As Always Blazing Times at Bale-n-Trail; Mizereck, Williams Win

Photos and Story by: Ralph Epifanio

I used to have a t-shirt that said, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.” On this particular day, the porch looked to be pretty much empty. Not only had the big dogs decided it was time for a romp, but their all their friends got pretty frisky too. The result was a long trail of hurried harriers, giving the hares absolutely no chance to escape.

Whale-n-Trail in the Boys Varsity

There was little doubt, right from the start, that these boys meant business. Even a few hundred yards from the start, as the lead pack of Brian Atkinson (Melbourne), Will Stanford and Matt Mizereck (both from Leon) flew past the team and spectator area for the first time, everyone bore witness that this, indeed, was going to be a footrace.

“I was planning on going out in 4:55,” said Melbourne’s Brian Atkinson. “It didn’t matter if Mizereck and Stanford were going to take it out faster. I was leading in the first half mile, then they took it through the mile (in his planned time). It was a pretty comfortable pace.

“When Matt and Will started moving up, I tucked in behind them and tried to stay with them for the whole second mile (which went by in a blurry 9:47). I actually felt pretty good. In the second lap, with ¾ of a mile to go, Mizereck and I were exchanging leads, going back and forth.”

As the two leaders rounded “Big Louie,” the left turn towards the finish area, with about a 400 to go, Mizereck held on to a slim lead. At their pace, the final turn into the finish came up pretty fast. A slight uphill, a quick left, and the clock was dead ahead. Everyone-- and the finish area was populated by a lot of everyones--was caught up in the drama, staring first at the clock, then at the runners, and back to the clock. Eyes blinked involuntarily. Did that read 14-something?

“Right at the end I made a desperate attempt to catch him. At the turn (and the beginning of a long finishing “chute,”), he looked back over his shoulder and saw me. I guess he had a better finish.”

From Mizerek’s perspective, Atkinson’s game plan didn’t differ much from his own.

“I felt that I was going to follow and let them, Atkinson and my buddy Will, do all the work,” explained the Leon junior. “At 2 ½ miles I could tell that he was struggling, Will had fallen off the pace, and so I decided to take the lead. This is where all the hard work comes in. When I saw the finish line, I gave it my all.”

That translated to a phenomenal 15:06. Atkinson was second (15:07), and Will Stanford third in 15:16. All three set PRs, and any of the three times would have won the Florida Today Race of Champions which was run, almost simultaneously, in Titusville.

Behind them, dozens of seasons’ and career best times were inspired by these talented and hard-working leaders of their respective teams.

Team Results: It shouldn’t be surprising that, with first and third locked up by the dynamic Leos, the team race was theirs too. Bishop Kenny, however, gave them a run for their money, and it was a one point difference: Leon (1-3-13-28-33-34-43) had 78 points, Kenny (4-6-14-23-32-38-49) 79. Melbourne (2-11-24-25-27-66-83), helped by Atkinson’s high finish, was right behind in 89. There were 28 teams and 203 finishers.

Like Varsity, Like JV

Winning proved contagious for Leon, and senior David Twitchell pounced on the competition in the JV race. He came into the race with a 17:15 PR, set in his sophomore year. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to improve on that in his junior year, because of an ankle injury. It would seem, however, that he is on the right road once again.

“It was the first time I’ve won a race,” he said, beaming afterwards.

Like his varsity team mates, he took the initiative to lead the race from its early stages, and despite one individual and an entire team in close pursuit, maintained it throughout.

“It was a difficult decision to take it out. I don’t usually do it that way, but there was a lot of competition today. The guy in second, from Bishop Kenny (Ben Canas, who finished in 17:20), was pretty much with me the whole way. He ran an incredible race.”

So did David. And with his new PR time, his next race just might be as a varsity runner, since that 17:10 moves him into Leon’s number six spot.

Team Results: Behind Twitchell and Canas were all five of the Peachtree Ridge runners:

Zach Beebe (17:48.14), Ben Zaques (17:48.45), Mitchell Dawkins (17:54.57), Joshua Tubbs (17:56.99) and Mason Havens (17:57.91). That 3-4-5-6-7 finish added up to 25 points and a convincing win. Their 17:53 average would have placed them twelfth in the varsity race. There were 17 teams (although three showed up late for the start) and 211 finishers.

Mums the Word

Sarah Davis, a junior from Bishop Kenny, seemed to take her coach’s advice to heart in the Girls Varsity race.

“My coach advised me to take the lead. I knew by the mile that they were close. I could feel them coming up behind me. I knew they were going to surge ahead, but if I went with them, I would die. On the other hand, if I hadn’t gone out that fast, I never would have PRd. I had to go out fast to do that.”

The competition, and subsequently the results, were pretty much akin to that of the Boys.‘

A torrid pace and a strong team dominated the race.

“I think a lot of different teams, from different cities, came here because they knew there would be good competition. I think a lot…almost everyone on varsity…PRd because of the competition.”

(Note: An individual who represented himself as the coach of the individual (both Girls’ varsity and JV races) and team champions (Girls’ varsity) declined permission for an interview with his athletes. He wouldn’t identify himself. In respect for his wishes, the results will have to speak for themselves.)

Girls Varsity Team Results: Chiles (1-2-7-8-25-26-28, for 43 points). There were 25 teams and 173 finishers.

Girls JV Team Results: Peachtree Ridge (1-2-3-6-15-24, for 27 points). There were 11 teams and 205 finishers.

Footnotes: My thanks to Bartram Trail’s coach, David Frank for taking time from his busy schedule to provide timely results. I would also like to congratulate him on another exciting and successful meet.

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