TALLAHASSEE - Fleming Island High junior Graham Myers was slowly approaching a possible triple play of cross country with his recent district and region titles, but his journey for the third prong; …
TALLAHASSEE - Fleming Island High junior Graham Myers was slowly approaching a possible triple play of cross country with his recent district and region titles, but his journey for the third prong; the Class 3A title, fell short only because the defending Class 3A champion decided to set a new state course record on the same day.
"He (Patrick Koon, Leon, defending state champion) went out really fast on the first mile, like 4:38, and me and another guy were chasing at 4:46," said Myers. "My dad had suggested going out at 4:50 and having some energy at the end which may have worked. I pleased I had some gas at the end to chase down Ruiz (Joshua Ruiz of Belen Jesuit, runnerup for eventual team champions) just not enough real estate."
Myers, third in an outstanding 15 minute, 42.10 second effort, watched from the lead chase pack as defending champion Patrick Koon, of Leon, pulled away decisively at the second mile to garner his second straight title in 14:56.70. Koon's run was the fastest time ever posted on the Apalachee Regional Park tough, hill course.
As the runners passed mile one on the course, Koon was closer to both Ruiz and Myers in a 4:38 opener with his chasers at 4:46, but Koon blasted the second mile extend away from the field smoothly with a 9:30 two mile split with Ruiz and Myers 14 seconds off the pace.
"He just took off at the top of the hill," said Myers. "This is his home course and he has probably run that hill a hundred times. It was decisive."
In second place, Belen Jesuit, a 10-time state title team, had junior Joshua Ruiz able to hold off Myers' surges in the final mile to take the runnerup at 15:37.30 to hold off a big move by Myers. Belen Jesuit eventual finished with four top 10 finishers to win the state title again with Fort Myers; led by fourth placer Joseph Koraya in 15:47.20 behind Myers.
All three frontrunners broke early from the main pack of chase runners to stage their own mano-a-mano battle for the title.
From there, teams battled after withstanding the furious front pace and settled in to get runners in at 21st (John Keester IV in 16:32.60), 36th (Danny Sakowski in 17:00.91) and 39th (Jacob Campbell in 17:02.90) to secure the third place team finish. Fleming Island had slight edges in their 2-3-4-5 finishers just ahead of Leon's quartet in.
"We were missing our good freshman Andrew Boyer to a flu and, I think, if he had a 17 minute finish, we catch Fort Myers for second place," said Myers.
Belen Jesuit scored at 34 points with Fort Myers at 125 and Fleming Island at 144. Leon was fourth at 168 with the rest of the field over 200 points.
Ridgeview High senior Julio Rodriquez finished 106th in 17:55.80.
In the girls Class 4A race, Oakleaf High senior Sierra Barrera finished eighth with a 19:09.90 effort after back-to-back finishes under 19 minutes at her disrict and region races. Barrera faced off as a chaser of a front running pace group that included eventual winner Emma O'Day of Boca Raton who won in 18:23.90 on the tough, hilly course. Just five runners in the girls race finished under 19 minutes.
In the team scoring, defending 4A champion Buchholz repeated as champions with Barrera finishing ahead of all of the Buchholz runners after finishing among the Bobcats top three runners at district and regions.
Just one local runner, Creekside freshman Alyson Johnson finished ahead of Barrera with her sixth place finish with Buchholz' first runner in at 11th.
Behind Buchholz were Braddock High, Niceville and Creekside.
In the Class 3A girls race, won by Lillee Tang of Leon, who also won the region 1-3A race last week, Osceola High and Dillard finished 1-2 ahead of defending champion Ponte Vedra with Fleming Island eighth.
Fleming Island senior Katelyn Thompson was top finisher for the Golden Eagles in at 37th in 19:51.70. Thompson was followed by junior Reese Scott at 48th in 20:06.40, junior Allie Knotts at 56th in 20:14.80 and freshman Brooke Reynolds at 65th in 20:21.10. Reynolds sprinted to top Fleming Island finisher last week at the region 1-3A race.
Only Ponte Vedra, Leon and St. Augustine in sixth finished ahead of the Fleming Island girls team among north Florida area programs.
Also in the Class 3A race, Middleburg High's Molly Burt finished 129th in 21:46.30.
In Class 1A, St. Johns Country Day School girls team, led by sophomore Rebecca Stratton at 84th in 21:28.50 finished 27th.
In the boys Class 1A race, St. Johns Country Day School junior Richard Nichols finished 95th in 18:01.00.
In Class 2A, Bolles boys team won that team title behind a 15:25.60 winning effort by senior Aidan Ryan. Bolles senior Jillian Candelino won her race in 17:43.30 to put Bolles ahead of Episcopal for the girls team title.
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