Myers wins Region 1-3A cross country

RHS Rodriguez, MHS Burt 3A solo invites

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 11/2/22

GAINESVILLE - Fleming Island High junior cross country runner Graham Myers confidently executed a second lap pass of a familiar foe then cruised to victory in the region 1-3A cross country …

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Myers wins Region 1-3A cross country

RHS Rodriguez, MHS Burt 3A solo invites


GAINESVILLE - Fleming Island High junior cross country runner Graham Myers confidently executed a second lap pass of a familiar foe then cruised to victory in the region 1-3A cross country championships held Saturday at Santa Fe College.

In the girls 1-4A race, also held Saturday at Santa Fe, Oakleaf senior Sierra Barrera continued her barrage of state-ranked front runners with a fifth place finish and another best time of her senior season. Barrera, with her 18:48.90, stayed close to a strong pack of Buchholz front runners; Kate Drummong, Lucy Voss and Emma White as the quartet ran behind the lead pack of Olivia Niewald of Spruce Creek who won in 18:28.70, Olympica’s Emily Knopfle and Creekside’s Alyson Johnson. Johnson’s third to Barrera ‘s fifth was separated by just 1.3 three seconds as the trio sprinted into the finish area.

“We had a good plan of attack and how to take the race out to get a faster time on this course,” said Barrera. “I got a little behind on the start lap and had to work to bridge a gap to the back of the leaders by the second lap. It was a lot of work and I had to dig down to finish the final 100 meters in the pack with the three other girls.”

Last week, at the district 1-4A on the hilly Apalachee state meet course, Barrera was third behind Buchholz’s Drummong and Voss in 18:59.00. The surprise for Buchholz was White who was 14th last week at districts in 20:06.80.

Myers, a Class 1A medalist at last year’s cross country state championships, is set to be ranked among the top 10 in Florida all classes for the November 4 state meet after his district and region titles in back-to-back weeks with 15:40.30 effort enough to beat Ponte Vedra’s Grant Doherty for a second week. Doherty finished at 15:50.70.

Last week, at the district 2-3A championship race, Myers beat Dohery with a final surge; 15:28.90-15:30.40.

“I got caught sleeping at the start and wound up in the middle of a big pack up until mile one and had to get around a bunch of people to start moving up,” said Myers. “When we came back around to the start area at the top of the hill, I started to reel in Grant and got to him as we hit the bottom and made the left turn.”

Myers, though, with three Ponte Vedra runners between himself and teammate John Keester IV, figured the team title would got to Ponte Vedra again.

Keester, in at 16:30.40 in ninth place had senior Danny Sakowski just eight seconds behind in 12th place to make the team calculations dicey with the Sharks prevailing by just a 42-54 score. Right behind Sakowski, in one of his best races of the season, sophomore Jacob Campbell, in 16:40.10, bolstered the team points even more with a 13th place finish.

“Jacob ran great and Danny pulled him along to stay close to John,” said Fleming Island coach Chris Otero. “Us and Ponte Vedra are right there together most of the time and the winner will be the team with one or two spots just ahead of the other.”

The difference became the fifth finishers for both teams with Ponte Vedra freshman Miles Wick edging Fleming Island freshman Andrew Boyer by five seconds to take 17th for Wicks and 19th for Boyers.

“Two freshmen battling to decide a region title is always interesting,” said Myers. “The guys up front; me and John and Danny and now Jacob, keep it close, then it’s a matter of inches for the fifth spot.”

In the girls region 1-3A race, Fleming Island got a surge from freshman Brooke Reynolds in the final 100 meters of the race that got her in just ahead of teammates Katelyn Thompson and Reese Scott as the Golden Eagles tried to stay in the mix behind front runners Ponte Vedra, the defending state champions, Leon, who had region champion Lillee Tang blasting the field by a 17 second margin with her 18:07.50 winning time, and Fort Walton Beach getting a third place finish from sophomore Belicia O’Grady.

Fleming Island got the their three frontrunners in in a tight formation at the finish, but Ponte Vedra already had their top five in. St. Augustine had three runners in behind top finisher Katie Lawrence’s fourth place finish with Leon and Fort Walton Beach having just two in front of Reynolds as coaches awaited the finishes of third and fourth runners to determine the top five teams.

In the second surge at the finish, Fleming Island’s Allie Knotts and Sydney Fallin got in at 25th and 28th.

Ponte Vedra dominated the top team title with 37 points with Leon second at 57 and Fort Walton Beach edging Fleming Island 88-95 for third and fourth.

Ridgeview and Middleburg also sent full teams to the region race with the Panthers finishing 13th and Middleburg 14th, 373-379. Middleburg senior Molly “the Hurt” Burt was in at 36th in 21:26.20 while Ridgeview’s got junior Emory Thomas in at 53rd in 22:24.60. Burt took the third individual invite to the Class 3A meet with her finish.

Clay had solo runner Kaygen Williamson in at 40th in 21:40.30 with teammate Noah Loonehy in at 50th in 18:03.40.

For Ridgeview, Julio Rodriguez ran a strong 17:09.50 to finish 23rd and grabbed one of just three state meet bigs as an individual runner.

“He ran a really gutsy run,” said Ridgeview coach Paul Grybb.

In region 1-1A at the New World Golf course in Jacksonville, St. Johns Country Day School’s girls team, led by the other Stratton, sophomore Rebecca Stratton, little sister to Class 1A champion Matthew Stratton, now at University of Florida, got fifth team finish to advance behind Pensacola Christian Academy, Maclay and Providence going 1-2-3.

For the boys, junior Richard Nichols was top finisher for the Spartans at 14th in 17:35.60, but the Spartan team was 14th team. Nichols was second solo qualifier for Class 1A championship race next week.

In region 1-2A, also at New World Golf, Keystone Heights’ boys finished 15th with junior Tyler Griffin 54th in 18:18.30.

In the girls race, Keystone Heights eighth grader Olivia Griffin finished 70th in 22:52.90.


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