St. Thomas Girls & Coral Reef Boys Pick Up The Victory At A Strange 4A-4 Championship

On-Site Coverage:

About the Meet:
On a typical hot and humid day at Larry & Penny Thompson Park, the 4A Region 4 Championship was anything but typical as most teams, and many individuals, had what can only be described as just a very strange meet. Although the meet was very well hosted by the coaching staff at Coral Reef HS, for those that know the sport and were at the meet, you can attest that this meet had so many weird occurrences, it would have been impossible to predict everything that happened the way that it did. And if I would have known that, I don't think I would have spent so much time on the Region Preview for this meet! Besides the first odd circumstance of the meet date being changed two weeks ago after it was originally set back in May, if you were a coach and had a check list of everything you did not want to go wrong at a meet, well almost every coach at this championship unfortunately had to check off one of more of those boxes, including almost every state qualifying school. And while I'm sure there are many other little things that went wrong for many schools, but it's only because these fairly drastic things actually happened that allowed me to put the list together in the first place.

Coach Raposo's list of ten things that you would never want to happen at a meet, but did:
1) Realizing your athletes have completely changed their running style because of their nervousness.
2) Having one of your athletes collapse (to then get back up and attempt to finish the race).
3) Having one of your athletes get disqualified for jewelry or uniform violation.
4) Having one of your athletes not finish the race (DNF) for unknown reasons.
5) Having one of your athletes run more than a minute slow.
6) Having one of your athletes run more than two minutes slow!
7) Having one of your athletes run more than three minutes slow!!
8) Having one of your athletes literally walk across the finish line because of exhaustion.
9) Having the timing machine run out of battery right before a race ended, to then run and get a back-up.
10) Having incorrect results read at the awards ceremony to only realize the correction after getting back home.

Girls Race Recap:
The individual title for the meet was supposed to be a good battle between favorite Alexa Cruz of St. Thomas Aquinas and up-and-comer Katrina Santiago of John A. Ferguson HS, and while the race was fairly exciting at the beginning, it became fairly scary towards the end. To start the race, not in her normal fashion, Katrina took off like a bullet towards the front to take the early lead pushing the pace on the narrow and humid course, Alexa tagging right off of her. They came through the mile shoulder-to-shoulder in 5:45 and as they approached at the halfway mark Alexa had taken a meter lead and they were currently running around 18:50 pace. The lead for Cruz opened up by about five meters through the two mile and that's where the wheels fell off the wagon for Santiago (see the next paragraph of the recap). Alexa continued to run hard and unchallenged throughout the rest of the race and finished in a very impressive time of 18 minutes and 59 seconds to become only the fifth girl to break the 19 minute barrier at Larry & Penny Thompson Park! It was extremely impressive for the hot day that it was, and she's definitely is the hands down favorite a week from now at the state championship. More than 20 seconds after she finished, the pack started to roll in which included four more teammates in the top ten which sealed the region win for St. Thomas, the defending State Champions. The runner-up team race was much closer as Ferguson edged Lourdes by only 2 points, although both squads had many athletes not perform up to their best, victims of the strange day that was.

(Back to Katrina) After running two miles under 12 minutes, somewhere in the trail of the last mile she hit a wall of exhaustion which caused her to briefly collapse to the ground and in her disorientation she decided to get back up and finish the race, running over 10 minutes for the last mile, more than four minutes slower than her personal record. As her coach, after seeing my fifth runner cross the line, I realized that Katrina had to have passed out somewhere and right before I went to go look for a fallen body a fellow coach yelled that she was limping in. To make a long story short, while somewhat disoriented, Katrina was awake and alert even when being carried to the trainer, and not too long after the meet she was feeling well enough to move around. Katrina is doing just fine now, although disappointed in what happened, and for those that have contacted me we thank you for the support. So what was the cause for all of this? Well besides sprinting out excessively hard, I believe this isn't a case of dehydration, but rather a case of hyponatremia (drinking excessive amounts of water) which has many negative effects in its own right. And although it's not something that is fairly common, it's probably something that should be discussed with all of our athletes who appear to be overly concerned about the heat and humidity that can be seen on race day. Just some friendly advice to all of the athletes out there, don't let your pre-race nerves get to you!

