We are less than two weeks away from the state meet in Tallahassee. Regional competition starts Thursday with Class 2A Region 4 and will continue through Saturday morning. Over the course of the week we will take a look at the road to state for each class. Sit, back, relax, and enjoy our meet previews and virtual meet exclusively for MileSplit Insiders. If you don't have a subscription now is the time to get one!
3A Region 1
Nease senior Karen Xiang comes into the 3A Region 1 Championship in Lake City undefeated. Xiang has won all seven meets she has competed in including last week's 3A District 4 Championship where she cruised to victory in a time of 18:51.27, 20 seconds faster than runner-up Hannah Giangaspro of Bartram Trail. Her time of 17:52.20 set when she won the flrunners.com Girls Race of Champions is the best in the whole state for 2013. After Saturday, Xiang should remain undefeated heading into the state meet on November 9th. Last year, she finished 18th at this meet. What a difference a year makes! Sophomore Emma Rudman of Fort Walton Beach and Rachel Kling of Pace look to battle it out for the runner-up spot. Kling was second at last year's regional with Rudman coming in 4th as a freshman.The only time the two have run head to head this year was at Pre-State with Rudman over a minute faster.
Rudman is definitely a top five runner in the state and will lead the Vikings to the regional crown.Teammate April Polite will be in the top five . FWB has a great 1-2 punch and a solid pack 3-5. They won it last year and are predicted to finish first once again. Kling along with senior Cheyenne Andrew can help their Pace claim the regional runner-up trophy. Look for Nease, Creekside, and Niceville to round out the top three.
We have a burner on the boys side! Khosla, Morken, Roberston, Howell, WOW! Sukhi Khosla (pictured above) of Leon set a new course record at Pre-State and is the only runner in Florida to have broke the fifteen minute barrier. He is also the only undefeated guy in Florida going five for five. This time last year was when Khosla had issues with his IT band. He told me after Pre-State he was healthy and on a mission. This is just the next stop on a mission, that will take him back to his hometown on November 9th. The Niceville duo of Nick Morken and Thomas Howell won't let him win that easy. Morken has had a spectacular season and now has his sidekick back in Howell who was out the past couple of weeks with a hip injury. Howell is the reigning 3A state champion and recently won the 3A District 2 Champion. Howell, Morken, Khosla went 1-2-3 at this regional last year. Also, in the mix will be Mark Robertson of Pensacola Booker T. Washington who won his district as well as seniors Eric Tallbacka and Cade Zimmerman. Four seconds separates the season bests time of four runners in the top six. Interesting note, of those six, five are seniors. Khosla is the lone junior.
The team battle is really between two teams for first, and two teams for the third and fourth spot. Chiles and Fort Walton Beach, two of the top three teams regardless of class will duke it out at Alligator Lake. Chiles upended Belen Jesuit at Pre-State and with that win have to be the favorite in this race as well. Coach Gowan has his troops peaking at the right time and there is no better time than now. Both teams are fairly even through four runners so it could come down to depth. FWB won the regional meet last year. The virtual meet predicts Niceville with an eight point advantage over Leon for third place. Niceville has probably the best 1-2 punch in the state in Howell and Morken, Leon has the top runner in Khosla. Depth, depth, depth. How will the 3-5 runners step up? That will determine the outcome.
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3A Region 2
The 3A Region 2 meet will be held on the campus of Lake Nona High School. Lions sophomore Adair Lyden (pictured above) has the home turf advantage and for that reason is my pick to win. Not only is she one of the sweetest kids, it's hard not to root for her, but she is also one heck of a runner. She will admit she might not be having the best year, but she is really peaking at the right time after a district win last week. She won district and regionals last year in route to an eighth place finish at the 2A meet. As an eighth grader at Westminster she ran in 1A, last year she was in 2A with Lake Nona, and now that the team has moved up a class she will try her hand at 3A competition. Her biggest test will come from the Ocala Vanguard duo of Audrey Carpenter and Elizabeth Mulford. I had the chance to see them at the Land O'Lakes Gator Invitational and they looked real strong competing with the Estero girls. Amber Philpott of Springstead, Emily Kerns of Mitchell, and a trio of Seabreeze girls will also be in the mix.
Seabreeze has three girls in Kianna Bonnet, Elizabeth Murray, and Alyssa Bayliff who will use their strong pack running to give them the regional championship. Josie Gray should also finish in the top ten with freshman Lea Gray rounding out their top five. Vanguard has a dominant duo in Carpenter and Mulford and should place four in the top ten and all five in the top twenty five, enough firepower to give them the regional runner-up trophy.
The top three boys in the field have all run under 16:00 and all three are from Land O'Lakes. Senior Travis Nichols has rattled off three straight victories including a conference and district championship. It helps everyday in practice that he has teammates Tyler stahl, and Jake Poor right there with him. Look for these guys to stick together in the first mile and push the pace, then be on their own after that. Nichols has gone under 16 minutes three times this season and should take home the regional crown. Jean Carlos Peralta is the 3A District 6 Champion and like Lyden is running on his home course. He was third at the regional last year as in freshman, but in 2A. Others to watch include Joe Thrailkill of Edgewater, David Rood of Vanguard, and Rogelio Araiza (pictured above) of Liberty. For what it's worth our Donald Lamb, says Araiza is ready to go. The last time he said that was at the Edgewater Invitational and resulted in Coach Pauly shaving his head. If he wins, what's next coach?
