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On Saturday at the New World Fall Spectacular held on the fast 5K course at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Rheinhardt Harrison for the second week in a row dispelled a loaded field of challengers for the state's top-ranked runner and this time motored in the fastest high school 5K cross country performance that Florida has ever seen by one of its runners. It is incredible to see Caroline Wells of Winter Springs last week run the fastest Florida girls' time ever last week in 16:40 and then see the same feat achieved for the boys only seven days later.
The Nease High School senior and the University of Oregon commit Harrison crossed the line in a jaw-dropping 14:45 clocking to best recent Satellite graduate Gabe Montague's 14:47 all-time 5K state best run last November at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships as well as break the course record at the New World Golf Course (Cecil Field) previously held by the great Charles Hicks of Bolles from a 14:53 run in a 2019 regional meet.
Unlike the race at Bishop Kenny High School's Katie Caples Invite last Saturday Invite in which Harrison was willing to sit back with the field in the first mile then let Patrick Koon take over the pacing as they broke away in the second mile before final move in the last half mile of the race, the state record at 3200 meters (8:47) took it out at the gun to time trial this race with the rest of the field having to chase.
Joining Harrison under 15 minutes in a rarity as well to see two runners from Florida under 15 minutes in the same race was Viera senior Michael Toppi with a runner-up and personal best time of 14:55. In only four occasions according to our records prior has two runners from Florida broken 15 minutes in the same race, so Harrison and Toppi at the 2021 New World Fall Spectacturs make it only the fifth such occurrence. It was a great redemption opportunity for Toppi who fell early in his last opportunity to run fast at the Cecil Field Summer Classic to show what he was fully capable of running on the lightning-fast 5K course.
Grabbing third in the race and his second opportunity to measure himself up against the best was Leon sophomore Patrick Koon, who won earlier this season at the Cecil Field Summer Classic with a then 5K PR time of 15:15. In his second race at Cecil Field, Koon was actually 10 seconds faster in another PR time of 15:05, but due to Harrison and Toppi's performances had to settle for third place. Koon's time is actually a sophomore 5K state record-breaking Ryan Deak's old record time of 15:06 from the 2001 Foot Locker South Regional to add to the historical day.
With Matthew Stratton of St. Johns Country Day School also running a sweltering fast time of 15:10 for fourth place, the 2021 New World Fall Spectacular will go down as one of the fastest Florida 5K races ever thru four runners.
Florida's top-ranked cross country squad in the Viera boys were racing a man down with their traditional #2 or #3 runner Robbie Naberhaus not competing due to reasons unbeknownst and their's team depth was seriously challenged by a Creekside squad ready to try and take advantage of that opportunity.
Creekside with 59 points came up only one point away from pulling off the upset over FL #1 ranked Viera with 58 points as a sixth runner tiebreaker would have given the edge to Creekside. It was not as if Viera's remaining varsity runners ran poorly in the absence of Naberhaus as beyond Toppi's sub 15-minute race up front had Cameron Raney (6th, 15:54), Aedan Rendek (10th, 16:08), Joshua Ingalls (15th, 16:17), and Jack Girard (25th, 16:29) all finish among the top 25 places with season bests or near top times on the season for each.
It might just be that Creekside is surging as a real top two podium contender in 4A as they had a remarkable 18 second spreadly only for their top 5 scorers who averaged 16:11 as a group on Saturday including Mac Williams (8th, 16:01), Jesse Benavides (9th, 16:08), Jack Dravo (11th, 16:11), Jack Zurn (14th, 16:17), and Luke Kaelin (17th, 16:19). A significantly better team showing than last week when they finished 10th at the Katie Caples Invite. It looked like an entirely different team seven days later at New World.
The girls' team competition at the New World Fall Spectacular had a mild upset as a result of a team running short-handed. Last week's shocking winners at the Katie Caples Invitational in the Ponte Vedra girls were racing without their #2 runner in Ellie Moritz. Moritz ran a 5K PR of 19:22 at Katie Caples last week and could have potentially pushed for sub 19 minutes this week.
Despite having the individual race champion in a breakout race for Ponte Vedra freshman Sofia Bushkell, who posted the state's fastest time by a ninth-grader this season with a 46 second PR time drop at 18:17 for the victory, the Oak Hall School girls were able to just nip Ponte Vedra by two points for the team title. Oak Hall did not have the services of their top returnee and front runner Lauren Jones in their season opener at Cecil Field, so they looked like an entirely different squad 5 weeks later with her in the lineup and finishing as the race runner-up in 18:23 behind only Bushkell.
The Oak Hall girls seem to be rounding into shape to be a state meet podium squad in 1A this fall behind favorites Cambridge Christian and trying to stay ahead of the likes of Circle Christian School and Pensacola Christian Academy. Oak Hall had a top 5 all under 20 minutes at New World with nearly all among the top 25 finishers in Jones (2nd, 18:23), Sydney Miller (9th, 19:07), Alivia Dragstedt (11th, 19:14), Eliana Eisner (21st, 19:44), and Mackenzie Klein (26th, 19:57). A remarkable showcase of depth for a smaller 1A squad.
The Ponte Vedra girls also had their top 5 runners all under 20 minutes to showcase how narrow the team battle was with race winner Bushkell (18:17), Amelia Tackling (8th, 19:02), Lindy White (17th, 19:42), Aide Trejo (22nd, 19:48), and Daisy Ross (24th, 19:56). The top two teams at New World certainly could be the top two teams at the season's end in their respective classification between Oak Hall School in 1A and Ponte Vedra in 3A.
Joining both Buskhell and Jones breaking 19 minutes on the day in the varsity girls race were Leon junior Lillee Tang in third place at 18:48, Flagler Palm Coast senior Jada Williams in fourth place at 18:59, and Bishop Moore freshman Samantha Lorey in fifth place at 18:59 as a total of 26 girls who dip under 20 minutes as well.
Meet director Richard Fannin continues to impress and bringing high quality events and competition to this fast venue to roll out great times.