Spartan XC teams heading to state

By Randy Lefko
Posted 11/9/17

LAKE CITY – St. Johns Country Day School cross country coach Jay Birmingham may very well rate November as his favorite month of the year, despite Christmas in December.

“We had one of the …

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Spartan XC teams heading to state

Posted

LAKE CITY – St. Johns Country Day School cross country coach Jay Birmingham may very well rate November as his favorite month of the year, despite Christmas in December.

“We had one of the best days of running today,” said Birmingham, who watched his young, spry cross country troops battle with the state’s top runners while earning a spot at the Class 1A championship race on Saturday in Tallahassee. “We had a lot of personal best efforts with Ben Kailes third place finish one of the best runs of the day.”

Birmingham, along with runners from Ridgeview and Orange Park high schools, was on hand at the Class 1A, Class 2A and Class 3A regional championships Saturday at Oaks Equestrian Center in Lake City. St. Johns ‘ girls finished fourth while the boys finished sixth; both advancing to the Class 1A championships.

“That’s 12 years that we have made it to state and these two teams had a handful of dedicated, hard working young runners who stepped up,” said Birmingham.

In the girls Class 1A race, St. Johns, led by eighth grader Evelyn Hanson and seventh grader Juliet Moody, who came in together at 31st place and 32nds place, combined to push the Lady Spartans to a fourth place team finish and their shot to the state meet.

“We knew we had to run as a pack to have a shot and, on paper, we had a chance for the fourth or fifth spot,” said Birmingham. “Our sixth and seventh place girls were the important finishes today as they kept our team score low.”

Birmingham pointed out the the Lady Spartans top five finishes; 27, 28 combined with the next three; 30, 34, and 40 got them into position for a strong finish, but it was sixth grader Sofia Conde, in at 53rd, and sophomore Jordan Noble, in at 56th that gave St. Johns the fourth place total of 159 points to edge out Bishop Snyder at 160 and Baker High at 162. Maclay won the team title with 47 points over Providence with 50 with Providence junior Audrey Woods edging teammate Viola Barquilla to win the race in 19:54.03.

“People think cross country is all about running fast and finishing first, but today, those two girls were the difference,” said a giddy Birmingham after the race.

Birmingham has been positive throughout the season with his

development of the young squad despite the loss of two main runners from last year’s state team; Helena Kummings, now at Bolles and finishing fourth in the region 1-2A race, and Mackenzie Glenn, now at Episcopal and finishing 12th also in the 1-2A race.

“We can only work with the team we have,” said Birmingham.

In the boys race, Kailes battled with Bishop Snyder’s Aldren Biala a second week in a row; after districts where Kailes finished second and Biala third, as the two chased race winner Sean Snyder of St. Joseph and Junious Brown of Tallahassee Maclay who both broke away early in the race.

Kailes and Biala ran shoulder to shoulder the entire three miles of the rugged course before Kailes outkicked for his third place spot in 17 minutes, three seconds. Snyder, the district 4-1A champion, won in 16:30.23 with Brown second at 16:47.65.

For the Spartans team, a strong finish from eighth grader Matthew Stratton, in 10th place, pushed the boys team to a sixth place finish and the final spot to the state meet.

“I have had minor injuries since the Daytona meet earlier in the season, but I wanted to get a top 10 and help get us to state,” said Stratton. “The rest of the team ran great and we put it all together. One more race!”

St. Johns was sixth with 138 points behind region champion Providence who scored 70 and held off Maclay as runner-up with 88.

Behind Stratton, junior David Gonzales finished 32nd, freshman Jacob Kailes finished 52nd, senior Joseph Hale finished 62nd, freshman Cade Zehner finished 70th and senior Matthew Korahias finished 73rd.

In the region 1-2A boys and girls races, Ridgeview High junior Joel Nesi, 12th at districts a week ago, finished 21st in 17:29.31 to end his season. Bolles junior Charles Hicks won the race in 15:51.51 to lead Bolles to the team title over Bishop Kenny.

In the girls 1-2A race, Ridgeview sophomore Anna Magruder and freshman Marisa Kortright, in the girls race, finished 21st and 27th, respectively, with times of 21:35.07 and 22:02.39, respectively. South Walton freshman Patasha Bryan outsprinted Arnold freshman Marisa Ashley for the win in 19:30.32 to Ashley’s 19:46.53. Bolles, with 25 points, won the team title over West Florida.

In the boys and girls region 2-2A races, with Keystone Heights sending both teams, junior Alex Guy was top finish for Indians at 36th in 18:07.30 with eighth grader Tyler Shaw next at 62nd in 19:12.40. In the girls race, freshman Camryn Williams finished 31st in 22:14.40 with teammate Doris Taylor right behind her at 35th in 22:24.90. Keystone Heights boys finished 14th with Trinity Prep the team champs with 34 points over Lake Highland Preps’ 67. Montverde won the girls race with 31 points of Trinity Prep’s 50.

In the boys region 1-3A race, Orange Park junior John Bear finished 18th in 17:14.84. The top 15 runners advance to state.

Michael Phillips of Tallahassee Chiles won the 1-3A race in 15:48.27 to lead Chiles to the team title.

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