A stress fracture to Melbourne senior Julie Wollrath opens up the door for other state title contenders. Can Jessica Taylor and the Openshaw sisters lead Creekside to a team title? On the boy's side, Khosla eyes a state meet record and its doable after his 14:52 at regionals at 14:59 at Pre-State in October. Chiles and Leon duke it out for the fourth and final time with everything on the line.
Check out our meet preview plus links to the top individuals, top teams, and combined regional scoring for all of 2A. Flrunners.com will have an army of coverage from results to photos, videos, interviews, recaps, and live Twitter updates of all the action at the 2014 Cross Country Finals.
Girls Individual Preview
Melbourne senior and UF signee Julie Wollrath won 3A Region 4 by thirteen seconds. Wollrath, who transferred from Holy Trinity for her senior year had won the past three 1A Cross Country Finals to go with her two state championships in track. Prior to writing this article, I would have said I like her chances to win a fourth straight, but this time in a new classificiation. However, I have since learned that Wollrath is OUT of the meet on Saturday and will not compete due to a stress fractuce she sustained at the regional meet. Awful news for spectators and fans as Julie is a spectacular runner. We wish her all the best and a speedy recovery! So without Wollrath in the competitive 3A field, that opens up the door for other runners to step up and bring home the gold. Sarasota senior Angelina Grebe has won all but two of her races this season including district and 3A regional championships where she defeated top runners Devin Molloy of Barron Collier, Daley Cline of Estero, and Kristlin Gear of Fort Myers. Those four all have the potential to place very high. Grebe races smart and knows what it takes to get the job done.Another runner to watch out for is Emma Rudman. The Fort Walton Beach junior hasnt had an impressive season, but she is the top returner form last year's field after coming in 4th. She has run 4:53.46 for 1,600 meters and has one of the best kicks in this field. If Rudman, can stay with the leaders and it comes down to a foot race, she might surprise some people. Another runner, who has been featured in our Performer of the Week polls the past couple weeks and has a shot at the title is Elizabeth Mulford of Vanguard. One of Mulford's coaches told me she was working towards states and has looked very strong in recent workouts. Others to watch for include 3A Region 2 champion Kara Funke, 3A 1 champion Kelly Aponte, and the Creekside trio of Jessica Taylor and the Openshaw sisters.
Girls Team Preview
Creekside has a very strong top three in seniors Jessica Taylor and Colleen Openshaw, as well as her freshman sister Tara Openshaw. The Knights are armored up for this battle and should win the team title quite easily. The battle for second will come from Sarasota and Ft. Myers which came out of 3A Region 3. The Sailors beat the Green Wave on a tie breakter. Vanguard has one of the strongest 1-2 punches in Mulford and and teammate Audrey Carpenter and could sneak onto the second podium if the southwest Florida schools falter.
Boys Individual Preview
The boy's race will be the quest to catch Sukhi Khosla. He is the defending state champion and looks just as impressive if not even more so than he did a year ago. Khosla buried the field at Pre-State midway through the race winning in just shy of a course record time of 14:59.94. At the 3A Region 1 Championship he won easily in 14:52.60. I know at Pre-State he said he was shooting for the state record of 14:47 and change. The temperatures should be in the 50's when the gun goes off at 10:25 a.m. Khosla's biggest challenge will come from Merritt Island junior Steven Cross who was second to him at Pre-State. Cross has finished runner-up or better in all ten of his meets this season and has the second fastest time in the state with his 15:18.94 from districts. Garrett Camps of Melbourne was second behind Camps at that meet and has the combination of speed and strength as a swimmer to push to the front of the pack early. Others to watch include Belen's Ryan Rodriguez and hte Sarasota duo of Zack Summerall and Adam Bradtmueller. Due to Summerall's age, he won't be able to compete in track in the spring, so he will come out with something to prove. It will be interesting to see if the Sarasota duo works together to dethrone Khosla or runs individual game plans.
Boys Team Preview
Chiles wins by two points at Pre-State and follows that up with a seven point victory at the 3A District 3 Championships. The Lions roar back in round three taking the 3A Region 1 title by 18 points. Coach Wills told me earlier this week all those meets don't matter and that the big one is Saturday. He's right. Last year, Chiles finished runner-up behind Belen Jesuit and Leon was fourth. Both teams separated by roughly 11 miles will have the advantage of sleeping in their own beds the night before and making the short trek to Apalachee Regional Parkway. Coach Gowan's squad might have been conserving energy for the big dance, while Wills tells me his team hasn't started to taper. Will they come out guns blazing or flat like a dud? Khosla is the best runner on both teams, the best runner in the field, and will win the individual title. Leon should put three in very close Chiles' top two and have slightly more depth in their four and five runners. This one will come down to those key runners and should be the treat of the afternoon as the finale and last event of the 2014 Cross Country Finals.