Pine Crest Girls, Columbus Boys Win Big At Under the Lights/Twilight Kickoff

The 2017 cross country season kicked off in north Miami yesterday at the first ever Under the Lights/Twilight kickoff at St. Thomas University. There were questions about possible weather complications throughout the day as it has been rainy in the morning and early afternoon, but by late afternoon the weather had cleared up nicely. Like a typical Miami meet in August, it was very muggy, but because of the later time schedule the weather improved once the sun started to set.

Meet Coverage:

Girls Varsity Race Recap:
The individual race for girls varsity champion created a lot of excitement as two powerhouse sophomore runners in Natalie Varela and Tsion Yared went head-to-head. Just a little history, Varela was 4th at XC state the past two years, which matches her 4th place finishes in the 1600m and 3200m at track state from last year. Yared was last year's XC state runner-up (champ in 2014), and finished 5th behind Varela last track season in both the 1600m and 3200m at state.

In the competition, Varela took the lead basically from the get-go and she created and kept a sizeable lead over Yared throughout the race. However, in the last 200 meters Yared managed to close a 10 meter lead to make an exciting race to the finish as the two girls ran stride for stride. In the end, Varela edged out Yared in the final few meters to win by a margin of less than a half second. In the team race, Pine Crest ran away with the huge 59 point victory as they placed 5 girls in the top 7 with a tight 40 second spread between their 2-5.

Tsion Yared of Pine Crest (left) and Natalie Varela of Gulliver (right) in the final 50 meters.

Girls Varsity Award Winners:
Girls Varsity Individual Champion: Natalie Varela, 10 - Gulliver Prep (18:59.63)
Girls Varsity Individual Runner-up: Tsion Yared, 10 - Pine Crest HS (19:00.01)
Girls Varsity Team Champions: Pine Crest HS - 21 points (19:44.02 avg)
Girls Varsity Team Runner-up: St. Brendan HS - 80 points (21:31.34 avg)

Twelve of the top fifteen finishers from the girls varsity race in no particular order.

Girls varsity team champions from Pine Crest HS.

Boys Varsity Race Recap:
The results of the boys varsity race was different from the girls race. Instead of a tight individual race with a blow out team victory, both the individual and team races were won by a sizeable and respectable margin. Individually Deshay Fernandes of Christopher Columbus led way for the majority of the 5k, while Guillermo Rojas of Ferguson gave close chase. However, Fernandes pulled away in the second half of the course and finished with a solid 16:51 season opener, winning by an 18 second margin.

As for the team race, Columbus looked in solid form as they handily beat the competition with a margin of 33 points. Columbus' 2-3-4 freshman trio finished in 3rd, 6th, and 9th overall, while their senior book ends were 1st and 11th. Most impressively, their 5th man was inside every other team's #2 runner, except for the third place team Palmer Trinity. If Columbus can keep up their 40 second 2-5 spread, along with Fernandes' early prowess, they'll be a force to be reckoned with come November.

Boys Varsity Award Winners:
Boys Varsity Individual Champion: Deshay Fernandes, 12 - Columbus HS (16:51.93)
Boys Varsity Individual Runner-up: Guillermo Rojas, 12 - John A. Ferguson HS (17:09.66)
Boys Varsity Team Champions: Christopher Columbus HS - 30 points (17:45.19 avg)
Boys Varsity Team Runner-up: John A. Ferguson HS - 63 points (18:07.06 avg)

Ten of the top fifteen finishers from the boys varsity race; winner Fernandes is top right.

Boys varsity team champions from Christopher Columbus HS.

Junior Varsity Race Recaps:

The JV races got the harsher weather of the day even with a later starting time than most afternoon meets. The course was a little wet, but otherwise the runners had a nice flat grassy course to work with. The varsity races had much better conditions, the boys actually got to finish under the lights, and the meet concluded just before the rains came back toward the end of the awards presentation.

The girls JV race was completely dominated by Lourdes Academy and their giant squad of 65 girls. Not only did they show strength by placing 6 girls in the top 8, not to mention 10 in the top 15, but they also had an impressive pack with their six top girls running only a 41 second spread! Their team margin of victory was an impressive 49 points.

On the boys side, Columbus JV dominated in similar fashion as they placed 3 boys in the top 5, with their last two scorers in the top 11. Their pack wasn't quite as impressive as Lourdes, but they pushed their top 7 inside every other team's #4. Couple that with a 70 second spread and a 20 point margin of victory and you're paving a great path to success!

Junior Varsity Winners:
Girls JV Individual Champion: Anne Bannon, 8 - Gulliver Prep (22:55.72)
Girls JV Team Champions: Lourdes Academy - 24 points (24:40.67 avg)
Boys JV Individual Champion: Yader Portocarrero, 11 - John A. Ferguson HS (18:59.63)
Boys JV Team Champions: Christopher Columbus HS - 29 points (20:27.30 avg)

The handful of Lourdes JV girls team champions who stuck around for the awards presentation.

The JV boys team champions from Christopher Columbus HS.