MEETS ABOUND: Stars Shine, Unknowns Make Early Name; Best Is Yet To Come

In just the second weekend of the Florida cross country season, things are already in full swing, with big meets dotting the Florida landscape. Battles between top teams with coveted fifteen and nineteen minute barriers broken, can this only be September? The highlights and elite performances:

Edgewater Invitational
ORLANDO- Arguably the biggest race of the early season, the Edgewater Invitational at Cypress Grove Park lived up to its billing. The top performance was by Sean Burris of Rockledge, racing to a personal best time of 14:55, out-pacing Cape Coast Conference rival, Junior Alex Stewart, who led his upstart Satellite Scorpions (3a #11)to the Class 1a-3a division title. Once again, the apparently "Chinch-less" Flagler Palm Coast, #2 in Class 3a, came up just a little bit short, capturing a very respectable second place. On the 4a side, Winter Park ran away with the team title, placing all seven runners in the top twenty. Boone's Daniel Parker blazed to a 42 second victory, out pacing the field to a 15:09 in the large school division.

The 4a girls race was a fight between youth and experience as Lake Mary's Jessica Zabel (4a #1, Defending state champion) outlasted sophomore Laverra Morris of Orlando's Oak Ridge High School, both easily besting nineteen minutes. Zabel's performance, coupled with three more teammates in the top ten helped #1 Lake Mary take the trophy going away. In the 1a-3a division, the race for team champion was a barn-burner. The 1-2 finish of Cocoa Beach's Class 2a champion, junior Elly Kabboord and recent transfer, sophomore Shannon Miley allowed the #7 Minutemen to cature a two point victory over #6 Bishop Moore, despite placing two of their own in the top ten.

Ridgeview Invitational
ORANGE PARK- The Ridgeview Invitational saw a battle between a few of North Florida's finest runners. Vanguard's Steve Hassen finished with a Florida best 14:49, leaving the defending Class 2a champion, Nick Wilson, six seconds behind. Rounding out the top five were Ridgeview's dynamic duo Lee Yaracs (3rd) and Tyrone Bell (5th), with the pride of Belleview High, Ryan Ripley, the only man between them. The FACA's 3a #1 team, host Ridgeview, took the team standings.

The women were just as impressive. With times as blazing as the Florida sun, nineteen minutes was never gazed upon by three women. The race was taken by Buchholz's Marah Borgman, followed by Karen Edmonds (Clay) and Courtney Hall (Bishop Kenny). On the team side, Buchholz of Gainesville edged the newly 2a perrenial power, Bishop Kenny 78-86.

SUNRISE- The HealthSouth Cross Country Classic, hosted by St. Thomas Aquinas, saw some of South Florida's toughest competition. Both races were competitive affairs, placing four teams under the century mark in points each. Lourdes' Jenny Gomez showed why she is 2a's "first" lady, out-running the Shark's Gaby Polhemus, both with mid-eighteen minute times. The team results were a mirror image, with the ladies of Lourdes more than doubling up on Spanish River. The gentlemen provided close outcomes in both the team standings and indivdual finishes. Estero squeaked by Belen Jesuit 63-66, even without a top 5 finisher. Upperroom Christian saw their own Omar Osbourne victorious over track sensation Erick Ward (Suncoast) in a tight race, finishing with a time of 15:45.

Lincoln Invitational
TALLAHASSEE- Football power Lincoln showed that they can run too, hosting their meet at treacherous Tom Brown Park. Super sophomore Ryan Deak coasted to 16:31 and helped 1a favorite Maclay to a 22 point performance. The girls were no different, with 1a #2 Kara Newell posting an impressive time, winning in 19:31 with her Maclay team also capturing top status. Lincoln swept the runner-up positions, with Scott Poindexter and Allie Hunter taking the honors, respectively, leading their teams.

Gulliver Invitational
MIAMI- Larry and Penny Thompson Park saw elite racing, as Gulliver Prep brought their invitational to town. Dan Daly overtook correspondent Jordan Adler on the grassy and coral patched course, winning in 15:43.13. Carrollton's Lara Del Rio ran 18:48.53 to take the female title. By scoring all five runners in the top eight, the host Raiders walked away victorious on the boys side, while 1a's Ransom Everglades took an eight point advantage to the podium on the girls' side.

Another week of racing is in the books, with ranking shuffles and new additions sure to come in the near future. Regardless, that November morning at Ed Radice Park is when legends are made and positions finalized. Next week will be the first preview, as the USF/Jesuit Invite takes center stage. Circle your calendar.