JACKSONVILLE - Fleming Island High freshman cross country runner John Keester IV was on his back after finishing the New World Fall Cross Country Classic Saturday morning barely able to …
JACKSONVILLE - Fleming Island High freshman cross country runner John Keester IV was on his back after finishing the New World Fall Cross Country Classic Saturday morning barely able to breathe.
"There's a kid who has worked who hard only to get close to that 17 minute mark," said Fleming Island High coach Dave Allen. "He finally got it today and he crushed it; 16 minutes, 53 seconds."
Keester and 21 other runners at the high-powered gathering of harriers at the New World Golf Course that will host district and region meets in a week, all broke the 17 minute mark that is a key indicator of the speed expected in post season races. The top two runners; Riley Novack of Mount Dora Christian Academy and Lucas Bouquot of Ponte Vedra both finished under 16 minutes; 15:56 and 15:59, respectively.
"It's a mental boost for him and the team," said Allen. "We have Kam (senior Kameron Wallizada) running strong and Jayden (senior Jayden Scherer) led the team today. John and our other freshman Danny Sakowski will be key factors in the region and state meets coming up."
Sakoski, who finished in 17:44 for 44th, was recovering from his personal best finish a week ago at the FSU Pre State invitational on the FHSAA state championship course. Sakowski finished in Tallahassee at 17:02.30 to finish as second Fleming Island finisher just ahead of Scherer.
"He just broke his best time by 50 seconds on the state meet course," said Allen, about Sakowski. "His body is probably still recovering, but he knows he is capable of running that fast again."
Allen's quest for five under 17 minutes to attack the state meet is closer to fruition with Michael Lyon also breaking 17 minutes with a 16:53 just a tad in front of Keester.
"We get another low 17 out of Sakowski and we are sitting pretty with five guys," said Allen. "We get a 15 plus from Kam or Jayden and that will put us in good position for a possible podium finish."
Fleming Island finished second behind Bartram Trail, 43-103 with the Bears top five average 16:27 with finishers at 3,4,5,15,16. Fleming Island had no top 10 finishers with Scherer and Wallizada at 13th and 14th in 16:46 and 16:47. Bartram Trail averaged 16:27 while Fleming Island averaged right at 17:00.
For the Fleming Island girls, Emma Millson ran with teammates Marisa Kortright and Grace Adams just a step behind her for most of the race with junior Mei Chiang about 10 yards in arears.
With University Christian's Laci Watford and Nease's Naila Etique separating early from the field; Watford winning in 18:50 with Etique, seventh in Fleming Island's region 1-4A, at 18:59, the Fleming Island four runner pack kept a pace just 40 or so seconds off the front to stage a dramatic second place team finish to Bolles off the strength of four runners near the 20 minute mark.
In region 1-4A last year, Fleming Island finished seventh to advance to the state meet with Adams top finisher and no Millson. Kortright was 41st in 20:42.8.
Millson, who has stormed to faster times throughout the season after two years of injury rehabilitation, sprinted in sixth at 19:33 with Kortright ninth and Chiang 11th; all under 20 minutes. Adams, the only Fleming Island runner under 20 minutes at the region meet (19:48), dropped to a 20:05 fourth finisher for the Lady Golden Eagles.
The difference for the team points; 43-62 for Bolles was a 14th place finish for the Bulldogs number five and a 31st for Fleming Island. Ponte Vedra, Nease and Bishop Kenny rounded out the top five.
Fleming Island's number five; sophomore Anna Rafalski, who ran 21:32 at FSU the week prior, finished in a tough 22:20 with freshman Allie Knotts taking the fifth finisher spot in 21:42.
Stratton goes 16:26 at MHS
St. Johns Country Day School junior cross country runner Matthew Stratton got to face off against 3A strong Creekside High on the rugged Middleburg High School course in Saturday's Bronco Bob Classic and the crafty harrier popped off a 16 minute, 26.60 winning effort against a handful of Knights' challengers.
Creekside got their top five in the top seven finishers slots to dominate the meet, but Stratton has kept his consistently fast splits hovering in the low 16 minutes all season as the cross country districts and regions loom.
In a flip of finishers, Ridgeview's James Snipes was next area finisher in the St. Johns strong field with a 12th place 17:55.10 split. Snipes ran ahead of teammate Dominik Frietze who finished ahead of Snipes at the Bob Hans Invite a week ago. Frietze ws 21st in 18:29.40. Oakleaf High freshman Graham Myers was 20th in 18:23.80. Middleburg's Jose Flores was behind Frietze at 18:32.30.
In the girls race, Middleburg senior Emma Mussante upset a top three Creekside finish with her second to Elizabeth Iliff. Iliff won in 19:56.60 with Mussante at 20:33.80.
Oakleaf got two in the top six with Taylor Silkert fifth at 20:52.50 and Sierra Barrera sixth at 20:57.60. Clay High's Ulyana Damme finished 10th in 22:00.50.
Oakleaf wound up second to Creekside in team points with Middleburg third and Clay fourth. St. Johns, led by Rebecca Stratton's 22:54.50, was fifth.
Next is the Golden Eagles Invitational on Sat., Oct. 17 at Ronnie Van Zant Park in Lake Asbury.
District meets are set for October 26.
District 3-4A: Fleming Island, Oakleaf, Bartram Trail, Buchholz, Creekside
District 3-3A District meet at Ponte Vedra, Oct. 31, 8:10 am, 7:40 am: Middleburg, Orange Park, Ponte Vedra, Ridgeview, St. Augustine, Stanton, Westside
District 4-2A: Clay, Andrew Jackson, Bishop Kenny, Bolles, Bradford, Episcopal, Menendez, Wolfson
District 5-2A: Keystone Heights, Eastside, Interlachen, North Marion, P.K. Yonge, Palatka, Trinity Catholic, Willison
District 3-1A District meet at New World Sports Complex Oct. 29 8:10 am, 9 am: St. Johns Country Day School, Beaches Chapel, Bishop Snyder, Hilliard, Providence, Trinity Christian, University Christian