Ralph's Musings - 4A District 2 Championship

The Roman god Janus is a two-faced god; his gaze simultaneously fixed forward towards the future and back into the past (hence, his name being the root of our month of January). In Roman religion, it was this god that presided over beginnings and transitions, and was associated with motion, journeys, and passages. In Roman architecture, his presence is sometimes depicted as that of a door, either open or closed. If the door was open, it symbolized war; a closed door meant peace (hence a basis for the superstition that we should “close doors behind us,” and use of the term “close the door” on our competition). Horace alluded to Janus being Matutine Pater, roughly translated as “morning father.” Some busts of Janus are portrayed on one side as the face of a young man in the prime of his life, and on the other as a more mature, bearded man, wrinkled and wizened, thus symbolizing a young man’s growth into adulthood.

Although we are well into the second millennium, many descriptions of the oldest of Roman gods certainly can be used as metaphors. This event was both an end, and a beginning, for the athletes, the teams they represented, and even the maturity of the runners themselves.  It can be viewed in terms of the results of a cross country season that had already passed, or the meet itself.

The 4A District 4 Championship began with a roster of 26 teams (boys and girls), and 180 athletes. By its close, those numbers were reduced by two-thirds.  Eight teams and 63 runners move on to the next round of competition, the regional meets. That final third would be looking forward toward next weekend, taking a journey, and setting into motion yet another test of maturity. The other two-thirds, some of whom are seniors, are done for now, and will be looking back on what has passed. Others, who are still eligible, will look forward to track, perhaps another year (or more) of cross country, and then—if lucky—towards repeating the cycle in college.

Girls’ Race

Running mostly in shadow—the race started at eight o’clock AM, a time when sunlight had yet to penetrate the ring of trees surrounding Sperling Sports Complex—this race had an almost surrealistic atmosphere to it. As the runners ran in and out of darkness, it was as if the race came and went between this place and a nether world, thus guided by the ship of Janus. In that first loop, the first to emerge from the darkness was Fatema Jaffer.

“When the starter”—Tony Tussing—“fired the gun, I fell. I got up and tried to catch the leaders. I knew I could stay with the first pack. That pace was fine, and I thought I could stay with it. I guess this was because of the energy that came from sprinting after that fall.”

 “My goal,” explained Hagerty’s Kerstin Sosa, “wasn’t to win; I wanted to make the top 15. But coming in first (overall) was definitely a bonus.”

In the early stages of the race, Kerstin was well behind the front runners.

“I don’t like to lead. I always start out towards the back, and work my way up,” Kerstin continued. “I felt good. Maybe it was the weather. I like running in the cold. Also, my teammate, Brenna Johnson, pushed me. 

“I took the lead around the second mile. I was next to Brenna, and she kind of fell back.”

Brenna Johnson finished ninth in 19:52.

“I was in second,” explained Lake Mary’s Jaffer, “right behind that Hagerty girl. I didn’t want her to leave me.”

Kerstin: “I kept the lead, but could hear some girls behind me, breathing. I think it was a Lake Brantley girl, and a Lake Mary girl. That definitely pushed me. I was tired, but I held a nine or ten second lead.”

Fatema: “In the third mile, she took off. I tried to follow, but I guess my legs were numb; I couldn’t feel them. She got too far ahead.

“Right at the end, Sinclaire”—Johnson, the first finisher for Lake Brantley—“caught me.”

Sinclaire: “I really wanted to go out with the pack—I did that--and if I felt good, to break out. I (also) wanted to stay with Kerstin throughout the race, but I began to lose her at about mile two.

“I was in third, behind the Lake Mary girl (Fatema Jaffer). Then I started to hear another Lake Mary girl come up.”—Sarah Carrion, fourth in 19:29—“I wanted to get in front of Fatema. I was tired and hurting, but I kicked it in, and left it all on the course.”

Kerstin: “This is my third win in a row, so I’m happy about my senior year. The most important thing at Regionals will be to get top fifteen, and hopefully get a PR; mine is 19:07 at this year’s flrunners.com meet. At State, it would be amazing to get a top ten.”

Sinclaire: “It wasn’t a PR”—19:21.60 at last year’s 4A District 2--“but I feel it was the best race I’ve ever run. I was able to put how I felt behind me, and just run. At the Regionals I want to stay up with the top girls. If I can hold on…I can make it to States.”

Fatema: “I was definitely disappointed, but our team won. Whenever I feel bad, when the team does well, it lifts me up. That’s the good thing about being on a team.”

The previous three finished in that order: Kerstin was first in 19:14; Sinclaire was second in 19:25, and Fatema third in 19:28.

Fatema: “The (date of the) Regionals is also my birthday. I’m going to be 17. So I can’t have a bad day. I think the team can get second there, and we hope to get top five at the State Meet.”

