8th grader Tsion Yared looks repeat as an individual and help the Panthers go back to back in the girls Race of Champions. We preview all the action!
Last year, Pine Crest did something no other girls ROC team could accomplish from 2011-2013 and that is knock off Estero. The Panthers had a top three in Tsion Yared, Julia Montgomery, and Mahdere Yared that placed 1st, 6th, and 22nd respectively and a team score of 107 points. This year, all three runners return and ADD Gulliver Prep transfer Alyssa Pujals to the mix. Pujals was 9th at this meet in 2014 and could give Coach Paul Baur's squad four in the top twenty five! The key to winning the girls ROC in the past has been a strong top five with multiple frontrunners and no other team possesses this quality as much as the Panthers. Coach Baur had this to say leading up to the race.
"To prepare for Saturday we've been running really hard this week. I've been challenging them in workouts, but also keeping things in perspective that the state meet is in November. The goal is to work together as a team. We want to run smart and have something left at the end of the race."
Winter Park, the top team in 4A will be running their B team, but another Central Florida has the potential to make the podium in the Dr. Phillips Panthers. DP finished runner-up behind the Wildcats to open the season at DeLand Invitational in week one. In week 2, they headed up to GA where they were fourth in a very competitive Coach Benson Double Dip Invitational behind Winter Park and Peach State champions Marist and Forsyth while last weekend they came home with a runner-up trophy at the UF Mt. Dew Invitational guided by Annika Sisson's 11th place finish. The FACA number two ranked team in 4A has a great shot at a podium finish on Saturday.
Another interesting team battle in the ROC will be between Oak Hall and Holy Trinity. It seems like every year the two teams face off with a 1A state title on the line and 2015 will be no different. The two teams saw each other last week in Oak Hall's backyard at the UF Mt. Dew Invite. HT was third while Oak Hall was 8th overall in the 3A/4A race with round two coming in the Tiger's neck of the woods. Holy Trinity has a strong top three and will be in the top three again this week while Oak Hall always peaks at the right time and can never be counted out come November.
Southwest Florida rivals Ft. Myers and Sarasota will also be in the mix of the top five teams in the girls ROC. Ft. Myers finished fourth at the UF Mt. Dew Invite while Sota was 7th. However, the Sailors were without number two Mackenzie Brown who had to go to the ER to get her appendix checked out. A full Sarasota team could make things more interesting at the top!
When you talk about the girls individual race you have to start out with defending champion Tsion Yared of Pine Crest. Yared became the youngest champion in ROC history when she took the title in 18:33.07 and crushed the competition. Her nearest competitor was track state champion Sinclaire Johnson who was 16 seconds back in 18:49.24 . Yared finished second in her last two races at the Horse Park Invitational and Pine Crest XC Invitational and is hungry for another victory, but it won't come easy. Her 18:49.50 is the sixth fastest time in the field this year. You won't even find Sinclaire Johnson in the top 25, she was 16th in her first and only race of the season. The Lake Brantley senior has been on recruiting visits the past few weeks so we will how she performs. She's the 4A runner-up and 4x state champ in track. If it's a foot race you can't beat those statistics.
The top eight girls in the field have all broken 19 minutes this season led by Rebecca Clark who owns the 2nd fastest time in the state at 18:06.94. Clark is only a freshman at Mt. Dora Bible and was 18th last season in the ROC, but is coming off a runner-up finish at a very competitive UF Mt. Dew Invitational. Riverview's Bailey Hertenstein finished first in her two meets this year including an 18:18.73 at the East Hillsborough Invitational. Course conversations aside, she will definitely be in the mix along with Hannah Brookover, Krissy Gear, and Dillard's Brittany Gill. Brookover was 12th last year and is coming off a third place showing at UF.
The surprise runner of the field has to be Gill. In her first year running cross country, the senior, has two wins including major victories at King of the Hill CC Invitational and last week at the Pine Crest XC Invitational where she defeated a slew of talented Panthers. She embraces the underdog role and nobody really saw her coming at the beginning of the season, but that might change Saturday.
We've already talked about the Pine Crest team and you can't count out Julia Montgomery who has two top six finishes in this race. She's arguably the most experienced runner in the field, which is senior heavy at the top. She has a personal best of 19:09.81, very close to the time she ran on a mud filled Chain of Lakes course last year. Yared and Montgomery will be joined up front with teammate Alyssa Pujals, the transfer from Gulliver Prep who was 9th last year. Look for them to push each other to new PR's.
Top 25 Individuals (Based On 2015 Season Bests)
Top Five Teams (Virtual Meet Projection)
|1||Pine Crest HS||76||6||10||11||22||27||-||-|
|2||Dr. Phillips HS||147||12||17||32||34||52||-||-|
|3||Holy Trinity Academy||169||7||15||19||62||66||-||-|
|5||Fort Myers HS||253||4||54||58||68||69||-||-|
|Circle Christian||FACA 1A #4|
|Community School of Naples||FACA 1A #6|
|Dr. Phillips||FACA 4A #2 (Tie)|
|Estero||FACA 3A #11|
|Ferguson||FACA 4A #15|
|First Academy||FACA 1A #5|
|Ft. Myers||FACA 3A #4|
|Holy Trinity||FACA 1A #1|
|Lake Brantley||FACA 4A #7|
|Lakewood Ranch||5th at North Port Invitational|
|Lemon Bay||FACA 2A #6|
|Merritt Island||FACA 3A #13|
|Newsome||FACA 4A #9|
|North Port||6th at North Port Invitational|
|Oak Hall||FACA 1A #2|
|Palmetto Ridge||FACA 3A #14|
|Pine Crest||FACA 2A #2|
|Ransom Everglades||FACA 2A #3|
|Sarasota||FACA 4A #2 (Tie)|
|Satellite||FACA 2A #4|
|Spruce Creek||FACA 4A #12|
|St. Brendan||FACA 2A #8|
|West Orange||10th at UF Mountain Dew|
|Westminster Christian||FACA 1A #8|
|Winter Park||FACA 4A #1 (Running B Team)|
Running without the rest of their team.
- Hannah Brookover (Calvary Christian)
- Rebecca Clark (Mt. Dora Bible)
- Bailey Hertenstein (Riverview)
- Brittany Gill (Dillard)
- Kara Funke (Leesburg)
- Nicole Matysik (Key West)
- Maggie Parrish (Chamberlain)
- Skye Zeller (Space Coast)