Fort Myers Invitational Coverage
Results - Race Videos - Photos
While all the races this past weekend were contested by Saturday morning, there was one big meet that lingered to be completed under the lights on Saturday in the Fort Myers Invitational. It turned out to be a fast one with 12 girls under 20 minutes and 20 boys under 17 minutes at the Kelly Road Soccer Complex in Fort Myers.
The meet included many area squads who had run fast initially at the Dunbar Tiger Jamboree, but ran slower on tougher courses at Lehigh Lightning Invite and DDD Sommer Invite the following weekends. This race was definitely the opportunity for them to best those fast times from Dunbar.
The top two finishers from the Dunbar Tiger Jamboree's varsity boys race were the top two finishers at the Fort Myers Invite as well, but the order changed this time as Palmetto Ridge junior Bernardo Barnhart got the best this time around of Fort Myers senior Colsen Palmer.
Barnhart was an unheralded runner coming into this season and had a 16:43 5K PR from last fall as 27th place finisher in the 3A state race. He also had a modest track season running 10:12 for 3200 meters. Barnhart ran nearly a full minute faster than his 202 season-best on Saturday to win the Fort Myers Invite in a course and meet record time of 15:47 to power away from Palmer at the end in second place with his second sub 16-minute performance as the runner-up at 15:54.
The team competition was equally as thrilling with Naples (77 points) squeaking out a 6 point victory over the host school Fort Myers (83 points) as the only two teams to keep their score under 100 points in the double digits. Both squads were the only teams to average under 17 minutes with their top 5 finishers.
Naples had the tighter spread between the two at 67 seconds with four finishers under 17 minutes and among the top 2 places in Isaiah Barajas (6th, 16:18), Andrew McLendon (8th, 16:30), Jack Marshall (13th, 16:46), and Hector Toro (17th, 16:51).
Evangelical Christian junior Ava Povich has been the clear-cut best runner in Southwest Florida so far this cross country season and further cemented that claim by winning her third invitational race of the season following earlier wins at the Dunbar Tiger Jamboree and DDD Sommer Invitational.
Povich posted her second sub 19 minute time of the season with her 18:50 clocking creating a 20-second buffer between herself and the race runner-up Olivia Fraga (2nd, 19:10) of Our Lady of Lourdes Academy from Miami. She is certainly could be the one runner who could break up the loaded Cambridge Christian group of stars in Caroline Lehman, Mary Ellen Eudaly, and Eliana Black upfront and expected to sweep the top 3 places individually in the 1A classification.
Meanwhile, Fraga and her Our Lady of Lourdes Academy teammates made their second consecutive trip across Alligator Alley to enjoy another team title after taking home the first place trophy at DDD Sommer Invite in Estero last Saturday. Their depth was on display the prior day with the next seven runners (#8-14) on their team finishing third against other teams' varsity lineups in the King of the Hill race at Tropical Park in Miami.
Their 53 point team total and 19:59 team average at the Fort Myers Invite separated them from the next best finishing squads in the meet as would need to double their points to find the next teams in the standings with Naples at 108 points for second and Bishop Verot at 115 points for third place.
Neither Fraga, a sprinter during the track season and the team's next finisher in Johanna Diez, who finished fourth overall in 19:37, ran on the cross country team last year that qualified and finished 12th in last year's 4A state race. While Diez did not race last fall, she was the team's top finisher at the state meet on their 2019 state meet squad which finished 3rd in 4A.
Our Lady of Lourdes Academy girls had nearly two more runners finish among the top 15 places with freshman Olivia Rodriguez in eighth place at 19:50 and senior Sofi Martinez in 16th place at 20:23. Look out for this squad from Miami to challenge for a podium spot among a short list of contenders now in the 3A girls classification.