ORANGE PARK - In one of the grandest returns to prominence in the very early 2021 cross country season, Ridgeview High cross country coach Paul Grybb hosted one of the largest and strongest fields …
ORANGE PARK - In one of the grandest returns to prominence in the very early 2021 cross country season, Ridgeview High cross country coach Paul Grybb hosted one of the largest and strongest fields for the Bob Hans Memorial Invitational and Ridgeview High senior James Snipes, who has been on a steady improvement curve since his region finish as a first year runner last year, saw what a nationally-ranked cross country runner looks like in the mens varsity race.
“I think we opened in like 5:15 and he wasn’t even breathing hard,” said Snipes, referring to eventually mens winner Rheinhardt Harrison, a senior two-time Class 4A champion at Nease High and one of the premiere cross country and track runners in the United States. “I was trying to hang with him for as long as I could just to feel his pace, but he was gone after the first mile.”
Gone being the tune of a 16 minute finish for first place as opposed to his normal 15 minute finishes; 15:26.9 for his Class 4A title last season, Harrison toyed with his two top challengers; Snipes and Ponte Vedra’s Quinn Remisiewics, who surged in the final 100 yard straightaway finish to edge Snipes at 16:53.20 and 16:55.30.
St. Johns Country Day School sophomore Graham Myers, a transfer from Oakleaf High School, finished fourth in 17:19.60.
Bartram Trail, third in Class 4A last year, ran as a five-man pack with a finish lineup at 10th through 15th earning the team title with 60 points over Mandarin’s 80 and Ponte Vedra’s 84. Ponte Vedra was third in Class 3A last year.
Rounding out the team scores at Bob Hans, Ridgeview finished seventh, Middleburg was 10th, Oakleaf was 12th, St. Johns (without Matthew Stratton) was 13th, Orange Park was 14th and Clay was 18th in the 22 team field.
For the girls race, Ponte Vedra edged Bartram Trail by just one point; 67-68, with Ellie Moritz, a senior out of Ponte Vedra High and 22nd in the Class 3A championship race last year, the individual champion in 20:35.60 over Nease senior Audrey Singletary, second in 20:37.90. Fletcher finished strong with Tessa Massa, just a freshman, third at 20:49.20 and senior Viola Barquilla fourth at 21:02.20.
Middleburg High senior Whitney Mathis ran one of her strongest races as a Lady Bronco with a 15th place finish in 22:04.30 in a sea of runners from Ponte Vedra (5th in 3A), Nease, Fletcher, Mandarin (5th in 4A) and Bartram Trail; all state powerhouse teams.
“I had a good summer of training,” said Mathis. “Just have to improve my race tactics.”
St. Johns Country Day School, led by a second half surge by Rebecca Stratton, who finished 52nd in 23:53.50, was top area team in 11th followed by Middleburg (12th) and Ridgeview (13th) in the 14 team field. Clay High, without state champion wrestler Madisyn Blackburn on the course, had a top finish from sophomore Kaygen Williamson, 30th in 22:54.30 with teammates Ulyana Damme 31st and Savannah Hill at 36th. Hill and Damme were state meet returners for coach Frank Wickes. Clay’s girls team qualified for the region meet last year.