Stephanie Schappert crashed what appeared to be a Jacksonville-area party in the 2A state girls championship race Saturday, with an historic victory over the 5k Little Everglades Ranch course.
Schappert, a sophomore from Boca Raton Pope John Paul II, broke away from seven-runner, lead pack over the final 800 meters to capture her first state championship in 18:10. With her victory, she joins Nicole Schappert - a two-time champion ('03-04) - to become the first sisters to capture state titles in the meet's 35-year history.
"I wanted to be able to go (for the win) with 400 left," said Schappert, how held off Immokalee senior and pre-race favorite Joanne Pierre (18:13) down the stretch.
Schappert had plenty of company in a lead pack that knocked a light frost off the turf in the first race of the day. Fernandina Beach junior Stephanie Strasser (3rd, 18:17) was joined by Bishop Kenny junior Sarah Davis (4th, 18:24), Bolles' senior-sophomore tandem of Kaitlyn Iselborn (5th, 18:34) and Rebecca Chandler (6th, 18:41) and Gulliver Prep eighth-grader Carrie Davis (7th, 18:45) in a group that stayed bunched as they exited the infield loop.
While the racing at the front set the scene for a banner day, it was the action behind the pack that would decide the team title.
Bishop Kenny, which had lost the district championship on its home course to city-rival Bolles - but turned the tables at the regional meet - was busy jockeying for its first team title since 2000.
Crusaders Jamie Heekin, Leigh Mumford and Elizabeth Tucker were separated by just five seconds as they made their way across the finish line, to offset Bolles' three-in-the-top-10 early momentum.
"This is probably the best thing we could ask for this season," Davis said, after Bishop Kenny squeezed out a 46-60 victory over Bolles for the team title. "All of our hard work paid off."
It helped that Davis finished in front of Iselborn and Chandler even more, when Bolles Elizabeth Progrebniak came home 10th.
"I didn't feel like I had to finish in front of them," said Davis, who sailed to a personal-best time, "because the strength comes from the back of the team."
In the end, Allison Spiegel's 17th-place finish (14th scoring), proved insurmountable as she beat Bolles fourth and fifth runners - Amelia Williams and Alexis Kaegi - to the stripe.
In the process of capturing the title, Bishop Kenny officially put an end to neighboring Episcopal's three-year reign as 2A champions. The Eagles were a distant ninth, five spots behind nearby St. John's Creekside.
A first-year program, Creekside finished fourth, as freshmen twins Kaitlin and Lauren Rodriguez finished ninth and 16th.