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Middleburg Athletes of the Year

Cruce and Cruce lead Bronco sports year

Posted 7/3/24

MIDDLEBURG - Middleburg High had its share of success in the 2023-2024 seasons with a volleyball state title, a second football playoff berth, and a second state wrestling title and two siblings …

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Middleburg Athletes of the Year

Cruce and Cruce lead Bronco sports year


MIDDLEBURG - Middleburg High had its share of success in the 2023-2024 seasons with a volleyball state title, a second football playoff berth, and a second state wrestling title and two siblings instrumental in that success were Austin and Cheyenne Cruce; one a senior, the other to be a senior.

On the football field, Austin Cruce was the blood and guts leader of coach Ryan Wolfe's second straight playoff spot; the only one in Clay County in 2023, with his relentless pursuit of enemy ball carries and his occasional forays into the offensive backfield for timely rumbles for first downs in tight situations.
Cruce's nose for the ball gave him a No. 2 ranked 77 tackles for the year and double-digit tackling games, 11 stops, against a rugged Hawthorne team that finished unbeaten state champions, a gigantic Columbia team that Cruce crashed a mud-fest to 14 tackles and an 11 tackle effort against a fast and furious Bishop Kenny team; all three playoff teams.
After football, Cruce was a mainstay in the corner of the Broncos wrestling team; mainly the girls' team, where his little sister Cheyenne pounded through a second undefeated season en route to an overtime state title to lead a spry girls' wrestling team for coaches Coll Robertson and Jamie Harrison.
At times, Cheyenne Cruce, at 190 pounds, but just about 5'-6", was smaller in comparison to some of her opponents, but like they say, you can't measure heart, determination and grit with a measuring tape and Cheyenne Cruce pulled off an athletic feat that is one of the hardest to do at any level; not just a repeat title, but a repeat title in wrestling where the hazards of injuries, fatigue and bad luck make the endeavor that much more difficult.
For Clay County, with girls wrestling only around for five years, there has never been a repeat girls wrestling state champion; for the boys, they have been far and few between with the likes of P.J. Cobbert (4X titles at Clay), Cory Baudendistel (3X titles at Clay), Adam Briendel (2X titles at Clay), Briar Jackson (2X titles at Fleming Island).
Cruce will undoubtedly be a prime candidate to pull off a three-peat for titles in her upcoming senior season.
For their excellence year in and year out, the Cruce siblings; Austin and Cheyenne Cruce are named the Clay Today/Middleburg High athletes of the year.

Fall Sports

For the fall of 2023, what can you say about a rookie coach who knocks it out of the park on her first try with a Class 5A state title? Meredith Forkum provided the spark to a team that started shaky with three losses before September that made them look a bit beatable by the upper tier of teams in Florida. Still, Forkum, in her fiery approach to sticking to the game plan, tore through the meat of her schedule behind the power playing at the net from all-stater Connor Rahn and her wingman, Brooke Forkum; with just two losses for the rest of the season; one to a strong Trinity Christian Academy (3A Final Four) and one to Gulliver Prep; 4A state champion, in October. Rahn rattled the net for 425 kills with Forkum a few steps behind with 373 kills. Forum returns for one more season.
In football, Wolfe used his second straight season at 5-5 with a rugged first-half schedule that featured a few state title chasers to garner the lone playoff spot in football from the county.
Highlight players elusive quarterback Jaydan Jenkins, some clutch pass catches from Jarren Rozier and Braydan Street, a punchy defense spearheaded by Cruce, Tucker Cody, BJ Carter (who returns), and a powerhouse named Luke Wheeler. Carter returns, and Boyd returns.
Cross country had its moments led by junior Paloma Romero in the 22-minute range and senior Brandon Mills in the 19-minute range.
Golf was minus a kid named Carroll, but Lucas Walhstrom got to regions for the boy's team while Neva Winslow stayed in the mix through the season as a potential state ticket with a fourth at districts, a qualifying score at regions and a visit to the Class 2A championship tournament; 66th place.
Swimming was led by top 25 finishes from Collin Pirner (23rd 100 free 54.92, 23rd 200 free 2:15.70), Emily Villarreal (22nd 100 breast 1:27.76, 25th 200 IM 2:53.24), and girls relays in the very tough Ponte Vedra, Fleming Island strong district championships.


