Winter Springs senior Caroline Wells culminated her historic high school cross country career in Florida by finishing tenth for All-American honors at the Eastbay Cross Country National Championships in San Diego racing against the best 40 runners in the country.
Her time of 17:38 in the fourth-fastest time ever run by a Florida girl at the meet when held at Balboa Park in San Diego behind only the likes of Ashley Brasovan (17:20), Carly McNatt (17:32), and Jenny Simpson (17:35).
The two-time Florida state cross country champion and 5K state record holder on the track (16:16) and cross country (16:40), Wells raced virtually in the top ten for the entire race with a great start with a 2:35 800 meter split, 5:21 mile, and sitting in fifth place near the halfway point at 1.5 miles into the race.
She fell back a few spots in the last half of the race but was still able to finish up strong and hold on to become only the fifth runner from Florida ever to crack into the top 10 in meet history.
It was the first race for Wells in California, but certainly will not be in her last with many more to come in the future racing on the West Coast as a signee with Stanford University.
While Wells was the lone representative for the state of Florida in the championship girls race at Eastbay Nationals, a duo from Florida raced right after her in the boys' race between Viera senior Michael Toppi and Leon sophomore Patrick Koon.
While neither was projected to finish in the top half of the field, Toppi and Koon appeared to work together for much of the race to pace themselves as best as they could thru the first half of the race and try to move up in the field of 40.
It was going to be a different and unique race for both used to running up front and leading their races this fall when they both hit the first 800 meters of the race in 2:19 yet found themselves near the back of the field with Toppi in 36th place and Koon in 38th place.
The pair appeared to run stride for stride together for much of the race after that moving up into the low 30's places together at one point after hitting the first mile split in 4:52 and splitting at 10:06 at two miles.
In the final mile, Toppi was able to hold pace while Koon fell off with the Florida State commit Toppi getting just under 16 minutes on the challenging Balboa Park 5K course with a time of 15:57 for 30th place overall. Toppi was coming off a hard but rewarding 14:41 all-time best 5K performance at the Garmin RunningLane National Championships one week ago in Alabama before flying across the country to San Diego.
Koon, who has the opportunity in the 2022 and 2023 seasons to potentially become Florida's only 3-time national boys qualifier in this event, wrapped up his 2021 sophomore season in 37th place with a time of 16:14. Koon has already set state class records for 3200 meters on the track in 9:05 as a freshman and 5000 meters in cross country at 15:05 as a sophomore.