of force,” said Fuller. “Our goal from the start was to get the entire team to state. We’re one race away from that.”

For Miller, a 5:15 first mile start broke the start with Fuller and Wallizada battling in the initial surge with Buchholz junior Caden Monk, but a push from Miller in the second mile created a 50 yard gap ahead of Fuller.

“There was one point when I couldn’t see Andrew in front of me because of the twists and turns,” said Fuller. “I got a glimpse on the final mile because it’s a long downhill then we turn and run a long uphill to the finish. I was pumped up that he was ahead of me and the pack behind me was not close enough to catch me.”

For Oakleaf High School, sophomore Dylan Nelson set a new school record with a fifth place finish in 16:48.44 to become the Knights’ first region qualifier. Senior teammate Lewis Williams surged to finish in 16th in 17:48.88, just one spot out also being a region qualifier.

Mary Ann Brown, in 2010, was the Knights’ first state meet cross country qualifier with a second place finish at the region 1-2A meet followed by a 27th place finish at the state meet in 19:38.10.

For the Oakleaf girls team, freshman Kylie Overstreet finished just out of region qualifying with her 19th place finish in 21:50.78.

“It was her first championship cross country race and she will only get better,” said Oakleaf coach James Henderson. “Dylan had a strong season and topped it off today. If he goes lower 16 next week, he may have a first state berth for the school.”

District 4-3A

Mussante cracks 21

minutes; Bear in

PONTE VEDRA – Middleburg High freshman Emma Mussante’s district cross country time of just under 21 minutes was her best of the season, but in the super strong district 4-3A lineup with the top two runners under 19 minutes and the top 10 under 20 minutes, the region hopes for Mussante were dashed with a 23rd place overall finish. Top 15 advance to regions from district championship races.

Claire Openshaw, a sophomore at Creekside, and Claire Moritz, a senior at Ponte Vedra, both blitzed the field with Openshaw topping times with a state-ranked 18:31.20 to win. Moritz took second in 18:52.30 with Creekside freshman Blake Petrick third in 19:29.20.

“That was one of the fastest first miles Emma has ever seen and I think she got caught in the front pack which went about six minutes, 20 seconds for the first mile,” said Middleburg High girls coach April Martin. “She got stuck in the middle of two packs and was running by herself for the second half of the race and that’s tough.”

Mussante finished with teammates Madison Crutchfield in at 33rd in 21:47.80; Sara Myers in at 47th in 23:42.80, Rebecca Nichols in at 56th in 26:13.00 and Yoliana Velazquez in at 57th in 26:25.70.

“I like that all of our girls had huge personal bests today; even a five minute best by one girl,” said Martin. “We just happen to be in the fastest district in the state.”

For the boys race, Orange Park High junior John Bear has been teetering with a sub-17 minute race all season the track-fast 800 meter man finally got his sprint legs in order for a region cross country berth with his 12th place finish in 16:56.60.

“I told all the boys before the race that this race was not really about time, but effort,” said Orange Park coach Doug Barrows. “If you want regions, you are going to hurt to get in that top 15. John did that today.”

Region 1-3A Championship race

Hosted by Providence at the Oaks

Equestrian Center in Lake City, Sat, Nov. 4 (8:20 a.m. girls, 9:30 a.m. boys)

Creekside junior Matt Ortiz led the top 10 finishers; all under 17 minutes, in at 16:18.30 with Creekside junior Preston Rose 10th in 16:52.40 to showcase one of the fastest fields in the state.

Bear broke the St. Johns County strong field with his finish with Raider teammates Steven Aris in at 37th in 18:01.40; Edward Kiep in at 45th in 18:19.50; Stevenon Aris in at 49th in 18:31.80 and Jarod Spivey in at 58th in 19:24.00.

Middleburg High’s top finisher in the boys race was John Scholz in 51st at 18:35.20 with teammates Shawn Szala in at 54th in 18:47.60; Jordan Robinson in at 55th in 18:54.60, Zachary Kelley in at 62nd in 19:44.80 and Rylan Kaczetow in at 63rd in 19:46.40.

Orange Park’s boys finished sixth with Middleburg seventh in the eight team field. Middleburg’s girls finished sixth in their seven team field ahead of Atlantic Coast.

District 3-2A

Nesi gets emotional 12th,

Magruder, Kortright in for girls

ORANGE PARK – Ridgeview High junior cross country ace Joel Nesi has had a rollercoaster ride this fall with personal tragedy challenging his will to compete, but a strong dad who happens to be Ridgeview coach Al Nesi got Nesi a second region cross country berth as he finished 12th overall in the Bolles-dominated

district 3-2A cross country championship race held Wednesday at Ridgeview High School.

