1A Girls: Hale, CSN cap season with style

As if Kayla Hale hadn’t done enough for the Melbourne Holy Trinity cross country program over the course of her career, her actions minutes after securing an historic fourth individual state title Saturday, spoke louder than words.

Instead of basking in the spotlight of her record-tying feat - becoming just the fourth runner in state history to win four titles - Hale was in the finishing chute at Little Everglades Ranch, heaping praise on her teammates while helping them to their feet.

“She’s the type of girl that the team title would have meant more to her than winning the individual title,” said Holy Trinity coach Doug Butler. “She’s just an unselfish kid.”

Hale’s fourth title, secured with a 17:45 tour of the 5k course - 13 seconds in front of Westminster Christian runner-up Nicole Carpio - failed to bring her team a championship. That distinction belonged to the Community School of Naples, which successfully defended its 1A title with 61 points; 35 fewer than Holy Trinity.

“It’s just as much about them as it is about me,” Hale said, shortly after helping her teammates from the chute. “They all stepped up and ran awesome and I want to enjoy it with them.”

She was genuinely excited for eighth-grade teammates Mackenzie Dummer and Brianna Wahy, who finished with personal best of 20:00 and 20:09, and the way the team competed in the uniforms Butler had bought for the final meet of the season.

“I’ve been blessed that cross country has always been this way,” she said.

Hale‘s senior season has been filled with stress as she ponders her college of choice. "I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders," she said.

Consequently, the 2007 Foot Locker finalist, endured more than a few rough spots along the way.

Still, she set her sights on a fourth consecutive title, determined not to have her final high school meet ruined by outside pressures.

“It’s what I wanted to accomplish and I expected it of myself,” said Hale, who pulled away from Carpio over the final mile. “I definitely don’t want to take it for granted. I enjoy getting up and running every day and meeting so many people at a place like this. It’s such a great experience.”

CSN coach Cassie Barone was glad she could celebrate a second title with her team, after missing last season’s meet to get married.

Sophomore twins Kathryn and Erika Fluehr led the winning charge with a 3-4 finish in 18:16 and 18:17, while senior twins Taylor and Chandler Burfield were close behind in 6th and 7th.

Their efforts on the front end more than made amends for unexpected gap back to the fifth spot in the CSN lineup. Barone had addressed that possibility with her team the night before the race.

“We said, ‘This is a team race. If one girl has an off day- and I knew a couple of our girls weren’t feeling good, which is why I brought it up - if one girl isn’t on, the rest of us have to pick it up,’ Barone said. ‘We’re going after the team title. We can make up for it in other spots.’”

CSN did just that, bringing another title home to the school of less than 300 students.

Barone’s team - which has waged a season-long battle with Chiles for the right to be called the state’s best - was even better than it was a year ago.

“It’s a lot of fun for the kids,” she said. “And, actually, those Chiles girls, they’re fantastic too. It’s so good to have another team to be gunning for and to be gunning for us.”

CSN won the only head-to-head battle with Chiles at the Pre-State meet, and will have a chance to duplicate that feat again this weekend at the NXN Southeast Regional in Cary, N.C.

And like Hale, who will try and get back to Foot Locker Nationals out of this weekend’s South Regional in Charlotte, N.C., they’ll tackle those goals as state champions.