NXN Southeast Recap - Diaz Headed To Portland, Winter Park Boys Runner-Up In Open Division

On-Site Coverage

Diaz Lone Qualifier - Finishes 9th In Boys Championship Race, Bumped To Fifth After Team Results Tabulated

Miami Sunset junior Nick Diaz has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend. Three weeks ago, Diaz won his first cross country state championship. Saturday, he punched his ticket to Portland, Oregon for Nike Cross Nationals. Running with the rest of his teammates under the name "El Sunset Park", Diaz says the race was amazing.

"The hills were difficult, but I was able to push through them. I started off in about 40th place starting from the 1st mile and dropped it all the way down to 9th once I finished the race!

At the 2k, Diaz was in 28th. 19 spots later he crossed the line in 15:22.2 seven-tenths faster than he ran at the state meet. The top five individuals, not on an advancing team qualify. Initially Diaz thought his cross country season had come to an end.

"While I was cooling down I though I hadn't made it and I was okay with it cause I knew I gave it all I had."

However, Brentwood XC Club (the overall champions) and Severna Park (runner-up team) had four runners in front of Diaz, that bumped him from ninth to fifth and a plane ticket to Portland in his hands. He says then they called he was in awe.

"Words can't even describe how happy I was! I was just speechless when I had found out that I made it to Portland ,Oregon. This really does put the cherry on top of my season. I can't believe I made it still ! I'm going to give it my all for my last race in the season at NXN."

Diaz and his teammates had the highest finish of any Florida squad placing 20th. Trinity Prep (Purple People Eaters) was 30th. Estero (3D Running Club) was 32nd.

Girls Championship Race - Estero Finishes Fifth, Bright Future Ahead For Pine Crest

Estero coach Jeff Sommer told me after his team's fourth consecutive state championship that he would be taking his squad to the Nike Southeast Regional. It's a place the Wildcats aren't used to going, as they have done Foot Locker the past several years. So how would they stack up against the best teams in the region? After watching their coaches run the open division race, the girls hit the Wake-Med course. Katie Slater (pictured above), was in 14th at the 2k mark, and improved five spots to finish 9th. Her time of 18:04.20 was the best of any Floridian and three spots shy of making the national meet. Estero running as 3D Running Club had three girls (Slater, Leon, and Cline) in the top 40 and a team average of 18:58.42 to finish fifth in the team standings. Third through sixth place were separated by just three points! 

Equally impressive was the showing by Pine Crest's two youngsters Tsion Yared and Julia Montgomery (pictured on left). Yared, just a sixth grader, was the second fastest Floridian placing 25th in a time of 18:28.70. She was run of three middle school aged runners in the competition and by far the fastest. Montgomery, a sophomore and two-time cross country state champion was 29th in 18:39.10. Freshman Katherine Jovanovic was 77th while the Panther's other sixth grader Amanda Schwartz was 98th. Pine Crest running under the name Panther Nation finished tenth in the team standings. Their future certainly looks bright!
Notable athletes running unattached include Hannah Brookover of Clearwater Calvary Christian who was 37th. Evangelical Christian's Sarah Candiano was 93rd. Rachel Stockton of Lake Highland Prep was 137th.

Boys Open Race

Winter Park boys cross country coach Denniz Kozub brought his boys up to Cary, North Carolina for the NXN Southeast Regional. The Wildcats who were trying to garner the same success of the girls team who finished as the 4A runner-ups, got some attention on Saturday morning with a trio of youngsters. Sophomore Jackson Boucher and his freshman brother Alex, along with junior Henry Brenner finished 20th (17:05), 21st (17:07), and 22nd (17:08) to pace Winter Park to a runner-up finish. Juniors Frank Hipler and Nick Strange rounded out the team's top five. Kozub says he is proud with his team's performance.

"I thought the boys ran well. They are a very young team. They ran well with the hills and cold and will continue. This was a good experience. Cross country is the ultimate team sport and Nike does it right with their meet."

Also, competing in the boys open race were Robert Evans running unattached (57th) Bo Cherry, (59th), running for the Purple People Eaters (Trinity Prep), and Jordan Paredes running for the 3D Running Club (69th).  Cherry's teammate Ian Taylor was 184th. Pine Crest (Panther Nations) fielded a team with their number five through ten runners. Joseph Cabral was the squad's top finisher (67th) with a time of 17:51.40. Panther Nation finished 13th out of 17 teams.

Community 5k

The 3D Running Club came out in full force and I'm not just talking about the championship races. Estero assistant coach Ben Pingnatone was the first Florida finisher in the field of 89 runners. Pingnatone was18th overall with a time of 18:28.80. Luis Almaza was 44th with Estero's head coach Jeff Sommer proving he can still run with the kids, placing 51st in 22:31.20. Sarah Candiano's dad John rounded out the Florida finishers with a 62nd place showing.