Kate Ruona and her family moved from New Jersey to Florida for her senior year of high school. She has had a strong first season running in her new state including an All-State finish in last weekend's FHSAA 2A state race in 11th place with a season best time of 18:37, but has not really been noticed that much due to the fact on her team at Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota has been another breakout star in junior Addison Dempsey, who broke 18 minutes twice for 5K this season and was the 2A state runner-up last week.
In likely one of her last high school cross country races, Ruona won her first race in Florida by crossing the line first ahead of strong group of senior All-stars in the FACA All-Star Meet on Saturday morning at Holloway Park. She had finished at best second in any of her prior races this season with at least teammate Dempsey finishing ahead of her.
In a post-season All-Star race for seniors featuring a handful of girls who also earned spots on the state meet podium last week with top 15 finishers, Ruona was able to pull away from a lead pack of runners on the final loop at Holloway Park to win in a time of 19:09 as the temperatures and humidity started to rise as the sun rose. In the first loop and 1.5 miles into the race, Ruona actually was running behind and off a very large group of roughly 8 runners ahead of her but really attacked the final mile to gain ground and pass many.
Ruona had run 18:14 for 5K as a freshman in 2019 while at Shawnee High School in New Jersey and finished 33rd at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions held at historic Holmdel Park before a 50th place finish in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional.
However, her development in running was stunted in the spring of 2020 when the covid pandemic shutdown sports across the country and New Jersey was one of the more stricter states with restrictions for the following year as well with limited races on the schedule for Ruona.
Her 2022 outdoor season was a bit more of a return to normal and ended on a high note running a 1600 meter PR of 5:08. She is looking forward to first track season in Florida and possibly even running in some indoor track races, which surprisingly coming from New Jersey has yet to run indoors herself.
The East and West Region squad dominated the top 10 places with only Florida High's Niya Coleman representing the North Region as the lone top 10 finisher not from one of the top regions.
The East Region had 5 in the top 10 with Bishop Moore's Paige McCaul as the race runner-up in 19:19 followed by Boone's Megan Dolan (4th, 19:26), Trinity Prep's Morgan Cox (5th, 19:33), and Lake Placid's Carlyn Bobo (8th, 19:59) all getting under 20 minutes at Holloway Park, while Spruce Creek's Delaney Stephens was the West Region's fifth and final scorer in 10th place at 20:06.
The West Region led by race champion Ruona had three others among the top 10 places including a senior pair that led Osceola to their first state team title in 3A last week in Kennedy Downey (3rd, 19:24) and Abigail Clements (6th, 19:36) along with River Ridge's Summerlynn Kingston (9th, 20:04). Berkeley Prep's Kylie Stephens was the West Region's fifth and final scorer in 15th place at 20:24.