Land O'Lakes coach Kris Keppel told me this years' team is one of the best he's coached. Not only are they talented, but they ran with passion. Teammate Steven Barnabei, the number four runner, has battled and overcame cancer. Coach Keppel is fighting pancreatic cancer. Seeing their fight makes the Gators want to fight even more. This is a team you root for after what they've been through. They dedicated their season to their coach and a regional championship will be even sweeter. They should place all five runners in the top thirty to win easy. Ocala Vanguard is in the driver seat for the runner-up spot with Matanzas, Edgewater, and host Lake Nona battling it out for the next three spots.
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3A Region 3
Barlow versus Edwards. Aside from Xiang, these two are probably the top runners in all of 3A. Head to head for a regional title. Does the postseason get much sweeter? I am getting excited just writing about it! The pair have met three times on the season; North Port, flrunners.com Invitational, and Pre-State with Barlow taking two out of three and winning at North Port and Pre-State. Both are great friends and recently committed to the University of Alabama where they might even be roomates. So, bragging rights are on the line as well! Barlow has the seconds fastest time in the state of 17:53.99 from Pre-State. Last year, Edwards won this meet, Barlow was fourth. So who do I like this year? Barlow's win at Pre-State was her first in almost a year. I think she is hungry and at the top of her game and will edge out Edwards for the win. (Emily if you read this, I still want you to blog on Monday). Fuel for both. Don't count out Araceli Leon of Estero or anyone wearing a Wildcat jersey for that matter. Leon has been running well and has gone back and forth with Edwards at the beginning of the season. Behind them a pair of freshman, Devin Molloy of Barron Collier and Sage Lyons of Sarasota should have great races. Molloy has finished in the top three behind Edwards and Leon in most area races. The top ten ranked runners have all broken nineteen minutes this year, with the 11th, Bree Salcedo of Cypress Lake right at 19:00. It's going to be fast!
According to our rankings, the top team regardless of class is Estero. Coach Sommer's group is always well prepared. That is what happens when you lift tires at 4a.m., do bear crawls, pushups, and bench press 300 pounds. I am joking (kind of), but you get the jist. The Wildcats have won three state championships in a row and are on course for number four. The regional championship is just one more step to the ultimate goal. Sarasota looks like a strong number two team with Lyons and Angelina Grebe in the top ten and their three thru five runners in the top 21 spots.
Five guys under 15:30. Another fast one is guaranteed. Tyler Bennett is hungry. It's his senior year and I think he will be ready to run this week. His biggest competition will be Zackery Summerall of Sarasota. Of the four times they have met, Bennett has won all four including Fort Myers Optimist, North Port Invitational, flrunners.com Invitational, and Pre-State. If Summerall wants the "W" he will have to be on his "A" game. He won regionals last year, but in 3A-2. Both Bennett and Summerall recently won their district as well as Alex Padraza of Golden Gate. Padraza is coming off of a state championship in 2A last year, and will face a new test in this classification. Summerall's teammate Adam Bradtmueller as well as Bennett's teammate Dean McGregor will also be in the front pack. Look for the pairs to work together and make this one a strategic race.
One point is the difference between Estero and Sarasota in the virtual meet with the edge going to the Wildcats. Can they sweep both regional trophies? I say not so fast. Sarasota will have two runners in before they have one, I think their four and five runners Brian Kerry and Jordan Gonzalez step up and bring the trophy back for the Sailors. Adam Sommer and Dillon
"Astro" Vallette will make it a close one, but I think they come up just a tad short this year, but an improvement on last year's third place regional showing.
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3A Region 4
Sarah Hammond comes in as the reigning champion. Hammond won the event as a sophomore in a time of 19:36.78. She has a season best of 19:52 which is the sixth fastest time in the field. There is only a thirteen second difference between the three girls in front of her so the race is anyone's game. Junior Bethany Hardcastle of South Fork was runner-up last year and should be the front runner in this race. She has run under 19:30 three times this year and has been the most consistent runner of the group. Others in the mix include junior Lianna Farnesi of Doral Academy Charter, Tabatha Henry of Okechobee (fourth in 2012), and Hammond's teammate Nina Li (fifth in 2012).
Merritt Island won the regional championship last year and the Mustang's return the core of that group again in 2013. Look for them to place their top four runners in the top eleven and top five in the top thirty. Junior Sarah Bowden should pace Archbishop McCarthy to the regional runner-up trophy, but will face a tough challenge from Suncoast, Miami Central,and South Fork. South Fork and Archbishop McCarthy finished second and third at regionals in 2012.
Fabian Tomas and Ryan Rodriguez have flip flopped throughout the year as Belen Jesuits number one runner.. Tomas got the best of his teammate at the district meet by two seconds. These two will be at the front with their teammates waiting in the wings. Speaking of teammates Andrew Iglesias and Carlos Penaranda of Pembroke have gone back and forth as their team's number one and will look to break up the Wolverines pack. Also in the mix, will be our reigning Athlete of the Week Steven Cross of Merritt Island who picked up his third win of the year at the district meet and recently set a new school record.
Belen Jesuit will win this one easily. The Wolverines are projected to score 27 points and place all five guys in the top eleven. The big question for Coach Ruiz's squad is how will they perform on November 9th? Chiles is a great team and had the best of them at Pre-State. Coach Ruiz told me it was the team's first in-state regular season loss in something like three years. Can they knock them off again? Belen has won six of the last seven state titles and is looking for lucky number seven. Pembroke Pines has a great pair in Andrew Iglesias and Carlos Penaranda and should end the day with a regional runner-up trophy.
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