FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High girls cross country had a banner season last year behind a handful of freshman and sophomore harriers led by freshman Mei Chiang and 2019 looks to be much of the …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High girls cross country had a banner season last year behind a handful of freshman and sophomore harriers led by freshman Mei Chiang and 2019 looks to be much of the same plus some, according to coach Suzanne Baker.
"We could go as deep as one through 11 with the depth of our team after one of the best summers we've had here in my 12 years," said Baker, who orchestrated a district runnerup finish with an overwhelming individual title by more than 30 seconds to Chiang with four runners in the top 10; got a second place region finish in one of the toughest regions in Florida with Chiang finishing eighth and, finally, an eighth place team finish in Class 4A with Chiang leading the squad with a 14th place finish in 18:52.88. "I think the gap from Mei to the second, third and fourth place finishers for us is going to be significantly closer."
Joining Chiang in the upcoming season will be fellow sophomores Lauren Schaudel, Grace Adams with juniors Emma Millson and Marisa Kortright and seniors Jennifer Fliess and twin Jessica who have been part of a 20-30 runner crew that Baker has put through a strong condition program for the summer including a week trip to an elite camp in Brevard, NC.
"At Brevard, we ran twice a day with mountain runs everyday," said Chiang, who limited herself to just two summer track meets. "Having a good session at Brevard was the plan. It was good."
Millson thought the trip to state was enough to fuel the summer training.
"That got us wanting to go back and do better," said Millson. "We hold each other accountable now. I ran the other day on my own because I could not make the team run in the morning."
For 2019, a new district 1-4A offers closer to home challenges with 3A powerhouses Creekside (Third in 3A), Bartram Trail (Fifth in 3A) and Nease (Seventh in 3A) joining the mix on top of Panhandle powers in Niceville (6th in 3A) and Tallahassee Chiles (3A champs).
Also included in district 1-4A will be Atlantic Coast, Buchholz, Crestview, First Coast, Fletcher (Third in district 1-4A), Ocala Forest, Mandarin (district 1-4A champion), Navarre, Oakleaf, Sandalwood, Tate and West Port.
Around the county, individuals coming back include senior Emma Brown at Orange Park High (27th in district 4-3A), junior Emma Mussante at Middleburg (14th in district 4-3A), Kylie Overstreet at Oakleaf, senior Camryn Williams at Keystone Heights (2nd in district 5-2A, 28th in region 2-2A) and senior Anna Magruder at Ridgeview (25th in district 4-2A) with teams looking to the hallways to fill rosters.
"Our district last year was as tough as any of them, so this year, we'll just have to keep up our running," said Baker. "We are not worried about the new district."
At Brevard, Baker cited a run up the rugged Art Loeb Trail in Pisgah National Forest that put runners up a seven mile climb that ascended nearly 3,000 feet.
"We all made the 2.5 mile cutoff that allowed us to get to the top," said Baker. "And, it was rough, single track and nearly all uphill."
Fleming Island opens with an August 24 trip to Flagler Palm Coast for the Spikes and Spurs Classic where Chiang opened her high school days with a fifth place finish in 19:55 behind winner Ashley Klingenberg of Lake Brantley (19:06) who finished one spot behind Chiang at the 4A title race. Fleming Island finished in a strong third place team finish behind Bolles and Creekside and ahead of Ponte Vedra and Buchholz.
"We could have five or six runners under 20 minutes in that first race," said Baker.