County harriers head to regions

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 10/26/22

MATANZAS - With Fleming Island High throwing down a first and third in their boys district cross country championships; Graham Myers and John Keester IV and Oakleaf High senior Sierra Barrera smoking …

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County harriers head to regions


MATANZAS - With Fleming Island High throwing down a first and third in their boys district cross country championships; Graham Myers and John Keester IV and Oakleaf High senior Sierra Barrera smoking the Apalachee Regional Park course; the FHSAA championship race venue, Clay County cross country will need a few Uber drivers to trek to regional championship races on Saturday.

With Keystone Heights first on the list of travelers with their Monday district 2-2A race putting the Indians boys into regions; eighth for boys, and St. Johns Country Day making travel plans for two; boys and girls teams; third for girls, seventh for boys in district 2-1A on the Apalachee state course, area harriers showed off a depth of running prowess not seen since the Pre-COVID days of endurance running.

In Tallahassee, Barrera continued her streak of fast finishes with a third overall in district 1-4A in 18:59.00 on the tough hills of Apalachee. Barrera was in the midst of a strong trio of defending state champion Buchholz runners at 1-2-4 in her chase of the front with Niceville and Creekside behind her.

Oakleaf’s girls team missed a region invite by one spot with a ninth place finish; top eight advance.

In the boys race, won in 15:43.70 by Nease High junior Matt Ryan, Oakleaf senior Duane Lee finished 47th in 17:14.30 to complete a strong senior campaign with a final district finish one spot away from a region berth.

At Matanzas High School for district 2-3A, Fleming Island’s 1-3 punch of Myers and Keester sandwiched Ponte Vedra’s Grant Doherty with Fleming Island senior Danny Sakowski having a best day for seventh place, the Golden Eagles came as close as anyone statewide in dethroning the Ponte Vedra juggernaut which finished runners at 4-5-6 to steal the team title.

In 2021, Fleming Island and Ponte Vedra battled for district and region top finishes with Ponte Vedra eventually finish seventh to Fleming Island’s eight at the Class 3A state championship last year.

Myers, who transferred as a Class 1A championship race medalist last year from St. Johns Country Day School and has enhanced the Golden Eagles’ frontal assault with Keester and Sakowski, broke from the mile mark after Middleburg High’s Kole Mussante attempted a breakaway surprise first mile. Myers eased away with Doherty about five yards to his rear and Keester handing with the Ponte Vedra trio in a chase group about 20 yard further.

Fleming Island’s depth on the fast, flat course garnered eight runners under 17 minutes with Myers top finisher at 15:28.90 and sophomore Cole Atzert 20th in 16:54.50 for the Golden Eagles top eight.

With Fleming Island and Ponte Vedra at 1-2 in team points, 27-36, Ridgeview at sixth will send a full team while Middleburg, Orange Park and Clay fell out of the top eight teams to regions at ninth, 10th and 12th.

Mussante advances to region after his fast start with a 17:34.90 for 34th. Clay’s Noah Lonney, a junior, also advanced as individual with a 36th 17:39.40.

In the girls race, Class 3A defending champion Ponte Vedra dominated the top 10 spots with a 1-2 finish on top of fourth, ninth, 10th and 11th to take the team title in a 26 point total. Fifteen points is considered a cross country shutout.

In the chase, St. Augustine held off Fleming Island, 50-60, for second and third, with Ridgeview and Middleburg going seven and eight to advance to regions as teams. Fleming Island was 12th in Class 3A last year with St. Augustine sixth.

For the Lady Golden Eagles, with Ponte Vedra’s dynamic duo of Lindy White and Daisy Ross both posting sub-18 minute splits; 17:43.30-17:59.50, it was a three team battle for the top 17 spots with Matanzas breaking up the Shark, Yellowjacket, Golden Eagle party with a runner in 17th place.

With White and Ross hitting the gas after mile one, Fleming Island senior Katelyn Thompson gave gallant chase with a sixth place finish in 18:52.80 with junior teammate Reese Scott a few steps off her heels at eighth in 19:07.10. Battling for most of the race in a three-pack of Ponte Vedra runners, Fleming Island’s Brook Reynolds, just a freshman, put the jets on in the final 200 meters of grass and track to edge ahead of all three Lady Sharks to finish 12th in 19:27.10.

Clay High junior Kaygen Williamson got in at 23rd in 20:57.60 with Middleburg’s Molly Burt leading her Broncos at 25th in 21:20.0.

Orange Park’s Hope Thomas finished off an impressive season with a 22:00.60 for 43rd with Ridgeview’s Emory Thomas 44th in 22:00.60 also.


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