In the winter, girls and boys wrestling and girls weightlifting provided the sparks of championships with the Cheyenne Cruce-led Lady Broncos blowing up gyms with the sophomore sidekicks; Memphis Moses, Skylar Fisher and Sarah Walsh entertaining the Bronco nation while the boys brawled behind stalwarts Tucker Cody (3rd, region champion), Wyatt Leduc (4th, region champion), Gavin Fisher (4th, region champion), Grady Woodard (7th, region runnerup) and Nathan Harvey all putting some skin in the game after a very close region finish; third at 120 behind Clay 122 and Fleming Island 169.
Wrestling coach Coll Robertson has brought his year after year championship mentality from Lake Asbury Junior High to the Middleburg gym and the payoff is coming year after year.
In the girls' weightlifting, with coach Rhiannon Weiskopf orchestrating a school-wide dragnet of athletes from a multitude of sports; softball, cheerleading, the iron girls of Middleburg won a district title with a strong Fleming Island team on their heels and Clay High storied program in the same district. Four district champions in Traditional; Trinity Woodley, Ariana Seibel, Caylee Johnson, and Autumn Pelfrey; three district champions in Olympics; Caylee Johnson, Emily Herren, and Autumn Pelfrey, fueled the path to regions with third in Traditional and fifth in Olympics. Caylee Johnson, softball ace, won her region title ahead of track ace Madison Underwood in 154 while softball power-hitter got fifth in Olympics at Unlimited in Olympics.
In Tradition, fifth, the Lady Broncos got Johnson and Underwood again 1-2, Woodley third, Seibel fourth, softball ace KK Hagen fourth and Pelfry and Clarida seventh and eighth as threats to the state field.
At state, Caylee Johnson prevailed with a third with Middleburg getting three top 10s in Traditional and Johnson and Underwood close again with fourth and fifth in Olympics with Ava Clinkscale 10th in 199.

With rookie girls' soccer coach Joy Rosano taking the reigns after some Final Fours at Fleming Island as a player and coach, the Lady Broncos opened with a flurry with four wins including wins over Ridgeview and Oakleaf as Rosano delivered some strong strategy to the pitch with the likes of Reilly Toomey battling hard.
Boys soccer had tough games throughout with lead scorer Xavier Abuhl, a junior, with 14 goals keeping the Broncos in most games with tough one or two-goal losses through the season; two 1-1 ties, Clay and Keystone as the two best games of the season for the Broncos with a tough 2-0 loss in districts to Columbia.
Basketball opened hot with 10 wins, one loss in a return to the Malcolm Bernard days as the Broncos eventually finished 18-8. Aidan Farber was the top attack dog with Jarren Rosier offering speed downcourt.
Girls' basketball started a little rough, but coach Lindsay Burghart got the girls all on the same page behind brawler Cheyenne Jenkins and Brooke Cooper to get a late-season win streak to finish 11-12.


For spring sports, the girls' softball team bashed a bunch of homers throughout the season to look like a second title would be on the table come late season, but a freshman pitcher from Gainesville turned the table over for the Lady Broncos twice despite a heavy-hitting batting lineup of Kerra Clarida, KK Hagan and Alyssa Prather accounting for 31 homers; 13 from Clarida with two of the three; Clarida and Hagan returning next year to give it a second go at the elusive second title.
Baseball almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the decade with a 12th-inning 1-0 walkoff loss to Clay High in the district semifinals. The game played at Orange Park High, was just one of many examples of how the Broncos baseball aura is to peak at districts as in past seasons as the Broncos finished at 8-15.
Lead batters Skylar Gray (.333) and Nico Hill (13 RBIs) were excitable at the right time and a Clay vs. Middleburg game is worthy of excitement.
Two track athletes that stood out for the Broncos were discus thrower Madison Underwood, who finished fourth, and javelin thrower Anthony Pasquale as the lone Broncos at the state meet.
For flag football, with new coaches James Black and assistant Rodney Ivey inheriting a very competitive team from years past showed some spark from previous seasons; Cheyenne Jenkins, Desiree Hall, and Brooke Cooper, all pushed through an opening loss to Fleming Island that was followed by six wins before the mojo had to scratch away for key wins to earn a playoff spot.
A questionable 7-0 loss to Bradford in the district tournament was followed by a 12-7 over Bradford in round one only to get sauteed 41-0 against FSU High in round two.
In boy's weightlifting, region champion Gage Isbell was the top finisher in Traditional with a fifth-place finish over Fleming Island Olympic champion Kevin Reyes in the Unlimited division. Jammes Harris was 10th in Traditional, ninth in Olympics at 119 with Trent Robinson eighth at 139; and seventh in Olympics. Unlimited Charles Little finished sixth in Olympics.
The big surprise in weightlifting was 169 region champion Josh Senear; also second in the state in 2023, with no lifting in clean and jerk.