(Citrus Park Christian senior and University of Oklahoma signee Trevor Foley hopes to make it as an individual to NXN.)
High school cross country in the state of Florida has come to an end, but that doesn't our mean our fastest individual and teams have stopped racing. This week they will be split between the Foot Locker South Regional in Charlotte, North Carolina and Nike Southeast Regional in Cary, North Carolina. We preview all the action of NXNSE.
The Episcopal girls in 2005 are the only team to ever make NXN in Oregon. Several teams have come close including Niceville (4th), Pine Crest (5th), and Bolles (8th) in 2016. Pine Crest returns six of their top seven from that team and a squad that was perfect on the 2017 season including a repeat title in class 2A. The Panthers scored 33 points with four in the top ten at state and boast the individual state champion in Tsion Yared. Yared was 4th at NXNSE last year and was 39th at NXN. With Chiles sending it's two fastest girls to Foot Locker South, it makes it a little easier for Coach Baur's team to advance on both the individual and team side. Virginia power Lake Braddock has advanced the last four years and are the favorites to move onto Portland once again.
The Bolles girls placed 8th last year, but will be without the services of Stanford signee Caitlin Collier. Coach Tony Ryan said his squad did 6x400 at 3,200 pace on grace with a three minute run in between as a workout to prepare for Saturday.
"It was a low key workout," he said. "It was just enough to keep ticking over. We are a young team. We're just going to Cary for fun and warm up the season with one last race in cool weather."
Spanish River's Rylee Pustilnik wasn't pleased with her 9th place performance at the state meet. The sophomore will have one more cross country race this season. She's been consistently under 19 minutes all season long and was the champion of the Foot Locker South freshman race last year.
Unlike the girls, the Bolles boys are going up to Cary, NC with business on their mind. The Bulldogs guided by 2016 Foot Locker Finalist Charles Hicks, want to test their strength against the best in the southeast and join the likes of Winter Park, Columbus, Belen Jesuit, and Trinity Prep to make the trek to Portland. The team will have work to do to make one of the top two teams to automatically qualify. No Florida program has ever earned an at large bid in the meet's history.
Hicks, the 2A state champion ran a SB of 15:6.78 in Tallahassee, but ran 15:09 last year in Charlotte. If he can run close to a PR on the WakeMed Course he has a shot at earning one of the five individual qualifier spots given to an athlete on a non qualifying team.
Florida's other hope comes from 1A state champion and University of Oklahoma signee Trevor Foley. Foley competed against several of the southeast's best at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational in Kentucky and finished second. It was believed the Citrus Park Christian senior had his sights set on San Diego all season long as he said in interviews, but his coach Ray Friedman told us the two talked it over and felt NXNSE would be the better postseason race.
Also competing will be Trinity Prep and Columbus, two programs that have experience at NXNSE and advancing to NXN.