Home field advantage? That’s supposed to be true in football, or basketball, but cross country? Naw. Well, yeah! Just ask a smiling coach Stephon Gallon of Spruce Creek…but not until the celebration ends. At the conclusion of the meet, his ear to ear grin prevented him from conversing much.
Taking both Boys’ and Girls’ titles, and both team titles, Spruce Creek got a huge psychological boost two weeks before the 5 Star Conference Championship. It may have sent a couple of coaches back to their time sheets, and gave several others a great deal of hope for the future of their programs, but for the moment the Hawks came away from the table with a four race shutout.
One could guess, by the way the Flagler girls took charge of the race right from the start, that they were convinced that this was their race to win. That seemed to last through the first lap. By the second time through the woods, however, the course had taken its toll.
“It was a hard race,” explained Brooke Landry, of Flagler. “My legs hurt so much going up those hills. The ones in the back were like ditches; very steep. You just went up and down, one after another. We used to train a lot on bridges, but those type of hills…I’m not used to them.”
Her sentiments were echoed by teammate Danielle Higgins. “It was hard to keep a pace. I slowed down a lot in the second loop.”
The survivor of a two lap duel between the Flagler girls and Spruce Creek’s star freshman Zoe Volenec would be determined by who could navigate what sounded like a moon walk.
“I knew that I could kick it in,” began Volenec, “but a lot of the runners didn’t know this course and most people aren’t used to training on the sand and hills.
“I give 100%, all the time, but in the end I have to give 120%. My coach says never hold back, always give your all.
“I passed her (Landry) in the back. She started walking…stopped a couple of times…stumbled in the woods. So I surged past her in the third mile. (After that) I didn’t look back. Coach Otto and Mandy Perkins were encouraging me from the (lead) Gator, and saying, ‘Don’t look back.’”
If she had, the winner (22:16) would have seen Landry four seconds away and coming on hard. Higgins finished fifth in 23:12, and in between were Kelly Brownrigg (22:42) and Kristin Hanson (22:45), both from Seabreeze.
TEAM RESULTS: Spruce Creek won decisively (41 points), but the next four teams finished with only ten points separating them.
After a lap, Pine Ridge’s Chris Acevedo looked like Superman. Taking a commanding lead in a 5:35 mile, he had almost 20 seconds on a loose group of six runners from five teams.
“I was in that pack,” said sophomore Brian LaStarza, of Spruce Creek. “We kept grouping up, then spreading out. I didn’t want to go out too fast, so I tried to use the other runners to push me, working to the lead, and then trying to hold on.”
And he also knew where the kryptonite was buried.
“I thought he was going to die, and I challenged him. I could see he was getting tired, but he held on. He didn’t just hit a point and drop off.” Exactly how the insidious green stuff works.
LaStarza passed him on the second lap, built up a ten yard lead, and fought off Acevedo’s finishing kick to win, 19:08 to 19:13. Although exactly thirty seconds off his personal best (Deland Invitational on September 27th), the brand new 16 year old--yup, it was his birthday--scored his first-ever overall win.
TEAM RESULTS: Spruce Creek won with 47; NSB snuck by FPC, 76 to 77, to round out the top three.
1)Zoe Volenec (SC) - 22:16
2)Brooke Landry (FPC) - 22:20
3)Kelly Brownrigg (SB) - 22:42
4)Kristin Hanson (SB) - 22:45
5)Danielle Higgins (FPC) - 23:12
6)Alexis Perrin (Deland) - 23:23
7)Rainey Tyner (SC) - 24:09
8)Megan Walbert (FPC) - 24:11
9)Natalie Hannabass (SC) - 24:25
10)Danielle Demattio (SC) - 24:28
1)Spruce Creek - 41
2)Seabreeze - 80
3)Flagler-Palm Coast - 83
4)Deland - 87
5)New Smyrna Beach - 90
1)Brian LaStarza (SC) - 19:08
2)Chris Acevedo (PR) - 19:13
3)Dylan Fisher (M) - 19:15
4)Paul Rice (SB) - 19:24
5)James Pandy (NSB) -19:25
6)Ryan Long (SC) - 19:30
7)Larry Tesler (FPC) - 19:41
8)Jordan Hunt (NSB) - 19:43
9)James Pompi (At) - 19:55
10)Roger Romeo (FPC) - 19:57
1) Spruce Creek - 47
2) New Smyrna Beach - 76
3) Flagler-Palm Coast - 77
4) Pine Ridge - 98
5) Seabreeze - 129
6) Mainland - 168
7) Deland - 206