Meet Preview: Babe Zaharias Twilight Challenge

Meet preview and virtual meet projections for the Babe Zaharias Twilight Challenge to be held on Friday evening, August 26th at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course in Tampa.

Virtual Meet Projections: Boys - Girls

Headlining the girls field should be the season debut of Elizabeth Williamson, the sophomore state 1600 meter champion from Academy of Holy Names. Williamson was one of the state's fastest freshman in cross country one year ago with a 18:32 5K best and only got faster over the track season culminating with winning the 2A state title in the 1600 with a 4:54 PR. 

The Osceola girls, last year's 3A state runners-up, will be looking to win their second major invitational of the season and it is still August as they look to host another first place team trophy after winning last Saturday's Dunbar Tiger Jamboree. Osceola was a runner-up at last year's Babe Zaharias meet to Cambridge Christian, who will have runners competing again but are sending their top varsity runners to Cecil Field in Jacksonville.

Osceola will have many of the top individuals in the girls' race after FL #5 ranked Williamson including Abigail Clements (19:06 5K PR), Kennedy Downey (19:25), and Avery Latto (19:39) all having run well into the 19 minute range and racing well last weekend at Dunbar to open. 

Sarasota senior Ella Menke, Alonso senior Skyler Gillett, Berkeley Prep senior Emma Flowers, George Jenkins junior Jaade McBride are also 3 individuals to watch in the race. Menke was a 21st place finisher in last year's 4A state race and has run 19:20 for 5K. Flowers is the top returnee from last year's Babe Zaharias Twilight Challenge when she finished 4th with a time of 19:36. Gillett was a state qualifier in 4A one year ago with a 19:26 5K best and also posted a solid 3200 meter PR of 11:33 on the track. McBride has great range (competed in 200 meters at regional level in track) and ran 19:38 for 5K last cross country as a two-time state qualifier in the fall. 

Look for Academy of Holy Names led by Williamson along with HB PlantBerkeley Prep, and Sarasota to battle it out closely for second place behind Osceola on Friday.

Plant has 3 girls returning under 21 minutes and few more knocking on the door to make them one of the better teams in Hillsborough County once again.

Academy of Holy Hames has a strong #2 behind Williams in Lillian Hund with a 20:05 5K best, but will need to work on their remaining scoring 5 to close the gap.

Sarasota has a stout top two in Menke and sophomore teammate Indy Grajalez in the 19 minute range with another pack of returnees in the 21 minute range ready to move up.

Berkeley Prep similar to last year seems to have a competitive top 4 that are capable of running in the 20 minute range this season, but will need to answer the fifth runner question spot once again.

The boys race up front should be thrilling between arguably the best two runners in the entire Tampa Bay region in HB Plant senior Albert Tawil-Brown and Berkeley Prep senior Kirin Karver plus add in 4:13 miler Alec Miller of Sarasota. Tawil-Brown owns a 5K personal best of 15:34, while Karver is right behind him at 15:40. Karver is currently the higher ranked between the two holding the #5 ranking overall regardless of classification compared to Tawil-Brown starting out at the #16 spot. 

The ranking difference between them is not based on times or talent as they nearly mirror one another with Karver having run 4:20 for 1600 meters this past spring, while Tawil-Brown was at 4:21.  Karver has had the better showings and performances come state meet time as an All-State finisher three times last year as a junior in cross country and track at 1600 and 3200 meters in 2A, while Tawil-Brown was unable to get on the podium in either season at the 4A level. 

In last year's Babe Zaharias Twilight Challenge, Tawil-Brown actually beat Karver as the race runner-up behind Karver's graduated teammate Ethan Lipham with a sub 16 minute effort at 15:52, while Karver was 26 seconds back in fourth place at 16:18. Definitely a good shot that they both push each other under 16 minutes on Friday when they match up.

Meanwhile, Miller is more intriguing to see how he will fare out of the gate in cross country after having a 5K best of 16:47 one year ago. After establishing himself as one of the state's fastest returning miler as the 4A state runner-up in cross country, it is inevitable that he is going to blow his cross country times out of the water this fall and why we have given him the benefit of the doubt to rank him among the top 25 runners in the state heading into the season in the #23 spot overall. 

Another runner similar to Alec Miller, who might not have the cross country success prior to rest on, but certainly changed his trajectory during the track season is Northeast's Eli Zuppa, who ran 4:20 for 1600 meters and 9:49 for 3200 meters this past outdoor season, after not breaking 17 minutes for 5K last fall (17:12) best. Zuppa should start his 2022 cross country season with a big PR.

Berkeley Prep could potentially take 3 of the top 6 places with Karver and his sophomore teammates Liam Jordan (16:25 5K best) and Storm Weber (16:35) looking to make another jump in performance entering their tenth grader after fast times as freshmen. Sarasota has another talented individual in Will Hartvigsen who certainly break into the top 5 though with his teammate Miller as he owns a 16:22 5K best from two seasons ago and recently ran 9:36 for 3200 meters on the track this spring. 

Other runners to watch in the race include sub 10 3200 meter performers on the track in Josh Davis of Calvary Christian, Roman Montero of Robinson,  and Brendan Roper of Sarasota Riverview.  McKeel Academy's Isaac Morrison has got some mid-distance wheels after running 1:55 in the 800 but has the range with a 16:45 best for a cross country 5K. 

The Plant boys are the top ranked team in the field holding down the #7 spot overall in the state and a legitimate contender to get on the podium as a top 2 state meet team in the 4A classification this fall. Their squad has a pack of boys who ran quality 3200 meter times on the track that are looking to match up with their first sub 17 minute performances behind their front runner Tawil-Brown.

Sarasota led by Miller and Hartvigsen will be the closest team expected to challenge Plant at the meet and come into the season ranked 17th best overall in the state of Florida and looking to make a jump from 13th in 4A to finish well inside the top 10 and closer to Plant, who placed 5th in the state meet race one year ago. 

A bunch of teams after Plant will be vying for second place including Bloomingdale, Calvary Christian, Tampa Jesuit, Holy Trinity Academy, Berkeley Prep, and Out of Door Academy. The theme is very similar with all these teams looking to be solid thru three runners but needing others to step up in the #4 and #5 spots for them to be competitive with the top tier squads in the state. will be on-site with race video and photo coverage.