Katie Caples Invitational: Xiang Stars Against Stacked Field, Marquez Era Continues With Win

On-Site Coverage

Jacksonville- Several running clichés echoed through the windy night air after Saturday night’s Katie Caples’ Elite races: 1) summer training is the crux of a successful cross country season; (2) it takes five runners to secure a win and (3) racing is the true barometer of the quality of a team…..all conjecture is thrown out the door once the team line up.

Girl’s recap

Pine Crest’s Julia Montgomery (SO) and Holy Trinity’ Julie Wollrath(JR) came in as the class of the field. With six state titles between them and personal bests of under 18 minutes, who would have not predicted them to battle it out for the win? However, senior Karen Xiang (Nease St. Augustine) had other plans for this night.

After a fast start by Wollrath and Montgomery, Xiang moved from 6th at the half mile, to 2nd at the mile and 1st by the two mile mark to secure another her second consecutive convincing win in as many weeks; this time by 14 seconds in a time of 18:52 on the revamped Katie Caples course.

“When we first started, I felt that the girls had gone out really fast,” said Xiang of her relatively conservative start.

Though one might have perceived Xiang’s savvy racing strategy was planned in advance, it had roots elsewhere. Not used to racing at night, Xiang misjudged her lunch, eating at 3:00pm. Stomach cramps plagued her during warm-ups and during the race her stomach still bothered her.

Also, Xiang seemed to be marking Wollrath for a 1/3 of the race for the precise moment to overtake her. That was not exactly the case.

“I didn’t know where to go,” said Xiang with a smile and laugh. “I just wanted to stay with her. She kind of fell back so I just decided to go.”

Xiang has handled her two victories with the poise of someone who has been at the top for awhile. She credited a good summer base, and good coaching which have led to good workouts that have put her in position to win. But don’t expect to see much of Xiang at some of the bigger meets in upcoming weeks. Xiang said a planned trip to Gainesville for the Mountain Dew Invitational was nixed in lieu of staying close to home. Andflrunners.com Invitational 14 and Prestate are not scheduled.

From here on in, we’ll have to wait and see if Xiang can continue her winning ways and unseat another highly decorated runner in Emily Edwards of Fort Myers at the state championships in November. Being a morning race and two months off with more training, I wouldn’t bet against her.

Girl’s Team recap

So many times, it seems to come down to the #5 on any team victory. Scouring through the results, it again was proven with Oak Hall’s ten point victory over #1 1A ranked Holy Trinity (Melbourne). Through runner number 4, Oak Hall was third with 52 points behind The Bolles School’s (Jacksonville) 51 Holy and Trinity’s (Melbourne) 42. But with their number five runner, Lauren Perry(FR), coming in at 24th, the Eagles leap frogged the Tigers and the Bulldogs to secure a 10 point victory and their second consecutive Katie Caples Elite race team victory; 76 to 86 to 97.

“We were fortunate to come out on top tonight,” said McTureous of the Eagle who remain undefeated. “We know it is going to be back and forth all year long.”

Things seemed to fall the Eagles way perfectly Saturday night, but prior to the meet, it seemed liked everything might not go their way. Brittney Olinger (SR) and Nadiria Evans (FR) were tentative starts Saturday heading into the Elite race. By night’s end though, the two were all smiles after finished fifth and eleventh in nearly identical times from last week.

“We tried to match up with the other team’s runners,” said McTureous of his strategy. “Our four and five tonight were our number 1 and two at state last year. It showed our depth. I’m excited about where we are going and how we are progressing.”

Right now the Eagles have one of the stronger top fives in the state, but it remains to be seen if Holy Trinity can find a fifth runner. Sydney Smith has yet to run and with her, the Tigers could add to their depth.

The historically late season blooming Bulldogs could also find a fifth to secure another team championship title.

A lot of racing awaits and questions will be answered in the weeks to come.

Boy’s recap

Brandon Marquez’s (Timber Creek, Orlando) “rust-breaker” was more than the field could handle as the sophomore trounced the field by 20-seconds to win going away in a time of 16:14.

The sophomore’s victory was in question for about a mile as senior Austin Decker (The Bolles School, Jacksonville) sped to an early lead. Marquez’s strength though was too much as he took command by the mile and continued to increase his lead.

“Austin Decker of Bolles took it out pretty hard,” said Marquez respectfully. “I took over on the second mile and took control from there.”

Decker’s big 890 miles of summer mileage paid dividends as he held on for third in a time of 16:39. After winning the 110% North Florida Cross Country Invitational last week by 96 seconds, Decker was happy with the outcome.

“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was an 85 pound freshman,” said Decker of Saturday night’s Katie Caples Elite Race. “It was really a dream come true to come out and compete with these guys.”

Pundits were scrambling to find out who the second place finisher was soon after the race. With 9:29.83 3200m win at the Friday Knight Invite and4:23.33 Bob Hayes 1600m wins last spring, Noah Kemp (St. Augustine) certainly had the credentials to be near the top. However, a non-qualifying state track meet season in the spring, a non-state-qualifying 16th last year in the 3A “Region of Death” last fall, a 17:11, 11th place finish at last week’s Bob Hans Invitational left Kemp unranked in the FACA Class 3A poll and off everyone’s radar.

“Last week was just a pack run,” said Kemp who ran conservatively this summer to avoid injury. “[Tonight] I just kept picking people off. I’m happy with it.”

When all was said and done, it was a great night for the underdogs and two of the state’s number one ranked runners.  Ranked performers, David Yarborough(#1,2A), and David Tampa(#5,3A) were upended by Decker(2A), Kemp(3A), and the Stanton Prep(Jacksonville) duo of Wesley Norton(3A,SR) and Eric Tallbacka(3A, SR) while Marquez and Cacciatore ran solidly to turn back anyone from their classification to solidify their #1 rankings in class 4A and 1A. It looks like there will be more changes in the weeks to come as everyone calibrates themselves and sets their sights on more specific goal pace workouts.

Boys Team Recap

The FACA rankings were shaken up following Saturday night’s outcome.

Trinity Prep (Winter Park) returned to its winning ways, claiming their first Katie Caples team title since 2010. And what a win it was?!!

The Saints crushed the field by 40 points and put their top seven ahead of any team’s number four runners. The gold tops clad Saints stood out in the artificially lit course as their top five spread was just 34 seconds and their top seven spread 56 seconds. In their wake was #1 2A Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) who finished 106 points behind in sixth place.  #2 2A ranked Trinity Prep are sure to move up to the top spot in this week’s FACA Class 2A rankings.

On the heels of Noah Kemp’s second place finish, #7 3A ranked St. Augustine placed a strong second to upset #4 3A Creekside (St. Johns) who finished fifth overall.

#12 4A ranked Timber Creek (Orlando) edged out #1 1A Holy Trinity (Melbourne) by one point to take third place.

There is a lot of season left to run and lots of room for improvement so this early gut check may be the wakeup call teams need to make a run at the state champs in two month’s time.

Elite Performances

Girls Highlights

Boys Highlights

Race Video/Interviews by Ricky Quintana