Urzua, Cross Make Most Of UF Mt. Dew Invitational

Heavy rains Friday afternoon made for sloppy and slippery conditions at Saturday's UF Mountain Dew Invitational at the Mark Bostick Golf Course on the University of Florida campus. That didn't ebb the spectacular performances under almost ideal conditions. The course, trampled first by the Men's and Women's College/Open races, was pretty dicey by the time the 1A/2A races went off, but held up well throughout the day.

Results l Photo Album by Cedric Gillette l Photo Album by Caleb Wilson l Race Videos/interviews

3A/4A Girls

First off was the girl's 3A/4A division. This highly anticipated race featured the state's best performer, Danielle Urzua of Lake Mary against a seasoned group of formidable competitors in Rebecca Clark of Mount Dora Bible, Hannah Brookover of Calvary Christian, Alexa Cruz of St. Thomas Aquinas, Kara Funke of Leesburg, Bridget Morse of Columbia, Shelby Smith of Holy Trinity, Kristilin Gear of Fort Myers and Grace Blair of Oak Hall.

Clark made the race honest jetting out to fast pace and early lead with no signs letting up. With her were Bookover, Smith, Cruz, Smith and Gear. Clark's pace and the soggy and slippery conditions thinned the group out after the mile. That's when Urzua went to work. Eighth in last year's 4A final in a time of 18:33.60, Urzua's 17:43.80 at the Lion's Prowl set the state on its ear. At Mountain Dew, she affirmed her status of one to watch as she powered past Clark and pulled away over the final mile. Looking strong and determined she crossed the line in 18:21.17-10 seconds ahead of Clark. That margin was 1 second shy of the margin Winter Park's Rafaella Gibbons put over Clark at the Deland Invite.

Urzua knew coming in that many would have thought her 17:43 performance was suspect, but she certainly made believers out of all with her dominating performance.

Clark remained upbeat despite the defeat, stating she was keeping her eye on last year's winner, Alexa Cruz of St. Thomas Aquinas. Cruz, though, could never overtake Clark nor could anyone until Urzua's final charge. Brookover followed in third in a time of 18:36.18 followed by a strong effort by Kara Funke in fifth. Funke's time of 18:53.22 was just shy of her best of 18:45.90 set in finishing 4th at the FHSAA 3A State Cross Country Finals.

Columbia's Bridget Morse finished sixth in a time of 18:55.03 to edge Shelby Smith of Holy Trinity by 0.2 of a second. Morse's performance was more remarkable given the fact that she ran in Nike trainers which have little to no traction. "I was slipping on every turn," said Morse whose injured plantar fascia keeps her from wearing spikes.

Another performance of note was Grace Blair's 19:06.01 in ninth place. In the three successive years, Blair has dropped 104 seconds in 2014, 48 seconds in 2013, and 39 seconds in 2012 between Mountain Dew and the State meet. So, if she were to drop the slower of those times, she'd be in the 18:30 range or faster. A thought that provoked the statement from her coach, Edwin McTureous, "It's almost scary."

In the team race, Niceville took top team honors with 151 points. Dr. Phillips was second with 185 and Holy Trinity with 208.

Lastly, the start line of Mountain Dew is on two fairways. The runners starting on the south side of the starting line made a trek that added about 20 meters to the length of the course- 1 to 2 seconds I would imagine. Possibly more given that they merged behind the lead pack merging from the north side of the starting line. Possibly, that is why we did not see Danielle Urzua early on in the race.

3A/4A Boys

Trevor Foley! The Hernando sophomore looked very much the veteran as he took the bull by the horns early on in this race prompting eventual winner, Steve Cross of Merritt Island to say, "I knew he was good, but he is going to be really good." Like Clark in the girls' race, Foley's strong pace thinned the field into a pace line for much of the race. He finally succumbed to Cross whose lead only grew after the series of hills leading up to the two mile. Cross' time of 15:27.50 was six seconds slower than his second place time of 15:21.37 set at last year's Mountain Dew, but given the conditions worth equal to or faster. It also supplanted Brandon Marquez as the state leader. Cross spoke confidently of his thinking he could win despite Foley's aggressive pace. For Foley, he has now lopped off 46 second off last year's best time and 48 seconds off his season best time elevating him into the favored status in class 2A and within reach of the top honors in the state. He gutsy effort certainly made me a fan.

Lyman's Joshua Jacques's stomach issues kept caused some discomfort during the race. "It's something I had to deal with," said Jacques. Still he was happy with his performance and the outlook of his team who will be looking to repeat the team title at the state meet in November. Their top three sure looked impressive and if their 4th and 5th man can drop below 17 minutes, they could be in the hunt. Here, the Greyhounds took third behind Belen and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Seffner Christian's Noah Perkins held on gamely to the lead pack and finished up fourth in a new personal best time of 15:46.66 as he continues to improve each season. The 3200m state runner-up will is the odds on favorite to win the state 1A title in November.

Gainesville senior, Blake Lowery, made a charge late in the race, but ran out of steam and out of golf course in catching the leaders. Lowery's week may have had something to do with it. He flew to Chicago early this week and competed in the ITU World Triathlon on Thursday. He finished 40th there and then returned to Gainesville at 8:30PM Friday night.

"It [plane flight and race Thursday] may have affected me a bit, but I don't want to use that as an excuse, "said Lowery who set a personal rest of 9:34.71 in finishing sixth in the FHSAA 3A State final in the spring.

Adam Bradtmueller of Sarasota was with the leaders early on, but in the end finished up eighth in a time of 16:14.87. That was off his season best of 15:54 and 27 seconds behind Noah Perkins who he beat by three seconds at the Seffner Christian Classic.

1A/2A Girls

Skye Zeller of Space Coast led the way for much of the race. However, Maggie Rice of Newberry, which is 15 miles to the west of Gainesville, eventually overtook Zeller and extended her lead to the finish to win in a time of 19:01.27.

"I always look forward to this race, it's my fastest course, "said Rice who lowered her] personal best by 35 seconds. " I honestly didn't expect to win. All I've wanted is to break 19 minutes and I am almost there."

Zeller lowered her seasonal best by eight seconds in finishing second in 19:28.06. Her previous best was 19:36 set at Wickham Park which is arguably a much faster course. The 2:11.55 800m performer looks well on her way to laying the ground work for an improved cross country season and a stellar track season.

Favored Leigha Torino of North Marion was absent from the race. Coach Patrick Douma said that she injured her hand in a volleyball match this week and could not race.

Westminster Christian took top honors in the 1A/2A race. Head Coach Jose Garcia has a young group led by Claire Kennedy who finished fourth in 20:01.03 and Kyra Wells who finished sixth in 20:27.00. They defeated Eastside by 23 points who ran without top runner Sophia Sanchez.

1A/2A Boys

Titusville's Mason Jones and Pine School's Chase Hyland battled for much of the first two miles before Jones finally broke open some daylight. Jones got the win over a hard fighting Hyland by two seconds in a time of 16:23.34.

Gabriel Correa of Ransom Everglades was next best in seasonal best of 16:32.02 while Brig Merritt of North Marion improved 30 seconds on his seasonal best to take fourth place in 16:44.61. Merritt has improved 1:06 over his best from last season.

Top time coming in was held by Leo Ochoa of Berkeley Prep. He finished fifth here in 16:50.20. That was off his time of 16:27.76 in finishing 21st at last year's Mountain Dew.

Ransom Everglades took top honors in the team race with a score of 67 points. They outdistanced Father Lopez by 39 points.

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