Photo Album by Ralph Epifanio (Over 600 Photos)
A Hawk has to protect its nest.
When Stephon Gallon lost his XC team’s battle with the ( bigger and louder) Hawk Marching Band, he was forced to move the finish of this race—from the track infield—to the much less desirable football practice field. (Less desirable, only because neither group wanted it.) But one must pick one’s battles, mustn’t one?
Lest one is overcome with a misplaced sense of graciousness, remember: “In Spruce Creek, you are either a Hawk, or its prey.” (I would add the author’s immortal name to his unforgettable quote, but I haven’t made one up yet.) Suffice it to say, this ain’t over…scrrrrreeeee (the sound a hawk makes just before its prey, freezing in terror, is impaled on eight very sharp talons).
We pause for a little background. Since moving this meet, Spruce Creek hasn’t lost…anything. In 2008, they won the Girls’ Race (Zoe Volenec in 22:16), the Girls’ Team Race (41 points), the Boys’ Race (Brian LaStarza in 19:08), and the Boys’ Team Race (47 points). In 2009, they (again) won the Girls’ Race (Zoe, now a sophomore, in 21:05), the Girls’ Team Race (23 points), the Boys’ Race (Zach Rooney in 18:50), and the Boys’ Team Race (19 points). In 2010, they continued their streak by winning the Girls’ Race (Lindsey Sullivan in 21:59), the Girls’ Team Race (16 points), the Boys’ Race (Brandon Marris in 17:59), and the Boys’ Team Race (30 points).
Which brings us to 2011. The Girls’ individual title was again won by a Hawk, freshman Sydney Volenec--who is “closely” following in the footsteps of Big Sis, Zoe--in 21:26. And her team placed 1-3-4-8-9-10-19 for 25 points. But in the final race of the day, Big Bird discovered his weren’t the only predators circling above the conference field.
Deland super-soph Keneth Pineiro can hardly be called a bird of the same feather (he flocks with no one); he is more of a falcon, and without question the fastest bird in the hunt.
For a moment, the outcome of this race was in doubt…but that moment passed swiftly, as did low-flying Keneth Pineiro. Somewhere well before the first mile, he put himself into over “dive,” and the only thing left on his mind was a hug.
“I told him I’d give him a hug when he broke 15,” kidded his coach, Jim Lowenstein.
I asked “innocently,” “Gee Keneth, only 17:04? Were you loafing?”
Defensively, perhaps, but probably more in earnest he replied, “I’m still a little tired from Saturday. I ran 16:15.”
On less than three days rest, he became only the fourth runner to break 18 on this course—three of whom ran in 2011—and shattered the previous course record by almost a minute.
Behind Pineiro was Deland team mate Taylor Hack (17:53), and Flagler-Palm Coast freshman Ashton Garrett (17:58). All three eclipsed the year-old mark of 17:59, run by SC’s Brandon Marris.
“He was seeded 14th going in to the Hagerty Invitational,” explained Lowe, “and ended up 4th. He was in third, and got outkicked. That’s saying something.”
Ken: “But I ran 15 seconds faster than ever before.”
Coach: “That’s the first time anyone’s outkicked him. Kids don’t want to be anywhere near him in the end.”
Ironically, the only ones near him at the end of this race were the last few finishers. Keneth lapped most of them in the woods, but he converged with the last of the stragglers at a critical juncture, within sight of the finish line. Because of the altered finish, the last 100 meters were on a narrow, slanting, slippery stretch of grass on the shore of a retention pond. Right where that trail ends at a fence post—the narrowest point on the course--was the only (moving) obstacle between Keneth and a sub-17; a Spruce Creek runner.
“I think he’s an oboe player from the band,” someone suggested.
In any case, Keneth was forced to break stride, did a little jag to his left, stepped around him, then shifted into his kick. Try as he did, though, he couldn’t quite make the hug-qualifier.
“You know, he’s in ROTC. Kids hate him on PT (personal training) days,” Lowe concluded.
