OCALA - Middleburg High cross country leader John Scholz took off like a shot at the start of the prestigious Florida Horse Park Invitational held Sat., Sept. 7 in Ocala with a plan.
"I knew this was going to be one of the fastest fields for the season," said Scholz. "I wanted to get out fast like I always do and see if I could hang on to a fast time."
In the girls race, Fleming Island High coach Suzanne Baker used the meet to bump up her younger runners times with the Golden Eagles front five escorting their teammates to a sixth overall team finish.
"As any coach would say, every meet until a championship is at stake is just a workout," said Baker. "So the strategy was to just have those top five help push the next five to keep building on the depth of our team. It’s hard to let a win go when you know you could dominate but again these weekly meets are just s practice towards the end goal of placing when it counts."
Top runner Mei Chiang, a normal sub-20 minute finisher, ran with freshman Anna Rafalski to a a 21:06 finish.
"Anna Rafalski did a great job with a PR this week," said Baker. "Mei Chiang was the best fit for running with Anna because she is a “no nonsense” runner so I knew she wasn’t going to let Anna run anything but PR pace."
With Fleming Island not attacking the front, it was Keystone Heights High's Camryn Williams and Middleburg High's Emma Mussante battling it out at the finish; 29th for Williams, 31st for Mussante, for top county finisher.
In the boys race, Scholz, who had a best of 17 minutes, 35 seconds, last year, according to Bronco coach Paul Grybb, finished as the top Clay County finished in the mega-meet in 17:40.47 to get top honors ahead of Keystone Heights High's Tyler Shaw's 17:46.38.
Scholz was 88th overall with Shaw in at 95th.
"We live by the credo of finish better than last year," said Grybb. "John is a courageous kid and his was just five seconds off his best from last year. I'm encouraged."
Top finisher in the meet was Gabe Montague of Satellite High in 15:31.9 with Tallahassee Maclay's Junious Brown second in 15:48.6. The top three finishers were all under 16 minutes with Lewis Benitez-Chaparro of Ocala Vanguard in at 15:59.7.
"I thought the course was good for how I run," said Scholz. "I went out strong, fought up the hill on the backside, then ran my fastest part down the back of the hill."
Belen Jesuit Prep won the boys race with 54 points with George Steinbrenner second at 85 and Windermere third at 122. Middleburg was 28th and Keystone Heights was 36th.
For the girls, Williams, a junior, ran one of her best races in her career with a 20:56.4 for 29th place, based on a solid summer of training.
"I had a fairly strong summer with no injuries," said Williams. "I want to have a good season this year."
Williams held off a surge from Mussante (20:58.8, 31st), the top runner at Middleburg last year with a region berth.
"I'm glad I broke 21 minutes, but I wanted to be faster at the end," said Mussante. "I didn't know the Keystone girls was in front of me though."
Top finisher for the girls race was Braddock High's Rebecca Bergnes in 19:31.6 with University of Christian's Laci Watford second in 19:35.7.
Fleming Island got dual finishes from Chiang and Rafalski in 21:20 for 39th and 40th and Morgan Erler and Lauren Schaudel; Erler in 21:39.5 and Schaudel in 21:39.6 to post Fleming Island's sixth place finish.
Braddock was team champio ahead of Oak Hall with Winter Park third. Middleburg was 21st.
Middleburg boys finishers: John Scholz, 88th 17:40.4; Robert Nogales, 171st 18:48.0; Christopher Donaldson, 187th 19:03.9; Noah Carlson, 192nd 19:06.0; Juan Flores, 222nd 19:37.4; Dylan Anderson, 236th 19:49.2; Hayden Shaw, 270th 20:38.6; Casey Crafton, 314th 22:10.8
Keystone boys finishers: Tyler Shaw, 95th 17:46.3; Jerry Payne, 198th 19:13.7; Tyler Griffin, 264th 20:22.9; Jay Payne, 268th 20:32.5; Gabe Buchanan, 306th 21:51.7; Joseph Danella, 344th 24:20.1
Middleburg girls finishers: Emma Mussante, 31st 20:58.8; Lindsey Findley, 117th 23:13.6; Brooke Cassada, 127th 23:25.6; Meghan Bonser, 195th 25:32.1; Whitney Mathis, 214th 26;09.5; Sara Myers, 217th 26:18.3; Kayla Konnick, 236th 27:10.7; Abbey Sanderson, 249th 27:53.1
Keystone girls finishers: Camryn Williams, 29th 20:56.4; Carly Rogers, 255th 28:39.2
Fleming Island girls finishers: Mei Chiang, 39th 21:20.3; Anna Rafalski, 40th 21:20.6; Morgan Erler, 46th in 21:39.5; Lauren Schaudel, 48th 21:39.6; Jennifer Fleiss, 53rd 21:51.7; Jordan Detwiler, 72nd 22:15.8; Grace Adams, 73rd 22:15.9; Kayla Herman, 90th 22:33.5; Brynn Kneisley, 105th 22:48.8; Marisa Kortright, 106th 22:49.0
In other cross country action, Clay High got a first place overall finish from junior Carlton Waiguru at the Bradford County Invitational in Starke on Saturday.
Waiguru ran a 19 minute, 16.75 seconds for the win, with P.K. Yonge junior Francisco Flores second at 19:32.86. Clay High's Luis Duran was second finisher in 21:59.90 for 12th place.
In the girls race, sophomore Madisyn Blackburn took seventh in 25;38.80 with Anjuli Laguna-Mars 15th in 27:11.54.
Clay's girls finished fourth in the six team field with P.K. Yonge winning with 16 points after a 1-2-3-4-6 finish.
For the boys, Ed White was team champion wiht 29 points wiht Clay third.
At the Cecil Field Makeup Meet on Sat, Sept. 6, St. Johns Country Day School sophomore Matthew Stratton continued his strong start with a win in 16:33.94 ahead of Ponte Vedra's Lucas Bouquot's 16:44.16. The top four runners were under 17 minutes. Now in 3A, Ponte Vedra won the team title with 34 points ahead of also 3A Bartram Trail wiht 37 points. St. Johns was fifth at 142.
In the girls race, St. Johns got a top finish from eighth grader Sofia Conde in 25th place in 22:28.35.
Episcopal sophomore Mackenzie Glenn won in 20:19.46 with seven runners under 21 minutes.
Ponte Vedra won the girls title with Bishop Kenny runnerup. St. Johns was sixth.
Ridgeview competed at the Eagles on the River two miler at Episcopal High School with freshman Jose Paolo Garcia winning in 10:47 and teammate Dominik Frietze in second in 10:47 as well.
Anna Magruder was top female finisher in 13:23.
Area harriers will head to Bartram Trail for the Bales n Trails races on Sat., Sept. 14.