Exclusive: Historical Look At The FHSAA Cross Country Finals

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(Brian Atkinson and Matt Mizereck won the FHSAA Cross Country Finals three times each over the course of their high school careers. The duo join Billy Convey and Rolf Steier to accomplish that feat.)

For the Coaches lists, we all know about the titles, but what is amazing is the number of runner-ups. Doug Butler could have 25 titles! Well maybe not that many, but 7 of those "losses" came with point differentials of 16 points or less.

Gary Droze is tied with nine runner-ups and four of those "losses" were 23 points or less. Maybe 2 were within reach- those were 5 and 14 point losses.

Brent Haley, the winningest coach on the boy's side with 10 had 6 runner-ups- 4 of which were 17 points or less.

Some points I found interesting(BTW, these are my observations and can be amended by others with better recollections of events and stats).

Once when I was interviewing Coach Linda Kranick of Saratoga Springs, H.S. I asked her why she thought girls were improving so much. She looked at me incredulously and said, "They haven't been running as long as the boys." Indeed, they have not. In Florida, the boys have been competing in cross country since 1947. In track, since 1915! In comparison, the girls have been competing in cross country since 1974. In  track, since 1975. In the inaugural meet, November 23, 1974, there were 103 runners who lined up on the course at Sante Fe College. Not the course you might be thinking of. Across the street from the main campus to the east was a cross country course that existed into the early 1980s.It is actually south east east of the current Bobcat Classic course. It had streams and mud and really big hills (for Florida). Now it houses the Villages, a retirement home.

And as you look at the screenshot below of the results, it was HOT and Humid- 70 degrees and 68% humidity. The course was 1.5 miles long and Cynthia Ike of Daytona Mainland was the winner in a near tie to Mary Bowman of Palm Beach Gardens- 8:59. 17 schools competed and Tampa Chamberlin was the winner. Their coach was Jean McDaniel. It turns out that Jean McDaniel was Bob Braman's Chemistry teacher and was assisted with workouts by none other than Jerry Slaven, the long time University of Tampa Head Cross Country Coach. So Jean McDaniel became the first woman to coach a state cross country championship team.

The ninth place finisher from Oak Hall- that's Robert Cade's oldest daughter- Cade invented Gatorade and was a big supporter of running. And the runner who finished 12th, Debra Lynn Turner, became Bob Braman's wife.

First woman to coach a boy's championship team- Sue Tallard, P.K. Yonge. . I was on that team and didn't even know the historical significance of the win. I recall Geoff Pietsch of Ransom Everglades walking over  to us and asking to speak to the head coach to congratulate her. We said "She's over there" which was meant with a sigh from Piestch as I recall it. Tallard was inducted into the Wisconsin Hall of Fame and went on to Coach at the University of Wisconsin as an assistant to Peter Tegen

That year, we met the great Brian Jaeger of Winter Park who was there on his own as a soph. Billy Convey of Ransom Everglades won his first of three state championships as a soph. Those two would go on to have epic battles including the storied Florida Relays two mile where Billy edged Brian.

 Lastly, we watched Bart Sellars lumber to an individual win and another team state championship for Largo. On our way home, we ran into the Largo team at one of the service plazas on the turnpike. They were racing to the vending machines as they weren't allowed to eat junk food during the season.