The Pine Crest girls were one of the best teams regardless of classifications all season long. The Panthers cruised their way to their second consecutive 2A Cross Country Finals state championship to go with their four runner-up finishes over the past six years. To say Coach Paul Baur's program has been a powerhouse in the Sunshine State, would be an understatement. After finishing 4th last year at NXNSE the group had a great shot at joining the 2005 Episcopal squad as the only two girls team's to make it to Nike Nationals in Portland.
2,000 meters into the race and Pine Crest was in 1st place by nearly twenty points. The girls gave it their all including a season best of 17:54.50 for 2A state champion and 2016 NXN finalist Tsion Yared, a personal best of 18:10.20 for her younger sister Mahdere, five seconds off a PR for Maya Beleznay, and a personal best for their fourth runner Emily Faulhaber. The quarter finished 12th, 15th, 20th, and 30th respectively.
"I'm very proud of these girls," Baur said. "It's a huge improvement from last year and they have matured a ton. We had a higher finish and ran much faster than last year."
However, it wasn't enough. Twelve points separated 2nd-5th in the team standings. Pine Crest scored 157 points the exact same number as the girls from Blacksburg High School in Virginia who earned an at large bid to make it six trips in a row to Portland.
"The fact we were so close really, really hurts," Baur added. "This ultimately is going to be a great thing for us. We are going to go out an earn it and not hope to be given an at large bid."
Luckily for Pine Crest, all six of the girls return in 2018. Five of the top six are sophomores or under.
"These girls gave amazing efforts and we hoped we could have represented Florida," he said. "We hope to have another shot next year."