Recap: Conquistador Kickoff

By Jesus Batista

Once the scorching summer heat began to wane, signaling the arrival of autumn, the cross country season kicked off at Larry & Penny Thompson Park. This renowned course, known as a limestone graveyard, was notorious for its treacherous terrain, where twisted ankles were a common occurrence. However, the determined runners overcame both the oppressive Miami heat and the unforgiving rocky paths.

In the girls' race, Daniella Perez-Cartaya, a senior from Palmer Trinity, wasted no time in establishing her dominance. She seized the lead right from the start and maintained her position throughout the race. With an impressive first-mile split of 6:16, she held on to first place, showcasing her remarkable endurance and determination.

Following closely behind was Kaycie Aquilino, also a senior, who displayed her potential as the new leader of the Sabre squad with a commendable second-place finish. And in third place, a sophomore from Downtown Doral Charter named Gabriela Gonzalez-Orbegoso made a remarkable surge in the final mile, showcasing her talent and hinting at a bright future as a rising star in the sport.

On the boys' side, Henry Stark, known as Ironman, claimed the top spot with an astounding time of 16:15 at Larry & Penny. This time was simply remarkable, equivalent to running a blistering 15:55 on any other course in the state. As a senior, Henry had a phenomenal summer on the track, winning national titles in the 1500 and 3000 meters in Ohio. Now, with this spectacular cross country performance, all eyes were on him as the state series approached, anticipating more incredible performances.

Taking second place for the boys was Marc Gonzalez, who had already begun the season with a strong 16:15 finish at Dunbar. Returning to Larry & Penny, he conquered the challenging course and crossed the line in an impressive 16:37.

And in third place, all the way from Marathon, Florida, a junior named Vaclav Bursa made a remarkable appearance. Despite having only one week of training under his belt, he pushed through the demanding course and finished with a time of 17:44, showcasing his natural talent and determination.

The clash between South Florida's scorching heat and the demanding nature of cross country was just the beginning of the season. Thanks to the efforts of Ryan Raposo, the athletic director of Florida National University, who organized a fantastic kickoff meet, the runners were able to showcase their skills.

With the Race of the Thoroughbreds classic at Larry & Penny Park scheduled for September 1st, the stage was set for another exhilarating competition, where runners would continue to push their limits and strive for greatness.