Spruce Creek completes “Super Sweep 2” (By Craig Janson)
Conference championships are all about bragging rights for the coming year, and for the 5 Star it’s all about as close to a border war as you can have. On the south side of the border are all the Volusia county schools, and just to the north the very formidable Flagler county powerhouse of Flagler Palm Coast High School. A trip down memory lane can’t be complete without talking about the cast of characters that has made this event what it is now. For Flagler Palm Coast the tradition was started with current Embry Riddle Coach Peter Hopfe, and continues under Coach Dave Halliday proudly counting as its own a cast of who’s who in Florida high school distance runners. Matt Cianciulli, Sam Vazquez, Justin Harbor(all former state champions) and not to be forgotten Kelly Walker. These athletes dominated the scene from 1998 until 2005 winning 3 state team championships (2001,2002,2005), 7 Boys 5 Star conference championships and 4 girls 5 Star conference championships. On the south side of the border line bring in current Spruce Creek Coach Stephon Gallon, who in 2001 was ask by a relative to help coach the track team at Spruce Creek. It was supposed to be temporary duty, “I was working at the Department of Juvinille Justice”, and didn’t really see myself staying on for an extended period. Back in his first year as boys cross country coach, Gallon will be the first to tell you that he was just happy to see guys breaking 19 minutes, and in order to get a varsity letter you had to be in the 20 minute area. Good thing for Spruce Creek that temporary assignments can become long term love affairs. After years of emphasizing the importance of buying into his system, the 2007 Spruce Creek’s boys finally struck a blow in the conference meet upsetting a tough FPC team 42-54. The cast of characters, while not household names will forever be remembered by the coach proudly, there was Alex Frazier (now at ERAU), Joseph Elsakr (currently at Duke), and Ryan Gaines (Emory). They set the cornerstone for what is now tradition at Creek when they ran for a team average of just under 18:00 (17:51.93). “It was all about getting our top 7 in before their #5 guy”. In 2008 Gallon added the girls team to his portfolio, and a new set of characters that included current University of Florida runner Amanda Perkins, and alumni Laura Garrow(UF class of 2010). In 2011 things are quite a bit different than they were in the “Early Days”. Now there are morning workouts at 5:45AM, followed by class, and then off to the afternoon workouts. Team averages have dropped significantly from the cornerstone of 17:51.93 of 2007 boys 5 Star meet, to the current 16:45.27 and the girls average is only slightly off that of his first boys team with a time of 19:56.61 and to quote a now famous line from the movie “The Lion King”, “Change is Good”.
Senior Jocelyn Adona of Spruce Creek got off the start line quickly and began her impersonation of a greyhound chasing the rabbit at the Daytona Kennel Club. The only real pressure that she had was that brought on by her teammates Zoe Volenec, Alycia Loriz, Kaitlyn Kelly, and Tori Ehrhardt as they chased the tail light of the pace cart around the brand new course at the Flagler County Fairgrounds that actually had its own unique finish area in the center of the Rodeo Arena, center stage under the lights. Adona led from wire to wire as she successfully defended her conference championship of 2010 in a time of 19:59.30 on a course that while fast, had a lot of sharp turns in it that might have actually slowed her down a bit. Following Adona to the finish line were Volenec (20:11.40), Loriz (20:32.40), Kelly (20:50.70) and Ehrhardt (20:54.00). The top ten were rounded out with Orange City University HS runner Christen Daniels (21:00.40), Spruce Creek runner Faith Strasser (21:02.40), Rima Nathan of Mainland (21:21.60), Courtney Belgrade of Spruce Creek (21:23.60) and Josie Davis of Flagler Palm Coast (21:35.80). In the team scoring it was Spruce Creek winning its 7th straight title with 15 points, followed by New Smyrna Beach with 85, Flagler Palm Coast rounded out the top 3 with 92.