TEAM RESULTS: If this were beach volleyball—and the course certainly had sufficient sand to qualify in that category—Deland would have had it in the bag. But besides Pineiro and Hack, only Brandon Russell (seventh in 18:47) finished in the top ten (1-2-7-28-31-45-49), and they scored 69 points. Spruce Creek, however, had twice that many, and roughly half as many points; 37 (4-5-6-8-14-20-24). In third was up-and-coming Orange City (I refuse to use that other name. The only University in western Volusia County is in Deland. What were those people thinking?) 99 boys competed for eight scoring teams.
9th grader Sydney Volenec has had an excellent role model in her older sister, and this year ran a few performances that hinted at her potential. But with Spruce Creek, you can never tell who’s going to win. For example, in the five previous “JV” races thus far, five different girls have finished first for the team.
At the Volunteer XC Invitational on September 10th, ninth grader Megan Zimmerman finished first in 22:36. In Deland on September 17, Alycia Loriz was first in 21:43; Sydney (22:28) finished tenth in the varsity race that day, one place and three seconds behind Zoe. On September 24th, at the O.C. Titan Trail Invitational, Mary Alex Bramlage won the GJV in 23:18. October 1st, freshman Monet Bartell had the FLR XII JV Blues in 21:58. Another ninth grader, Anna Kelly, was third of ninety nine at Buchholz on October 8th (22:19).
So what happens this time? Sydney is yet another “first-timer.”
“In middle school, I won a race,” she recalled, “It was the Astronaut Rotary 2 Mile Race (13:28.69 ON September 18, 2010). But this is my first high school first.”
The results of this one surprised her.
“I definitely thought that Courtney (Belgrade, third in 21:59) would beat me. I got closer to her, and then decided to pass her. I was, like ‘Go Courtney!’ But she was like, ‘Yeah….’ It was at the corner of the school, on the second lap; definitely after the mile.”
Asked about her motivation, she responded, “My family comes to every meet….”
And they too run. Usually it’s just Zoe. But this time, first Sydney went by in the chutes (“Zoom!”). Then, on the outside of the yellow tape, was her Dad (Whoosh!). Next, Mom (Zip!) And finally, Zoe (Zap!) Holy joggers, Batman, it’s Vol-train!
And what advice does race-savvy Zoe give her?
“She says, ‘just run,’” answered Sydney. “Never let it block you that you’re behind someone, because you can pass them.”
“I think a lot of it is natural ability,” Zoe interjected. “I know she trains, but she also puts a lot of effort into it. She has a lot of heart. I’m very proud of her.”
And her future with Spruce Creek?
“It’s changed a lot with the ten runner rule,” Zoe explained. “In championship races, the 5th, 6th and 7th runners mean a lot. I think she’s going to drop her times a lot.” She added, “I’m interested in seeing how close she comes to my best freshman time.”
Like Sydney, Zoe won as this meet as a freshman--22:16—on this course.
“I didn’t turn 15 until May, but she’s nine months older now than I was when I ran here. I finished up at 20:28 that year. I’ll see how she does, but won’t be upset if she beats it.”
TEAM RESULTS: With six in the top ten—and 25 points (1-3-4-8-9-10-19)--Spruce Creek feathered their nest with yet another first place trophy, their twelfth straight F-S win. Next was New Smyrna Beach with 80 (5-6-20-22-27-28-29), and Orange City was third with 90 (7-14-21-23-25-33-36). 61 runners competed for seven teams…and the band played on into the night…on the football field…and in the parking lot.
Something old, something new: Deland sophomore Keneth Pineiro, hot off his 16:15, 4th place finish in the New Balance Elite Race at the October8th Hagerty Invitational, set a new course record –17:04--in winning the 5 Star Conference Freshman –Sophomore title. Spruce Creek was the team champion with 37 points.
Freshman Sydney Volenec , with a 21:26 time, scored her first high school win while claiming the 5 Star Girls title. Spruce Creek completed a sweep of the team titles with 25 points.