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At last week's HOKA flrunners.com Invitational Race of Champions in one of the biggest meet opportunities of the season for both Evangelical Christian junior Ava Povich and Our Lady of Lourdes Academy junior Olivia Fraga, both had very unfortunate situations happen to them and still managed to have respectable races.
Povich lost her left racing spike shoe at some point in the first mile of the race, while Fraga was accidentally kicked in the face by a teammate during warmup and nearly missed the start of the race receiving attention. Nonetheless, Povich still finished sixth and Fraga placed 13th in the ultra-competitive race despite those deterrents.
No such bizarre circumstances for them racing this past weekend at the Bishop Verot Viking Invitational in Fort Myers as they finished first and second respectively in the race with Povich notching her fourth major invitational victory of the season in 18:47, while Fraga led the Our Lady of Lourdes Academy girls to the team title with a runner-up effort of 18:56 just holding off Emma Hencock of St. Brendan in third place at 18:57.
Povich has now broken 19 minutes in four races already this season despite having not dipped under the time prior to this season and still remains one of the top-ranked runners in the 1A classification. It was not the first time that Fraga and Hencock have found themselves battling with each other to the finish line together as they are now tied 2-2 head to head in races this season unless want to use the Spanish River Invitational as a tiebreaker when they raced in separate races, but Fraga had the faster time.
The #4 ranked team in all of Florida, as well as top-ranked for the 3A classification in the Our Lady of Lourdes Academy girls, easily took care of the competition in the 25 team field at Bishop Verot with a 19:49 team average and winning by a 59 point margin with their team score of 61 points putting them well ahead of runner-up St. Brendan with 110 points.
Our Lady of Lourdes had four girls among the top 13 places and all under 20 minutes with Fraga, Johanna Diez (9th, 19:38), Olivia Rodriguez (12th, 19:46), and Sofi Martinez (13th, 19:47). There was a little bit of a gap then to their fifth and final scorer Ana Romeu (31st, 20:57), but it did not hurt them in this meet.
Port Charlotte's Tyler Wadsworth is still knocking on the door of his first sub 16-minute race of the season. The returning All-State cross country runner in 3A with a lifetime 5K best of 15:50 from last fall, Wadsworth ran 16:08 at the Spanish River Invitational several weeks ago in winning the 1A/2A race. He might have had his best race of the season last weekend in running 16:13 at Holloway Park in Lakeland with a 13th place showing in the Race of Champions at the flrunners.com Invitational.
Wadsworth was able to break away from the field early enough at Bishop Verot and try and push the pace to go sub 16 this Saturday, but was just 3 seconds off in clocking a season-best time of 16:02. With Port Charlotte now in the 2A classification, Wadsworth will be looking to be an All-State runner again this fall but in a new classification amongst new top individuals.
As expected, the team battle went down between Fort Myers and Naples for the boys. It all started up front too with their top individual runners as Naples senior Isaiah Barajas ran an exceptional race to grab second place overall behind only Wadsworth in a time of 16:23, but it was all Fort Myers after that.
Fort Myers would put four runners in between Barajas and his team's #2 finisher in Jack Marshall (10th, 16:46) with a pack including Colsen Palmer (3rd, 16:27), Joseph Koraya (4th, 16:32), Timmy Schultz (7th, 16:38), and Fabian Betancourt (9th, 16:45). Craig Allard Jr. would close the door for Fort Myers as their fifth runner and also getting under 17 minutes as well in 14th place at 16:59 just ahead of the #3 and #4 runners for Naples in Ricky Garcia (16th, 17:03) and Hector Toro (17th, 17:04).
Both squads would have team averages well under 17 minutes with Fort Myers at 16:40 and Naples at 16:52, but a 27 point separation with Fort Myers at a score of 32 points and Naples tallying 59 points. Charlotte was a distant third place with 137 points.