Mount Dora Invitational Meet Summary

 In my neck of the woods, whenever the subject of the Mount Dora Invitational came up, a refrain about “those hills” invariably followed.  Having never been there, I was skeptical.  After all, how hilly could it be? I looked it up: Mt. Dora, at most, is 175 feet above sea level.  The highest point in the state is only 345 feet above the ocean, and that’s almost in Alabama! 
 As the saying goes, it’s all a matter of perspective.  If you’re on the top of a hill, it may not look all that high, but if you’re on the way up--especially while trying to outrun a horde of other people--the climb can be quite discouraging.
 Standing at the finish line, the campus of Mount Dora Bible looks like a giant bowl, similar to the big vortex that you roll a coin into.  The race(s) started at the top (behind the gym) and headed down the steepest side, gaining momentum along the way.  With Sir Isaac Newton leading the way, the runners sped quickly to the bottom (bodies in motion).  Once at the bottom, the net force affectionately nicknamed Agony Hill by the MDB harriers erases your momentum and returns you to a state of rest…with the long, gradual climb of Heartbreak Hill waiting there for you. 
 It was Heartbreak that did most of the runners in.  Some managed to run, others went through the motions of running.  More than a few just gave up and walked.
 Not so with Christina Edwards of Rockledge.  After all, the junior was leading the strongest team at the meet, and with her first place finish (21:14.56) they placed four team members in the top ten to win the Girls Varsity race with 38 points.
 “People went out really fast in the first mile and then started slowing down (the Agony of the feet),” she explained afterwards.  “I got the lead at the very end, in the last .1.  She (the girl who had led the whole way) didn’t have a jersey on, so I didn’t think she was in the race.”
 Well, yes and no.  The young lady in question is rarely not in a race. Coming off two recent third place finishes in collegiate races, she set a blistering pace right from the start.
 “I kept a steady pace…except at the (Agony) hill, where it was a little
bumpy,” explained the gracious almost-winner.
 Bumpy.  The spot where most of the field was humbled into slow motion hardly fazed the bubbly 13-year-old 7th grader.  Closing in on the finish, she followed her step- father’s explicit instructions to pull back and let a high school runner win. At this point, she was trapped by plastic tape and couldn’t exit the finish area without crossing the line (second), but will not appear in the results.
 Edwards feels that Chris Pruitt, the top runner on the Rockledge boys team, has been a big help to her.  “I love running with him (in practice).  He encourages me.  He keeps saying, “Come on Jess, come on.”
 Christine’s team is hoping this race will help them further down the road.  “Our course is flat and this is all hills, so when we run our own course, it’ll seem easier.”
 That optimistic viewpoint was shared by the “official” second place finisher, Jesse Doyle, of MDB. Holding back at the start, she waited for the inevitable. 
 “I knew the hills were coming.  The rest of the girls were sprinting, but I hung back.  They slowly separated.  I pulled (up) at the two mile point.  Christie was about 50 or 75 yards ahead.”
 Up ahead of both was the mysterious mercurial mighty mite. 
 “I knew she was younger than me.  She was in the lead pretty much the whole way.  She set an amazing pace.”
 The same could be said for the Boys Varsity winner, Joe Cathey of Calvary Christian (Clearwater).  There is no other way to describe his pace but blistering.
 After the race he explained his strategy. “I knew I’d have to get out fast, especially with the bottleneck at the beginning.  I went out fast (at the downhill beginning).  I kept my pace from there on, trying not to drop back on the hills.”
  Although his finish time of 16:36.38 didn’t hint of a problem, he was fighting off a case of shin splints.  “My shins are killing me. Shin splints, and maybe a stress fracture in my right lower ankle, may be coming back.  It started my freshman year.  I ran with it the last half of that year.  But I drank lots of milk and it went away.”
 With a training regimen of  45-50 miles a week, he has steadily improved on his freshman PR of 17:42--17:09 as a sophomore, 16:08 as a junior and 15:53 this year at Disney.  Next year he hopes to study psychology at Cedarville University, a private Christian college in Ohio, in order to become a Christian counselor.
 Solidly in second place, Chris Pruitt (MDB) was hoping for a mistake on Cathey’s part--one that did not come--to take advantage of.
 “I was trying to draft off him.  I knew he was faster than me and I knew he could pace himself.  At the mile mark he started edging away from me.  At that point I tried to edge up to him on the hills.  It’s my home course and I know where to surge.  He knew how to run the down hills.  He was booking down the hills.  He was able to get way ahead of me by going a little bit faster, especially on the straight-aways.”
 Pruitt, a senior with a 16:45 PR, is looking at an engineering or architecture major at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, for next year.
 Rockledge, with 59 points, won the Boys Varsity title.
 Replicating Cathey’s methodology, ninth grader Nick Rousseau of Rockledge won his fifth JV race this year.
 “I passed everyone in the first quarter mile and just kept the pace.”
 His 19:18.11, a PR, would have been the fifth fastest for his school’s varsity, which means that his next race will probably be as a varsity runner.
 Behind Rousseau, Cocoa Beach High School quietly won the Boys JV with six finishers in the top ten: 2-3-5-6-8-10.
 In the Girls JV race, the first, second, third, and sixth place finishers were sixth graders from First Academy.  Rounding out their scorers was a seventh grader, in 22nd (17th in team scoring). Led by overall winner Kuersten Gallivan in 21:09.46, their 29 points easily won the team title. Oh, and Gallivan’s time would have won the varsity race, unless of course you were counting the 7th grade girl who could have won, had she not pulled herself out.
GV-64; BV-98; GJV-39; BJV-44   Total finishers: 245

Footnotes: Because of some--shall we say, inequitable--FHSAA rules that allow some runners as young as sixth graders to run in high school competition, while others are denied entry because their district has no team for them, the young lady who led the varsity race until she pulled back must bide her time.  Her talent, however, is hard to hide.  Certainly one of the top ten prep runners in the state, she will no doubt make a coach very, very happy when she dons a school singlet in two years.  In the meantime, shouldn’t the performances previously mentioned, and certainly many, many more that go unreported, validate the need for official recognition of middle school competition in Florida?  Certainly, if a sixth (and seventh and eighth) grader can run varsity times, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so, instead of compromising and running college races, or limiting competition to small private schools?