“I thought of my mom most of the way and a promise I made to myself to do something great for her this season,” said Joel Nesi, who also topped his best time of the year with a 16 minute, 56.56 second split for his 12th place finish behind a seven Bolles finishers. Bolles dominated the team points with just 19 points. Nesi, 12th at last year’s district race, finished 27th in the 2016 region race in 17:40.70.

Jodi Nesi, wife to Al and mom to Joel, tragically passed away in a boating accident earlier in the year.

“She was here with me,” said a teary-eyed Joel Nesi after the race. “I hope I can get to state with her next week.”

Region 1-2A championships hosted by Providence Sat., Nov. 4 at Oaks Equestrian Center in Lake City (Girls 9:10 a.m., Boys 9:50 a.m.)

Ridgeview got finishes from Keith Kelley in at 21st in 17:59.16; Elias Perez in at 27th in 18:36.75; Jose Paolo Garcia in at 29th in 18:51.61; Jaden Roy in at 32nd in 19:1166 and Kyle Bisson in at 33rd in 19:20.38.

For the Ridgeview girls, led by the tandem of Marisa Kortright and Anna Magruder all season, got the two stalwarts to regions with Kortright in at 11th in 21:09.60 and Magruder fighting off two runners in the final 50 meters to finished 14th overall in 21:18.98.

“I just ran my race,” said Kortright. “I don’t like that they were blocking me in the pack.”

Magruder finished the final 300 meters in need of a place or two to keep her region spot.

“Coach Nesi always pushes us to pass at the finish because that makes the difference in points for team places,” said Magruder, who was 18th in last year’s district race. “He always says it only hurts for 20 seconds to push at the end.”

The Ridgeview boys and girls teams both finished fourth in team points with Bolles, Bishop Kenny and Episcopal all going 1-2-3.

Bolles junior Charles Hicks won in 15:35.47 with Bishop Kenny Nathan Jubran upsetting a possible Bolles cross country shutout (1-5 finishers) with his second place in 15:39.85; two of the fastest times in the state. Bolles then took the third through seventh finishes to dominate the team points.

In the girls race, Bolles blasted the field with the 15 point shutout team win with Bolles getting the top seven spots followed by Episcopal runner Mackenzie Glenn, of Fleming Island sneaking in at eighth in 20:25.67. Maev Oriordan of Bolles won in 19:07.51 with seventh grader Ella Mickler, who led most of the race, second in 19:12.07.

Ridgeview also had finishes from Alyssa Cheong at 33rd in 24:19.75, Katy Anferova in at 34th in 24:33.89, Jacqueline Gagliano in at 36th in 25:15.83, Anh Duong in at 38th in 25:32.32 nd Kylee Miller in at 39th in 25:50.21.

District 4-1A

Kailes battles for district second

JACKSONVILLE - St. Johns Country Day School junior Ben Kailes stepped up in a big way with a second place finish at the district 4-1A cross country championships held Saturday at Cecil Field. St. Johns finished third in team points behind Providene and St. Joseph to get the entire team to Saturday’s region championships in Lake City.

Kailes finished second to St. Joseph senior Sean Snyder’s winning 16 minute, 22 second split with a 16:37 time ahead of third place finisher Aldrren Biala, a senior at Bishop Snyder, who ran 16:42.

For the Lady Spartans, with the loss of two key runners to transfer, it was a tight finishing group led by eigth grader Evelyn Hanson’s 16th place finish that pushed St. Johns to their own third place finish in the six team district. Providence won both races with 31 points in the girls race and 44 points in the boys race.

Region 1-1A hosted by Providence at Oaks Equestrian Center in Lake City (Girls 8 a.m., Boys 8:45 a.m.)

For the Spartan boys, Matthew Stratton, also an eighth grader, finished in the top 15 with his 12th place finish in 17:37 with junior David Gonzales in at 20th in 18:20, senior Joseph Hale in at 28th in 18:46, freshman Jacob Kailes in at 37th in 18:56; senior Matthew Korahias in at 40th in 19:03 and freshman Cade Zehner in at 44th in 19:33.

For the girls, Hanson finished tops at 16th in 22:26, Annalee Clay, an eighth grader, in at 18th in 22:29, Juliet Moody, a seventh grader, in at 19th in 22:33; freshman Hannah Marshall in at 21st in 22:39; eighth grader Anjali Morris in at 26th in 23:13; sixth grader Sofia Conde in at 28th in 23:16 and sophomore Jordan Noble in at 37th in at 24:45.


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