Team Race – Fatema’s Lake Mary team was all that she had hoped it would be. Placing 3-4-11-15-22-30-69, they scored 55 points and won. It has been a long time since Lake Mary was so competitive, so it is obvious that the Rams are special this year, but what makes them so? I asked their coach, Diana Spielman, that question.

Diana: “It has definitely been a decade. We’ve had good teams since I’ve been here, teams that have gone on to the State Meet, but this is the first time that we’ve won the District Meet. I think it is the same with the conference.”—Lake Mary won that on October 19th, with 39 points, taking 2-3-4-12-20-38-47—“It’s probably been that long; we won that too.

“We’ve had the talent in the past, but not the most effective type of training. We put in a base this year, and that made a difference. We did a ton of summer running. I’m a member of a local running club—The Road Killers. The team ran with them this summer.

“We had less variety and more consistency. For example, we did more hill work. Instead of doing that once in awhile, we did it once a week.

“We also had a freshman, Daniela Urzua”—who finished 11th in this meet, in 20:03—“who pushed the upperclassmen, and I think that encouraged them.

“The other main thing is that we did race pace running. But first, we did an all-out quarter mile, to simulate being tired. In the past we just ran the race pace workout.

“My best (runners) have been doing two-a-days on their own. Once you have the successes, it increases enthusiasm and the work ethic.

“There’s only so much a coach can do. It has to come from them, and this year I think it has come from their hearts.”

Winter Springs’ top runner was Rachel Singer (19:33), on the front end of a 5-10-12-20-23-33-53 spread that came in second with 70 points. Lake Brantley’s 95 points placed third (2-6-18-34-35-38-54), and Lyman was fourth with 104 points (7-8-19-31-39-49-50). As mentioned, there were 13 teams and 89 runners in this race.

Boys’ Race

For DeLand’s Keneth Pineiro, this has been an uncomfortably long season, with too many non-running “events,” and too few chances to run the way he had hoped. No doubt one of the low points for him was the October 19th 5 Star Conference Championship, when he simply ran out of gas and finished second behind teammate Kevin Gilhooly. Not to detract from Gilhooly’s finishing kick, but “the old Pineiro” would have been well over a minute ahead had a series of unfortunate events not culminated in a frustrating race that day.

But on this day, Janus was facing forward, not back, and “the old” Keneth was back on track.

“I guess I was more focused and relaxed,” he said after the race. “I made everyone work the first mile (5:05). From there I tried to break them (the field). I threw in a surge coming out of the first mile. The inside loop is the make-or-break point. I just worked it.

“But it was a tough field, because everyone else was coming in with a better season than me,” Keneth confessed.

Included in that field was Lyman’s Joshua Jacques.

“At around the mile mark I started to pick it up,” Jacques explained, “especially the section in the woods, where Ken was the only one ahead of me.  I felt I needed to. That’s where I broke away from my team.

“He started slowing; I could tell. I tried my best, but around the turn, about 100 yards out, I knew he had it.”

“The Lyman kid came back. I hung on. If it”—the course—“was a little longer, he might have caught me,” Keneth admitted.

“I respect guys like Ken Pineiro and Ryan Degale,” said Jacques.  “Since I was a freshman, I’ve looked up to them. They motivated me to be where I am now, and to keep going. I’ve had some medical barriers to overcome, and people like that have helped me. When a runner has had the problems he’s had, it’s good to have a confidence builder like this win. I’m happy to see that he’s doing better.”

Jacques, a sophomore, finished second in 16:08. Finishing in third was Lake Mary junior Ryan Degale. Although he had an early lead, and kept pace with Pineiro for half the race, Degale eventually slipped behind.

“I’m not familiar with this course,” Ryan said. “The last time I ran it was my freshman year. It was tough. It had a couple of little hills that pushed against your legs.

“I wanted to try to get ahead of him,” Degale continued. “I haven’t run against him in awhile, but I knew he’d push me to be really good. Once he left me, I knew I’d have to keep a certain distance behind him, so I didn’t fall off the pace. After flrunners.com”—where he ran his first sub-16, a 15:41.70 personal best—“I fell off a little, but I’m steadily making my way back, and hopefully I can get back into the 15s.”

In this race, Degale was third in 16:16.

Pineiro finished first in 16:03, his best time by far this year, and just five seconds off his time in last year’s 4A District 2 Meet (15:58.10). His best time in 2012 was a 15:34.93, a PR he ran while in pursuit of Andres Arroyo (15:12.61). Can he do it again?

“At Regionals, I’m going to try to make it to State,” Keneth responded.  “In that race my position will be more important than winning. It’s a possibility that I can get near my time, but the most important thing is to make it as far as I can.”

Team Race – With 60 points (2-4-14-15-25-26-36), Lyman held off Lake Mary (3-5-10-24-39-33-40; 72 points) and Hagerty (7-11-16-21-28-50-57; 83 points). Lake Howell’s 130 punched in the district’s last ticket to the next level (8-13-17-39-53-64-77). 91 runners and 13 teams ran.

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