Girls Individual Award Winners:
Girls Individual Champion:
Alexa Cruz, St. Thoms Aquinas (18:59.23)

State Qualifying Girl Individual:
14) Katherine Heldt - Miami Palmetto HS (20:53.39)

The Top 15 Individual female finishers that advanced to the FHSAA State Finals next weekend in Tallahassee.

Girls Team Award Winners:
Girls Team Champions: St. Thomas Aquinas - 25 points
Girls Team Runner-up: John A. Ferguson HS - 61 points

State Qualifying Girls Teams:
3rd) Lourdes Academy - 63 points
4th) Coral Reef HS - 101 points
5th) Cypress Bay HS - 119 points
6th) South Dade HS - 188 points

The Region Runner-up girls from John A. Ferguson Senior High School. (Katrina Santiago is in the center.)

The Region Champion girls from St. Thomas Aquinas. (Individual Winner Alexa Cruz is second from the left, #962.)


Boys Race Recap:
Completely backwards from the girl's race, the boy's race had the top individual finishers look more as the preview had predicted, while the order of the top finishing teams was completely unexpected. And the reason why the team race was so drastically off was because of most of the things listed up above that you'd never want to happen at a meet. At least three of the top four boys teams had an issue with one of their top four athletes, which led to a mystery team scoring that no one could have guessed. The strange trend of the day continued early on in the boys race as the first mile was led by Santiago Saiki of Ferguson, ranked 11th by season best performances, who went out in 5:00 and had a five meter lead over a couple of St. Thomas athletes, and a ten meter lead over race favorites Nick Diaz of Sunset and Kurt Convey of Coral Reef. The push of the early pace caused many of the runners to surge through the next half mile where Diaz moved up next to Manny Velasquez of St. Thomas, and they were quickly followed by Convey and teammate Carlin Berryhill. Those athletes remained in the top four slots, with some shifting and with Diaz getting the individual win in another impressive 16:00 performance, but immediately following the finish of those top four, two boys in the next five finishers would be disqualified for rule violations. Here's where the team race became more interesting.

One of the finishers that got disqualified was individual qualifier unfortunately and so his season ended as he crossed the line, but another was from St. Thomas Aquinas; their second man. So for those attempting to do mental scoring, this made things quite interesting. Although, in my region meet preview I had said that this would be "the easiest race of the meet to predict" referring to the boys team champions, boy was I ever wrong. Of course, the other teams would make it just as interesting as the Coral Reef fourth man, by season best, didn't finish the race and the Sunset third man, by season best, ran as their fifth and to cap it all off, somewhere in the scoring of the meet, an athlete or two were initially misplaced. The team awards presentation had Coral Reef announced as the team champions, as there correctly were, but unfortunately the improper team scoring had runner-up St. Thomas listed in fourth, only one place from fifth, and the actual third place team finishers from Christopher Columbus listed second. Unfortunately this error was not rectified until after the conclusion of the meet, and long after the awards ceremony where Columbus celebrated and took team pictures. A big apology goes out to those hard-working boys. And as unfortunate as those events were, it seemed somewhat fitting for what ended up being one of the strangest cross country meets many of us had ever attended.

Boys Individual Award Winners:
Boys Individual Champion:
Nick Diaz, Miami Sunset HS (16:00.72)

State Qualifying Boys Individuals:
9) Christian Beauchemin - Flanagan HS (17:08.24)
11) Alvaro Rivadeneira - G. Holmes Braddock HS (17:19.19)

The Top 15 Individual male finishers that advanced to the FHSAA State Finals next weekend in Tallahassee.

Boys Team Award Winners:
Boys Team Champions: Coral Reef HS - 57 points
Boys Team Runner-up: St. Thomas Aquinas - 78 points

State Qualifying Boys Teams:
3rd) Christopher Columbus HS - 86 points
4th) Miami Sunset HS - 89 points
5th) John A. Ferguson HS - 95 points
6th) Miami Coral Park HS - 201 points

The Region Champion boys from Coral Reef High School.


Elite Meet Performances:

Girls Highlights

Boys Highlights