JACKSONVILLE - Fleming Island High sophomore cross country runner Allie Knotts has had some surprisingly good results this season with a topper; a personal best time under 20 minutes and the top area …
JACKSONVILLE - Fleming Island High sophomore cross country runner Allie Knotts has had some surprisingly good results this season with a topper; a personal best time under 20 minutes and the top area runner in the field, at the New World Fall Spectacular cross country invitational held Saturday at Cecil Field.
“Last year, I was fifth runner on the team that won region and went to state, but I was just kind of happy to be part of the team,” said Knotts, just a 16 year old sophomore. “I remember the region race that my coaches were yelling that I had to beat the Mandarin girl for us to win the region.”
At Saturday’s race, with race director Richard Fannin promising a stellar field of elite runners, Knotts put her name near the top 10 of that elite field with a 12th place finish in 19 minutes, 18 seconds; her first foray under the elusive 20 minute mark.
“I went in thinking about breaking 20 minutes because the field would be really fast,” said Knotts, who opened the 2021 season with a 21:18 split at the Spikes and Spurs Classic on August 28 in muddy conditions in Bunnell. “I told myself to run my own race and disregard the fast first mile that would be run by the top girls. There was a lot of math going on in my head during the race and when we came out of the woods for the final stretch, I knew it had happened-a sub 20.”
The impetus for that sub-20 minute finish came from last year’s region race. Knott, with a finish time of 21:44.70 for 44th place, eventually ended the drama of that exciting region race where she secured the first region cross country title for Fleming Island High’s girls cross country.
“Something happened in my head after that that I wanted to be up front next time,” said Knotts, who finished the state championship meet in Tallahassee in 21:44.70 with Emma Millson top Fleming Island finisher in 19:52.70 on the super hilly course. “I made some big goals for myself after that and after the track season and one was to be one of the top runners on the team.”
With a summer of running training slightly different that her pre-freshman season, said Knotts, her ability to hang out up front with the better girls on the Fleming Island team started to fuel some confidence.
“We ran more controlled long distance runs; went to North Carolina for a camp and just kind of put in the mileage,” said Knotts. “Before that we were doing more speedwork over the summer and I think a lot of girls burned out early.”
Knotts’ impressive finish was just a bit over a minute over top finisher Sofia Buchkell of Ponte Vedra, ironically a very talented freshman, who won in 18:17.
Fleming Island would have a second major return to the top of the pack in senior Lauren Schaudel who finished with a 20:08 time for 29th place to solidify her return from major back surgery last year that halted a very promising junior high runner to hard-charging high schooler to a hospital bed.
Schaudel, with her usual high emotion final surge to the finish line, was ecstatic with her near 20 minute finish.
“The last mile was really tough,” said Schaudel, who had a 21:22 as her fastest previous time. “It started to hit me when I could see the clock that I was like going to be a minute 15 faster than my fastest time. I was trying to finish strong while crying. It was a bit overwhelming.”
For the team scores, Fleming Isalnd would finish third with 130 points with Gainesville’s Oak Hall top female team with 65 outlasting Ponte Vedra’s 67 as runnerup. Bishop Moore was just behind Fleming Island with 136 with Creekside (158) and St. Augustine (167) finishing the top six.
Other top performances came from Clay sophomore Kaygen Williamson, who recently was top finisher at Interlachen’s very tough and rugged Robert Ivy Invitational. Williamson’s strong finishing surges have best state meet teammates Savannah Hill and Ulyana Damme with Williamson in at 21:16 for 63rd, Hill in at 21:25 for 67th and sophomore Gabriella Barrios in at 22:11 for 93rd for the Blue Devils.
For the 21st place St. Johns Country Day School, Rebecca Stratton, freshman sister to Class 1A superstar Matthew Stratton, a senior, finished 70th in 21:27.
Middleburg, with top runner Whitney Mathis taking senior tests, was led by Molly “Hurt II” Burt in 22:08 for 92nd. The Lady Broncos finished 20th.