1A Girls Recap: Oak Hall Wins 5th State Title

The 1A girls race at this year's FHSAA State Cross Country Championships expected to be the most competitive team battle of all 8 races of the day, but still the unexpected happened.

The Oak Hall School, who were not considered as a real state title contending team until after their dominant 1A Region 2 team victory last weekend in Gainesville, leapfrogged all 3 teams that had been considered as the team favorites at some point this season in defending champions Cambridge Christian, Pensacola Christian Academy, and Maclay School.

The momentum was building for them to be a late surging dark horse pick to win after their regional meet results merge with other regional races held on the same day at Santa Fe Regional saw them actually outperforming the 4A state champions from Buchholz as well as competitive close to last year's 3A state champions form Ponte Vedra. 

The Oak Hall girls were led by All-State top 15 and sub 19 minute finishes from senior Sydney Miller (6th, 18:48) and sophomore Alivia Dragstedt (10th, 18:56). Their remaining scoring five lineup all came thru the finish line next among the top 25 places overall with junior Mackenzie Klein (17th, 19:20) and a pair of eighth graders in Lola Murfee (18th, 19:26) and Valeria Beaver (25th, 19:43).

With a team score of 59 points as well as team average of 19:15 and keeping their top 5 spread under a minute at 55 seconds, the Oak Hall girls actually broke open a team race that was projected to be single digits separation coming into the meet.

With Oak Hall also only graduating their front runner in Sydney Miller, they will be positioned well to compete for another state title in 2022 under the direction of coach Edwin Mctureous. Saturday was the program's fifth overall state title with prior state meet victories in 2012, 2016, 2019, and 2020 with Coach Mctureous at the helm in all of those years.

Cambridge Christian remained a podium team despite falling short of repeating as state champions in second place with 79 points, while Pensacola Christian finished third with 98 points, Maclay School in fourth with 108 points, and Circle Christian in fifth place with 123 points. 

The Cambridge Christian girls had a 1-2 finish from ninth grader Eliana Black (17:55) and junior Madeleine Gear (18:09) rolling to fast times dominating the race up front to spearhead their attempt to repeat as the 1A state champions.

Oak Hall had a considerable lead at the mile mark with 81 points to Cambridge Christian with 120 points. Cambridge Christian closed that gap down to only an 8 point margin at the two mile mark with Oak Hall tallying 73 points and Cambridge Christian at 81 points with a mile to go. The final mile though saw Oak Hall getting a second wind in gaining 12 more spots though to ultimately win. 

Despite getting sub 20 minute races from Avery Pham (23rd, 19:34), Madelyn Spadaro (30th, 19:50), and Micah Friedman (36th, 19:59) as well as nearly another one from Amirah Johnson (39th, 20:02) as their sixth runner, it was not enough to match up with Oak Hall but enough to distance themselves from other formidable squads in Pensacola Christian, Maclay, and Circle Christian. Only Spadaro graduates from their varsity lineup, so Cambridge Christian will certainly be in contention again in 2022.

The Pensacola Christian girls were looking to get on the podium for the first team in their program's history but fell just short of that goal by 19 minutes. PCA had 3 of their individuals earn All-State honors in the Tutton sisters in freshman Jaimee Tutton (7th, 18:49) and junior RaeAnne Tutton (8th, 18:49) along with freshman teammate Reagan Smith (11th, 18:59) also dipping under 19 minutes to join the Tutton's on the podium.

Another pair of sisters in the Koeppel's, Susan Gracie Koeppel (13th, 19:06) and Lillian Koeppel (15th, 19:13), led the Maclay School girls with their All-State individual races. Maclay School, who was the top finishing 1A school at the FSU Pre-State Invite last month, ended up with a fourth place state meet finish at a team score of 108 points and 19:37 team average. Maclay School is another squad of many amongst the top squads in 1A that has minimal or no graduation losses from their top 7 for next fall.

There was no doubt that the individual race winner would be FL #1 ranked Eliana Black as from start to finish this season, the ninth grader has been the state's most dominant runner without a single loss blemishing her record and breaking 18 minutes in all of her races. 

Black won her first of likely many future FHSAA high school state titles in cross country and track finishing with another sub 18 minute time of 17:55 at Apalachee Regional Park. She blistered the first mile in 5:20 before settling down to split 11:20 at two miles. 

If she can win state cross country titles over the next 3 years then she would become only the sixth ever 4-time state girls cross country champion in FHSAA history. 

The race for second place was more compelling as Ava Wyant of The Master's Academy got out quick on the first loop on Madeleine Gear of Cambridge Christian and Ava Povich of Evangelical Christian including a 10 second advantage at the mile mark in 5:31, but ultimately both would move up with Gear taking second place in a time of 18:09 while the Florida State commit Povich finishing third with a time of 18:16. The 4:53 miler Wyant finished fourth place with a time of 18:33, while Keswick Christian senior Ella Beckett rounded out the top 5 in a time of 18:44.