For some runners cooler temperatures just bring out the hottest times, and for Deland Sophomore Keneth Pineiro it doesn’t really matter what the temperature is outside. Piniero has been the hot legs in the Volusia county area this year with a PR of 16:15.70 at the Hagerty Invitational. On the team side Spruce Creek has been on top of the ladder, but FPC let it be known this past weekend at the Alligator Invitational that it was not going to just rollover and die. Add in the supporting cast of James Blasco from Seabreeze, and Christopher Westfall of University and things at the start line were still up for grabs. FPC had placed 4 runners in the 16’s at Alligator last week so Spruce Creek went back to the books to 2007 and used the formula of 7 before 5. The theory worked well in the past, and Creek’s top 3 of Andrew Carpenter, Kyler Kathman and Michael Fabian would have to add to the mix by being in before FPC’s #1 runner. So reading this you would assume it was a tactical race right? Unfortunately someone forgot to pass the memo, and the lead pack of, Carpenter, Pineiro, and Kathman along with Westfall, Blasco and 3 FPC runners blasted from the start line and returned 800 meters later in 2:10. The lead pack hit the mile in approximately 4:50 and shortly afterwards the lineup started changing. First Carpenter, who had been in command at the beginning started to fade back to the middle of the lead pack. Pineiro, sensing that the lead was ripe for the picking took control followed now by Kathman, Westfall, Fabian and Blasco as the leaders hit the 2 mile mark just over 10:00. As darkness set in on the course things didn’t clear up until the runners hit the final straight into the Rodeo Arena where Pineiro hit the line in a very respectable 16:22.50, followed by Kathman(16:35.40), Westfall (16:40.30 PR), Fabian (16:45.90) and Blasco(16:49.00). The top 10 were rounded out by Carpenter (16:58.60) edging out FPC’s Joseph Alter(16:58.90) and Brad Walbert (17:06.10), Brandon Marris of Spruce Creek (17:07.90), and FPC’s Thomas Carroll (17:08.30). On the team side Spruce Creek’s 7 before 5 paid off when Tyler Kameh finished 11th icing Creeks 3rd title in 3 years in route to a 32-57 win over FPC, and a team average of 16:56.06, followed by Orange City 112, and Deland 122 nipping Seabreeze 123 by 1 point.
Junior Varsity Roundup:
Spruce Creek’s Sydney Volenec, and Craig Jaramillo provided a glimpse into what coach Gallon sees as a very bright future as they took individual titles for boys and girls in times of 21:10.70, and 17:53.80. Spruce Creek dominated both events scoring perfect scores of 15 in each. For the girls the leader was followed by 8 of her teammates, Meghan Zimmer (21:40.60), Monet Bartell (21:47.60), Rainey Tyner (21:59.80), Leah Glassburn (22:05.90 PR), Alex Bramlage (22:09.80), Anna Kelly (22:20.20), Rachel Walker (23:02.50), and Kailyn Hart (23:25.20. The first girl outside the dominant Creek onslaught was New Smyrna’s Emily Gessell in 10th place 23:34.60. For the boys, Jaramillo was followed by Garek Church (18:06.70), James Armor (18:25.90), Kevin Keyes (18:27.70), Skyler Reese (18:37.40), Braxton Karr of New Smyrna was 6th (18:51.10), followed by Creek’s Austin Hodgins (18:57.70) and, Luke Proctor (19:06.60), Josiah Wright of FPC (19:13.50), and Tucker Tripp of New Smyrna Beach(19:14.80) rounded out the top 10. For Spruce Creek this marks the 2nd straight year in which they have won all 6 conference races, Freshman Sophomore Championships, JV Championships and Varsity Championships.
Special thanks to FPC Coach Dave Halliday for putting on an excellent event in a great location, and I am sure this location will be used again with some tweaking to make it even better. I also want to thank staff reporter Ralph Epifanio was on hand to take pictures, and graciously allowed me to write the article as he was on his way to Tennessee to cover the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships this weekend.
The 5 Star Ro-dea-o: Meet Summary By Ralph Epifanio
It may not have been “Cracker Days” at the Flagler County Fairgrounds, but Spruce Creek done lassoed and hog-tied the conference yet again. (Yeeee-haw!) Winning all four team races, and three of four individual titles, they closed out the “regular season” in the same location of North Florida’s favorite cattleman’s event. The meet was held at night.
In the JV Girls’ race, Freshman Sydney Volenec won her second Conference title of the month—she finished first in the Freshman/Sophomore Meet on October 11th—this time in 21:10.70. The first nine finishers were Spruce Creek runners, and they won 15-50 over runner-up New Smyrna Beach (who also put in seven runners in a row; #s 8 to 14).
Sophomore Craig Jaramillo (17:53.80) was the first of five SC runners in the JV Boys’ Race. This time SC won 15-75 over runner up New Smyrna Beach.
Senior Jocelin Adona closed out her high school cross country with her second straight individual conference title, and third straight team title (she did not win as a freshman). Her time was 19:59, and the SC team went 15-85 over second place NSB.
Deland’s Keneth Pineiro won the Boys’ Varsity Title in 16:22.50, a time that reads a lot slower than it really was. This course had ample amounts of sand and swerves, but he cowboyed up when it mattered most, beating the best runners from the five different teams that scored in the top ten. SC made it four-for-four as team champions—the third year in a row--outscoring Flagler 32-57 for top honors.
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