Jim Ryun Invitational - Day One Coverage

On-Site Coverage

Interview with Meet Director, Paul White

Interview with Coach Jarrett Slaven of University of Tampa

Opening Day: How was the course?

The day finally came! After what seemed like forever--but really was only a few months--a new cross country course was born out of nothing. All summer we have covered the plans as they progressed at Central Florida's newest venue and out of an old phosphate mine that laid unused for forty years was born what will in time become one of the finest venues in the Southeastern United States. How did it live up to the hype?

Paul White, Ed Holloway, and the entire crew did a fantastic job pulling off the meet and carving out the course. Despite the wet weather of the last few weeks making life difficult for the heavy equipment needed to get everything set, it went off without a hitch. To be sure today was a tiny meet relative to what is to come on day two of the Jim Ryun Invitational.

To be sure, more work needs to be done, more sand to be laid, earth to pack down, and grass to grow. The starting line leaves something to be desired to get even footing over the first 100 meters. At this point it's certainly workable but not ideal. With freshly laid sand over the dirt that covers a brutal clay that turns to "peanut butter" when wet... the sand at this point is rather loose and makes for an additional challenge beyond just what the hills themselves would normally present. There are parts that need to be drug a bit more. But more than anything it just needs time. Once everything is packed down hard from use and then once grass begins to grow through the dirt, it's going to be nice. What will be left, once this course is mature, is a challenging course due to the hills... but one that will have good, a firm-packed surface throughout with good footing, and it with the grass it will be even more beautiful than it is now. What a gem in the making!

The times were slow as expected. it seemed to be running about 15-20 seconds slow per mile. The expectation is that once the loose sand is no longer a factor, it will be more like 10-15 seconds off pancake. Of course if you are not used to running hills, the impact will be much greater! Relative to the Syndey Dover Trails course where UT hosted a meet last week, it was roughly on par for the college women who ran both.

Day One Race Recap

Middle School Girls

This race was a two-way battle from almost the start. In the first ever race on the course, we saw a field of 71 girls charge up the hill. Most made it without walking!

Out front early was Brooke Santiesteban of Odessa Christian with Rafaella Gibbons (Orlando Glenridge Middle) trailing her early about 15 meters back, as they attacked the first hill. By the mile mark the two leaders were all alone with Brooke still leading but Rafaella staring at her back about three steps behind. Headed down through the canopied trail of the finish stretch and the final 600 meters it was still Santiesteban up front, but Gibbons seemed to be laying in wait unleash some leg speed. Around one of the curves in that finish stretch, Gibbons made her move and got some separation by the time they emmerged from the woods.

Gibbons finished in a very impressive (relative to this course) time of 12:07 for the 3K. This followed her third place 19:50 5K finish last week against high schoolers at the Spikes & Spurs Classic. Santiesteban held on for a second place 12:24, with a whole lot of padding before the tight battle for third between Celi Guzman of Seffner Christian (13:19) and Jillian Felton of Inverness Middle (13:22).

The Guzman-led Seffner Christian used an impressive pack up front to win rather easily with 37 points and a 14:47 team average over the Wiregrass Ranch feeder club "Real Deal of WC" that is composed largely of John Long Middle students at 84 points.

Middle School Boys

Judah Dean of the Hillsborough Harriers led the pack out early. The pack kind of fanned out after the starting line, as they went up the first hill in a rag-tag looking mob. The relatively small group of runners made use of the full width of the wide starting straight!

By the time the runners emmerged back out of the first finger of woods about the half way point of the 3K race, it was Joseph Fitzpatrick of Belleview Middle who had over taken Dean for the lead. Caleb Ramirez of Circle Christian kept the two leaders in sight, but by that time he himself had broken touch from the chase pack and it was essentially a three-man race.

As they went past the second kilomter and down toward the final canopied-stretch with 600m to the finish, it was Dean who had blown by the hill-worn Fitzpatrick. Ramirez found himself well back but charging hard. He made up some good ground on Fitzpatrick by the finish, but the Belleview seventh-grader maintained enough to hold on to second place in 11:24 with Ramirez closing to a 11:38. Eight-grader Judah Dean though continued to extend his lead and powered to the finish with a winning time of 11:08.79, which is a great way to start the season!

College Women

For many of the college teams present, it was sort of a workout kind of day. Most of the top teams on the roster going in decided to pull out their A Team in favor of tomorrow's bigger meet at the University of Florida. So it was a good opportunity to get in some pack running, hill work, and a rust-busting time trial.

Lauren Falcone of Rollins continued on her great season so far. Her 19:39 victory today was just seven seconds slower than her fourth place finish last week at the UT Early Bird Invitational, another slow course.

The senior for the Tars had to do much of the 5K race solo, as she raced to the course record time. Of course, I jest about course record since it is the first 5K ever to be run here. But it will be interesting to see how it holds up tomorrow against the high school girls times!

The University of Tampa did some pace and pack work and cruised in to a convincing victory over Pasco-Hernando Community College 29-48 on what amounted to an easy day for the Spartans. Their top three were around 21:30 today, after breathing down Falcone's neck in the 19:30s two weeks ago at their home meet. So it's safe to say their foot was not firmly on the gas. However, Samantha Greenlee of Pasco-Hernando had a good showing... her fastest race so far this year with a 21:11 for second place. She's been consistent... three races in 2012 and all in the 21:teens!

College Men

Coach Jarrett Slaven of the University of Tampa gave his men careful instructions going into today's race: run as a pack for four miles and then go. And they did just as they were told.

The true 8K course at Holloway Park is yet to be completed. So the men this time around completed the 5K course and then finished with the 3K middle school course (5+3=8 see how that works!).

Coming out of the woods around the three mile mark, it was Kyler Kathman of Southeastern Univeristy--a brand new college program this year in Lakeland--who was in the lead, followed very closely by Bryan Garcia of Florida College.

Not too far behind though was a whole lotta Spartan! So many, in fact, that the trail could barely hold them! They were shoulder to shoulder, three across and three deep at that point!

The second time by that point, as they approached the finish this loop, it was Peter Licari and Geremy DeWitt of UT had asserted themselves as the leaders. Licari came in at 28:49 with DeWitt in tow three seconds back. Garcia, who ran for UT last season, held on strong to interupt a would-be perfect score by his former teammates with a time of 29:01 for third place. Tampa went 1-2-4-5-6-(7-9) for a whopping 18 points. The Florida Southern B Team rang in at second place with 85 points, just a point better than Florida College.